“Here we are!” my friends declared as we pulled up to the restaurant on Warson Road, that they’d selected for our monthly lunch get-together. I pushed my nose against the rain splattered car window and saw what looked like an old Taco Bell with the familiar arches and Alamo-style architecture.
“We’re eating Mexican?” I asked.
“No, look again?” my friend Barbara Gilby laughed.
This time I spotted the large sign on the lawn: Chef Ma’s Chinese Gourmet. Quite a claim! But I like spunk in a cook and apparently this guy had it. Chef-owner Ying Jing Ma of Hong Kong, winner of an Iron Chef competition, had created a lot of local buzz, when he opened the restaurant several years ago. Apparently, the place is still going strong.
“This should be fun,” I declared. In we went.
A Bountiful Menu
Even on a drab, rainy day, the place was bright and cheery, illuminated with large, bright food photos and a video of people preparing and eating food around the world. It was mid-afternoon, so we avoided the crowding, that often occurs here at mealtime and on weekends.
Our server, Simon, quickly arrived with the menus—all three of them! One, an abbreviated lunch version, and another listing authentic Hong Kong and mainland favorites. The third menu had more traditional Chinese-American fare.
When Simon spoke of having been in Macau, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, I noted that it had been nearly 30 years ago since I’d been to those places. He assured me things had changed dramatically.
Taking Simon’s advice, we chose the calamari, eggplant, and potstickers.
“Is that enough for three of us?” I asked.
Simon sez (remember that kid’s game?) one more dish would be just right. We ordered the Singapore Street Noodles.
Our food arrived all at once, challenging my photo skills and the patience of my friends, who were ready to eat. We divvied up the four dishes and dug in, all the while admiring the attractive presentation of the food as well as the superb sauces and textures.
Meeting Chef Ma
I inquired about Chef Ma, whose large photo hung on the wall. Simon said he would soon be out to visit with us. Sure enough, just as we were about to leave, Ma appeared from the kitchen in full chef regalia, including his cooking medallion—I assume from the Iron Chef show.
Instead of the customary mushroom-style hat, Ma’s hat was tall and stood stiffly over his head. Though his English was somewhat limited, we had a delightful conversation. The Iron Chef winner is an impressive kitchen warrior, who takes pride in his work. I have no doubt he’d be a formidable contender in any wok and roll competition!
Chef Ma’s Chinese Gourmet, 2336 Woodson Rd. in Overland. Open: Mon-Thu 11a-9:30p; Fri-Sun 11a-9p. Chef-Owner: Ling Jing Ma.