Im getting married soon and the only place that can accommodate our group size and budget for our rehearsal dinner is a very suburban Chinese restaurant that is offering us a buffet of Americanized standards. I have read the recent threads on the state of American Chinese food and Im trying to not be completely depressed.
I dont know much about Chinese food but I know that secret menus exist. Somehow I dont think this place has any Chinese clientele to make one for. Ive attended amazing Chinese chowdown meals in the San Francisco Bay Area. I know that many of the standard dishes have correlations to more authentic dishes. And I suspect that for a restaurant this restaurant being a prime example to advertise that they specialize in Sichuan, Mandarin and Hunan cuisine is like saying that you specialize in Texas BBQ, California cuisine & New England fishboils. Seems a little incongruous.
Please, please, please help me out Chowhounds! Educate me on how to get the best out of this situation. Currently, my game plan includes a visit to the restaurant this weekend, a big smile, an explanation that Im a white woman with a Chinese stomach, and an inquiry about a secret or alternate menu.
*Any tips on how I avoid the all chow-mein or sweet-gloppy-standards buffet?
*What things should I be looking for on a menu?
*Anyone got more authentic equivalents to the standards?
*Or brilliant menu ideas or suggestions I could present to the owners when I visit?
*Any etiquette or cultural tips for ingratiating myself with the industrious Chinese family that owns & operates the place?