Saturday, April 26, 2008

Asia Kitchen - restaurant review

We'd gotten a flyer a couple of times at home for a new restaurant called Asia Kitchen which advertised serving Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine. It was a pretty elaborate flyer, fairly nicely done. The flyer had a tri-fold menu that listed a fairly extensive and impressive array of dishes, all the dishes (customary and specialty) that you'd expect from a good sit-down Chinese restaurant. I'm not necessarily into trying every restaurant that sends us a flyer, but we decided to give it a try.

Instead of the nice sit-down restaurant that I was expecting, the restaurant turned out to be a tiny little place with about eight small mis-matched tables. It was located in what looked like a new, or at least newly-redone, strip mall, with about half the business spaces occupied. I was a little unsure just seeing the restaurant, but it didn't scream "STAY AWAY", so we decided to give it a try.

We sat at one of the tables and were given the same tri-fold menu flyer that had been sent to our home. Since they had a list of lunch specials, we decided to just try those. Each entree came with soup of the day, egg roll, fried wonton and rice. I chose the three flavored (chicken, beef and shrimp) kung pao, and the husband picked the Szechuan beef. We also asked for water and hot tea.

The restaurant is pretty sparsely decorated with drawings/paintings of glass fruit on the walls. There were a couple lit pictures of various dishes and two paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. I was a little surprised that regular salt and pepper were sitting on the table - Chinese restaurants usually have white pepper rather than black pepper.

We sat for a little while, and eventually, our soup was brought to us, in small styrofoam bowls with plastic spoons. I was disappointed, though not particularly surprised, that the soup of the day was egg drop soup. Boring, safe. I put some hot sauce in it to spice it up a little. It wasn't bad.

Our water had been brought to us, but it was some time before we had tea, which kind of surprised me. Eventually, we were brought a pot of tea and two styrofoam cups.

And then we sat and waited. And waited. And waited. We watched a few of the people in the restaurant put together a metal shelf and move things in and out of the restroom/storage room. We watched as they put together two to-go orders and people came to pick them up. We watched as another man came in, sat down, perused his menu, put in his order, and got his food - while we still sat there waiting for ours. Shortly thereafter, the woman who had taken our order came by to tell us our food was coming soon. Ummm, today?

Finally, she came with our food, two egg rolls and two fried wontons on a paper plate and two styrofoam containers with each of our orders.

The flavoring on the kung pao wasn't bad, but it wasn't very spicy. It had a good mix of chicken, beef and shrimp and had good vegetables and water chestnuts. The entrees were supposed to come with either steamed or fried rice, but we weren't asked for a preference, so I figured we'd just see. It turned out to be a sort of lightly fried rice, with just a tiny bit of egg and mostly soy sauce.

The husband and I had figured on sharing our dishes, so I had some of the Szechuan beef. The flavoring on that was pretty good, nice mix of sweet and tangy and spicy.

Both portions were pretty generous, but my one major complaint is that both dishes were oversauced. There were pools of liquid at the bottom of each container, and while I like some moisture in my dish, I'm not a fan of the entrees being entirely coated and swimming in sauce.

The egg rolls were shorter but fatter than I'm used to, but they looked pretty good. I was disappointed, though, that instead of the nice mix of vegetables you might normally get, it was pretty much just packed with cabbage and nothing else. The fried wonton was very non-descript.

Other than being too sauced, the entrees themselves weren't bad, but otherwise, I was not impressed with any of the other food, and there was really no excuse for us having to sit and wait that long, especially since we were served our food significantly after someone else who came in some time after we had ordered. I don't know if they forgot our order or lost it or what happened, but since it wasn't exactly crowded, I can't begin to see an explanation for that. I think I had probably set myself up for disappointment anyway because I expected a certain kind of place based on their menu, and it was so completely not even close.

It wasn't the worst Chinese food I've had or the worst place I've been to, but it's not that hard to find decent fast-food Chinese, so the combination of the food being not all that great and the serious service problem, this is definitely somewhere I'd recommend staying away from. I was hesitant to even do this review and include their information, but I figure it's a good way to warn people away, and for anyone who really wants to try it, well, you're on your own.

Asia Kitchen
1626 Puente Avenue
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(626) 960-0292

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