I have to admit, no one in my family – including myself – goes out to eat Chinese often. Virtually never, actually. And I can’t recall the last time we did, before this one occasion where Emme and I decided to do the unthinkable and do just that: go out for Chinese food.
Connie’s Cookhouse is listed in the “Top 10 Best Restaurants in Kitsilano” so I thought it’d be a good place to start. Emme and I perused W 4th and eventually found it. When we entered we received curt service – as was expected, pretty much – as the waitress told us to sit anywhere that was open. There were only a handful of other people — two women speaking obnoxiously loudly and an elderly couple — which was probably a good thing seeing as the restaurant itself is pretty tiny. Décor is minimal – just enough stuff to give you the impression that yes, you are eating at a Chinese restaurant. The only thing that was strange was the fact that there was an open box of green beans sitting on one of the tables in the dining room, with a pair of scissors lying on top, all ready to have the ends chopped off. Well that’s fine and dandy, but… shouldn’t vegetable preparation be kept in the kitchen?
Anyhow, Emme and I were served tea (it was yummy! No clue what it was, though) and kept waiting for quite some time as the one waitress bustled about – doing some kitchen work, it seems, while also juggling take out orders but essentially neglecting those of us in the dining room. She eventually got to our table, though, apologized for the wait quickly and took our orders just as quickly – and a little impatiently. (Emme wanted to make some substitutions to “Family Dinner Combination A” but the waitress wouldn’t allow it and got a little annoyed.) Emme ended up ordering the Lemon Chicken from the combo meal anyway, and we were eating about half an hour later.
To be honest, the Lemon Chicken was probably the worst dish of the bunch that we ordered. There was hardly any actual chicken in the dish… The thin slivers of chicken were coated in a ridiculously thick batter, so that the chicken flavour was almost entirely masked and it was basically just like eating batter… with a tasty lemon sauce. The sauce is obviously the crucial component, and the dish would be flavourless and pointless without it, but it would probably definitely be a good idea to incorporate more chicken and less batter into the dish, so it tastes more like “Lemon Chicken” and less like “Lemon Batter”.
Emme also had the Vegetable Fried Rice, which was significantly better than the Lemon Chicken and actually quite good. The vegetables were cooked through but still maintained a slight crunch, and the rice was flavourful and not too oily. The portion was also, as the picture shows, quite generous. Thumbs up to this dish.
As for myself, I picked the Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables with a bowl of some simple Steamed Rice to go on the side. Although Emme’s main dish was a disappointment, I was actually quite satisfied with mine. It wasn’t anything drop-dead astounding, but it was definitely really tasty. I don’t know what type of sauce was used (probably because I know virtually nothing about Chinese cuisine, save the fact that it used to include a lot of MSG) but I quite liked it. I almost demolished the entire plate, as both the scallops and vegetables were cooked quite well. I wouldn’t call the vegetables “seasonal” but I love vegetables so I really couldn’t care less… I loved that there were so many scallops. The portion size definitely matched the price, in my opinion.
As a “first venture” back to eating some Chinese food, the dining experience wasn’t bad, per sé, it just wasn’t good either. That would pretty much be how I would describe the restaurant, in a nutshell: Not good but not bad.
The service was obviously not that great, because there does only seem to be one waitress – and even then she is multitasking and working in the kitchen sometimes as well as trying to cater to the dine-in and take-out customers. Also, when she does interact with customers, she is quite brusque — but Emme and I expected that and weren’t really thrown off much, and you can’t really blame her for being really “to-the-point” since she seems to have so much to do.
Ambiance could do with some improvement – maybe separating the kitchen from the dining room a little better (with more than a tiny curtain) would help. Also, it was cold in the restaurant (the drafts seemed to be coming in from the back – the kitchen) and most diners, along with Emme and myself, were eating with their coats on.
Because of my final verdict, I can’t bring myself to vote for “likes it” or “dislikes it” on Urbanspoon.com, heh. However, why Connie’s Cookhouse is on the Top 10 for Kits, I don’t know.