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“Prince Gastronome”
Review of China Taste

China Taste
Ranked #126 of 236 Restaurants in Prince George
Cuisines: Chinese
Restaurant details
Reviewed May 15, 2014

I recently re-reviewed all the Sushi restaurants in Prince George in order eliminate any anomalies from earlier reviews. I have no plans on doing likewise with Chinese locations. My gut tells me little has encouraged repeat reviews. And when I mean gut, I’m not talking instinct; I’m actually referring to my gastrointestinal system. It has literally begged me (using words, very confusing) to avoid the Chinese food in town. It has already suffered through the side-effects of a homemade bollito misto containing something I must be allergic to, and has put its foot down on any further attempts at—employing modern terminology—enhanced culinary interrogation. However, a compromise has been met regarding a single exception—one restaurant with a hidden passion for exquisite Chinese food. That place…is China Taste.

My first review was a depressing account of its buffet, but a second visit—armed with the knowledge of a secret menu—revealed an incredible jewel of restaurant. I could not have been more wrong. I know of rumors of other locations offering hidden Chinese menus, but China Taste obviously doesn’t mind this being revealed. Why? Well, last time, the menu was all in Mandarin (or Cantonese, let’s get over the fact I can’t distinguish), forcing my friend and I to seek translation. Upon our second request weeks later, we discovered said menu was now bilingual.

Yes…bilingual, meaning not only has this menu proved popular, but so many people have been requesting it that the chef has embraced the alternate cuisine and translated it for Western/English customers. It’s no longer a secret; they don’t care, and I don’t care. China Taste is the best Chinese restaurant in town. I dare—I repeat—dare other Chinese restaurants to reveal rumored secret menus and invite westerners such as myself to experiment with truly amazing ethnic cuisine. I won’t resort to water-boarding or other apparently accepted forms of cross-examination, just a simply request. And until said restaurants open up about these treasures, I will continue to extol the virtues of China Taste, truly a taste respectful of its namesake country (wait…isn’t it the other way around…no matter).

Our second visit was punctuated by two new dishes, once again fringed by a giant steam pot of fresh rice. Mine was a minefield of hot peppers and boiled beef and tasted of heaven mixed with molten lava. It should be noted that we were offered bowls or plates and later with forks or chopsticks. Here is where the owners retreat to a room to compose themselves, as clumsy westerners fail to make the simply observation of traditional Chinese cuisine. You see, people make jokes about chopsticks and our stumbling efforts to mimic the proficient use by the experts, but many fail to make the observation that sticks work well when retracting food from a bowl. Combine chopsticks with plates, and it’s like trying to pick up a greased-up toddler after it accidentally downed a pot of black coffee. So, here is my lesson learned the hard way: Chopsticks go with bowls, forks with plates. Let’s all accept this and recognize that it’s not dishonorable employing metal utensils.

Okay? Sticks with bowls; forks with plates.

I am asked continually about what is the best Chinese restaurant in town, specifically the best buffet. That reminds me of that scene in The Last Boy Scout when Bruce Willis asks his friend if he would rather be punched in the gut or punched in the head (like him, I’d choose gut). I won’t answer because in honesty, there is no good Chinese buffet...and if I mentioned one and if you got sick, could I be blamed for planting the seed? Like heavy metal songs promoting Satan, I cannot be held responsible for your actions. I cannot recommend any buffets in town, but I will recommend the best Chinese restaurant, and that is China Taste. I named it the best restaurant of 2013 on account of its secret menu of authentic Chinese dishes, a fact I repeated on my recent CBC radio interview. The same day as our meal, I was invited to Fortune Palace. I weighed the options and chose China Taste easily. I’d do it again.

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Presentation: 3/5
Value: 4/5
Recommendation: 4/5

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2  Thank PrinceGastronome
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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16 - 20 of 31 reviews

Reviewed February 27, 2014

People in Prince George need to wake up and realize that there is superb quality Chinese food in this city, you just need to know how to find it. Since I personally know how to find it, I'll share this information with you.

