Monday, March 31, 2008

Restaurant Review - Peking Chinese Restaurant

Peking Chinese Restaurant
5960 Telegraph Rd, Ventura
Phone: 805-644-7777
Cuisine: Chinese

A few weeks ago I took my wife and son to the Peking Chinese Restaurant in Ventura. We were driving around indecisively when we stumbled across it. My wife loves Chinese food, and swears by the quality of Chinese food in Oregon. Having received more than an adequate dose of it last year, I came to the conclusion that she was wrong and that California has better Chinese food. So, we have been on a quest of sorts ever since, trying to find Chinese food that we both like. This is why we decided to give this place a try.

When we first walked in, we were greeted cordially. The place was pretty dark, and the decorations were pretty plain, which was fine with us. It seemed that we were in for some pretty basic fare, but we were determined to give it a shot. We found that they had a choice of three different prices for entrees and appetizers. Having been accustomed to Panda Express, we assumed we had to share the appetizers. We ordered the medium priced option, and were pleasantly surprised when they brought us each the appetizers. We had spring rolls, paper wrapped chicken, and a cream-cheese stuffed won-ton. We both had Egg Drop soup, which was pretty good.

The soft drinks were served in large cups, and the refills were prompt. The wait staff was very friendly, and we did not lack anything the entire time.

I ordered the Kung Pao chicken, as I use this dish to determine the quality of a Chinese restaurant. My wife ordered a chicken dish which is escaping recollection at the moment. I will ask her about it and update this post. The ratio of chicken to water chestnuts was acceptable. I hate it when restaurants add tons of celery or water chestnuts and skimp on the chicken. This place passed this particular test. The heat was a little low on my preferred scale, but was too spicy for my wife. This means that it had some measure of heat, though I couldn't taste it. My wife's heat sensors are far more sensitive than mine. It was still pretty good though, and had plenty of peppers to make up the heat.

The wait staff was pretty impressive, as was the food. I give the service an 8 out of 10, and the food gets an 8.5. This is the best Chinese food we have had in Ventura County so far.

Restaurant Review - Mandarin House

Mandarin House
4020 E. Main St., Ventura
Phone: (805) 654-0933
Cuisine: Chinese

Sunday evening I took my wife and son to the Mandarin House. It appears to be a chain, so I will add that I went to the one on Main Street in Ventura. This place got high marks for both food and service at

When we arrived we were cordially greeted and promptly seated. We were seated near the fish tank, which thrilled my two year old son. The waiter arrived with our crispy noodles and sweet and sour sauce, and then disappeared. A few minutes later the waiter came by to ask what we wanted to drink. My wife ordered a Coke, but I, being a Pepsi guy wanted to see what alternatives to Coke there were. This seemed to confuse the waiter, and it turned out the choices were Coke or Diet Coke. I chose an iced tea, and immediately regretted it. It was horrible. I sucked it up and asked for a Coke to replace it. The water came just after we had ordered our drinks.

It seems to be a pattern at Chinese restaurants where a couple can order an all-inclusive meal from one of three categories, with the appetizers and entrees getting better as the price goes up. We tend to settle for the middle road, as we did last night. I tried to ask about the appetizers in the highest price level, since I did not know what Pu Pu meant. He just told me it was a combination, but didn't tell me what was in it. We ordered the other option, since we at least knew what we would be getting.

The lady who seated us came back and brought us more crispy noodles, just as our first batch ran low. The waiter arrived shortly after with the soup. He poured three bowls for us, and left the larger bowl on the table for us to finish. The Egg Flower soup was really good, and my son couldn't get enough of it. Daddy had to eat with his left hand while he fed him with his right hand, as the large spoon was a little awkward for my son.

The appetizers came next, and for the most part were pretty good. The spring rolls were the worst of the bunch, but still not that bad. They seemed to be pretty heavily infused with black pepper. After dipping them in a variety of sauces they became more palatable. The paper wrapped chicken was pretty good, as was the fried shrimp.

The meal came shortly after, and the portions were pretty large. The Kung Pao chicken I ordered was so mild that even my son could eat it without flinching. To me, if you aren't drinking after every bite, it is not hot enough. That being the case, I think this could have used quite a bit more heat. The Kung Pao was pretty much even in the chicken to water chestnut ratio, which is a good thing. A lot of places lately are adding so many water chestnuts or other filler that you don't get to taste the chicken. My wife's Almond Chicken had much more flavor, with a strong hint of garlic. We both liked it quite a bit more than the Kung Pao.

The waiter came back a couple of times to refill our drinks, but made himself scarce for the most part. I found that we had to wait longer than necessary for refills, considering the sparse crowd in the restaurant. That being said, I think I would give the service a 7 out of 10. The food would be about a 7 as well. This was a pretty decent restaurant, and we would both consider going back.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why I Won't Shop at the Oxnard Wal-Mart Again

I went to Wal-Mart last weekend to get my oil changed. I have been going to Wal-Mart for years now, as I like all the extra stuff they do for the price. Typically, I park my car somewhere near the garage, walk to the counter, hand them my key, tell them where to find my car, and all is good. Occasionally there will be someone guiding traffic, and I will arrange for the oil change right there.

This day turned out to be different. This is my first oil change since moving to Oxnard last October. Some of you are thinking I should have had my oil changed long before last week, and you would be right. I am well aware of how I should have done this far sooner.

Now, this Wal-Mart is already pretty ghetto, but I was hoping for some sense of normalcy in the automotive department. I pull my car into a spot near the garage, and walk in to turn in my key. The person behind the counter tells me that I do not set up the oil change inside, but am supposed to talk to the guy that is out there. She also told me to park my car in the back of the line outside. I had just taken my son out of his car seat, and in a two-door car, this is a somewhat difficult task. I informed them that there was no guy outside, and it would have been nice to know the arrangement before I took him out of his car seat. She just shrugged. I was mildly annoyed, but thought I would just get over it and go about my day.

I was meeting my wife at the Wal-Mart so we could do our grocery shopping elsewhere while we waited, and managed to meet up with her on the way back to my car. I told her of my annoyance, and gave my son to her so I wouldn't have to put him back in the car seat. I then pulled into the line. Again, nobody was standing around, and I saw one guy pull the first car in line into the garage, so I thought I was in the right place. I leave my engine running and step out of the car part-way, trying to scope out the situation. I was quickly confronted with an angry voice telling me that the line didn't start where I was. I looked around, saw no other cars, and waited until he finished his reproach. There was no attempt at customer service, no "Hey, I noticed you aren't familiar with this particular Wal-Mart's procedures, let me help you out." No, I just got railed on for no apparent reason.

At this point I was more than slightly annoyed. I expressed my dissatisfaction by commenting on how the process was incredibly stupid. The next thing I know, he is rushing me with violent intent in his eyes, and he demanded to know if I called him stupid. Of all the things I wanted to say at that point, I informed him that I was calling Wal-Mart's procedures stupid, and not him. It took a little time for this to sink in, and he continued his approach. I had to open the door wider to keep him from being able to physically assault me. Can you imagine that? Instead of customer service I get confronted with a seemingly imminent assault?

I don't know if I managed to appease him, or if he realized there was a woman with her kids watching, or what, but he finally backed off and walked away. Needless to say I did not get my oil changed that day. I was pretty fired up at that point, and spent the next half an hour venting my frustration in a more productive manner than the one almost used against me.

I was already having second thoughts about this particular Wal-Mart, but this event seems reason enough to boycott the Oxnard Wal-Mart for the foreseeable future.