In town for a visit and I realized it had been a long time since I visited Peking Garden - so long in fact, that I'd forgotten why I hadn't returned before.
After all it is such a charming presence, among the otherwise cookie-cutter, corporate restaurants in this town.
Deciding to stop in 'early' for dinner, I arrived about 515pm. The freshly painted, deep red, wide ramp and historic steps are a welcoming entrance, off Main Street in Downtown Collinsville.
The foyer leads the more curious to wander in further, as the decor is colorful, sparkling, and attractive. Think old of the extravagant Peking from exotic Mid Century movies: chandeliers, white linen tablecloths, bamboo, rock garden, etched glass dividers, etc.
As I approached the dining room, I was met by a very terse "Are you eating here? or Carry-Out??" I was so thrown by the unfriendly 'welcome,' that I responded "Either way is fine for me." (?) Apparently, this woman is the owner (I discovered later from other diners).
After gathering my senses, I told her that I'd come for a sit-down dinner - preferably Moo Shu Pork I said. She led me into a small, but rather grand Dining Room. The ambiance was very pleasant, so it shook the initial feeling of being unwelcome off.
I checked the large menu, and indeed they serve Moo Shu Pork - $10.95 (as of Nov 2013), deciding to pay the extra $2.95 for Soup, Egg Roll, Crab Rangoon, and Tea.
The hot tea was very rancid and over-steeped. I only made it through a few sips the entire meal. It was definitely a cheaper Black Tea, not Jasmine, or other Chinese tea. Fortunately, she brought a glass of water along which became my beverage for the meal.
When she realized she'd forgotten to ask which soup I'd prefer (Egg Drop, Wonton, or Hot & Sour), I thought I felt a bit of lilt in her manner. I ordered the Wonton soup, which was delicious!!
I figured out soon enough that very literally (at least on a week night), these two owners do everything by themselves. Another two tables with two people came along shortly after I arrived; and she ended up being pretty busy.
By the time my Egg Roll and Crab Rangoon came, she was marching around as if it were all too much. What I couldn't understand was that her demeanor was the same with every customer - curt and rather rude..?
The older couple across from me quietly mentioned to each other that they felt rushed when she had demanded to know what they wanted for dinner, and was already walking away while the wife was deciding on her choice.
Then the couple of young teenage girls seated near me, who were obviously enjoying a fun night of dining out alone, were treated with the same apparent apathetic indifference.
The Egg Roll could have been better (a bit too deep-friend for me, and not much flavor inside) - same for the Crab Rangoon.
It took a lot for me to disassociate this poor service from what could be a good meal.
So when the Moo Shu and Pancakes arrived in steaming, stainless pedestal servers, I was upbeat again. The entree was wonderful. It's one of my favorite Chinese dishes - and it was good (only suggestion would be to add mushrooms).
The portion was too much for me for one meal. So I asked for To-Go boxes. She was quick to bring those; and I hurried along to pack up. The first time she smiled, was when she brought the check to me, leaving me stunned.
While she scurried back into the kitchen, I asked the teenagers if they were 'Regulars.' One of the girls nodded, and then added "She's always like this." Soooo, my theory that this was just an 'off-night' for the female owner, was shot.
Really?? How terse, unfriendly, unwelcoming owners can stay in business is beyond me - even if the food IS good. Perhaps it is their Carry-Out business that sustains them? After all, she was eager for me to carry out when I arrived!
The prices are above average cost for this suburban Southern Illinois town. I'm guessing since Collinsville sits off of 3 Major Interstates, hotel advertising helps bring in many one-time customers.
And they will find a charming, pleasant atmosphere, above-average priced good food, and rather unfriendly service.
I don't plan to return...unless I crave Moo Shu Pork again during my visit here - then it will be Call-In and Carry-Out.
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