A melting pot of choices

TAKEOUT

Fresh offerings, brisk service at Great Fortune

Takeout

January 28, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Great Fortune Buffet is a hybrid of two great American traditions: the Chinese restaurant and the all-you-can-eat corral. The result is a melting pot of choices: from raw oysters to dim sum, from sushi to chunks of Jell-O. Some offerings, in and of themselves, reflect ingenious cultural collisions. The cheese won tons are one example.

On a very chilly January night, Great Fortune Buffet Chinese Restaurant was quiet and the steam tables were full and well-tended. By family request, I decided to order mostly from the menu, which resembles the general idea of Chinese-American food more than the idiosyncratic buffet.

Service was brisk and the food was prepared fresh - not scooped from the buffet, a distinction worth noting for those who want their meals as hot off the stove as possible.

For appetizers, we had teriyaki chicken on a stick ($4.95). The product of a sweet and smoky glaze, this starter was ample enough for a main course. The barbecue boneless spare ribs ($5.25) didn't have as much depth and, in fact, seemed to be the pork equivalent of chicken fingers. Steamed dumplings ($3.95) made everyone happy.

We had an order of Hunan beef ($7.95), which came thinly sliced and rarer than we are accustomed to in Chinese cookery. It was accompanied by a medley of crunchy broccoli, carrots and onions. However, we should have had the cook ratchet up the spices a bit, which the menu suggests you can do as desired. Chicken in black-bean sauce ($4.25) came with a mild but good sauce, a large amount of sliced chicken pieces and more veggies.

Shrimp with garlic sauce ($8.95) was our favorite entree. The dish was filled with plump, de-veined shrimp and pretty little mushrooms and had adequate zip.

So as not to forsake the buffet entirely, we took home a few steamed buns and other dim-sum morsels ($4.95 a pound for the buffet on weekday evenings). Unfortunately, by the time they reached the table, the buns were cold and a bit tough, illustrating the pitfalls of violating one of the most important rules of dim sum: Point and eat. Dessert also came from the buffet: juicy, canned litchi nuts and a not-too-sweet cookie made of sesame seeds and almonds.

Great Fortune Buffet

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ***

Waiting area: ***

Parking: ***

Where: 10026 York Road, Cockeysville

Phone: 410-683-6200

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday

Prices: Chinese, Japanese and American food, with dinner entrees from $4.95 to $11.95. Buffet costs $3.95 per pound for lunch; $4.95 for dinner Monday to Thursday, and $5.95 Friday and Saturday; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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