I visited Chef Ming’s around 5:30 on a Wednesday evening and there were just a few other patrons at the time. The restaurant is in a strip mall that’s part of a Kroger and close to the Home Depot on the west side of Athens. A couple of people were waiting for pick-up orders – I saw several people come in to pick up orders during my visit, making me think this place is popular for take-out. I didn’t see a host or hostess when I came in and no employees in sight, but a man finally came to the cashier’s location to take a take-out customer’s payment. When he was done taking their money, he asked if I was picking up and I explained I wanted to dine in. He seated me in a booth on the opposite side of the restaurant, but still in the front room. I looked around and saw the place has some oriental carvings in the dividers by the tables in the middle (see picture) as well as a tall carving used as part of the wall just inside the entrance. During my visit soft Asian vocal music played in the background, adding to the atmosphere. As I was seated, the man asked what I wanted to drink and I ordered sweet tea, although the place also has a couple of Asian beers – Kirin and TsingTao – as well as standard American fare (Budweiser, Bud Light) and Corona from Mexico. When the man returned with my tea, he took my order, which included a couple of vegetable egg rolls, hot and sour soup for one, and shrimp in black bean sauce. Within minutes a plate of what appeared to be soggy cucumbers (see picture) was put in front of me and as I sampled them they tasted like pickles. This is something that appears to be brought out to all patrons and I found the pickled cucumbers to be good. A little later the vegetable egg rolls (see picture) came out and I enjoyed them with some of the hot mustard already on the table. The hot and sour soup came out next (see picture), accompanied by fried wonton strips. This hot and sour soup doesn’t contain meat but only tofu, and the taste is peppery but not as strong as some I’ve had elsewhere (that literally clean out the sinuses in some cases). The shrimp in black bean sauce came out last and included broccoli, carrots, onions, and snow peas, although I only saw a couple of snow peas. I put it over white rice (see picture) and with a little soy sauce it was delicious – I especially liked the quantity and quality of the shrimp in the dish; the shrimp tasted fresher than I expected. The man who served me did a good job of clearing my dishes after each course and keeping my iced tea full. Based on the price and the quality of the food, I’d return to Chef Ming’s next time I’m in the area.
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