Dining out

Far East Café

5014 Freeport Blvd.
10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. every day

One thing that is always nice to have nearby is good, cheap Chinese takeout. Another thing that is good, if you are me, is a Chinese place that is honest about their MSG use-and honest when they say they'll take it out.

I can happily report that Far East Café scores on both points. While not nearly as fancy as the far-better known restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, it fulfills my needs in my new neighborhood off of Freeport. For me, a hefty dose of MSG can knock me on my butt for half a day or more. Imagine eating a migraine-headache, dry mouth, fatigue and a generalized feeling of crappiness that could be compared to that cold/flu that's been going around the Capitol (so I hear-I've somehow managed to miss it this year).

I've eaten Far East's Food (always as takeout) three times now, and this has yet to happen to me. Now I won't go so far as to claim the food is world class, but for about $6 a dish, it does the trick. On a rainy crappy day after Valentine's day recently, we managed to feed four people-with significant leftovers-for about $23.

My favorite dish there-recommended by a Far East veteran-is the mu shu chicken. I love mu shu, and while their version doesn't really add anything to the genre, it gives me exactly what I'm looking for. I like plum sauce so much I could eat it by the spoonful, and they don't skimp. I also liked that the sweet and sour chicken came with the sauce and chicken separate from each other. You could get as much or as little sauce as you wanted, and the leftovers (not that there were any of this particular dish) wouldn't get all soggy. The frying on the chicken was also quite light, which was good.

One of my other favorite Chinese dishes (well, American Chinese food) is chow fun. Here, Far East doesn't do quite as well. The noodles don't have that soft gummy quality I love; they're a little dry and brittle. But for the cost, it seems silly to complain. The menu is also quite extensive. And the clientele is authentic (i.e., mostly Chinese, which I take as a mark of quality).

And speaking of that miserable cold/flu thing that's been going around not just in the Capitol, I found myself caring for someone with it on another recent crappy rainy night. Needing to get "hot soup, any hot soup" fast, I knew exactly where to turn. Plus, Far East stays open until 9:30. Which may not sound like a big deal, but in this sleepy town, anything after 9 is much appreciated. Far East has definitely earned a spot in my wallet with its cost, convenience and friendly service.

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