End of the lines
Flavor Falls breaks from the buffet tradition on 20th Street
Flavor Falls175 E. 20th St.
Chico, CA 95928
I put my misgivings aside, and as we pulled into the former parking lot of Pat N Larry’s Steak House on 20th Street, I looked at the flashing neon sign and took a deep breath. Flavor Falls? I braced myself for piles of fried food and questionable sushi bar sashimi, common offerings at Oriental buffets around town.
Imagine my surprise when we entered the restaurant and there was nary a buffet table to be seen. As the fish in the tank swam sedately and the classical music played softly, I looked around quizzically at the dining room. As my trepidation subsided, my eyes searched for stacks of plates, piles of food, anything resembling a buffet line. Instead, there were dining rooms of tables, beautiful wall hangings, real plants … this was no buffet.
The soft-spoken waitress showed us to a table in the mostly empty dining room and handed us menus. At this point, I was hedging all bets that this was, indeed, a sit-down establishment, so I asked our server if I was mistaken in thinking Flavor Falls was a buffet, like previous inhabitants of the building.
Up until a few months ago, it was. Oh, sweet serendipity.
We sampled the egg flower soup ($5.50) as an appetizer and settled back to wait for our vegetable chow mein ($5.95), kung pao beef ($7.95) and sautéed green beans ($6.95). The kitchen is fast, as is the service, so our wait wasn’t more than a minute.
I couldn’t believe my good luck; not only was this not a buffet, but the food was unbelievably good. Vegetables stir-fried to perfection, chow mein rivaling my favorite in Brooklyn and tender kung pao beef that was seriously kung pow.
When our fortune cookies arrived, mine had two fortunes inside. I wasn’t surprised. This seemed to be quite an auspicious night; I had found the best Chinese food around when I had been expecting quite the opposite.
(My first fortune read: “You will soon receive a cheerful message.” My second read: “Your talents will be recognized and suitably rewarded.")
I returned to make sure that Flavor Falls was, indeed, as wonderful as it was the first time. It was better.
The won ton soup ($5.50) is a splendid chill chaser, and it warmed us up for our spicy ma po tofu ($6.95) and cashew chicken ($7.25), both served with white rice. Vegetables in the entrées are cut into smaller pieces, making serving and eating the meal much easier. The tofu and the chicken were both very good, the former served with ample vegetables and the latter with plenty of cashews.
The dining area is large, and could host quite a large party. Fresh flowers grace the wooden tables, and embroidered silk pieces deck the walls, but the space itself isn’t overly fancy. The service is very kind and helpful. Alcoholic beverages are offered, but the dessert menu is minimal at best.
On my last visit, I overheard people at the table behind me complimenting the waitress on their meal. As I listened surreptitiously, the woman said, “This is the best Chinese food I’ve had in a long time.”
“I couldn’t agree more, lady,” I thought, and smiled as my food arrived.