As long as we’re in a Chinese frame of mind, it’s time to relate one of the worst meals we’ve ever had on Spring Mountain Road. What made it all the more painful was it came from Sam Woo BBQ — one of the first SMR restaurants ever to woo us, way back in the Stone Age, i.e., circa 1994. For years we’ve relied on Sam Woo for basic, authentic, no frills Chinese food that appears from the kitchen almost preternaturally fast. This time, we fear, we’ve been cured of returning here forever.
We’ll ignore the fact that, five minutes into the experience, we slashed our ankle on an ill-advised and very sharp table-expander lurking beneath the formica. It hurt, but not nearly as badly as being told they couldn’t serve us the garlic and salt spare ribs (listed as a special that day — and we were there early for lunch). No explanation beyond “we don’t have those.” What came in their place were the same old, same old spare ribs — good, but as usual, cut in such a way that meat extraction requires the utmost concentration, and chewing through everything is a must (as is spitting out cartilage).
As painful as that disappointment was, it paled in comparison to ordering the shrimp with salted duck egg and having the worst shrimp dish we’ve ever had (no exaggeration) placed before us. To begin with, it wasn’t what we ordered. “Maybe that’s the deal here,” we thought to ourselves. “You order what you want (from the daily specials menu, no less) and they bring you what they think you want to eat.”
What showed up had a passing resemblance to salt and pepper shrimp, with one exception: it was covered in a pasty, dusty, uncooked, unseasoned, mouth-coating shell of cornstarch. And the shrimp had that gamy, muddy seafood taste that screams “Vietnamese cheap-ass fish farm!” It was so bad we choked down two shrimp and ignored the rest. Our host told the hostess everything was fine, so we kept our eye-rolling to a minimum, and pushed the sorry crustaceans aside. (Don’t be fooled by large tanks with live shrimp in them. These farm-raised suckers can taste exactly like the manure-imbued, ground up fish meal that feeds them.)
On the plus side, the roast duck with canned plum sauce was pretty good, but then again, the rice soup pictured above was every bit as boring as it looks. But since we hadn’t ordered it, we contented ourselves by nibbling on the edges of a pork rib, and spent the rest of the meal trying to avoid swallowing a duck bone so we could escape without further physical trauma.
SAM WOO BBQ
4215 Spring Mountain Road Suite B101
Las Vegas, NV 89102