Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wah Lai Yuen: You Disappoint Me

Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant, 560 Fisgard Street, Victoria, BC

Way before the Chinatown neighbourhood was gentrified, I used a rent a small apartment down an alley off Fisgard. One of the best places back then to eat at was Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant. Back then, the chicken curry on rice was legendary. Small pieces of succulent, bone-in curry chicken served atop a bowl of rice. The hot & sour soup and wonton & noodle soup -- also memorable. Not to mention the BBQ duck.

Having had a couple bad experiences in Chinatown restaurants in recent years, I'm a bit gun-shy about eating there these days. My expectations have especially diminished after a recent 2-week trip to Hong Kong, where I ate one amazing Chinese dish after another. But today I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the old 'hood, so decided to take a break from the Occupy Victoria rally and give Wah Lai Yuen a try (first time I've been back there in about 10 years). What a huge disappointment, nothing like the dishes I ordered back in the day.

Today's version of their curry chicken on rice should be renamed curry chicken skin on rice because there wasn't a single morsel of chicken meat to be found in the entire dish! It was all pieces of thick, fatty chicken skin. What gives? Were they trying to pull a fast one us due to a chicken shortage in the kitchen? My wife suspects they used chicken scraps for this dish. Chicken skin scraps, that is. When I brought this issue to the attention of our server, he looked genuinely perplexed, but he made no effort to remedy the issue. No offer to at least go get a few chicken meat pieces from the kitchen. No discount on the bill. To make matters worse, our wonton & noodle soup had no noddles! My wife and I clearly recalled speaking the order to the server, who clearly repeated it back to us, yet no noodles. And again, when we told our server of the error, there was no offer to remedy the issue in any what whatsoever. I think he said (with thick Chinese accent): "Oops, my bad."

Needless to say, I will not be going back to Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant to eat, or to relive my cherished bohemian youth in Chinatown.

Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant on Urbanspoon