#226: Pita Kitchen Plus

Today I decided I better stop being lazy and get to another post.  And with that I picked out a spot that’s been open for a while now.  That place, tucked back into a corner behind Dimple Records on Santa Clara at Douglas, is Pita Kitchen Plus (I’m not sure what the plus is for – they are also part deli/bakery so maybe that’s it).  This is a Mediterranean restaurant which is the 2nd of it’s kind.  According to their website they have another location on Arden and have been in Sacramento since 2008.

I arrived right at 6PM to a very quiet dining room.  I was the only customer for my entire visit, nearly an hour.  I was greeted right away by the only other person I saw who was both the hostess and server.  She took me to a booth and asked if it was OK, then handed me a menu and let me look over it for a minute while she went into the back and turned on some music in the dining room.  She returned a moment later to take my drink order.  I just went with a Dr Pepper [$2.49].  I definitely needed some time to decide so she left me to study the rather large menu for a while.

I figured I wanted to get some humus as an appetizer and then pick out an entree.  The appetizers are all well priced, most are in the $3-6 range.  Sandwiches (in pita bread) look to be a good lunch option at about $7 a pop.  I was looking for something a bit more substantial as I was pretty hungry so I continued on past the soups into the main dishes and eventually settled on the Shish Tawouq (Curry marinated boneless skinless chicken breast, grilled with tomatoes and onions. Served with rice, Hummus, and pita bread)[$18.95].  Since this conveniently came with the hummus I was craving I picked out another little appetizer, a Kibbeh (Ground bulgur [cracked wheat] and onions stuffed with our freshly minced meat, onions and spices shaped into a football and deep-fried to a golden crisp)[$2.75].

Within about 10 minutes of ordering I had the salad for my entree as well as a complimentary starter of pita chips and dip.  The salad was super green and fresh with slices of red onion, bell pepper, cucumber and ripe tomatoes in an olive oil and vinegar  dressing.  The pita chips were nice and very crunchy.  This greenish dip that came with it was very light and cool.  If I didn’t have a bunch of food coming I probably would have demolished this whole basket.

My entree showed up pretty quickly, just 7 or so minutes after the salad and chips.  It was a pretty big plate.  Arranged around a big mound of rice were slices of grilled chicken, two tomato halves and a couple big chunks of red onion.  Off to the side was a good-sized serving of hummus.  Two halves of warm pita bread were served in a side basket, wrapped up in a napkin to keep the heat in.

Almost everything about this plate was awesome.  The rice was tender and tasty, the tomatoes nice and juicy and the onions…oniony.  The hummus was amazing as was the soft, warm pita bread I used to scoop it up.  The chicken, unfortunately, was the weak link here.  It was overcooked, pretty dry and a bit tough.  Most of it anyway – a few of the thicker pieces weren’t that bad.  Coming to it’s aid was the creamy, oddly pinkish-colored garlic sauce.  That was really delicious and I used just about the entire little dish to give the chicken a bit of moisture and additional flavor.

A few minutes into my main dish my server returned and delivered the kibbeh, which she admitted she had forgotten about but luckily the cook had remembered.  As it happens I had forgotten about it too so it was almost like a bonus.  This was really interesting.  I cut the crisp little oblong kibbeh in half to reveal packed, steaming hot minced meat inside.  The texture of the crunchy exterior was strikingly similar to a churro, so much so that at first I could have swore I tasted cinnamon, but it was just my brain playing tricks on me.  The spiced meat was really savory and delicious and I loved the crunchy shell.  I would order this again in a heartbeat.

After my meal, along with the check, I was given a couple small pieces of baklavaa (fill strudels stuffed with walnuts and cinnamon,baked and lightly topped with our homemade orange-blossom sugar syrup)[$2.95] on the house.  These were freakin’ tasty, super sweet and flakey.

Other the dry chicken, everything else was really good, the server was friendly and attentive and I would be inclined to return and try a non-chicken dish in the future.  I do hope that this wasn’t a typical amount of business since it was Monday, because if that’s the case then they won’t last much longer.

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#225: Golden Koi Buffet

“It doesn’t end well,” Justin said as I took my first bite of the fortune cookie.  It was the perfect ending to this particular dinner.  But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Golden Koi Buffet is located in the Nugget shopping center at Fairway and Pleasant Grove.  It used to be another buffet called Golden Dragon Buffet.  The space was vacant for quite a while and sometime in the last year they swapped out the Dragon for Koi on the building and reopened (new owners?  No idea).  I was interested when I noticed it but also not really looking forward to this visit at all.  My luck with buffets is not good.  Nevertheless here we are.

