Don Mee Seafood Restaurant
538 Fisgard Street
J: As a friend recently told me, Don Mee isn’t for Chinese, it is for Caucasians who like western style Chinese cuisine. Perhaps there is a ring of truth. After Ed and I had finished dining there for Chinese New Year, what we ate wasn’t close to authentic. He’s been to Shanghai and sampled the cuisine around this region.
Back in Victoria, however, I’ve heard there’s food you can order off the menu but perhaps if I had prior knowledge, It would’ve made for some wiser decisions.
My parents first came to eat here back in 1975 and I was to follow them 30 years later. I’ve had lunch here to some extent but never dined. On this occasion I was flying blind. Both Ed and I failed to notice the poster at the front door and the sign on our table advertising their new year’s special. But was our choice to go with a regular dinner for two (and an appetizer plate) the best choice to make?
E: At our age, yeah, we were as blind as bats, but this is the year of the sheep. We were baa-baa-bad and this time, I can’t blame James as he was first to finally realize our mistake.
To be honest, there was very little difference between the offerings of the ‘Chinese New Year Special’ and the ‘Dinner for Two.’ We topped up with an extra dish, the dim sum special. At least that was reasonably delicious. The tastes needed enhancement and before I could whinny, soy sauce and pepper was added on the shrimp and pork dumplings. The floral presentation on the other one, with a pea and carrot at least helped kick that idea up a notch.
J: The app wasn’t a bad way to start the night. The dumplings which resembled sea urchin with the added fish eggs helped put a smile on this seafood addict’s face. The rest I could’ve easily bypassed. There wasn’t much flavour. My suspicions were reinforced by watching Ed as he desperately tried to bring any small amount of flavour out of the small dumplings.
A dash of salt here and a dunk in soy sauce definitely helped.
For me it was the rainbow beef lettuce wrap. Who knew something so simple (lettuce leaves and spiced beef with cheese) could be so filling and tasty. I liked the cold and warm taste sensations.
But all this time my concern was fixated on the service. The staff were very abrupt. Not one smile was raised on their lips and to try to communicate with one of them required me to match their speed by wearing shorts and matching sweat bands. Yes, it was busy, but to spare a few seconds more to listen to their customer wouldn’t have caused someone’s meal to go cold. The girl at the front desk gave the impression that she was not happy in dealing with me.
But if it were not for one server, Mandy, the staff would’ve came away without a tip. It’s because of her smile and her correct way of dealing with customers that they received 15%. It would’ve been 20% but that girl’s demeanor at the front decreased it.
E: Either I was an empath or that rushed feeling was every where. For a while, I was gobbling the meals down like I was being force-fed by Mao Zedong himself. Part of China still adheres to that type of rule, and I have to wonder if Don Mee should change their name to that… I couldn’t even enjoy my Japanese Sapporo without a server deciding to pour the last of the bottle into my cup and whisking away a clean plate like he thought I didn’t need it. Although I tried to brush the incident off, that energy is definitely not needed.
Eventually, I was able to slow down and enjoy the tastes. I rather liked the beef. There were layers of crispness, spiciness and tenderloin mixed in along with the fresh red peppers. They helped complement the noodles that came a few minutes later. The lemon chicken with pineapples was also nice, and I’m hoping the meat was pounded that day than processed with a blender. I like me chicken meat to show it came out of the fowl by being stringy, not processed through a blender. Can I call foul yet?
J: I suspected the lemon chicken was processed. Sorry Ed, but your chicken may have followed a line of chicken feed up a gangplank with a final plunge into to meet its gruesome end. (Note to PETA: no chickens were harmed to feed the Two Hungry Blokes, not at the restaurant level anyways). But I’m surprised Ed could taste his food, he was eating through the dishes like there was no tomorrow. I kept telling him to slow down and that we were not in a rush. Yes, the servers made me feel rushed as well. Even with the flat screen TV above the bar playing videos of a large fish aquarium, it didn’t help to relax me.
E: I didn’t have the same luxury as that television was behind me, and whatever was happening outside made me think some 911 emergency was happening as the red and blue lights were flashing, only adding to my feelings that Don Mee was James’ another bad idea come true (yet again).
J: I liked the wonton that was served as an appy. Although it was basic and at first sight I convinced myself the effort wasn’t made, at least the dumplings were tasty. It had shrimp mixed in and that is where its strength was. I’ve had better sourced from Vancouver (served at Culis Market) but it was pretty good. Overall the food hovered around the average-above average range but nothing truly wowed me.
Call me fussy but I feel if your food is average or below then give me a good atmosphere to eat in and make it cheap enough that my wallet thanks you. But if you go above average, you’re in a whole new territory. The need to keep pushing the bounds of excellence should be your goal. It’s obvious Don Mee is pushing that boundary with their food, it is a shame the practice isn’t applied by most of their floor staff.
3 Blokes out of 5
Good review, guys. I have enjoyed slightly tastier yet somewhat more brusque service at Golden City (my preference over Don Mee’s — their Dim Sum offerings are less bland dumpling and more flavour) but if you are just going to get the same service and food almost as tasty and prices about 40% cheaper, Ocean Garden has been my pick for years, until recently. Young’s just stole the best bang for my buck.
Thank you Kier. Young’s was one of the restaurants I frequered as a child/teen. Ed and I reviewed them some time ago: https://twohungryblokes.com/2010/09/20/those-ol-stomping-grounds/
Readers can expect a review of Ocean Garden to be coming soon. A few friends and I stopped in after the Lion Dance since we all wanted a snack afterwards. 🙂
I have never eaten non-dim sum here so I can’t speak for the quality. But their dim sum is tops! And the salt and pepper crispy squid is SO GOOD. I’ve been here several times for dim sum and I definitely feel like
it is the best place in town.