Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wayne Gretzky Was Here: Blue Willow Restaurant

My family and I had dinner at Blue Willow (11107 103 Avenue) tonight. It's a restaurant whose reputation precedes it - known to me (and many others) as a favorite of Wayne Gretzky, I wanted to see if the food would live up to the hype.

Entering a non-descript brown building that looked more like it belonged in a business park, we were immediately greeted by a narrow entrance way lined with photo memorabilia. If anything, Blue Willow is worth a visit just to take a gander at the pictures. Most of the photographs were shots of the owner, Vic Mah, with well-known hockey players, including the Great One, Vladislav Tretiak, Grant Fuhr, and even a dreadlocked Jerome Iginla!

Most of the seated patrons were of the older set, and appeared very much to be regulars. We were the only non-Caucasian customers at that time, leading us to believe the Blue Willow was very much a westernized Chinese eatery. When we noticed the lack of chopsticks at the place settings, the distribution of plates versus bowls to use, and the offering of plain steamed rice by the bowl (at $3 a pop) as opposed to by the container, our suspicions were substantiated. The Chinese tea we ordered was also not of the loose leaf variety - instead, they used two very weak tea bags. When we received the bill, we found out they charged us $9 for the tea - $2.25 each for the four of us. Had we known that in advance, I would have seriously considered bringing in a thermos.

As for the menu itself - it was very well put together - hard plastic pages bound nicely. The fare was, no surprise, quite westernized - in both selection and price point. After some perusal, we settled on the Mixed Chinese Vegetables ($9.25), Mongolian Beef ($12.25), Tofu Hot Pot ($11.75) and the Blue Willow Special Fried Rice ($10.50). It was unfortunate that it took over five minutes for our table to be acknowledged by anyone (our water glasses were eventually filled...by a boy that looked about ten years old. It is indeed a "family-run" establishment).

The dining room seemed to be quieting down, so our dishes didn't take long to arrive. I must admit I was quite impressed by their innovative plating idea: fondue-style, candlelit stainless steel contraptions complete with lids to keep the food within warm. The candle was so effective that the sauce in the vegetable and beef dishes were literally bubbling! This aside, the verdict on the food itself was mixed. The portions were very small (likely about half the size of a plate at a typical Chinese restaurant), and besides the fried rice, which was quite aromatic and flavourful, the rest of the dishes were forgettable.

After our meal, and just before receiving the bill, we were treated to a bit of a Singapore Airlines service - hot towels. Our waitress even did a spin move (similar to how one would balance a basketball on one finger) to unravel the towel. It was something you'd have to see to believe.

While I can appreciate the history behind a place like the Blue Willow, the food just isn't as good - or authentic - as I would prefer in a Chinese restaurant.

Photo on the wall of Vic Mah and Jerome Iginla

Restaurant interior (pictures were all taken on my Dad's PDA...hence the poor quality)

Beautiful china

Mixed Chinese Vegetables

Mongolian Beef

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home