Monday, September 8, 2008

Seeing Red.

After writing on my blog about a poor Chinese food experience, I didn't want folks to think that I am always critical of the places I choose to eat out at. I made reference to "Miss JC" as a new restaurant and in essence one assumes that a new restaurant warrants a good dining experience.
On the contrary.

I have frequented certain restaurants, that while they lack a good interior paint job, they more than make up for it with their menu. It is their food that brings me back time and time again.
One such restaurant is called Gain Wah, located in historic China Town, Vancouver.
My husband introduced me to this eating establishment while we were dating and we have been back many times since. He even brought me back to the restaurant, which I might add was the location for our first date, and while sitting at the back corner table next to the bathroom, he got down on one knee and proposed to me. All the while other patrons are chowing down, too busy to notice the drama going on in the back corner.
I would like to declare that the love affair with this dingy little restaurant began from the first day I entered through their doors.

This being China town, there are any number of Chinese restaurants to choose from. I can honestly say that as often as I have come down here , I have never eaten in any other place but the Gain Wah. Situated right on the corner of an alley way, the first thing that greets you will be the selection of Peking duck hanging about in the storefront window. Once inside you will also notice the water tank that is home to a number of crab waiting to be selected for dinner. You are always greeted with a hello from the fellow standing behind the counter as he directs you to a table. On occasion I linger at the counter and I watch one of the cooks select one of those Peking ducks and swiftly yet with control bring down his machete like knife and make quick work of a whole duck cutting it into portions for someones dinner.
The walls have hanging upon them a number of red, dry wipe boards that advertise the daily/weekly specials, in Chinese I might add. In case you are wondering, "how does one order?" At your table and placed under the plexiglas cover, you will find two printouts of two menus, usually in two different colors. We normally choose from the "pink" sheet where the prices begin at a modest $ 4.95 and go up gradually in price. But here we have never been overly concerned with the prices as such because here you get a lot of bang for your buck.
The waitress comes along and pours you a steaming hot glass of Chinese tea into what one would normally consider a water glass. But this does not make a difference to us as we take our napkin and wrap it around the outside in order to sip our hot drink.

As you glance about the room you will notice the variety of platters & bowls sitting at each table.
I am always curious to note what other people will choose for their dining experience. I like to experiment with different items from the menu but I have found that when ordering Chinese food most people stick with tried and true. For example, my mother-in-law loves sweet & sour and so, when she is along with us it is a given that we will have an order of this sweet, orange coated chicken brought to our table.
One other time when both sets of parents were along for a visit to our favorite place, both fathers decided to choose a dish containing crab. After selecting a crab from its watery home, the kitchen set to work preparing a gingery, saucy crab feast. The rest of us sat there with our chow mien as we watched two grown men with utter delight attack the platter of crab, licking their fingers as they went along.

And, the food arrives quickly to your table. As soon as you have begun to scoop your won ton noodle from its liquid bath, your other orders promptly arrive taking up every bit of space at your table. Fresh, hot from the wok and generous portions.
The platters are moved around the table from person to person.
Your waitress returns to refill your already cooled down water glasses with more steaming hot tea. And for the next 10 or so minutes not a word of conversation is spoken while people consume their chow mien noodles. Rarely will there be the need to request those cute takeout cartons for leftovers although at times I am tempted to order just one more dish in order to acquire one.
And the grand finale, the waitress brings to your table the token tray upon which sits a selection of fortune cookies doled out from a large bowl that sits on the counter next to the cash register.
As you know from the previous writing, I will read my fortune and ignore the "lucky numbers" such as they are. Even my husband will crack open a cookie.

There you have it.
As I said before, this is the only restaurant we frequent when in China Town. Now one might say that we continue to come here simply because it holds sentimental reasons but this is just not the case.
The simple truth is that we continue to come here because we have never had a bad meal here.
Time & time again we are never disappointed. Despite the need for a new paint job or the old linoleum flooring also in need of a good cleaning, this remains our favorite stop for Chinese food.
While sitting at the table sipping my hot tea, I look in the direction of the kitchen, glancing upward at the smiling golden Buddha that sits among his lit candles. My guess is that he must know what a great restaurant this is because every time we are here, he is sitting in the same place with that same contented smile. Amid the clatter of chopsticks dipping into porcelain bowls I hear the ding of a bell coming from the kitchen signalling the arrival of our food.
I know it won't be long before I will be sharing a smile with the Buddha.

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