Friday, February 27, 2009

Zap Thai Review Number Two

Dear readers,

Over the past five Friday lunches, its been such a pleasure spending time with all the wonderful employees and patrons of Zap Thai. During these times, we have gotten really close. Through activities like "trying to avoid knocking over children", avoiding plates of food smashing together, and the ultimate game of buffet twister that is played by almost everybody in the restaurant, we have become a unit of individuals with one common goal: trying to get as many of those delicious Thai Spring Rolls onto our plates as humanly possible.

             A plate of Zap Thai buffet food with the famous spring rolls 

I have decided to review the spring rolls, because once you get past the ordinary curries, the token pad thai, the predictable random vegetable dish and the weird soup, you reach the golden brown cylinder shaped, sweet vermicelli stuffed food versions of crack. I can't remember a time when a spring roll could have single handedly shifted the Victoria Buffet Scene, but Zap Thai has done it. Indicative in my colleague Andrew Augustines behavior, his actions of eating anywhere between 8 and 10 spring rolls per sitting, has made me re-think the impossibility of a fried-roll defining an entire buffet.

One of the older ladies in the back who cooks these spring rolls has a keen eye. One casual Friday, maybe about a month or two ago, Andrew picked me up from school and we went to eat the buffet at Zap Thai, except this was no ordinary day. It would define our relationship with the staff for weeks to come. There is a sweet sauce in a plastic container that is just exquisite when used for the spring rolls. I anticipated drowning in Thai rolls, so I poured myself a more than ample amount of sauce. Not enough to seriously waste it, but more than I should have taken. I'm sure most of you have, at one time or another, made the mistake of taking too much at a buffet, so I don't feel bad about it. Anyways she bitched me out, and I have been extra careful not to upset the staff here since that day. Now, I only pour as much spring roll sauce as I'll need for one plate or two, THEN if I need more, I take a little more. This is the kind of respect I have for a place like Zap Thai; a place that offers the best buffet spring rolls in town for the best price.

And bye the way, if your looking for an update on the food in general, here it is. The pad thai is pad thai-ey, the curry is good, the steamed rice is good, the soup is o.k, the random vegetable dishes are usually good and on the rare occasion they even have meat dishes. Today it was Thai spiced beef with broccoli. The beef must have been slow cooked for hours because it was extremely tender. And of course the spring rolls were out of this world. I had six, but Andrew set a new personal record with ten.

I would also like to take this opportunity to tell the staff of Zap Thai something: Buy out the restaurant next door, knock down some walls and expand. Nobody likes fish and chips anymore anyways. Out with the old British style, and in with the new Thai way of living. Thumb symbols for life. You will make a killing. Look at today. It was packed with a lineup for the 5th week in a row that I've been there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mandarin, 28 Fairview Road, Barrie Ontario - (705) 727-1000 -


The only thing that can warm me up on a chilly evening in Barrie Ontario.

Nice big and bright letters that are clearly visible for miles on the Barrie skyline

A splendor of design

State of the art buffet

Its like Christmas. Very festive atmosphere

Freshly cooked crab legs

Big pieces of barbecued pork ribs

Massive torpedo shrimp

Barbeque section. They have maui ribs on most days, but this time they had new york steak, grilled sausage and chicken. It's also bbqed right before your eyes.

Aside from lines and lines of food, there is also a carving station with roast beef and pork.  Sides include yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes and garlic bread.

More splendor. Nice pieces of fried fish in the centre.

My personal favorite, the fresh prawns. No fishy taste whatsoever.

More crab legs!!

Hot butter for the crab legs!!!


Extensive dessert section with fresh fruit.

Cookies and pastries...

Ice cream. Many different flavors to scoop from!

I can feel the visit is coming to an end. It might be a year until I am able to dine here again. I don't think I can pretend. I'm about to say goodbye to a dear friend.

Purple Garden, 138-1551 Cedar Hill X Road, Victoria B.C- (250) 477-8866 -

The Purple Garden is one of the more consistently good buffets in Greater Victoria. Of course, it is occasionally great, which also makes it one of the areas more inconsistently great buffets. Having been dining at this restaurant for upwards of three years now, I can honestly say it is worth every penny. Not only is it well priced under ten dollars for lunch and thirteen dollars for dinner, it also has one of the best selection of meat dishes offered in the city.

Their green beans with sliced barbecued pork is abundant with meat, and the pork is lightly glazed in sauce, giving the dish a tad bit of sweetness. The egg rolls are thick and crunchy as the people at Purple Garden have not fallen into the recent Victoria-buffet fad of dishing out mini-rolls that taste like shit. A good egg roll is a tell-tale sign of a healthy buffet.

Szechuan eggplant is another unique dish that the Garden offers. The eggplant is cooked until it is almost mushy, and holds together because of the tough skin of the vegetable. It is also soaking in sweet szechuan sauce that shockingly doesn't overpower the taste.

However with its merits come some recurring problems. The deep fried prawns, like the deep fried chicken balls, are probably fried in twice the batter they should be, as the batter is under-cooked and doughy near the meat. This is a problem that never seems to go away.

Mandarin pork chops, golden brown fried chicken wings, celery chicken, ginger fried beef and sweet and sour pork round out the buffet. The chicken wings are excellent, and the ginger fried beef is crunchy despite being doused in sauce. The mandarin style pork chops, are full pork chops covered in tangy sauce. A definite plate completer. 

