These days, satellite radio passes as live entertainment in many eating establishments. So it was refreshing to stumble recently on two musical dining experiences.
By now it's practically become cliche that the worst Chinese food in town can be found at the restaurants at the Chinese Cultural Center near the airport. And still, we come back, always hopeful for a change. Which is how we found ourselves the other night at Golden Buddha.
Golden Buddha has so much promise. The place is gigantic -- you could literally host a banquet for 300 if you so desired -- and that cultural center is located smack dab in the No Man's Land between downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe.
Once again we found ourselves wishing we'd driven to find some great Chinese food in Chandler, as the waitress ladled up our impossibly bland egg drop soup. (We tried to order simply, with the hope that would save the dishes. No such luck.) Pork ribs were a little better, but the chicken lo mein was so greasy we didn't even bother to have the leftovers boxed up. Now that's lousy Chinese food.
Yet all culinary indiscretions were forgiven when the live piano music began. No, that's not a typo. Every night except Monday, from 5:30 to 8:30, there's live piano music at Golden Buddha. We can't explain it, and no, it wasn't ethnically appropriate, but showtunes suddenly spiced up the egg drop soup. We'll be back for more.
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We had no problem with the food at Efes Turkish Cuisine, a cavernous spot located in the strip mall that famously includes Changing Hands Bookstore, on the southeast corner of McClintock and Guadalupe in Tempe. Efes serves a wide variety of traditional dishes, alongside some authentic belly dancing and a live three-piece band. There's no extra charge for the belly dancing show on Friday and Saturday nights.
We highly recommend the fattoush salad -- super garlicky, with chopped cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and deep-fried pita chips -- with a skewer of meat. The warm pita bread comes to your table, just like the belly dancer.