J: Like bees that are attracted to pollen, Ed and I are attracted to the area surrounding Tillicum Centre. The sweet nectar that can be found with either going to the movies (SilverCity Victoria Cinemas), getting a cheap dinner (Marble Arch), having desserts (Mr. Tubb’s Ice Cream Parlour) or partaking in board games (Skyhaven Games) in one area is too much to handle with just a single trip. If you’re a film buff like us (in name only and not in physique), yes you will find yourself coming back for more.
On this particular trip, we were looking for comfort at Szechuan Palace and I don’t mean to have a good cry and a cuddle. Both Szechuan Palace and Szechuan City are run by the same family and they are only four blocks apart. I’ve been to this location once before with my mom. Our purpose was to get a decent dinner before a movie, but we didn’t get past the starter. Service was slow even though they weren’t busy. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. A lot of time and patience is needed when you dine here in the evening.
History was looking like it would repeat itself. The website has incorrect information. It’s operating hours are not updated, and there’s no evening buffet.
E: Although I was told the buffet at the other location is better and with more items to select from, I’m still curious at what the Palace offers. I’m sure it’s the same ol’ grub, but surely they must have better cooks here than at the other establishment. For these places, the cooks are cooks, not chefs.
Until James and I can hit this place during lunch time, I won’t know for sure. The question is, will we like it? We ordered from the “dinner for two or more” menu and they had three pages with differing selections. In what we got were the spring rolls, deep-fried prawns, beef & snow peas, kung pao Chicken, sweet n’ sour pork, and house special chow mein. If you bring eight hungry blokes, they will give you breaded almond chicken.
I was mostly sold because of my fondness to sample all the prawns from around the world as flavoured according to ethnic taste, and the snow peas. As for the rest of the menu, the quality was a mix of good to meh.
J: The one thing Szechuan Palace needs to learn is proper pacing. After ordering our first meal egg rolls were at our table after five minutes and that was fine but it was the main dishes that was the issue. The fact the first dish came out 23 minutes after our egg rolls was brought out was too long of a wait. The Palace had a handful of people waiting. Since Ed and I were the first customers means problems with the queue in the kitchen. After the first main, the others came out in quick succession. But that’s one heck of a long wait. Each dish should arrive at a certain time one after another so that you don’t feel as though you are sitting there twiddling your thumbs. But the staff at the Palace did make amends by apologizing and they offered us a bowl of delicious rice to go with our meal. Such a thing didn’t happen on my first visit.
E: Do good things come to those who wait? For the patient, maybe. I certainly enjoyed the sweet and sour pork, even though what I tasted was nothing new compared to other restaurants. The chow mein needed pepper to really give it a good kick. I ate a bit but I was not feeling too hungry. When compared to James, he was the man looking to be crowned king. He ate like King Henry VIII and he even boasted that he could polish off all the dishes. Two barely filled plates was enough for me.
The prawns went fast, and that’s because they were decently battered up. The hit could have been with the chicken, but it just did not quite have the oomph needed to bowl me over. The meal was ultimately forgettable in the long run.
J: Although the rice was nice and fluffy it was the kung poa that wowed me. It was spicy and flavourful. The dish had a life of it’s own. I could’ve dined of kung poa all night. The prawns we had were definitely tasty but the batter was too heavy on the stomach and thick. It was nothing like the light batter I had at Ebi Ten in Vancouver. The people who worked the restaurant were very kind to us and I liked them from the start. They didn’t even question me as I took photos of the menu and our meal as did the matriarch of Szechuan City.
E: The treatment by the server at the other establishment is, I’d say, typical for older Chinese ladies, especially Cantonese. By the way the language is spoken, it’s pushy. If I was to guess why the behaviour happens, it’s because of how they were treated too when young, by their demanding elders. The attitudes just carry on from generation to generation. Even I have to put up with it at the oddest of times. Being gentle and polite doesn’t really exist.
J: And this just adds to the problem that is Victoria. We lag behind when it comes to food and customer service. It’s either some people don’t know how to run a restaurant, or they don’t know proper customer service or both. Knowing someone who travels internationally and has dined at some of the best places around only for him to admit that Victoria has the least pleasant dining experience of any place he’s visited, is telling. As a city we rely upon the tourist trade. No longer can we afford to give the “you’re on an island, where else are you going to go” attitude. Competiting doesn’t always mean bending over backwards but it does mean having a high standard of service. And although The food at Szechuan wasn’t consistent, there was that glimmer of the aforementioned service. And that is what gives Szechuan Palace a higher ranking when compared to other restaurants.
3 Blokes out of 5