25 August, 2011

On the Wall...

I was in the mood for a bit of Chinese; really I was STARVING.  I knew before we went anywhere it would be FAR more than a "bit" of WHATever it was that I was about to eat.  I also didn't want to have to leave our part of town to find something good.  Lucky for us we're just a hop, skip and a jump from The Rideau Restaurant.

 I found this place when I came to town and, since being here. have heard their name on the lips of nearly ANYone I ask for recommendations of Chinese establishments that are truly Chinese and not the western world's version of it.  When we arrived it was dull as tombs inside; just the two ladies working and not a soul in the place eating.  We 3 were about to change that in a jiffy.

I scanned the menu trying to figure out what I was really having a hankering for.  As soon as my eyes clamped on the Mu Shu Pork with pancakes I KNEW I wanted some of that.  The Sprout was already getting testy after we put him in the high chair.  We had to be quicker...  I asked the lady what she would recommend and what was written on the whiteboard in Chinese.  She politely side stepped interpreting the white board and asked us if we would be interested in trying the General Tso's.  We declined.  In the next couple minutes we decided on chicken fried rice, Imperial Chicken (their version of Kung Pao), Orange Flavored Beef and 3 spring rolls.  Not too soon after placing my order I looked at that white board again...I wondered what was on it.  There is nothing worse for my intense curiosity than to be denied an explanation....except outright avoidance.

There wasn't much to take in for decor.  It was pretty simple; set tables, chairs, the white board and one solitary picture on the East wall...one medium sized Buddha on the check-out counter.

It didn't take long before our spring rolls and accompanying sauce were out, piping hot and VERY large for spring rolls.

The rolls were crisp, warm and fabulous.  We all were enjoying them immensely when the next pieces of our order showed up...

 Imperial Chicken

Chicken Fried Rice

It is pertinent to mention that this restaurant is largely on the Cantonese side rather than Mandarin (AKA Beijing) of the Chinese cuisine offerings.  To get into ALL the differences and similarities between these two would take MUCH more room than I desire to devote to that, so I'll move it along by simply saying I am more of a fan of Mandarin than Cantonese.

 The Imperial Chicken was just okay.  The vegetables were cooked correctly; they were tender crisp and tasted fresh.  The chicken was moist as chicken goes, but the sauce was lacking in flavor.  It was a very sorry substitute for Kung Pao.  The huge chunks of celery were slightly annoying.  I tried to pick around them, but it was impossible.

The fried rice was good, though the pieces of chicken in the rice were microscopic.  I realize they are supposed to be on the small side, but the onion that was littered throughout were larger than the tidbits of chicken.  The Sprout was in love with it, so that was good enough for me.  I was getting impatient for the Mu Shu and pancakes to show up....  As if the ladies could read my mind; no sooner did I wish for them, then they appeared from the back with the platters of yumminess.

Mu Shu Pork with Pancakes & Hoisin Sauce

Orange Flavored Beef

HA!  Now this was MORE like it!  The Mu Shu Pork was excellent!  Wonderfully flavored and piping hot, the platter was filled to the brim with cabbage, carrots, green onion, pork and what I was pretty sure was cloud ear fungus.  My how the flavors played off each other!  When I held a pancake in my hand as though it were a soft taco shell, I could feel how light and soft they were.  I loaded it up with Mu Shu, drizzled some of the sweet Hoisin sauce on top, wrapped it up and promptly scarfed it down.  I grabbed my chopsticks and went for some of the Orange Flavored Beef.  I was great!  Nice and spicy...just the kick I look for when I eat Chinese.  The beef was moist and the pieces were large.  The mushroom that accompanied didn't take over the dish, my Mister and I were both pleased.  The Orange Flavored Beef was his choice, but tonight we were eating family style; everyone ate off of all the dishes.

Every once in a while I saw the ladies come out of the kitchen with huge metal bowls and steaming platters....I was still curious what the Chinese patrons were getting that we didn't, for they ALL pointed at and ordered of the infamous white board.  If only I could read Chinese!  Their food looked amazing.  But I digress...a loud bellowing scream that usually ushers in a tantrum from the Sprout was emitted into the air, echoing unmercifully for the whole room to hear.  We asked for to go boxes and the check.  The lady who was waiting on us looked very concerned.  I hope my reassuring look in our son's direction told the story well enough.  We certainly weren't leaving because we didn't like the food....and there was only so much of it uneaten because we hadn't had a chance to eat very much of it before he started acting up.   By this time 4 more tables had been filled and were being served; there was also a steady stream of phone calls to place orders and people sauntering in to pick up their orders.  I didn't want to try to appease the Beast.  I'd rather leave while we were still allowed to come back.

We ordered a TON of food and including tip spent less than 55 loonies.  The value for the money was definitely there.  I have items in mind to try when we go back, things I saw our lady bring to other people's tables.  I would have pulled her aside and asked her what each dish was, but she was very busy filling orders.  Perhaps next time she'll tell me what is on that curious white board of goodness.  The only word of warning I can give you is that their in house menu is extensive.  If you don't know what you like or what flavors appeal to you before you go in, you may find yourself in quite the predicament.  The take out menu doesn't have even a quarter of the in house menu on it either.  I have this sneaking suspicion that this place might be near to what it is like to eat food made by the "Soup Nazi".  Certain things are available to certain people, at the house's discretion, if you know what you want they are happy and if you ask too many questions....they will remember that.  This isn't personal, it is just a part of the culture.  But, if you want the good stuff...you have to learn to navigate the waters.  Don't be scared to try something new either, it may be the best thing you do for yourself all year.  I'll be back, but I'm just not sure how soon....

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