There is absolutely no reason why any gaijin would walk into Champion Gourmet.
It’s on the second floor of the Asia-Pacific mall just west of the intersection of Decatur and Spring Mountain Road.
It barely looks like a restaurant. And the signage “Champion Gourmet Products,” hardly gives an indication.
The entrance is on the side of a passageway to the parking lot.
Once you find the door, you’re greeted by two refrigerator cases of strange, wrapped, Chinese food-to-go that looks like nothing you’d want to take home, much less into your stomach.
One of two modest ladies — neither of whom speaks much English — greets you with a cursory hello and points to a small room to your left.
There are only eight tables in the joint.
Rarely are more than a couple of them occupied.
Ambience is….how you say….non-existent (save for a TV blaring some Chinese news channel).
And the menu is a laminated, two-sided affair that’s seen better days.
Then you look around and see big, steaming bowls of all kinds of Taiwanese hot pots, shabu shabu and noodle soups.
And you smell them.
And you see every diner with their head down, slurping like there’s no tomorrow and concentrating on the big fat noodles, or copious slices of meat and veggies that those bowls are chock full of, or the large, leek and meat dumplings floating to the surface.
Then you order.
And those dumplings taste as good as they look, and the broth they’re floating in is so dense with flavor, that you can’t stop spooning it into your mouth.
And the fried leek pancake is exploding with glass noodles, tofu, and leeks. And the spiced peanuts with noodles starts warming you through and through, and you can’t believe how it’s taken you so long to find this place.
And as soon as you finish, you make a pact with yourself you return as soon as possible….completely forgetting about the spotty, almost-absent service…and the water that you have to serve yourself in little, cheapo Styrofoam cups.
Because the food is that good.
THAT my friends, is a quality, eating out experience.
You’ll just have put aside a few of your preconceptions of what it takes to have one in order to experience it.
The above dinner for two came to around $30.
5115 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV 89146