|Mission's Fire Wok has odd hours, but good food|
But this cozy neighborhood restaurant, which offers both buffet dining and menu service, has a loyal following of customers who don't mind the venue's eccentricities. Not only is it closed on Saturdays, but the dining room shuts down early by modern restaurant standards: dinner is only served from 5 to 8 p.m. (Fire Wok also serves lunch, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
It's certainly not the most elaborate Chinese buffet in Johnson County -- which has plenty of them -- but the quality is better than most. Diners can cobble together a little salad from a tiny "salad bar" (I saw several variations on the carrot theme) or start their meal with a festive square of Jell-O.
The buffet is laden with the usual Chinese buffet fare, but mostly chicken dishes: Empress Chicken, Sesame Chicken, General Tso's Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Szechuan Chicken, Fire Wok Chicken, Cashew Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken and, interestingly enough, Springfield Cashew Chicken -- which is not a standard staple on local Chinese buffets.
It's the real dish too, although a little stingy on the cashews: Pieces of chicken, fried in a light, crispy breading, can be doused with as many spoonfuls of thick, syrupy brown "Springfield Sauce" as you wish.
There are a few seafood options (fried garlic scallops, peppered shrimp in the shells and mussels in black bean sauce), as well as pork sauteed with green beans or beef and broccoli. For dessert there are almond cookies and scoop-it-yourself ice cream from three big tubs of Belfonte's finest in a freestanding freezer case.
The dining room is as eccentric as everything else. Walls are panelled with a light wood veneer embossed with scenes of ducks and mallards flying over dreary winter landscapes. The soundtrack here is unexpectedly peaceful: soft classical music, not wok-and-roll.