I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I’m a tiger, if you’re at all curious.
I only mention that because of the Chinese zodiac placemats in front of me. These cheap paper placemats are usually shipped by the thousands as expendable items at the end of every meal. The Great Wall Restaurant protects them under tinted glass…to avoid having to dispose of them, I guess. This is not to mean Great Wall is cheap, at least not yet; it’s the most Asian looking restaurant I’ve seen so far in my journeys (at least in Canada). Without turning my head, I spot at least two framed Asian paintings of generic junks and pagodas suspended from stain-resistant walls.
I don’t look forward to Chinese restaurants despite never really having a bad experience at one. There’s just something so mind-taxingly uninspired about them. Trying to glean some culinary value out of a westernized Chinese restaurant is like trying to do the same out of an Arby’s. And yet when weighing the options, I’d opt for ethnic over the alternative—shaved imitation meat drenched in processed cheese food.
(On that, I have a rule that I never purchase any edible product that requires a statement on the box that it is in fact edible. If government mandate demands you put the word “food” on it, that should be a sign to avoid that product.)
At least Chinese restaurants offer a buffet. Although I’ve stated that I avoid them as much as possible, I’ve made exceptions from time to time. Regardless, I despise the practice of them—forcing me to hobble astride other zombies looking past the sneeze-guard at tepid offerings that are either awash in monosodium glutamate or badly in need of some. The buffet is a dollar more than the single plate combinations and gives me the opportunity to trying everything on the menu. Most people don’t do that—helping themselves to a single spoonful of every bowl. The reason why people elect the buffet is because they can’t abide the limitation of a single mountain of cramp-inducing food. Frankly, I’m shocked that buffets even survive in this obesity-plagued world. I know of people—some claiming friendship—that would clean this entire run out and demand more. There was even a time where I would fall into this very category. Since my meteoric weight lost over 15 years ago, I’ve prided myself on being able to avoid situations like this.
I went for seconds, yes, but only to sample the other bowls, not to repeat any of the previous offerings….because I assure you, none of them are worth repeating. Everything from the sweat and sour—I-I mean sweet and sour pork, chicken balls, and fried rice is lukewarm and borderline flavourless. Even the wonton soup can be summarized as a noodle wrapped unseasoned ball of grade F beef left simmering in un-refreshed water (thank my colon I’m only forty minutes into lunch service). Half the buffet is split between the Asian stalwarts and generic bowls of American porridge—potato salad, macaroni salad, bean salad, and other salads with no actual lettuce. After the second helping, I develop an unsettling knot in my both my stomach and my oesophagus. Nothing appeals to me and less than thirty minutes after sitting down, I’m apprehensive about returning for the complimentary Jell-O or brownie desert. I whether the storm and fight my way for third trip. Like scaling Everest, I imagine this buffet has killed more people. I doubt a single desert offering was made in-house, probably brought in from the local Costco. I know what vacuum-sealed s’mores look like. I elect for the cheesecake as that’s something very few people (save me) can screw up. It also settles my stomach and placates my colon hopefully lone enough for my trip home.
Thank Christ I’m not driving back from Quesnel.
What annoys me about places like this is not their pedestrian practices or fast-food flat flavours; it’s the fact that they’re so successful. Going into local places like U&Me and Indian Lion, I get depressed at their vacant lunch services. Meanwhile, Great Walls bustles with the activity of an Emergency Room, implying multiple metaphors with that comparison—Great Wall is a place you should avoid unless forced against all other options to enter. And yet, there’s considerable competition. I’m amazed such a place could get away with this level of mediocrity with Thanh Vu less than thirty feet away. Here we have two Asian restaurants in throwing distance to each other with a disparage of quality further apart than original and new trilogy Star Wars. Even that gives Great Wall too much credit.
TNG versus Voyager? No.
Deep Impact versus Armageddon? Getting closer.
Original versus remade Psycho? Something more obvious.
Classic versus New Coke?
I really can’t think of an appropriate comparison. This divide stands in a class by itself. I can’t foresee a reason why anyone would stop here. Do yourself and your heart, pancreas, and other assorted good n’ plenty a favour and keep driving for fifteen more seconds.
GREAT WALL RESTAURANT
2757 Spruce St, Prince George, British Columbia V2L 2S2, Canada