Four words: China Taste. Chinese menu.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you need to keep reading. A well-kept secret by very few people is that some Chinese restaurants have an alternate "Chinese menu" that offers completely different dishes than the regular menu. Why don't more people know about this other menu, you ask? The sad truth is that most restaurants don't acknowledge the existence of an alternate menu to westerners, as it's intended for Chinese customers only. The menu is written in Chinese and most places will deny you if you ask them for it. Even if they do acknowledge the menu, they will often refuse to translate anything. You might think that sounds rude, but in reality it makes sense. Many people aren't accustomed to the variety of ingredients and flavours in traditional Chinese cooking and therefore might not enjoy the food. Some owners are also too busy to give translations and descriptions of each dish to every person who is curious. There also might be some underlying racism involved… but I’m reluctant to say for sure.

Fortunately, China Taste is unique for two reasons:

1. They have a Chinese menu with English translations printed directly on the menu. Believe it or not, it wasn't translated by the owners of China Taste, but by a white guy who doesn't speak Chinese. With the help of Google and some Chinese friends, he apparently translated it and then offered it to the restaurant for their own use.

2. They are generally open and willing to allow anyone to order from this translated menu.*

This is where real Chinese food has been hiding in Prince George. The menu is a double-sided page divided into soups, vegetable dishes, Chef's specials, and noodle/rice dishes. If you’re used to typical westernized Chinese food, you may need to ask the female owner for advice but thankfully she is happy to help. One thing to mention is that many dishes are of the Szechuan variety and are quite spicy, probably to an extent that some people aren’t comfortable with. So if you can’t handle the heat, you’d best inquire about dishes that aren’t spicy. However, if you can handle it, the authentic Szechuan cuisine on offer at China Taste is fantastic. You really can’t go wrong with many of the dishes, but some of the standouts include spicy fish balls, Szechuan beef, Chinese lettuce, seafood soup, Yeung Chow fried rice, mapo tofu, and cold chicken in Szechuan sauce.

If anything speaks about the quality of the food here, it’s the amount of Chinese university students that eat here late at night (especially Fridays and Saturdays). Do you know why? Because they miss the great cooking from their home country and China Taste is one of the only places in PG where they can get it. As a side note, I’ve tried the Chinese menu at Pan Am and China Sale (after a bit of persuading), and the food at China Taste ranks highest.

In conclusion, people who wrote negative reviews regarding the food at China Taste really have nobody to blame but themselves. Don't be surprised when your chicken chow mein / sweet & sour pork combination tastes bland and old: that's because it is bland and old. These dishes are ordered so often that most Chinese restaurant kitchens will prepare plenty in advance and keep it in a warmer for hours. Obviously when a dish takes less than 10 minutes from order to your table, it wasn't prepared fresh. The buffet is no different. My advice to anyone who only orders generic, crappy Chinese food or eats from a buffet and then writes a scathing online review about their “bad experience”, here is your chance to redeem yourselves in four simple steps:

1. Go to China Taste.
2. Order from the correct menu.
3. Write a new review to retract your previous statements, as Prince Gastronome (below) was brave enough to do.
4. Enjoy your new life. You’re welcome.

*One caveat is that if you appear to not know very much about what you’re ordering, your dishes will likely get “toned down” the first time you order from the Chinese menu, especially the spicy dishes. However, if you like the food and visit often, you should be able to ask for the real deal after a few tries. It also goes a long way to look like you know something about Chinese cuisine (for example, asking if they have gai lan or Chinese sausage).

