Second visit, ordered #6 (Mouth Water Chicken), #22 (Style Handmade Noodles…their version of Youpo Noodle) and of course my beloved #41 (Gele Mountain Style Fried Chicken).
The service at this place is awful. Tables aren’t cleared, water isn’t refilled unless you ask, finished dishes aren’t cleared, and the waiter didn’t understand what a “check” or “bill” was until another customer overheard and translated into Mandarin for him. And while the restaurant was pretty full when I went, this had nothing to do with it because the 2 servers had a lot of down time where they themselves were not busy as a result of the biggest flaw with this restaurant:
THE KITCHEN IS SLOW AS FUCK!!
After I placed my order, the waitress told me “because a lot of people were ordering food” it would be 20 minutes before I got mine. Well… over 30 minutes later I got my chicken.
On the plus side, the chicken was clearly freshly made because despite being billed as a cold dish, it was still warm-to-room temperature. It LOOKS like the original dish as prepared by Best Noodle House, but somehow the flavors were muted. Definitely less sichuan peppercorns, but something else was missing, too. I ate it, but it wasn’t as amazing as the dish had been before, back at the other restaurant where it took mere minutes to be served cold and flavorful. I’d say it took me about 10 or so minutes to eat the dish.
Then the waiting game resumed. About another 10 or so minutes later, I received my noodles.
First thoughts: bigger portion and much more vegetables, and this time there was the welcome addition of bean sprouts! I also saw a healthy dollop of garlic paste on top. Mixing everything together, I was really looking forward to eating this dish. Unfortunately, the flavors were again muted. Not enough vinegar, and a much lighter hand on all the spices in general. Noodles were good, and while I think Best Noodle House still has a better bowl of house-made noodles, these were close.
I hadn’t yet finished the large bowl of noodles when the fried chicken arrived, and boy did that look good! First few bites, though, were a bit bland, but after spilling some of the chilis on the table because they were piled so high, I decided to redistribute the food on the plate. After doing so, every bite was glorious and just as I’d remembered it from before!
The waitress was apologetic about the wait throughout the entire meal, but I still had to flag someone down to refill my water several times.
Pricing is the same as before.
One note, though: I was seated at the busted booth right in front of the counter. As a party of 1, whatever, but there were 2 other booths that should have been available on my arrival, except the tables were never bussed from whoever had been dining there previously. The bench across me contained a cardboard box filled with supplies and was never removed, and I had to ask for the condiments to be placed on the table, too. What was unique about this booth, though, was that every time they went through the swinging doors into or out of the kitchen, I could see that the kitchen looked FILTHY and a large stack of broken-down cardboard boxes, also FILTHY, were piled almost to the ceiling against a back wall.
My hypothesis is that while this chef has some talent for crazy good flavor profiles, his hubris in opening his own restaurant shows because he lacks the necessary restauranteur skill of efficienct kitchen operations and expediting, and he is subsequently overwhelmed, causing quality issues with the seasoning of the dishes he’s trying to rush out. Instead of 2 useless waitstaff, they could get by with one decent server for the size of the place, instead focusing on hiring a sous chef or something to assist in the kitchen.
Overall, the people at Best Noodle House are attentive and friendly, and they for sure know how to run a restaurant. It’s too bad the chef at Chong Qing Special Noodles decided to split and go it alone because while he has a lot of potential with his magical flavor profiles when he’s “on,” the rest of the restaurant equation is lacking and we now have one okay (Chong Qing Special Noodles) and one good (Best Noodle House) restaurant to choose between instead of a single excellent restaurant. It’s a damn shame in my opinion, but at least I still know where to get my Gele Mountain Style Fried Chicken!!
(out of 5)
Edited 24 June 2017: Link to First Review