306 Burnside Rd
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.
J: Hope Key is one of those places I was introduced to by a friend a few years ago. Although I have previously visited here, I’ve never tried their food or their drinks. My only experience with Hope Key was relaxing in their loft while my friend enjoyed her bubble tea. But now things are different, I was hungry and they were offering a dinner buffet after many restaurants in downtown Victoria had closed for the night. With Ed just as desperate to find a place to eat, he stepped through the doorway willingly.
E: On a late night, we were without a chance in hell to find a place that would be open after 9pm. James keeps on thinking we’ve run out of places to hit to review, but I always point out that it depends on how much you’re willing to spend on a meal. Given his frugalness, that pretty much eliminates many places.
I wasn’t prepared to spend a lot either since my dollars were depleted after several travel excursions. Vancouver and Seattle can do that. We were without a hope until he mentioned this place.
Stubborn Chef – 拉麵館
AsUsual Cafe – 老地方
3960 Shelbourne St
Only James can think Kuma Noodle Japan has the best ramen all around Victoria. He’s most likely right, but he’s not had the complete Japanese experience (I had it in Japan, a place he has yet to travel to). Yes, I’m relentless in teasing him about this fact and one year, we will visit the Land of the Rising Sun to sample the food together. Back in Victoria, in the meantime, competitors eventually will emerge to challenge my buddy’s statement.
Trying to schedule his willingness to go out with my Pokémon GO adventures (I need to fuel up somehow) is like dragging a closet gamer out of the comfort of his own home to see the light, er sun.
We have tried a few places together. Foo Ramen Bar has been running for a while and unless you know which Japanese restaurants to go to, they will have this common staple buried along with the Udon and Soba. Next to the Victoria Public Market downtown is Ox King Noodles. In Gordon Head, The Stubborn Chef specializes in a variety of noodles. James finally checked out this place during one of his rare departures from Langford. By then, I’ve been here for the third time. Interestingly, the chef is a third generation noodle-maker. He’s been trained by the best and I’m glad he’s settling into the Gordon Head culinary landscape. The folks who ran this operation used to operate out of Chinatown in the past five years. And when it was sold a few years ago, I’m assuming the change of pace is because this municipality is closer to home. There’s less distance to travel. I’m thinking the owner/operator is taking a cue from James’ book. Why travel far when you can enjoy the comforts of home?
424 W Pender St
E: Smile, you’re on candid camera! In this case, that’s the name of this diner that has been used in many a television production. This operation certainly has a vibe to being used in front of a camera. One such show that’s been said to have featured this diner is Delete, a sci-fi drama that featured Janet Kidder, Jaylee Hamidi, Jessica Lee, and Mike Azevedo. Another program was Caprica and I’m sure if you look carefully, its exterior might be noticed from afar in productions like CW’s Arrow.
I may have to start looking back at programs filmed in Vancouver just to see what other shows used this pleasant and cozy place. For me, it was like going back in time to a simpler place for some good ole’ fashioned eats.
Szechuan City Buffet
110 Burnside Road East
J: I’m always raving about May Gold Village at every opportunity, their food ranks from average to above average and the service is great. But when it comes to my own personal experiences with buffets, there are others more experienced than I. Hope Key is another one I like for their friendly atmosphere (and their loft I can escape to when I want some privacy) but neither of them can compare to Szechuan City on a Saturday night.
Ed and I hit this place at night one hour before their closing all because of a co-worker’s obsession with chicken balls. This man I am sure is on a never-ending quest for buffets with decent helpings of the chicken kind. He’s snubbed May Gold for lacking what other buffets provide but he loves Szechuan City because they serve really good chicken balls. I swear my co-worker’s knowledge on the subject must rival Forest Gump‘s Bubba Blue’s knowledge of shrimp.
1950A Oak Bay Ave.
Oak Bay, BC
E: Honestly, I have to wonder about the attitudes that go on in a Chinese restaurant. In a proper establishment, customers are kept happy and the employees will go out-of-their-way to make sure the customer is well served. But when the level in service drops, I get visions of Mel’s Diner from the 70’s TV show, Alice. It makes me wonder why Mee Wah is generally well liked within certain food circles.
J: Is it the food? Perhaps but I know it’s not the service, the service (or lack there of) is poor. The place wasn’t packed but it was still busy. And during the time we were there I felt as though we were wasting the server’s time. I had to wonder what was bothering her.