Oldschool V.I. Chinese Restaurant Battle: Wing’s VS Jack’s

You know when you see one of those Chinese restaurants that hasn’t changed in your (my*) entire life/*the past 40 years at least, and you assume it’s pretty much exactly like whichever specific one you grew up closest to, but you never really know.  You just cruise past when you’re in the area and speculate.  Well, I do.

So, on the presumption that this is the first in a series of reviews of such places, I decided to do a head-to-head of two of the ones I haven’t been to in Victoria BC.  I pointed them out to my gf during summer-proper (before Labor Day) while we were going places in her car, and sprang for us to finally try them both a little over a week ago.  (The second place was our quick-n-dirty dinner out before the Frequinox party on the 14th.)

 

The first place is the winner (fitting, “first place”), so let me just start there ?

This place inspired the article; we had a birthday picnic on the gorge itself all the way back in May, and I caught sight of Wing’s and was instantly taken. It reminded me of childhood stops at Island Highway bastion Dragon City in Ladysmith, or drives past the incresingly-nonexistent Silver Park just outside Duncan.  There’s another defunct Chinese place of a similar era nearby and a place I always think is out of business but is currently open according to maps.  The one in my hometown has been ominously vacant for year, ghostly.  The idea of these places disappearing one-by-one weirds me out.  So this is my documentarian more than my curator coming out, I suppose.  But I do intend to formulate a comprehensive Best Of at some point, anyway.

 

They’ve got the rainbow shield on the door ??️‍?

Walking in, I wasn’t expecting much; something like this place in North Saanich but with dine-in.  Which is to say, a brusque vibe and mall foodcourt level food. At 2023 prices.  So, like, disappointing.

We arrived right at 7:30pm so it’s regular menu or bust.  I hadn’t even registered before seeing this that they did a buffet.  I’d have tried to show up earlier if I’d known.  No price though, sort of ominous.

 

Initial impression walking in the door: fuck YES, it’s carpeted ?

This is so endearing, the place has highkey greasy-spoon vibes.  I was just complaining about how Me-n-Ed’s doesn’t even have old carpet.  Some places still have that oldschool charm, you know?  This place is more 90s than the vibe I tend to want but at this point it looks like a janked-out vaporwave paradise and I love it.  I would be so upset if they “updated.”

 

They’ve seen a lot of traffic.  Good sign.

This is not to shame the owners, this is to congratulate them on their obvious long-service to the cheap date/hipster community.

Greasyspoonery, #aes

Great booths.

Let me vibe out the background sounds of music here, because it didn’t really pick up in the next vid:

It’s got appeal.  Feels like a place that would be attached to a midrange motel on a highway in the praries?

Can we look again at the floor?

Just this once more ? love a good treasure-trail.

Let me briefly show you the menu as it (and its prices) stand mid-2023.

 

They were out of import beer.  (I like to get the Tsingtao when it’s available.  Also, petitioning the world to adopt Lucky Buddha as our global beer, it’s too hard to find lately.)

I got the “bean cake and barbeque pork” for $13, wondering if it was going to be similar to the Vietnamese breakfast plate I always get at that one place in Chinatown in Toronto.

Far from it!

A SUCCULENT CHINESE MEAL!

Here, enjoy the succlence in motion:

Closer to mapo tofu but not the same sauce, and not the same meat preparation.  (Usually this soy product is called “bean curd” or just tofu on a menu.  When I see the word “cake” I think of this.)

This so SO MUCh food for $13, absolute time travel moment; portal to Y2K for sure.  I found myself happy to pay over $8 after tax for one bottle of beer.

My lady-fair got one of the combos:

Combo B, with the fried rice.  That’s a beautiful plate for $12, I’ve gotta say.  I don’t feel like this is all that common anymore.

I thought her fried rice et al was excellent but she found it a little so-so.  Venturing that beer helps.

I will note that the buffet hours on the sandwich board aren’t the same as on the menu:

This says 8pm close of buffet and 9pm close for the whole place, and the sign out front says 7:30pm close of buffet and 10pm close for regular menu.  Probably it’s a YMMV situation.

The prices on the take-out menus are lower than on the menu itself, by the way:

Around 8pm some other diners started showing up in time to find out they could only get take-out, so they waited in the other half of the restaurant together making very cheerful conversation with the talented server/host.

Just noticed these because I guess I always do.  STILL A QUARTER! “Holy smokes,” as papa would say.

On to the bathrooms:

The mens? Or the ladies.
The ladies? Or the mens.

The rooms are identical, and I don’t let a little thing like signage stop me when one room is in use anyway.  These are kind of bus station-y or like, Zellers-y.  Whatever ?

Freakishly reasonable, I got outta there for $40 which is unheard of at this point.

You have to eat the cookie, or the fortune won’t come true:

“The smart thing is to expect the unexpected.”

Good news for a pessimist!  No zombie virus, no zombie virus ?

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So we turn now to the next spot, which I tacked on to newly-growing list of oldschool Chinese places to try because we kept driving past it on our way to the movies.

I’ve never stopped at this little junction point plaza in my life.  Always seem to stop at the light though.

Let’s look at the menu:

Okay well, immediately I notice two things, one the beer is cheaper here, and two, the food super isn’t.  These prices WOULD seem excessively reasonable for 2023, except that I just ate at Wing’s! Sorry gang!

They’ve got the tsingtao! Anchors away…

I should interject here that I was all sissied up for the party we were headed to and had worn lipstick and fishnets, and the server was absolutely pleasant throughout the meal regardless.

I didn’t notice a rainbow thingy on the door but lord knows I tested this place’s on-tap hosting skill harder and they did just as well.

The atmosphere overall here is much more stifling than at Wing’s, I’ve gotta say:

It didn’t change while we were there.  Dead zone.

However, this is where things get exciting, if you’re me or possibly my ex: I noticed they have General Tso’s chicken!

I’ve never had it, but it’s been a fascination for a couple years now because of the rabbit hole leading from this video essay to this documentary.  It’s not usually on menus in BC! Not really a thing out here!  I dunno, maybe I’ve had it at a buffet somewhere in the GTA or something but I doubt it.

Get ready for it:

Gorgeous!  Mmm presentation so good.

Damn that looks delicious, and nothing like most of the super Americanized versions in the doc.

I was so excited. Desperate, even, to know how it tasted.

Another succulent Chinese meal!

Wow, okay.  It’s got a smoky chili sauce, very savory.  Not that spicy (I was warned; I decided to chew on one of the peppers itself, that was spicy, but the dish itself is just flavored with the peppers, from my POV).  The chicken is lightly breaded in a slightly springy, slightly spongy jacket that reminds me most of fried tofu pouches.  It’s extremely satisfying, as a dish.

However, the meal I had the previous night was just as delicious, more filling, and much cheaper.  This was the perfect amount of food for not being too full to dance but not feeling starved.  It absolutely didn’t give me The Belly (Problems), and I was otherwise gastrointestinally comfortable and confident for the rest of the evening.   I mean same deal with the previous spot, but I didn’t have anywhere to be that night.

She got basically the same thing again, which is good for comparing.  She liked this place a lot better.  I thought the rice was much less tasty this go-around but ?

I feel like it’s less food, maybe it’s just the neatness of the plates but it feels like there was just more-for-less happening at Wing’s.

Oof, you know? After last night?  But like, two people for under $50 before tip is looking decent lately.

Still-life of an opened fortune cookie.

My lady ate the cookie so I guess it’s an active fortune, not sure whose exactly.  Not Wing’s, for the love of all things holy.

So, that’s a couple places off the impromptu list, anyway.  Cheers to both, take your pick ?

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