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2  Thank Bencze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 8, 2013

This will be odd entry. I need to issue a retraction.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
No, the end times are not at hand. Critics change their opinion now and again, even me. In defense, in order to see the brighter side of China Taste, one must not only ask for the “hidden” menu but also speak Mandarin.
Or was it Cantonese? This is a point of personal contention with me from back when I flew to China to meet a certain someone (I’m not blanking on the name--Jaime--it’s just not in the slightest bit important) and took it upon myself to learn Mandarin, a useful skill until I realized only two days before my journey that the language I needed to learn was Cantonese. And yes, the languages are different. “Nǐ hǎo” becomes “Nei hou” and some people (apparently) get ornery when you get it wrong.
Thankfully, with China Taste’s “authentic” Chinese menu, you can ask for a translation. There isn’t much of a selection compared to a normal Westernized menu, though still plenty enough for the average patron. The prices are not cheap either, starting at around $18.95, but with that, you get a lot of food. Me and my friend each ordered one dish and we couldn’t finish either. My suggestion: go with three or more people and order a number of dishes equal to the group size minus one. I got a sizzling lamb dish while my friend ordered a white fish platter. I couldn’t give exact names because, well, obviously I didn’t know.
In the end, the important thing was that these dishes were amazing, worthy of a visit. I think China Taste may represent some macabre trial like those offered up by insidious paranormal forces wishing to test the resolve of mortal men. On one side, you have money and fame, the other happiness. Here, the choice is between a Big Mac and a gourmet meal. What annoys me is that I know a lot of people who would still prefer the burger. Really?
Really?
I know burgers are great and I’ve had some amazing ones, but this is just a Big Mac. Why choose that? AND yet, people still will. There is a name for those people. I thought about it for some time, and I think I finally found one that’s appropriate. Stupid. Those are stupid people. Defend them if you will, but if presented with a well-made plate from the finest bistro rather than greasy layers of fat, sugar, plastic, and lost dreams, what would you choose? I have a substandard opinion of those still preferring the latter. I simply call them stupid and think nothing of it. To everyone else, those that have gone to China Taste for the buffet, stop. Just stop. Take a breath. Reconsider. There’s a better option. Ask for the authentic Chinese menu and order something better. Let these businesses know that there is demand for this cuisine and that people want it.
Finally, I want to address one specific point. The most commonly asked question I’ve ever fielded has been, “What is a good Chinese restaurant in Prince George?” I’ve been asked this obviously from people unaware of my views on the cuisine. I don’t approve of it generally because of the extent it’s been westernized. I have only curmudgeonly recommended a few through gritted teeth, but no longer. I have my answer, China Taste’s authentic menu. I have heard rumors of other restaurants offering such menus but never before have I seen a place feel so delighted to satisfy. The chef came out to our table, pointed at suggestions and asked how we thought of it afterward. Until someone can match that, China Taste will be my source of all Chinese cuisine from here on, as it should be yours.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Presentation: 3/5
Value: 3.5/5
Recommendation: 3.6/5

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Thank PrinceGastronome
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 26, 2013

My uncle came to visit from the States, and my family has never been here. We ordered our food and wanted to start with a Hot and Sour Soup. They served us our soup and it was warm (closer to the cold side) and I wanted to complain but my mom told me not to make a scene. As my family tastes the soup, I'm looking around and I notice them cleaning out the smorg (we were there around 7). At this moment, my thoughts were that they served us the left over soup that's been sitting out all day! The rest of the food came, and some things were really salty where others had not taste. The waitress served our food with no serving spoons and I asked for some and she came back with ONE!!!! I don't think I would ever come back here again.

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1  Thank Bob S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 6, 2013

I've been a constant customer here and the food was ok and was a convenient place to eat as we live close by. But over the years things have gotten worse, a couple of times I ordered from here the vegetables actually tasted like fish! I didn't complain and kept giving this place a chance and sometimes it was good and sometimes bad. What really made me not want to come back here ever again was when we complained about the sweet and sour pork being to hard and full of fat like its always been, and also the honey garlic pork has a fish taste and smell to it, the boss came over and told me it was impossible to taste like fish and basically argued with us in front of people embarrassing us, she told me nobody else complained and basically called us long time customers liars. This was the end of the line for us and we will never come here again. If you want low quality meat that taste like fish then by all means come here, also their smorgasbord is awful. It's a gamble when you come here to eat sometimes its good sometimes it's not.

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1  Thank Anonymous U
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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