Dinner with a cantankerous old friend & co. I suggested the snook at Coni'. He agreed, but wanted cocktail sauce with his fried shrimp (because he "doesn't like Mexican sauces") and no cilantro in anything. We decided instead to defer to his choice, and we ended up at Jin Jiang on Santa Monica Blvd.
I went in not expecting much, and was surprised by how much we enjoyed the meal. Garlic eggplant, perfectly cooked. Sauce a little thick, but flavorful, tender, bright purple slabs of tender eggplant. My Lovely Tasting Assistant™ (LTA™) chose the filet mignon, which was served loc lac-ish style, in a dark semi peppery sauce. This isn't going to take any accolades away from Newport, but it was fine, served in a ring of (western) broccoli florets. Shrimp in garlic butter sauce was just alright-- served with incongruous slabs of (raw) beefsteak tomato, and more broccoli florets. Boneless sole filet in a typical Chinese garlic, ginger, soy sauce with scallions and cilantro sprigs, surprisingly simple and traditional preparation (but without the bones and heads to make westsiders squirm). Old man ordered General Tso, low sugar, no spice. It was just what you'd expect. Crispy, chewy, lightly sweet, candied chicken.
In all, a surprisingly good meal.
Now that Carvel, on the other hand, good lord. The owner and his kids were running around, grabbing the sundae toppings. Mom seemed fine with letting them run around. Super schlumpy dad/boss was more interested in his smartphone than in his customers or the kids. $5 for a TINY cone, light on flavor, and tasted more whipped and less dense than what Carvel is supposed to be. This was an outrageous miss.