Our waitron approached the table with eyes wide, a thin smile and a vague sense of fear about in her face. “This real Chinese food,” was her opening line, delivered with a nodding head that said, “You no like, you leave now.”
“No, no, no,” we protested, “We don’t like gwailo Chinese food; we love Hunan food!” (The following was delivered in dulcet tones to assure her that ELV and the Food Gal® were no “ghost men” or “foreign devils,” but rather, a couple of fellow travelers who appreciated the real thing.
She grinned the grin of the unconvinced and left the menus.
When she returned to take our order, we had no sooner pointed to the Fish in Chile Sauce, when she again came forth with that thin, fearful smile and then again blurted out, “This Chinese food, you like?” (Translation: You won’t like this food and will not want to pay for it.)
“Yes, yes, we love spicy food!” was our hearty reply (going even so far as to pat our stomach and heart to indicate how much we craved the real thing).
We then pointed and she scribbled our order for fish in chile sauce, cold cucumbers with garlic, and smoked bean curd with eggplant. As she turned, she gave a slight shaking of the head as she walked to the kitchen.
Seeing this, our hearts sank. With good reason.
The cukes showed up and were standard issue. The fish looked like it was supposed to, but wasn’t spicy enough to offend Aunt Edna — bland, boiled tilapia sitting in chicken stock under a slick of chile oil with no guts to it.
No guts, no spark, no spice? In a Hunan restaurant? Unthinkable we thought, but there it was.
Then came the bean curd….er…uh excuse us…the green beans with eggplant.
ELV was dumbfounded, and summoned the waitron over, still smiling, still trying to convince her that he wanted the real deal. She approached with a look that said she thought we were going to either storm out or throw the food in her face. With menu in hand we cheerfully pointed to the menu item that read “smoked bean curd with eggplant.”
“These are not tofu; isn’t this dish supposed to be tofu with eggplant? Tofu is bean curd, right”
“No, no, these beans…like menu says,” was the defense, as tepid as the fish dish.
Language barriers aside, the beans wouldn’t have passed muster at a Panda Express. We were clearly defeated and paid the $36 bill without complaint.
So, what is one to make of such a meal?
Clearly, Hunan Jiu Jia (which is in the space previously occupied by Dong Ting Spring*) considers itself to be cooking the authentic food of Hunan. Just as clearly, it doesn’t think any round eyes will like it. So, unless you speak Mandarin, you’re going to get something thrown at you that they think you will pay for, because it’s nothing like the food they’re really cooking here. Got that?
In other words, our waitron was right, when she was really wrong, which would’ve been alright with us.
HUNAN JIU JIA
3944-3950 Schiff Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89103
* Which ELV liked** precisely because they served real Hunan food to white people without warning or fear.
** Our ardor for DTS cooled the night we saw and heard the chef hawking and spitting*** in the kitchen…from the dining room.
*** Ah, the Chinese.