A few years ago, when I started watching my diet, my personal trainer urged me to begin tracking everything I ate. Each and every day, I documented every morsel that I stuffed in my mouth and assigned a numeric value to my consumption based on a formula. So many points for a salad, so many points for yogurt, etc.

The idea was to balance your consumption and stay below an aggregate total for the day.

I clearly remember ordering Chinese food for dinner one evening and being unable to find a value for my meal in the appendix of my trusty dietary journal, which had become a bible of sorts. It listed values for virtually every food imaginable, but there was nothing listed for Chinese food. I could not assign a point total to my meal because I could not calculate its toll.

The next day, I asked my trainer about it. She said, “That’s because Chinese food is so bad for you, they don’t even bother to list it.”

I was crushed. I lust after Chinese food, and often reward a hard week’s work with an order of fried rice, chicken lo mein and an egg roll. Or two.

Leftovers be damned.

Since that shocking revelation two years ago, I have made a conscious attempt to limit my Chinese food intake. I have not sworn it off, and still covet it, but I do not lord over it every Friday night as I used to.

On a recent rainy afternoon, when my trainer wasn’t looking, I made my way to the Jan Mee Chinese Restaurant at Union Station Plaza in Portland. A friend told me the restaurant recently underwent a renovation and added an all-day buffet.

I went with an empty stomach and left feeling something like Humpty Dumpty. Satisfied. Happy. Content.

Jan Mee handles its buffet ($7.88 for lunch, until 4 p.m.) as well as any Chinese restaurant I have visited. The restaurant offers a huge variety of dishes, including the usual suspects.

There’s also an appealing salad bar, a dessert bar and a reasonable selection of non-Chinese dining options. Jan Mee advertises a Hibachi and sushi bar, but I did not partake.

More important than any of that, the food on the buffet was fresh and well-tended. We arrived in the middle of the day — off peak, as it were, and surely not a great time for a buffet.

I was impressed that the food trays were not heaping with food, but instead held relatively small quantities. I presumed this was in an effort to keep it fresher, given the lack of demand because of the time of day.

As I made my rounds, eyeing each island of food options, a pleasant employee approached and asked me to please let him know if there was something I wanted that did not appear on the buffet.

I filled my plate with small samples of chicken wings, an egg roll (just one), teriyaki beef on a stick, pork fried rice, chicken with broccoli, lo mein, General Tso’s chicken and a dumpling of some kind.

Almost every item met my satisfaction. I appreciated the crispness of the chicken wings, the tang of the teriyaki beef (I went back for seconds on that one) and the fresh nature of the chicken with broccoli. (The broccoli actually snapped off between my teeth. It never acquired that all-too-familiar steam-table limpness common at other buffets.)

The general’s chicken was a bit spicier than I might have liked, and I hate to say that I thought the egg roll was a bit greasy. (I still downed the whole thing without hesitation.) The dumpling I am sure would be fine for some folks, but I took one bite and set it aside. It was just too much for me — too heavy, too doughy, too dense.

Those are small complaints, owing more to personal taste than anything else.

I filled my plate twice, so clearly something made me happy. The only thing that held me back from visiting a third time was the thought of my trainer, calculating the number of planks, deep-knee thrusts and burpees I would have to do to work off another steaming plate of lo mein.


The features staff of The Portland Press Herald anonymously samples meals for about $7.