Gail | Sep 24, 200107:23 PM     2

I can't figure out whether restaurants are inconsistent or I'm too fussy. So often friends give a restaurant rave, then I go and am disappointed. My general attitude is that if I can do better at home, it's thumbs down to the establishment.

A few nights ago I caught dinner at Imperial Garden at the Great Wall Shopping Mall in Kent. Friends have long praised their dim sum, and someone on Chowhound called it the best Chinese in Seattle.

It was virtually empty and refrigerated (a.c. blasting) last thursday night when I arrived. The menu was short and non-descriptive, not necessarily a bad sign in itself, but the waitress offerred no further elucidation. My companion and I ordered szechuan chicken and mongolian beef.

The chicken came first, looking like a heap of Birds-eye frozen vegetables with peanut-sized lozenges of chicken, all in a bland, cantonese-style clear shellac. One bite and we begged for an exchange, which the waitress granted. She strongly advocated for the scallop hot-pot, which a shellfish allergy vetoed. We wound up with a black cod and pork hot-pot which she also suggested.

While we waited, the mongolian beef arrived, a heavily battered pile of beef strips on stale fried noodle threads. Over the chicken, though, it was an improvement.

When the hot pot arrived, it looked like a great vat of gravy in which large whitish slabs soaked. The pork was white in large part because it consisted of cubes of fat with tiny ribbons of muscle. The very fishy cod was white, as was the tofu, which was the best part. There were no vegetables of any kind. The whole dish reeked of unadulterated fish sauce.

We paid and scooted out as quickly as possible to warm up outside in the pleasant 60 degree evening air. I admire those hounds who are able to graciously give places like this a second chance, but I'm not that generous or patient.

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