Something woked this way comes.
That's right. Those of you who have followed this website from the start probably know by now that I'm addicted to Asian food. The number of restaurants left to review is decreasing, but there are still a handful left to explore. So, this time, the turn has come to Lielais ķīnas mūris on Valdemāra iela, close to the national museum of art.
This review could almost be copy/pasted from my Stock Pot review. Circumstances are very similar: I went once to Lielais ķīnas mūris, three years ago, it was a real let-down and I didn't go again. But because of the fact that it's been three years (and I now have a food review website, whoohoo), it was time to try it again.
The restaurant doesn't differ much from any of the other Chinese restaurants in Riga. Oh, hey, they have some bamboo trees among all the red lanterns. Huge difference. Also, this restaurant has a higher quota of Chinese guests than the other ones I've been to. Could this mean something good? Hmmm...
”this is a dish for women with hair on their chests”
Menu time. My heart skipped a beat when I discovered Ma La chicken (ma meaning ”numbing”, la meaning ”spicy”). Like the name suggests, this is a dish for women with hair on their chests. In some restaurants, you have to plough through mountains of chili to find the chicken bits. At Lielais ķīnas mūris... not so much. Instead, what I found on my plate was a sad chicken dish which was very weak in flavor, and the two sensations that have given the dish its name weren't even remotely present. No ma, nola. There was chicken, though... A really disappointing meal.
A disappointment were also the fried meat dumplings. Proper fried dumplings has a fried crust on one side, unlike the wobbly grayish white things that were served to me. But how did they taste? Well, the fact you can get better dumplings from the freezers at Rimi is not exactly a feather in Lielais ķīnas mūris' hat.
And so it goes on. Disappointments galore. The squirrel fish is lame, at best, and with the chicken on a hot plate the chefs have managed to make a dish that starts out okay, but just gets worse and worse with every bite. I think it's the first time I've ever had that experience. All in all, I get the strong impression that Lielais ķīnas mūris have changed the food to the taste of the Baltic audience, for the benefit of no one.
”this restaurant is run by people who have stopped caring”
A final word about things other than the food. Depending on who is waiting the tables, you might have some success speaking English, but there are also staff who don't understand a word. However, this is more a bump in the road than an actual obstacle. What's worse, though, is how deeply unprofessional I feel that the people who runLielais ķīnas mūris are. Just look at their website, for example. Note that they haven't even updated the prices since Latvia joined the euro zone more than 6 months ago. Everything is still priced in lats, the old Latvian currency. Also, the menu on the website is out of date, so forget about looking at the online menu to decide on whether to visit the restaurant and if so, what to order. And apart from the website, you can't trust their opening hours either. I went there on a random Sunday, when they according to the sign on the door (and the website) should be open between 12 and 22. Nope, the lights were out, the door was locked, and not even a sign on the door informing guests about the reason for this. Come on, a simple post-it would do! This is just disrespectful to me as a guest. Things like this, in addition to the subpar performance in the kitchen, is for me a signal that this restaurant is run by people who have stopped caring. Or worse, that competition in Riga is so weak that they can get away with this kind of behavior.
But back to the food again. My experiences at Lielais ķīnas mūris actually make me angry. I'm sick of Asian restaurants adapting too much to their guests. Sure, if you come from faraway lands, open a restaurant and try to serve entrails, brains, blood soup etc. and your customers avoid you, then alter the menu, please. But if you sacrifice the very core of the cuisine that you're trying to be an ambassador for, that's both treason and heresy in my book.
”tell them to fuck right off and show them the door”
Here is my small catechism, and I would wish that all restaurant owners in Riga would read it:
The customer isn't always right. On the contrary, quite often the customer is a complete moron. Especially in Riga, many guests at Asian restaurants are almost guaranteed to be wrong. So don't adapt to them. Instead, educate them! Make proper Asian food. Then, if your guests don't like your cooking, they will have learned that Asian food is not for them. The next time a guest says ”bēēē bēēē, this is too weird/too spicy/doesn't have enough dill”, don't bow down to the floor and say ”we are terribly sorry, we will do better next time”. Have the courage to tell them to fuck right off and show them the door. It's best for them, it's best for you, and it's the best way to show respect for your native cuisine. Besides, in my opinion, lots of world food is rarely appreciated on the first try. You have to find a small something that you like, and then cling to that, and that little thing might grow and pretty much take over your eating life. Without ever challenging our taste buds, the world would be full of people eating mashed potatoes with green peas out of small Semper glass jars.