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The Worst Chinese Restaurant Ever

24 June 2010

I can hardly believe it. I am writing a negative review of an experience I have had. My usual policy is to not write about bad experiences, but this one was SO bad that I am actually amazed.

The other night we were invited out to celebrate a birthday at a Chinese restaurant. I was pretty excited, because it was a very large group, and it promised to have great atmosphere.

Now I usually love steamboat dinners – a format where everyone sits around a simmering pot of soup, and cooks various raw foods, like meats, seafood, tofu and vegetables. It is always such a merry and fun way to eat food with loved ones, and you end up with a unique soup to eat. And my boys, including my husband, love the format too!

But the signs were not good when we arrived outside. First of all, the restaurant was called a “steamboat AND buffet restaurant AND cafe”. And I have to say that I think that an eating establishment should choose one thing, and do it very well.

Inside, things got worse as we saw the tables. They were tiny rectangular tables, pushed up against the wall, and jammed so close to each other, that you could not get in or out of your seat without everyone else also getting up. It was as bad as sitting in economy seats on a plane, five deep on each side.

One of the advantages of steamboat is that you don’t order… all the raw ingredients just arrive on plates, and you start cooking yourself. This should save a LOT of time.

But after about 45 minutes, nothing had arrived, and even the water we asked for hadn’t appeared. There seemed to be plenty of waiters and waitresses, but they seemed very confused and distracted.
Chinese Steamboat Dinner
The boys nagged us so much we gave them our mobile phones to play with.

Finally, in frustration, I went next door (everyone on my side of the table had to get up) to the Asian supermarket to buy a bottle of water and some snacks for my toddler… and I saw one of the waiters from the restaurant buying CHOPSTICKS!! I followed him back into the restaurant (everyone on my side of the table had to get up again), and I fed my toddler bottled water and potato chips while we waited for the food.

And then, finally, the dazed waiter arrived with a huge bowl of just-boiled soup, and tried to lean all the way down the table to place the bowl on the tiny gas stove. As he struggled, everyone at my table reared up in fear that the soup would spill all over someone, but the waiter seemed oblivious to the danger. My husband reached out and took the bowl from him, and put it down on the dinky portable gas stove. The waiter lit the gas stove.

Chinese Steamboat Dinner

Now my bored children were sitting literally 20cms away from a pot of boiling hot soup balanced precariously on a cheap gas stove designed for outdoors camping use, with a naked flame. Great. I can SOOO relax now.

And it just got worse from there. Once all the gas stoves were going and the soup bowls installed, the whole restaurant was filled with hot steam, and the windows fogged up. So, no ventilation in the restaurant.

Chinese Steamboat Dinner
At least my son could use the windows to draw a fighting scene from Star Wars to momentarily ease his boredom.

Then the food arrived, and the tables were so small that there was no room for the food plates. There were no ladles for the soup. People kept tripping over and spilling soup and noodles everywhere!

Chinese Steamboat Dinner
Then, as you can see from the photo above, the wait staff couldn’t cope with the turnover of plates – so customers just started to LEAVE DIRTY PLATES ON THE FLOOR!

Then we asked for some rice for our toddler, who didn’t like the noodles, but we were amazed to be told that…THEY HAD NONE! Okay, lets think about that for a moment.

A Chinese restaurant. With NO RICE.

Is that actually possible?

When I went to the toilets, I found the corridor jammed with boxes of little portable gas stoves. The toilets were as bad as the public toilets in a bad part of town.

And on the way back, I saw a tiny chinese waitress trying to kung-fu kick open the kitchen door. She was kicking it because she was using both hands to carry a tray of soup bowl, each one as large as her head. The door was jammed shut because someone had tied a dirty old kitchen wash rag around the handle to stop it from banging shut each time someone walked through. It was like watching a Chinese acrobat do a dangerous stunt, like juggling a chain-saw.

I mean, how much does a rubber bumper-thingy cost from the local hardware store?

In the end, we were having such a terrible time, that we had to leave early.

A Chinese restaurant with NO rice and NO chopsticks.

I’m still trying to comprehend that.

NO rice and NO chopsticks.

Amazing.