Another outstanding item that Purple Garden offers are deep fried fish fillets. Big chunks of fish, battered to perfection, and excellent with a side of your favorite sauce. Some Chinese restaurants in Victoria can charge anywhere from 12-20 dollars for a nice plate of fried fish. The quality of the fish might not be the same, but my taste buds couldn't tell the difference.

All of the rice and noodle dishes here are fairly consistent. The Shanghai thick noodles are cooked well with nice slices of beef, and the chow mein is quite standard as is the pork fried rice. Purple Garden also has a fountain drink area and hard ice cream. The ice cream can be a bit of a bitch to scoop. Dessert wise, you're looking at the typical rice crispy squares and bowls of jello.

While it isn't up to the level that Maygold Village is, Purple Garden is still one of the top Chinese buffets in Victoria.

Price for Dinner: $12.95 + tax

Monday, February 9, 2009

Crystal Jade Chinese Restaurant, 801 Vernon Avenue, Victoria B.C - - (250) 388-0299

What's your favorite one hit wonder? Mine's Crystal Jade.
Last year I did an extensive report on Victoria buffet's for Nexus Newspaper, a student run publication out of Camosun College. Out of the six or seven places I tried for that report, Crystal Jade was undoubtedly the best. But my, how time changes everything; even myself (I must be at least forty pounds heavier). So, like myself, Crystal Jades stock has safely fallen - unless your into the sumo look. I really want to go to Japan.
Why has Crystal Jade gone downhill? I have no idea. But when I start seeing things like rice krispie squares being shoved into the middle of the dinner section, I naturally start to ask questions. For a buffet of Crystal Jades size, and for the price of almost 20 dollars after taxes, you expect a little more than sweet and sour pork and ginger beef as your main meat dishes. Sure they had fatty duck, and those prawns cooked with all the flavour ontop of the outer shell (why!!!!), but the only good seconds worthy item was the deep fried chicken, eerily reminscint of the chicken that onced graced the buffet line of a certain "Uncle Willys" buffet restaurant, which existed in the same spot as Crystal Jade for many years.
One of Crystal Jades attractions last year was its extensive fried food section. The fried food was there tonight, but man was it shit. Doughy deep fried prawns, lukewarm over battered spring rolls with little taste, and a seafood dish which looked like it was trying very hard to look expensive. The pieces of white fish strewn about this vegetable medley were cut into tiny pieces, making it very difficult to get your moneys worth without spending ten minutes fishing through the tray. This place was so off, it couldn't even make tasty, mayonaisy macaroni salad. It was like eating Kraft Dinner without the cheese sauce and with extra water. Oh but they had orange jello right beside the fucking deep fried chicken. Do me a favour, put some honey garlic something in there. What the fuck is desert doing in the middle of an entree bar. Put that shit beside the ice cream. Ice cream on tap that is. Put some caramel and chocolate syrup on that shit and you salvage something out of what was overall a very disapointing second visit to Crystal Jade.

Final words: this place will always have a few things going for it; a large dining area, a large buffet area, and the dubious honor of playing in the same court as Uncle Willys. But for fucks sake, twenty dollars? If this place was 10, maybe 12 dollars, It would get a higher grade. But major marks off for charging way to much for way to little.

Price for Dinner 15.99 + tax

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maygold reins supreme. Still couldn't make a spring roll if their lives depended on it

Hit Maygold today for lunch. It was excellent as usual. The steak sauce was glorious. But what the fuck is up with their egg rolls. They taste like fermented cabbage

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chinese City Buffet Restaurant - 100-182 Wilson Street, Victoria B.C - - (250) 381-2838

Trying to find a half-decent buffet in Victoria is like trying to find a girl in her early twenties who doesn't post every single picture of herself, and her friends, getting plastered at the bar on Facebook. This being said, if you enjoy eating unclean fish, going to the bar and taking home one of those capture happy nightclub queens, might be a better bet than trying the fish at Szechuan City... i mean Chinese City.
If you remember the old Szechuan City, nothings changed, except the name and possibly the management. If you can all remember the great Szechuan City Divorce Disaster (SCDD) of 2005, this buffet is just one of the latest ripple effects felt by the great SCDD.
Szechuan City was once a powerhouse. Their downfall was as quick a turnaround as the Ottawa Senators fall from prominence (they were never good enough), and the quality of the food deteriorated just as their other stores were being shut down and having their names changed. A good example of this is Chinese Village in Saanichton. What's up with Chinese restaurants putting the word town, village, city, hamlet, world, in their title?
Anyways, onto the food. It was the exact same as the Szechuan City that once rested in its place.
There was boring, standard over salted calamari, shrimp (randomly uncleaned) with snow peas, terrible fried rice, chow mein that just sits for hours since they put out such a huge amount out all at once, soggy ginger fried beef and watery sweet and sour pork. Nothing about this place was original or effort laden. The spring rolls were even those little Safeway packaged looking motherfuckers that I have detested since the beginning of my buff days. What does it take to put out regular spring rolls? Fuck.
Take a pass on this buffet unless you really enjoy Kleinburg Bars and Ice Cream on tap.

Price for Lunch:
Around $11 after taxes


Good Food reviews Chinese City Buffet

The Good Food Blog weighs in on Chinese City Buffet.

Guy and me made a trip to this reformed Szechuan City a while back (review still coming Guy?) and this review pretty much hits the nail on the head.