Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 21: Chef Liu (Yishan)

The last time I'd been to this restaurant was 5 or 6 years ago, and my impression hadn't been a positive one. The place had just opened so we went a couple times (like when Queen House was closed) and on the second time, we had crullers ("you tiao") but when you bit into them, there was an unsettling whiff of ammonia, as though the oil in which they had been fried had been contaminated with one of their cleaning products. We also found their chicken was also undercooked. They tried to pass it off as no big deal, and I was unable to convince them (should I even need to?) that you can undercook beef, you can even undercook pork (in this country), but you can't really undercook chicken. They comped me my orange juice on that visit and we never went back.

Until now.

It had been a few years so maybe things had improved. They own the place above them which they rent out to various small startups, and a friend of mine had worked for a startup there (WeBook), where they ate at the restaurant often without incident. This time, I saw the beef stew noodle soup on the lunch menu and was about to order until I happened to check their Yelp reviews to find recommendations on specific dishes since I hadn't been there in so long and was horrified to discover this particular review. I decided not to order the soup, and got General's Chicken instead.

The lunch party consisted of Adam, Matin, and Mike Tsao, and after all that, we ended up eating perfectly good meals without incident. They also came around and offered us complementary tea eags, which were quite beautifully done. I was half-afraid that they were pawning off some expired eggs on us, but a close examination of the film integrity just inside the shells indicated that they had been made with fresh eggs. The tea eggs were good, the rest of the food was okay - though obviously much better than my fears. The green onion pancakes were a little too doughy, rather than being light and crispy.

Interestingly, one of the servers apparently recognized me, and confirmed it by asking me if the last time I'd been here was 5 or 6 years ago, and if my girlfriend at the time was white (the literal translation in Chinese being "foreigner"). I suspect this may have been because I'd either made a scene last time (I do recall being quite put off by two health code violations in a row) or if I'd made a positive impression by tipping them reasonably despite the negative events (I tend to believe the waitstaff shouldn't be excessively punished if the kitchen is run poorly). Maybe both.

In any case, I still don't think I'm going back there again. Niniane happened to be absent for this lunch, the lucky duck.


  1. Ugh, yeah, we tasted ammonia once too and stopped going.