Friday, April 30, 2010

Wei Wei Palace, 4242 Division Ave S - 4/29/10

This is one of the two restaurants in Grand Rapids, to our knowledge, that offers dim sum (the other is Peking Wok’s Restaurant in Cascade), but today we wanted to eat off the “regular” menu. The restaurant is located in Hong Kong Plaza, which hosts a comprehensive Asian grocery store, an Asian sub shop, jewelry store, cell phone store, and a Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Soc Trang. When previously dining at Pho Soc Trang, we noticed Wei Wei Palace, which is hard to miss with ducks and part of a pig hanging in the window. Shortly thereafter, we tried the Palace for Sunday dim sum and it was a great experience.

Today when we walked in, we were offered the dim sum menu or the regular menu and we chose the regular. We joined one other couple, a couple of “godfathers” conferring very quietly and confidentially, in this very large room that probably holds more than 100 people. On dim sum Sunday, the room was packed - today, not so much. There’s a long table in the rear of the room that just begs for a large group and it would be a fun place to dine with a big party, particularly for dim sum.

The menu is huge - 197 items, including the last one for “pop” - and the choices are extensive. This is not your average Chinese food menu. Live fish, lobster, and crab are visible in the restaurant tanks, and as mentioned previously, duck and pig are hanging in the window. So unless there’s a huge subterfuge going on, there’s no frozen seafood or meat being served here. It claims to be authentic Cantonese food and we can neither affirm nor deny that, but can say that you will not be eating in the usual “Chinese” restaurant. Jellyfish, anyone?

We started with hot and sour soup, and then roast duck (Hong Kong style). This soup puts all other hot and sour soups to shame - it’s robust with flavor and ingredients - so much more than the usual broth with a little tofu and smattering of miscellaneous vegetables.  We will definitely be back for this because it’s the best we’ve found to date.

The roast duck did not fare as well in our humble opinions but we tried it because it’s not our usual fare. For one of us, it tasted like the restaurant smelled when we walked in. It needed to be pulled off the bone to eat, but you did know you were eating duck, rather than some mystery meat. Our main complaint, however, is that we were not given clean plates after the duck dish and the duck flavor continued to seep through our next dishes. (We later ran the leftover duck past our resident Asian traveler, and although he thought it was a fairly typical Asian duck dish, he had a subsequent stomach upset...maybe it’s just our western sensibilities.)

For our main dishes, we chose shredded pork in garlic sauce and szechuan beef. Both dishes were loaded with crisp vegetables. The pork dish had a somewhat sweet sauce (too sweet for us) and we couldn’t taste any garlic. Szechuan beef fared better but as we ate our food we could see oil separating from the sauce on the beef dish.

Service was fine, but seeing as how there were only four of us in the restaurant, that’s  not much of a statement. The cook and server spent a bit of time at the counter staring at us. Otherwise, our server was at a corner table on her laptop. Later, another employee made an appearance with a cleaning cart but didn’t clean anything. After our main dishes were delivered, the cook came out and stood looking very pensively at the fish tanks. English was a little difficult and we didn’t press for any additional information about the food from our server. Dishes all run around $10.00 and our tab came to $45.00, including tip.

Try this restaurant if you want something out of the ordinary, and don’t miss the hot and sour soup. If you haven’t experienced dim sum, check it out on a Sunday. During the week, they will cook your dim sum selections to order but on Sunday the carts are continually roaming throughout the restaurant offering intriguing and delicious - ok, sometimes just intriguing - little food creations. It’s a grand adventure.

Wei Wei Palace on Urbanspoon

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