My feelings about chain restaurants are pretty clear. Not exactly my first choice when it comes to eating out. Hey, I'm not trying to put them all in the same boat. After all, some are not bad and I would put up little resistance if asked to dine there. However, with the prevailing prices, one can easily eat anywhere but. Mind you, there comes a time when the chain restaurant is necessary and serves a purpose. When I was entrusted with picking a place for a party of 14 with kids (and Chinese and Japanese restaurants were not an option), I ended up suggesting Rockford. Honestly, I didn't have much knowledge about the place. All I knew is that it had taken over the location once occupied by Moxie's on Broadway at Burrard. Now I really should've known better when the place promotes itself as a fusion restaurant offering Asian-inspired dishes wok-fried on their 100,000 BTU wok stations. Okay, being Asian myself, I probably do not belong to their target clientele. However, in a city filled with wonderful Asian cuisine, one must expect some decent fusion eats right? Well, we were about to find out...
Now, the experience didn't start off well when I tried making a reservation over the phone. I was put on hold for nearly 10 minutes before I hung up. I finally did get to make a reservation taking up a long table out on the patio. One really good thing about the place is the validated underground parking. As many might know, the parking in the area is both scarce and expensive. Our server was really nice and did a good job attending to us throughout our meal. Now as for the food... Well, that's another story. Hey, it started off relatively well with the Wok-Seared Chili Squid with garlic, jalapeños and spicy sambal. I found the squid to be tender with still a bit of chew. It was crispy; but they seemed to use too much batter which made the squid itself slightly dense. Nothing wrong with the flavours though, there was a good mix of savoury, spicy and sweet.
For my main, I had the Grilled Peanut Chicken which was a double breast marinated with garlic, coconut milk, chilies, soy and crushed peanuts, served with pineapple salsa, peanut sauce and seasonal vegetables. The chicken itself was prepared perfectly with a beautiful charred exterior while completely moist inside. The peanut sauce was a tad weak and slightly watery while the salsa did offer up good flavour from the pineapple. The veggies were vibrant and crisp as well. As for the rice, it was plain disgusting. Honestly, for a place that promotes Asian-influences regarding their menu, not being able to cook rice is unacceptable. The rice was pure mush and was obviously cooked with far too much water. In fact, the middle was a solid clump that resembled paper mâché paste. The same rice plagued Viv's Red Curry Prawn Rice Bowl as well. Consisting of bell peppers, baby bok choy, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, onions, carrots, sui choy and bean sprouts in a mildly spiced red curry-coconut cream, describing it as mild was a complete understatement. As mentioned, the rice was mushy and dense which does not bold well for further moisture dumped on top. The result was even more mushier rice. Furthermore, there was not enough curry to flavour all of the rice and when there was curry, it was bordering on bland. We didn't get much fragrance, aromatics or spice at all. The bowl did look pretty though and the prawns had a nice texture.
Elaine and Costanza ordered a bunch of items starting with the Rock Salt Chili Prawns. Now these were quite good. The prawns were still cold-water crunchy on the inside while the shell was fried nicely where it could be eaten whole. Lots of flavour emanating from the salt and chili spice. As a second appy, they went for the Shrimp Gyoza served with hot mustard, sesame-soy and hot chili sauce. These were alright with a decent dumpling skin which was stil chewy and stayed intact. The dipping sauces were fine except for the mustard. It didn't seem to go with the gyozas. For the kiddies, they got the Ramen Noodle Bowl with housemade miso-dashi broth, ground pork, fresh corn, edamame beans, steamed spinach and nori. One sip of the broth and ???. There wasn't any flavour... For a miso-dashi broth, there was a noticeable absence of salt. Furthermore, the noodles were really overcooked and became mushy. Normally, Costanza's kid is pretty game to eat anything. Not this time, he refused to eat the ramen. Just in case, they also ordered the Fried Rice tossed with egg, snap peas, carrots and sui choy cabbage, drizzled with Indonesian sweet soy. Okay, are they serious? With 100,000 BTUs at their disposal, we ended up with fried
rice that was not only soggy and moist, most of the rice was broken. I recently made fried rice on my stove top and it had more "wok hay" than this. Fail. Seriously... Anyways, Elaine ended up with the Lemon Chicken (and I secretly snickered inside...). Described on the menu as battered chicken in a tangy lemon sauce with peppers, snap peas and onions over jasmine rice, one would expect plenty of flavour. Once again, the bland evil villain struck again. The lemon sauce was far from tangy and lacked sweetness too. It probably had something to do with the crappy rice again. It's hard to flavour rice that has the consistency of Play Dough. The chicken was a little dry; yet acceptable while the veggies were really overcooked. Costanza decided to go safe and ordered the Rockford Burger with cheese. He was pretty excited after reading the description: our burgers are char grilled and served on our signature golden-top bun with house sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickled cucumbers. However, it was once again bait and switch. It sounded great; but in reality, the bun was dry and the burger patty was too. Not much in the way of flavour and essentially "meh". The highlight of this dish was the excellent side salad - enuff said.
Sexy Nurse went for the Black Pepper Beef with snap peas, carrots, onions, braised tomatoes
in a spicy black pepper sauce and tossed with shanghai noodles. This was actually properly seasoned with plenty of black pepper. I tried the sauce and it was probably one of the most flavourful compared to the other dishes we tried. The noodles were not overcooked and once again, the veggies were crisp. Yet there was one big problem - the beef was really gritty and overcooked. It was hard to chew and really messed up the dish. Marshmallow opted for the Pan-Roasted Salmon braised in a light broth
with baby red potatoes, shredded fennel slaw, grape tomatoes, spinach and basil. The salmon was overcooked and ended up to be rather dry. It was also quite bland seemingly not seasoned. However, the "light" broth was quite salty which did provide flavour for the salmon. Then again, it was hard to combine the broth with the salmon so there would be a uniformed taste. Postman ended up with the Peppercorn Sirloin dredged in fresh cracked black pepper and topped with a sundried tomato-green peppercorn sauce. Chatting with him about the dish, I'm surprised he didn't go "postal". The steak was overcooked and dry while the peppercorn sauce was anything but. It was not really all that flavourful with no kick, no salt, no nothing. The consistency of the sauce was not appealing either. He didn't like the mashed potatoes either because it was too creamy lacking any potatoness. Yet, once again, the veggies were crisp though.
Okay, this question needs to be asked: WTF??? We do realize that this is not an Asian restaurant so we were ready to cut it some slack; but seriously... A large restaurant chain such as this should be able to cook rice! Furthermore, did they not go through a testing stage to check if their food had any flavour? We've had much better meals at the Wok Box and Noodle Box. And for those who think I'm merely whining again, please check with the other 7 adults at the table. None were really happy with their meals. Sure, the food looks nice, as with the decor and the staff. Ultimately, whether it be a Asian-inspired menu or not, the food just doesn't cut it.
- Excellent service
- Validated parking
- Nice decor
- They can't make rice properly
- Most dishes lacked flavour