CUISINE: Um, Chinese BBQ. ADDRESS: 994 Huron Street DATE: July 13, 2013
So, the AZ RESTO TOUR, as I’ve always said, is not exhaustive. Along with the other rules (like not spelling “nachos” with an apostrophe s. Friday Knight Lights serves “Nacho’s”…something belonging to their cook, Nacho, apparently), one of the things that the list doesn’t include is EVERY SINGLE Asian Restaurant in London. Many of them are takeout, and there are JUST. SO. MANY.
There are some on the list because of recommendations from friends, there are some that are highly ranked on review sites, and then there are some that are just distinctive in some way (I’m coming for you, GANGNAM STYLE KOREAN BBQ).
Chinese BBQ has been in London for 5 years, but in business for more than 40 years in Windsor. And like so many of the restaurants on this list, I’d never heard of it. This city isn’t that big, but it’s amazing how many streets I’ve never even driven down. In fact, I was so unfamiliar with this part of the city (Huron, between Highbury and Adelaide), I directed Ian and my mom blocks in the wrong direction to get there.
Maybe I gave him bad directions so that more of London would get to check out his newest BLOG SHIRT.
(Interior of a 1992 Teal Ford Taurus Wagon. The year is 1993. My mom is teaching me how to drive).
MOM: And when we get to the next corner, you’re going to get into the LEFT TURNING LANE to turn onto Wellington. And then we’ll turn RIGHT into the White Oaks parking lot.
MEGAN: (confidently) OK.
MOM: (alarmed) WHY ARE YOU TURNING NOW?
MEGAN: I’m not sure.
MOM: This is Dearness Drive. We’re not there yet.
MEGAN: I got confused.
MOM: But you can SEE the mall from here. You can see the mall in front of you.
MOM: So, why…
MEGAN: I didn’t want to miss it.
(repeat ad nauseum for the rest of my life)
And this is what it is like to be in the path of the directionally challenged Megan Moorhouse.
But even if I did have any idea where I was going, I might have missed Chinese BBQ.
AN AZ RESTO BLOG FIRST!
Chinese BBQ, the most creatively named of all the restaurants, is in a PLAZA, along with a pizza place, a mini mart, Monika’s Salon, and a bike shop with the Simpsons-esque moniker OUTSPOKIN’ CYCLES (cuuuute).
The restaurant itself houses about 15 tables, in a very simple and donut-shop-bright neutral interior. Ian picked a seat by the window, and my mom joined us after being steered in the wrong direction by her wayward daughter.
My mom thinks I’m cute. Look at her bemused grin.
The restaurant’s owner, John, came over instantly with hot tea and menus. A quick perusal indicated that we were in wayyyy over our head. The menu had HUNDREDS of items, and was neatly organized, but did not have the familiar (read: saucy and doughy) offerings of Chinese restaurants. No chicken balls, no unusually red sauce, no Moo Goo Guy Pan or other such Canadian bastardizations of authentic dishes. As the name indicates, this place specializes in meat, grilled, roasted and slow-cooked.
We explained our ignorance to John, and asked for help in portion sizes and ordering. He suggested we order an appetizer, a sampler platter of barbecued meat, a serving of rice and a vegetable side.
We decide to go with the crispy spicy squid, the BBQ Sampler, the Shanghai rice with Shrimp and Pork, and the Garlic bok choy.
John asked if we were all good with chopsticks, and we assured him we were (although two of the three of us begged for a fork not too far into the meal. I’m not mentioning any names, but it was the two people, pictured above, who are not named Megan Moorhouse. Come to your own conclusions).
My dad was out of town refereeing football (because that’s what nearly-retired Dads in their 60s should be doing on Humidex 40C days), so after a swim in my parents pool, my mom decided to accept the invite to join us on our culinary adventure. I never really think of my parents liking Asian food very much, but my mom surprised me with a story about her Asian friends from university. Apparently, she met a number of Chinese students in her residence at MacMaster in the late 1960s, and both the women in her dorm and their male friends were all great cooks, who would prepare feasts for special occasions, like Chinese New Year. My mom said that they even came with her to my Grandparents’ house to make dinner!
