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Traditionally chau mien simply was pan-fried fresh Chinese egg noodles topped with quickly stir-fried seasoned meat or seafood plus Asian vegetables, in very lightly thickened gravy. Devolving this into America's glutinous chow mein (mainly overcooked celery and enough artificial thickener to mortar the new Fontainebleau addition, garnished with petrified packaged "noodle" impersonators) may have been a practical move for Chinese immigrant cooks back in California's Gold Rush days, when hungry miners staggered back to camp after many, many hours while vegetables that had been succulent seconds after stir-frying sat in pots and became waterlogged.
But cornstarch overkill is hardly necessary these days ... unless, that is, you forget to tell the friendly folks at Gourmet Gourmet to please pack the pan-fried noodles and topping (which includes perfectly tender and juicy pork, beef, and chicken slices, plus shrimp and many vegetables) separately, to avoid soggy-noodle syndrome. If you do forget, this dreaded disease will saturate all unsegregated noodles, in a way that makes a total night-and-day difference in the dish, on the way home.
And you will be on the way home, since Gourmet is strictly a take-out joint except for two stools at a formica counter facing a wall, where diners desiring even basic eat-in amenities really don't wanna eat -- the décor and table service is not why one would patronize Gourmet Gourmet (though it's quite likely a reason why many diners haven't discovered this eight-year-old place).
But there are many reasons, aside from the traditional chau mien, that one would patronize the place, especially considering the looming cuisine crisis. Not because of soggy-noodle syndrome or mad cow disease. I mean the World Series, second only to the Super Bowl in terms of game-time snacks. As a person who does the nibbles but not the game-watching, I'm sick of doing Buffalo wings and chips and dip.
This is where Gourmet Gourmet comes in. Among the roughly dozen new menu items is cold sesame noodles -- and a respectable version, too: al dente noodles topped with sesame sauce that's subtly and seductively sweet, not cloying, and full of nutty flavor that's hearty but not sticky. Get six orders and sneakily dump them in your own big bowl. Customize this with side bowls of chopped scallions, cucumber strips, bean sprouts, and, most important, the Gourmet's honey chicken wings. Simultaneously sweet and hot, they blow Buffalo wings into the ground and are so much fun as finger food that they make one wonder why Chinese restaurants even bother with normal honey chicken. And you will not believe how their flavor complements the noodles. If you want to be a hero to vegetarian friends, serve the eggplant in black Chinese vinaigrette as an alternative. It's supposed to be served hot but is just as good cold, as are the wings.
Instead of chips and dip, get a couple of orders (twenty pieces) of the smoked salmon with cream cheese and spinach wontons. Traditionally Chinese? Well, nooooo. Good? Addictive. Even though these crisp, deep-fried pastry puffs filled with a nub of cream cheese and lox (plus what's billed as spinach but tastes like scallions) are huge, you can't eat just one -- they're that tasty: chips and dip all in one, kicked up many notches.