My most recent visit to Venice Garden shouldn't have encouraged me to return a little over a week later. You see, it was late at night (or should I say early the next day) and we had stopped by after hockey. Milhouse and Lionel Hutz received their orders early on and I had to wait over 30 minutes for my wonton noodles despite an empty restaurant. The staff kept staring at me sans noodles. Yes, maybe you should do something about it! Nope, no sorry, no nothing... So returning with the family and my parents, it was to no surprise that the experience started off on the wrong foot even before we ate anything.
You see, they had put us at a small table despite a reservation. No matter though, we did only have 6 people and they did put us in a table for 6. However, we asked for a larger table because we would be ordering quite a few dishes. The waitress assured us that the food wouldn't all come out at once. You know, we should've believed her like we should listen to Zoltar. Yes, all the food arrived almost immediately where we ran out of room real fast. The first dish, Peking Duck, nearly took up the whole table by itself. Some pieces were crispy while the breast portions were a bit soft. They left a tonne of meat attached. We found the crepes to be on the doughier side, but they weren't dry though. Luckily our next dish was not very big being the Dungeness Crab atop noodles dressed in a consumme sauce. Since this was a special, the crab was rather puny, but still fresh and meaty. Although the sauce was on the goopy side, it was well balanced and not too salty. Underneath, the noodles were clumpy, but that also meant they weren't to wet either.
When the Duck Lettuce Wrap showed up, we barely had room and had to do our version of Tetris. My dad was annoyed and proceeded to tell the server off about what she had told us earlier. To be fair, it wasn't her fault (as she can't control the kitchen), but she should've at least apologized, instead she said "too bad". Interestingly, there was no lettuce to go with the filling. We asked the manager for some lettuce and she replied "for what?". Um, the lettuce wrap! Geez... We found the filling to be full of moist duck, but it was far too salty and reeking of bamboo shoots. Also, the lettuce was wetter than a Vancouver Fall day. At this point, we had dishes dangerously near the end of the table, but we had to fit the Fried Sole somehow. This was not very good as they obviously took the deadest fish and fried the heck out of it. Mrs. Vikie's has nothing on this fish as it had a very unfishlike texture being crunchy throughout.
Moving onto a kiddie favourite, we had the Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp. We found the eggs to be silky and barely cooked. It was not excessively seasoned nor was it overly greasy either. As for the shrimp, it was a bit hit and miss. Most were a bit overcooked being rubbery while a few had gone bad where the texture was mushy. Furthermore, this meant some portions were a bit fishy in taste. By now, we had to resort to amalgamating items so we could clear enough room for the next dish, which was the Peking Pork Chops. Again, this was an inconsistent dish as some pieces of pork were nicely textured (being bouncy with a meatiness) while some were overly soft. The sauce was on the sweeter side, yet still exhibited a certain tartness. It was goopy though which made the pork a touch wet where the light batter began to absorb the moisture. At this point, our server informed us that we had to pay cash as the credit card machine was down. Couldn't she let us know earlier??? Oh and if you think it went down at that point, think again, it was down a few weeks later on a return visit...
Our last dish was mercifully delayed as our table needed another dish like Renee Zellweger needs another shot of Botox. Since the Eggplant Hot Pot arrived sizzling, it would've been a hazard on a crowded table, especially with kids. A bit spicy and sweet, but ultimately bland, the eggplant did have a nice soft texture. Fortunately the slivers of fatty pork were well seasoned. Otherwise, the dish would've been rather flat. The wood ear mushrooms added the necessary textural contrast to the soft eggplant. For some inexplicable reason, Milhouse and I returned for some late-night eats including the Wonton Noodles. With all things aside, I gotta admit that their noodles were pretty good. They were toothsome with a nice rebound texture while the soup was flavourful albeit a bit salty. The large whole-shrimp wontons were nicely crunchy while exhibiting the right amount of seasoning.
I also got the Pork Offal Congee consisting of stomach, liver and meat slices. Unfortunately, there wasn't any kidney. I thought all of the meat items were cooked just enough while the congee itself was silky and thick. It remained mostly thick until the last spoonful. I liked how it wasn't aggressively seasoned. After 3 visits in as many weeks, it was better clear that the casual dishes were pretty solid while the dinner items were hit and miss. Yet, the one constant was the terrible and rude service. I realize good service and Chinese restaurants go together like courtesy and merging lanes, but really, all I expect is the basics. If that can't even be achieved, then there is really no point to eating out... I can just head over to my mother-in-law's place for dinner.
- Casual dishes like wonton noodles and congee are good
- Open late
- Not bad service, but rude service
- Hit and miss food