Justin and I arrived at about 5:20PM.  We stepped into the shockingly big space and up to the counter where we were greeted by an extremely quiet employee.  The place only had a handful of customers, two of which were in a booth on one side of the restaurant and the rest scattered in the other half.  We were sat right next to the first couple.  It’s always so weird to me that people would sit you next to the only other customers.  A bit of space would be nice, there certainly was plenty of it.  Dinner here is $15.99.  A bit steep even for a buffet, so let’s see how they do.

The dining room is actually really nice.  Like, it shouldn’t be that nice.  We headed back to the buffet itself as our “server” got us some drinks.  It’s a pretty good sized buffet with a ton of options.  Most of them are Chinese, although there was a smattering of other things, including sushi (which I did not go for today, partly because I had sushi for lunch but also because I was a little afraid.  Some random other things were thrown in like chicken nuggets and fries, something for the kids I suppose.  I started out with some very red General’s Chicken, some Sautéed Mushrooms, Green Beans, Pepper Steak, a Pork Bun and “Dim Sum” (don’t ask me, that’s all it was labeled as).

I got back to the table and Justin was already making some comments about how the food was lukewarm.  I gave the General’s chicken a try and he was right.  The flavor wasn’t that bad, it was a bit on the sweet side.  Crisp was not a word I would use to describe this fried piece of chicken.  The sautéed mushrooms actually would have been pretty good if they were hot, and maybe had a little something with it.  But I guess you can just add whatever you want to it since it’s a buffet, and maybe that’s the point.  The green beans were probably one of the best items I came across.  Still not hot, but these had some snap to them and good flavor.  Justin was picking at his wontons and claimed that they had “age.”  That had me laughing pretty hard.  He was sure the cream cheese inside them had turned.  He also commented that the spring rolls tasted kind of mustard-y.

The pepper steak, much like the General’s chicken, was decent tasting but was very mushy and one bite downright chewy. Again, lukewarm at best.  I dissected the pork bun which looked really dry.  Indeed it was, and there were a few little morsels of OK-tasting meat inside, but I left most of it on the plate.  With the possibility of sounding like I’m repeating myself over and over, the “dim sum” was OK, and would have probably been pretty decent if it was more than just a little warm.  I don’t have a clue what was in it, it was some sort of meat wrapped up in a thin pastry-like cup.  The whole thing was warmish and soft.

I set out once more, hoping to find something that would bring me back for seconds of it.  This time I tried the Coconut Shrimp, Pot Stickers (I had to wait for a moment for them to be refilled, so these were actually fresh), some Sweet and Sour Chicken (with 10,000ºF sauce, this is where they were keeping all the heat apparently), BBQ Chicken and Jalapeño Chicken.

The shrimp somehow appeared fresh, both in the pan and even in the first moment of biting into it.  They had a crispy batter still, which is some kind of miracle because as soon as you get chewing on it you realize it’s just as old as everything else you’ve had so far, and the disappointment meter turns a bit further.  Justin had been picking at a new plate now for a little bit and abruptly announced that he didn’t think he wanted to eat anymore of it and set off for some soft serve, asking “they can’t mess up soft serve can they?” and then added, sarcastically, “the soft serve is warm!” as he disappeared back into the buffet.

Moving on from the shrimp I actually stopped and enjoyed the pot stickers for a while.  Aside from the green beans, these were definitely at the top of the list as far as best items went.  Even though they were steaming when they were being piled onto the buffet line, they had lost a significant amount of heat on the short journey back to the table.  Flavor-wise, pretty good though, at least, as good as any frozen pot stickers you might get at the supermarket anyway.  There did not appear to be any dipping sauce though, which was a bummer.  The sweet and sour chicken was pretty big letdown.  It was sort of crispy, heavy on the batter and the chicken just didn’t really have any flavor.  The sauce wasn’t all that great either.  Pretty much the same story, minus the batter, for the BBQ chicken.  The Jalapeño chicken was fried but devoid of any flavor or substance worth mentioning.  One of the two small pieces I ate was particularly tough.

Justin’s soft serve did not turn out so well.  He had me lift it to feel the weight as he described it as heavy and icy.  One thing he did find that he liked on the same trip were apple tarts, which he said was good but were “almost certainly not made on the premises.”

My desert plate didn’t go much better, although I did find a few things that were tolerable.  The pudding, jell-o and orange slice were all decent to good.  The little chocolate cake-type thing had a major skin on the top which I fought with while I grabbed a piece from the buffet.  I almost ended up with the layer from an adjacent slice.  The other cakey kind of thing which had some whipped cream-like filling and a pastry with some custard were both incredibly dry and off-putting.

Even the fortune cookie, which Justin warned me about, somehow was not crunchy at all past the first bite.  I mean, fortune cookies are usual pretty lacking, but I’ve never had one quite as bad as this one.  I knew it in my gut the entire day that this was likely to go the way it did, and now I certainly do know, literally in my gut.  I can feel it as I type this.  Safe to say I won’t return?  I’ll let you figure that one out.

Website: http://www.goldenkoibuffet.com