For my family’s Christmas dinner, it was somehow decided to go to Venice Garden, a Chinese seafood restaurant at the plaza on Renfrew and East 1st Ave in Vancouver. This is definitely not a place I would voluntarily choose to go to, but it was an uncle’s choice, so we ended up going there.
Upon first impression, the look of the restaurant is pretty typical with most restaurants of this type. However, one thing about the design of the restaurant really bothered me. The first thing I looked for when I went in the restaurant was the washroom location, because I had to use it! I looked around and only saw the sign for the women’s washroom, but no sign indicating where the men’s washroom was. The women’s washroom was located at the inside right corner when you enter the restaurant, as indicated by an illuminated sign. The inside left, and outside left corners were just part of the dining area, the other only other corner remaining was the outside right corner, which is right by the entrance of the restaurant. I looked down the short hall that was the outside right corner, and it lead to a dead end, only having a supply of extra chairs. This made no sense to me, as why would a restaurant only have a women’s washroom but no men’s washroom? I mean, yes this is a cheap looking Chinese restaurant, but come on! A functional washroom for both genders is a requirement of any restaurant, no matter how cheap they are! I decided to check out the inside right corner where the women’s washroom was located to see what’s up, and my suspicion was correct. The men’s washroom was indeed located in that hallway as well, but for some idiotic reason, they choose not to have a sign indicating that it’s also located in that corner of the restaurant as well! This might not be such a big deal for some people, but it REALLY bothered me that they did not care to put a sign up saying that the men’s washroom was located there as well. I mean if you put up a general sign that says “WASHROOM”, then it would be clear that both washrooms are located in the same area, but if you have a sign for the women’s washroom in that corner only, then no one is going to assume the men’s washroom is there as well, and they would assume it would be in the opposite corner of the restaurant, as this is something other restaurants have done. This set the tone for the rest of the dining experience already so they had better come up with some amazing food to save this review.
The rest of the decor looked sort of decent, and did not immediately give off a cheap feeling, so I expected a higher level of service and food from this restaurant to match the decor.
When we were seated, a few of the seats at our table had food remains on them, so we asked to swap the chairs. The new chair that was brought to us ALSO had food remains on them, which for some reason the worker thought was acceptable for us over the previously rejected chair in the same condition! The third chair we were given was marginally better, but at least there were on food remains on it. The cups, dishes, and chopsticks weren’t very clean as expected, so we did the typical “tea wiping” for all of them.
While they were setting up the table at the beginning, they were putting on the circle rotating platform that you see at large tables for Chinese restaurants, and it was the supervisor/manager putting it on. She put it on very off-centered and decided it was good enough, and walked away to get chopsticks and napkins for us. For a worker in management position to setup a table like that and think it was good enough was upsetting to say the least, as anyone who’s eaten at a Chinese restaurant with an off-centered rotating platform knows the devastation these can cause when you spin it around and it knocks over everything in it’s immediate vicinity because of how uneven it is. I quickly fixed it myself, doing something that she should have done. After they setup the platform, they wiped it down with some hot tea from a kettle they brought around, which turned out to be the very same tea they serve to everyone to drink!
When she returned with the chopsticks and napkins, she started placing them in front of each person at the table. When she came around to the people across the table from where she was standing, she decided to throw them across the table over the rotating platform! Rather than walking around the table to place it nicely in front of each person, she decided it was acceptable to just throw it across the table to me! For a restaurant that appears to not be going for the cheap look, they certainly were acting like a cheap cafe-style restaurant, which is what I heard this restaurant used to be. At this point they were only digging themselves a much deeper hole for our review, so the food had BETTER be amazing.
Onto the food now. We ordered the typical Chinese assorted appetizer dish to start.
It differed than the usual assortment in that it came with honey garlic spare ribs and deep fried shrimp instead of the usual sliced meat selection. These two were not bad, and the pork hock, sliced beef, and jelly fish were ok too. An odd thing about this dish was that they had tomato slices bordering the dish, which seemed strange to have on this particular dish.
We also had some veggies, as well as this pot of beef, both of which did not stand out and were just mediocre.
Another dish we had was the deep fried shrimp and crab ball. This was served with the usual sweet and sour sauce, and was not bad, nothing special to note.
Some other dishes we ordered were veggies with sliced abalone mushroom, Gui Fei Chicken, and steamed fish (unknown type of fish). The honey garlic spare ribs you see in the smaller plate are leftovers from the appetizer dish. All of these were ok, nothing special to note. The chicken was cooked well enough, though it wasn’t very tasty without dipping the garlic/onion dip. The fish didn’t look too appetizing to me so I didn’t eat much of it at all. We had a few other dishes in our meal as well, but I stopped taking photos. At this point of the meal, I didn’t have too much of an appetite anymore because of what follows below.
What really pissed us off about this restaurant was this:
What you see here is part of a plastic wrap that somehow ended up in this shark fin soup, which I chose not to drink in the first place because I am against shark fin and the way it is obtained. Jess had the soup, but soon stopped drinking it because of what she found within it. She noticed something odd about one spoonful of soup, and spat it out to discover this piece of plastic wrap! I can only speculate that this was part of the shark fin, or some other ingredient that went into the soup due to a serious lack of effort with the prep work for the soup. Had this been at a Caucasian restaurant or anything higher class than this, that soup, or the meal should have been comped, but no, not here.
We brought this to the attention of one of the supervisors/managers, and her explanation was quite amusing, which is the nicest way I can put this. She said (in Mandarin, and paraphrasing to the best of my recollection), “Oh….hahaha….that’s the plastic wrap of the food you know? The protective wrapping! Yeah! It’s just the protective wrapping of the food, and somehow it just go into the soup….Yeah….just plastic wrapping, that’s all….”
Seriously????? No big deal, just plastic wrap???? That was one of the most pathetic excuses I’ve heard for something being questioned in a dish at a restaurant. There was no apology, or any offer to compensate the disgusting discovery. This really speaks to the level of service at this restaurant, the attitude of management, and the level of cleanliness in the food prep. This discovery in the soup was in the first half of our meal, and from then onwards, Jess and I really didn’t have much of an appetite for the rest of their food, hence the lack of photos for every dish in this meal. Nothing could save this restaurant anymore from the horrible review that is this post.
As for the service, what more do I need to say? It was Christmas Eve, an obvious night to expect high traffic, and they only have 1-2 servers on the floor at most, with 1-2 supervisors/managers to assist. On a night like this, and for a restaurant of this size (it was quite a big restaurant), they should have definitely had more servers working the floor. It took an absurdly long time to get anything requested, and tea was not provided in a pot for each table like you’d expect at a Chinese restaurant, but was provided via a large kettle that the servers bring around to refill each person’s cup like you would expect at a cafe instead. We ran out of tea often, so this made it very frustrating to have to wait for a worker to come around with the community tea kettle, which wasn’t very often, and it still made no sense why we didn’t have our own tea pot with choice of tea. I did not do any ordering here, so I can only assume no choice of tea was given at the beginning like you’d expect, since it’s all from one general tea pot. One thing to note, this is the same tea mentioned in the beginning that they poured onto our rotating platform to wipe it. The service was horrible here, and nothing good can be said about them at all.
Overall this restaurant gave us one of the worst dining experiences to date, and Jess considered it just as bad as her Deer Garden experiences, which were pretty bad! This is even worse than Lee Garden, the one that gave my family and I Salmonella! Both service and food were worse than bad, and I definitely do NOT recommend anyone to dine here at all. Please stay away from this restaurant for your own good!
??? but it doesn’t even matter
Thanks for reading everyone, and DO NOT GO TO THIS RESTAURANT! TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW!