Monday, November 2, 2009

Chef Liu - Downgrade

Today was a sad day for Chef Liu. We always had great experiences at their former location in a trailer-style building in the middle of a parking lot. Frankly, I liked the location because it was unique and comfortable. The trailer version of Chef Liu was quaint, had great food, and service was always quick and friendly and I had some of the most enjoyable and nostalgic meals here. I always loved watching the steam rise off of the food in the natural sunlight that came through the sliding windows/doors. In the past few weeks Chef Liu has picked up and moved into one of the commercial spaces in the shopping center that's parking lot used to house the previous incarnation. I was happy for them and thought they were moving on up, but our experience here this past Sunday left me longing for their former residence and quality I had come to know.
The wait begins and so does the aggravation.

When we got there, we weren't exactly sure if we were to seat ourselves or not. When we asked someone at the desk, a waitress frantically grabbed two menus and plopped us down at the nearest table. We discussed and chose the items we wanted, and then waited. And waited. And waited. I'd say 15 minutes passed where literally nobody ever came to our table. During this time, we witnessed people coming in and a wait que building. These people were never addressed. Not a "Hello" or "We'll be right with you!" Nothing. We watched, one by one, as the frustration built on each patron's face. Seated customers were steaming from lack of service as were the ones waiting and not being taken care of. Quite a few people walked out. Finally, one of the servers recognized that we hadn't been helped and as he started to head our way, was grabbed by another server to help out with whatever problem she was encountering. Another five minutes passed and it wasn't until a kind woman seated behind us literally told a waitress to help us, that we were finally tended to.

We ordered the soup dumplings (our staple), the fried pork buns, the twisted cruller, and the lamb skewers. The lamb skewers came out in literally 60 seconds flat. They were warm but not and my guess is were part of someone else's order and were sitting there. They were just OK this time. The flavors just weren't there, and they were just warm, not hot. We finally got some water at this point after I asked for it.

Next up, and about five minutes after we finished the lamb, were the pork buns. These were pretty good and fresh. Frankly, I'd skip the fried option next time since it didn't add much in the way of flavor or texture, but still they were darned good. The dough was perfectly sweet and airy and the filling was decent.

Pork Bun Cross-Section

Fortunately the soup dumplings arrived as we were finishing. The good was they were tasty. The bad was that the skins were sticking to the steamer and breaking before we could get them into our spoons. Which results in lost soup. We never had this problem before at the old Chef Liu, so it wasn't due to lack of chopstick or spoon skills. It was pretty upsetting that we lost the precious broth that makes the dish so special in the first place, but the dumplings were still a success in my book.

The culprits of lost soup and some sort of mystery meat?

I actually liked the way that we were served (minus long breaks) rather than everything coming out at once. Since we were sharing each dish, it gave us time to enjoy each one while it was hot and not feel overwhelmed with all of the food that can, and usually does, pile up on our table. However, the last item was served at the complete wrong time and really just finished off a bad experience on an additional sour note.

After about another five minute break in service, the twisted cruller was brought to our table. The only thing that makes up this dish is fried, salty dough. And it's really good. However, I didn't like that we were getting bread as our last course. It should have been first and if not that, at least second. But we were eating it as our fourth item. In addition to the timing, the bread was entirely too greasy. I literally watched the grease poor down Kins' hands and wrists. Unacceptable.

Sadly, the meal wasn't enjoyable at all. The service was abysmal and the food just wasn't good. They get one more shot from me. There are just too many other places I have yet to try on BuHi to put up with this inexcusable service.

Side note: While we were waiting, one couple that sat themselves brought in a toy dog. And sat with it. At the table. They were either too stupid to know this was wrong, or just didn't care (I'm siding with didn't care). Mid-meal the girl sent her boyfriend to fetch some Evian from the car mid meal. Pretty sure the dog is treated better in that relationship. Seriously people? And why didn't management ask her to leave her dog outside?!

Chef Liu on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Now that's the Chef Liu's that I know - slow, indifferent/apathetic and mediocre quality at best. I do hate to keep beating on them, but they really do not deserve all of the hype they get.

    The xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) you got were falling apart because they didn't steam them over napa leaves (or at least paper rounds). Either they're being cheap (napa does cost maybe $0.50 for a head the size of a VW), or they have people in the kitchen that don't know what they're doing. My guess is both.

    In their defense, most "real" Chinese restaurants don't bring you water unless you ask - not a common practice for Chinese to drink ice water (bing shui).

    As for the dog people - didn't you point out the d-bag factor at Chef Liu's in your earlier post?

    Not trying to be a hater, we need more restaurants to be what Chef Liu's SHOULD be. It ought to be simple - they just need to give a damn...