My grandparents’ old house in Tapleytown.
My grandparents, who lived on the hill in Stoney Creek, ON (in fact, in the tiny burrough of Tapleytown, where my mom went to elementary school across the street from her house) had never seen a Chinese person in real life before my mom’s friends came to visit. My mom said my Grandma was delighted to learn about Chinese cooking.
This story made me super happy (CUTE GRANDMA TALES!), but did not surprise me. This is my Grandma, Marion Ruth Watt, who turns 90 this year. The woman has a daily workout regimen that includes step ups and sit ups. She makes 4-5 pies for every family occasion, her “Grandma Trays” of squares are legendary. She still doesn’t sit down at family meals, even though she still can eat like a frat boy. A few weeks ago, I watched her polish off a restaurant-sized burger and fries for lunch at the Up Front; and she washed it down with a beer. The fact that she got a kick out of these visitors doesn’t surprise me at all.
Man, what you can learn about your mom when she says, “I used to be better at chopsticks…”
I love hearing stories about my parents at MacMaster University—that’s where they met and fell in love. I was particularly delighted in high school when I put together that my dad’s stories about being in bars during University meant that my parents must have had FAKE IDs.
Mom, Ian and I all agreed that John was an amazing server. Friendly, personable, and informative, he even threw in some complimentary dishes to enhance our first experience in the restaurant. The art of serving is not to be dismissed: too chummy, and you end up being a parody, like the server from Office Space:
But John was the perfect balance of effeciency and warmth. When the dishes started piling up, he pulled up another table to house our feast.
John brought out the complimentary pork bone soup first:
Warm, savoury, but not overly spiced, this soup was a simple starter. And when I spilled the whole thing in my lap, John brought us more napkins. What a gem.
Next up was our crispy spicy squid, which John told us was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. He mentioned that people come to get multiple orders of the Squid, and the squid only, for takeout. And they seemed to be doing a prompt takeout business while were were there.
The squid was served with a combination of peppers, onions and scallions, with a side of sriracha. My mom thought it was a little chewy, but I greatly preferred this to the rubbery rings with panko breading you get at most chains. But to me, like pizza, even bad calamari is good. And this was definitely not bad.
Then came the platter of BBQ. On it, sweet and stick pork ribs, roast pork, soy chicken, roast duck and…more chicken? I can’t remember. Lots of meat. I enjoyed the ribs the most, and the chicken was very tender. I found some of the meat a little fatty for my taste, and I try, often, to like duck, but I can never quite manage it. It was served with a sweet and spicy ginger and sesame sauce that went well with everything.
The Shanghai rice was pretty awesome. This photo doesn’t really show the HUGE MOUND that we got for $11. Picture a lasagna pan piled 6 inches above the top, and you’ve got the volume. The rice is cooked with pork, shrimp, scallions and egg, and was REALLY, REALLY tasty. I actually just remembered that there are leftovers in the fridge that may not last until morning.
John brought this extra plate of slow roasted, glazed pork out, just because he wanted us to try it. He touted it as the house speciality, and I can believe it. It was definitely the best meat that we tried, and what I’d order again.
OK, so this is a plate of many pieces of bok choy, but I’m telling you, it was AMAZING. Super garlicky, and perfectly cooked.
John asked us at the end of the meal where we had heard about Chinese BBQ, and I mentioned the listing on Urban Spoon. He smiled and said, “Urban Spoon has been so good to us!” They’ve currently got an 82% rating with 145 reviews.
For a hearty, delicious, and different Chinese food experience, at a price that can’t be beat (just over $40 for the 3 of us, with two boxes of leftovers for my dad!) and really EXCEPTIONAL service, I guess when you go, you can tell him you heard about it from me.