Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some of the worst Chinese food ever

Dim sumImage by Kent Wang via Flickr
Maybe we should have stuck with dim sum at Dim Sum Dynasty (generic photo).

As I paid the bill at Dim Sum Dynasty in Ridgewood, I asked myself what I had done to deserve the lousy lunch I had just been served.

I had agreed to meet two friends on Monday at Sakura Bana, a reliable Japanese restaurant on Franklin Avenue, but when I got there, I saw that it opens only for dinner on Mondays. So one of my friends suggested Dim Sum Dynasty, which is just down the block.

On the way in, I noticed a December 2009 article from The New York Times about Drew Nieporent, the Manhattan restaurateur who lives in Ridgewood. In it, he mentions that when he eats out on Sundays, he goes to Dim Sum Dynasty for Chinese food.

Maybe, he doesn't know anything about Chinese food or the place has deteriorated since the piece was published. In fact, I ate at Dim Sum Dynasty a few years ago, and don't remember any problems.

But on Monday, the waiter seemed bored and tried to rush one of my friends into deciding which  of the complimentary soups she wanted with her lunch special, but she resisted. The place was less than half full. 

Instead of having carts of dim sum circulating in the dining room, they are listed on the menu. Maybe I should have ordered some.

Instead, I chose the "sea bass fillet casserole with tofu" ($9.99 with soup and rice), which sounded like a great, non-meat dish. But it was dreadful, an example of some of the worst Chinese food I have ever had from a restaurant that is cutting corners at the customer's expense.

First, there was no "fillet," just heavily battered pieces and I had a hard time actually tasting the sea bass. It could have been any fish, if there was, in fact, fish in there. The tofu cubes also were heavily battered. And what were roast pork slices doing in the casserole? They weren't mentioned on the menu.

The hot-and-sour soup was terrible -- too thick from an excessive amount of corn starch -- and the bowl of brown rice I got with the casserole seemed smaller than other restaurant's rice bowls. 

One of my friends ordered General Tso's Chicken ($7.99), but left most of it uneaten, complaining the poultry was tough. My second friend ordered sliced beef with choy sum ($7.99), and she was happy with it, though she had to ask for a knife to cut the green's tough stems.

When you have a terrible Chinese meal, it only makes you appreciate even more how great Lotus Cafe in Hackensack has been year after year and how honestly it deals with customers in terms of the quality of its ingredients, its prices and its service.

And few other places have a Chinese banquet menu that offers wonderful multi-course meals for four or more people at about $20 and up per person.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 
open seven days, free parking, BYO.

Dim Sum Dynasty, 75 Franklin Ave., Ridgewood;  
open seven days, metered street parking.

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