After reading the rave review of Chef Has from bigjeff and soopling on this board, I suggested to my husband that we try it. When he heard the magic words, "soup dumplings" -- one of the items mentioned in the review -- it wasn't difficult to convince him. So, off we went last night (Mon.).
It's about a 25-minute ride from our house, but armed with directions from Mapquest, we had no difficulty finding the place. There was a parking space right in front. It was about 8:20 p.m. We stepped inside the restaurant and were confronted with a huge dining space -- with not one single person in it! Not one customer! Empty!! Well, empty except for a man at the reception desk who was chattering into a cell phone in Chinese. The other thing we noticed immediately was that the room was ice cold. Obviously, they had turned down the heat. No sense in wasting it on an empty room. Seeing us enter, the man immediately hung up and removed his overcoat. (Obviously, a necessity to keep himself warm.)
It doesn't usually bother us to be the only diners in a restaurant. But we were already getting a bad feeling as we allowed the gentleman to show us to a table. He placed two menus in front of us and went off to the other side of the room where he turned on more lights. When he came back to the table, we asked him if he could turn up the heat. He stared at us with a blank look. And that was the first indication that he didn't speak much English. Great! We managed to make him understand that we were cold, and he indicated that he had turned the heat up. Still, we kept our jackets on.
When we opened the menus, the first thing we looked for was the soup dumplings. Bigjeff had mentioned that they were not on the regular menu and that one had to ask for them. Since what we had in front of us appeared to be the regular menu, they were not listed. We called the man back over. "We're looking for soup dumplings," we said, hoping that he would understand. Our menus had pictures of all the items offered with captions in English underneath them. He turned the page of my menu and pointed. He had obviously understood the word "dumpling" because he was pointing to a picture of dumplings. But they were regular steamed and deep-fried dumplings, the kind available at most Chinese restaurants, including those much closer to our home. We repeated the words "soup dumplings" several times, and he kept pointing to that picture. It was like something out of a comedy sketch. We asked him if there was anyone there who spoke English. No such luck. He left for a moment and came back carrying copies of the take-out menu. We knew, of course, that they would not be listed there either. It was very exasperating, but we somehow finally managed to make him understand what we were after, at which point, he shook his head and said, "No soup dumplings." Well, we had more or less already figured that out! We toyed briefly with the idea of ordering the Peking Duck. But the heat wasnt working very well, and we didnt see the point of staying to eat something that we could get in many other Chinese restaurants and becoming uncomfortably like icicles while doing so. We upped and left.
How did bigjeff manage to get the sterling meal that he wrote about? He didnt say he speaks Chinese, so his waiter must have spoken English. When are those English-speaking waiters there? (Obviously, not on Monday evenings.) And what about those soup dumplings? Are they only available at special times?
Earlier in the day, I had called the restaurant to ask how late they served dinner. The man who answered the phone spoke no English. (Obviously, he was the same man who was there when we went there.) When I hung up the phone, I thought it very strange and still do that a restaurant would have someone answering the phone who doesnt speak English. That should have been a clue to me that we were going to be in for an interesting experience.