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Gourmet 88

1 rating: 1.0
1 review about Gourmet 88

Boring. Predictable. Safe. Beautiful downtown Burbank!

  • Feb 18, 2000
  • by
Pros: Reliable, quick, nicely priced, cheap

Cons: Ethnic cleansing comes to restaurant row

There's a lot to be said for the sarcastic "beautiful downtown Burbank" catch-phrase. "Downtown" Burbank is silly, consisting mostly of a small strip of restaurants with a few other entertainments. (My favourite is the hordes of bored teen-agers trying to pick each other up.) Whether or not this turn of phrase is peculiar to me and mine I don't know, but there's a distinct area called the 'white trash triangle' -- three major chain restaurants, visible from the freeway -- how depressing for residents that a "Black Angus" is one of the most visible landmarks -- all of them massive, serving up mildly different varieties of bland American fare.

"Gourmet 88" is the Oriental equivalent of "Black Angus," but you saw that part coming.

The food is really quite tasty (albeit somewhat bland and uniform) -- ingredients are fresh, dishes are well-prepared, and the menu is remarkably standard -- there are no unique surprises here. Make no mistake: Gourmet 88 has listened to the thousands of people who order Chinese food without benefit of a menu. Even looking at theirs seems redundant: there's nothing remotely exotic, and the old standards turn out well, so just remember what you asked for in your school days group party orders of Chinese take-away, and stick with that.

The decor is similarly...bland and somehow still inoffensive. Did this used to be a den of California cuisine that just got a screen or two thrown up when "Gourmet 88" came to town? Is there anything here that isn't completely Americanized? It's almost mystifying why "Gourmet 88" is so ridiculously sanitized -- on a street full of the most dull restaurants imaginable, including a few that I couldn't eat at in a genuine emergency[*], the thing most sorely needed is some sort of variety. It's places like "Gourmet 88" that start to make me actually long for dishes with six kinds of very, very strange looking "mushrooms," some of which may or may not actually be mushrooms...

It's somehow surreal and yet the McDonald's of sit-down Chinese food at the same time. Remarkable. It seems to attract a lot of larger groups, and that's probably why -- even the most picky eater would be hard-pressed to have a hard time here.

That said, I've left "vegetarian friendly?" blank, since, barring the "baby bok choy in sauce of mystery with 17 fungi" of less Americanized Chinese, you're mostly back to "uh, mixed vegetables...and vegetable fried rice...yes, the eggs are fine" if you don't go in for General Whoever's chicken.

[*] "Fuddrucker's"


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