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 think I just have a problem with places that assume you’ll be eating from the buffet, a trough for bipeds. Initially, I was expecting China Taste to be another checklist of Asian cuisine mediocrity. It’s not off a highway or near a major urban area. No one has mentioned it, let alone offer it praise. And given the last year of reviews, I compare reviewing Chinese restaurants to getting stitches removed. However, after entering, I suddenly got a rush of something. I didn’t recall feeling this before. Hope? No. Optimism? No…maybe just less despair. There was an electric fireplace dominating the center, oddly and perhaps hazardously close to a koi aquarium. There was a sizeable bar resting beside the U-shaped buffet. There were tables sitting on boardwalks and decent non-business office lighting. The napkins even had the restaurant’s name printed on them. Then the waitress opened up with the assumption that I would follow the chow line…
…I mean food…
I was about to ask for a menu, being “difficult” as I thought I would be, when I noticed a plate of sushi being carried to the buffet. Wait…all you can eat sushi? I let the despondency slip away as I stepped into line with plate in hand. You know the kind of plate: that same nine-inch white number with a mild lip and food safe stamp on the bottom, that one that must come twelve to a box, standard with each buffet bucket. I felt like one of those kids walking to the meat grinder in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The problem I have with buffets is that they compel you to eat more of food you don’t like. But maybe this place would be the exception. I mean they had California rolls. The deep fried wontons looked like they had actual meat in them. The crowds forming at lunchtime would force a high rotation of food.
On my first pass, which took far too long given the indecision of the plaid-wearers in front of me, I took a small sampling of the benchmarks—sweet and sour pork, chow mein, lemon chicken, chicken balls, and a few of those wontons. I even snagged a few of those out-of-place reverse rolls. With deep colors and steam rising from my plate, I began to think this place could break the mold of Chinese buffets.
It didn’t, and every bite was followed by a mouthful of anguish. Gloom quenched my thirst, badly needed from chewing salty and dried hopelessness. The pork felt like boiled leather. The chicken was dry enough to be considered fossilized. The obviously store-bought spring rolls tasted a week past expiration. And the sushi rolls—those sorry excuses I’ve wanted to take photos of in other restaurants—had just been removed from their fridge. Have you ever tried chewing on cold white rice? It’s like eating something extruded from a Play-Doh Fun Factory. The wasabi had no kick and even the ginger tasted lip-puckeringly sour. The salty deep fried wontons were initially the only jewel until I realized how much water I was ingesting to settle my throat.
My second pass fared even worse. The wonton broth was dark but I could distinctly taste uncooked beef swirling over my tongue. If I get rickets or shingles after this, I’ll be plenty pissed. Yes, the dessert cart had actual cake and puddings, but at this point, I was just tired of it all. I hoped and prayed to the big guy above me (superman) that this was my last buffet experience.
I am trying not to be an elitist, but I really don’t understand the appeal in paying $10.00 for two plates of shitty food. If quantity to price is the deciding factor, and you don’t care about what slips effortlessly down your grease-lubricated throat, walk a block (if you can) to the world’s second largest chain and slap down five bucks for four cheeseburgers. Hell, spend a dollar more and get a semi-decent lunch at the Tim Hortons at the end of the street).
As I concluded my lunch, I heard an employee calling a customer by name: repeat service. Shocking. And unlike Golden Palace, I can’t excuse the lack of quality on the cooks simply being racist (half the employees were white). They were serving bad food to everyone equally. I guess that could be a compliment. In defense, if the restaurants on the bottom rung were categorized on their own ladder, China Taste wouldn’t be on the floor. It could look down on quite a few places, most of them other Chinese restaurants. And <fuck> is that depressing—the quality of a cuisine which on average is weaker than Grade F beef in hamburgers and refried beans extruded into an untoasted tortilla shell. I should rate every restaurant from now one on how much better it is against Taco Bell. I wish we had a Taco Bell in town at this point. Like so many times in the past eighteen months or so, I wanted to scream to people that they don’t have to settle for this. Yet they do so, often. I’m started to pine for greasy spoons again.
Only a few more restaurants remain…
PS: “Trough” is pronounced “troff” and is a long container to hold animal feed or water. It wasn’t a spelling mistake.
3601 Massey Dr Prince George, BC V2N 4E6