Wednesday, December 14, 2011

J & J Wonton Noodle House: Victoria's Best Chinese Food Is Not in Chinatown

J & J Wonton Noodle House, 1012 Fort St., Victoria, BC

J & J Wonton Noodle House is one of those places that's been on my review back-burner for a good year. A recent visit (I've visited numerous times over the years) reminded me that it's time to finally write down the YRS word on this reliable Chinese food eatery.

Of all the Westernized ethnic foods, Chinese has to be the most common and well known. Especially in BC, the first port of entry for immigrants from Asia into Canada. We owe much to the Chinese for our rich, melting pot cultural blend in the province. This cultural diversity, however, doesn't always translate into good Chinese food. What we are accustomed to is a highly Westernized, MSG-infused version of the real thing. Victoria's Chinatown restaurants are notorious for this version, likely because they specialize in high volume, high turnover food directed at tourists. Even Chinatown restaurants that were once good seem to have faded into Chinese food oblivion. The more flashy the neon signage, the lousier the food seems to be.

J & J Wonton Noodle House has been a quiet counterpoint to this bad Chinatown food ethos since 1994. Not only does this inconspicuous eatery boast no gaudy neon signs, it is also far removed from the city's Chinatown. Ironic, indeed, that the best Chinese food in Victoria exists outside of Chinatown. I qualify "best" by admitting I haven't been to every Chinese food place in the CRD, but I've been to enough to know good when I taste it. And having had a chance to sample the real thing during a recent trip to Hong Kong, I can say with a degree of confidence that J & J Wonton Noodle House is about as good as you're going to get in Victoria outside of China.

Upon entering J & J, one immediately notices the open view kitchen, with chefs in top hats working away. I've always liked this open kitchen concept because it puts the customer a lot closer to the food, makes for a more inclusive ambience and demonstrates that the place is proud of its chefs, who have literally nothing to hide.

I'm not a fan of all the dishes I've had here, some seem a bit too sauce-heavy and tailored for Western taste buds, but the wonton noodle soup is a thing of minimalist beauty. The broth is refreshing, simple and devoid of the usual additives we've come to expect at most Chinese restaurants. The wontons are equally fresh, as are the thin noodles, which I believe are made on premises. The service has always been prompt and efficient during my many visits.

On a cold winter day, I can think of fewer things I'd rather be eating than a piping hot bowl of J & J's wonton noodle soup.
J & J Wonton Noodle House on Urbanspoon