Thursday, February 26, 2015

Burnt our soup at Tian Shi Fu

Tian Shi Fu Restaurant 田師傅湘菜館 on Urbanspoon
It's always tricky to review Chinese restaurants because in North America we expect western restaurant standards -- to be fawned over like honored guests. And some few Chinese restaurants do that -- like The Change. But in most Chinese restaurants, you are treated more like rude children -- mostly ignored then herded out.

The Tian Shi Fu customer service experience is quite typical, or maybe a notch down. You can expect to wait at the hostess's table forever. Server will walk by and even if they make eye contact with you, do nothing. Even if they come to the reservations book, you may be completely ignored while they address someone else who came after you. You have to basically flag someone down.

They have fat menus with pictures of everything. Yes, everything. This is good.
They don't have enough menus to really go around -- maybe two per table. This is bad. Unless you don't mind just one or two persons ordering for everyone, or for ordering to take forever.
Their menus use a LOT of chili. Not sure if you can handle it? Better look carefully at the picture and ask.

They bring you a list of what you ordered. This, I was told by my Chinese friends, is so that you can check off what has arrived to make sure nothing is missed. This is stupid. IF something were missed, whose fault is it? Mine?

Our party of ten ordered nine items I think. Here are the ones that stood out for one reason or another.

"Beef Filet"-something.
  • Came sizzling hot on an iron plate.
  • Based on the pictures on the online menu, it looked like "Grilled Beef with Cumin" except it was sweet. And where's the cumin?
  • Pretty decent tender beef with sweet sauce.
Dry-Fried French Beans with Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables ($14.99)
  • There was pork?
  • Quite salty, but not as salty as the Sauteed Pickled Beans we ordered.
Fried Lettuce Slices ($12.99)
  • Boring. I guess people order this to get their daily veggie intake.
  • Someone at our table insisted these were bamboo shoots. Maybe he ordered bamboo shoots, but this was green and didn't smell like bamboo.
    • So there's a chance they messed up our order. And since the order list was at our table, who's fault is that? Ours for not catching it or theirs for bringing the wrong order to the table?
    • Since (only) two people got to flip through the menu and order I'm guessing they both thought the other person had ordered it. The rest of us were happily oblivious. We also didn't eat that much of this boring item.
Fried Lamb with Cumin ($14.99)
  • This was really decent!
Sauteed Pickled Beans with Minced Pork ($12.99)
  • There was pork?
  • The person who ordered this  was under the impression that it would be kidney beans. Maybe he pointed to something else in the menu and the waitress took the wrong order. But how does that happen with a menu that has pictures of everything?
  • Really hot thanks to the chilies.
  • Salty for no particular reason. Really, really, salty.
Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce ($13.99)
  • Half a chicken. Including the head.
  • Pretty boring. Except for the head, which I dare you to eat.
Rice ($5.99)
  • Yup. They charge you for rice.
Tea (free?)
  • Looks like they didn't charge us for tea. Pretty strong tea too and they were pretty good about keeping it topped up with hot water.
Hot and Sour Soup ($10.99)
  • We ordered hot and sour soup and it came dead last and well after all nine other items had arrived. We had waited so long that we wanted to cancel the order but they assured us it was being prepared.
  • Then it finally came, in a huge bowl with a ladle -- we have no bowls. The neighboring table was not occupied so I asked the waitress if we could just grab the bowls there. She gave me a "why do you want to do that?" look. I pointed to the soup. She didn't help me transfer to bowls over to our table.
  • The soup smelled funny. And tasted funny. We figured they burnt the first batch in the pot and had to re-do it, which it why it took so long. And they used the same pot which is why the second batch smelled and tasted funny.
  • Worst hot and sour soup ever.
Anyway, nine items split among ten people came out to under $17 per person including tip. So good portions of fairly good food good at a cheap price are available here if you can stand the service and pay attention to whether the items you order match what comes to the table.

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