Saturday, 4 July 2009

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...."

I’m sure we’ve all been there, done that with regard to going in to a restaurant or café that to all intents and purposes seems fine. We then discover, when the food comes out, that not only is the food of a standard we definitely can’t approve (and possibly the service as well), but it is worse than that, and we curse whatever it was that made us ever set foot in there!

There are some places that with your pre-knowledge of their reputation alone, you would never darken their doorstep – but sometimes others manage to bamboozle you, and you enter their portals with high expectations, and come out cursing them, and the world in general! One of the former that immediately springs to mind is China Diner, for me.

It was Good Friday many years ago. Miss Bec and I were hungry, had been doing something strenuous and wanted to eat out, hence not having to bother about thinking of food that evening. We headed towards North Hobart in the certain knowledge that at least ONE cafe or restaurant would be open there. Think again you fool Rita! Keep driving out the northern suburbs, for sure you'll find something open. Think again foolish Rita!

We eventually reached China Diner in Moonah - the first place we found open along Elizabeth St/New Town Rd/Main Rd Moonah, from North Hobart onwards! We'd heard many negative things about this place, but on that day, at that time, I thought, "give the poor buggers a chance; don't believe what everyone else says about them; make up your own mind" so in we went. Big mistake for Rita. Bec ate, and thought it was fine, but then again, she hasn't ever really been known for her fine dining palate, with her favourite meal being Mackers! I honestly couldn't bring myself to eat anything. It was SO cheap I had to suspect the provenance of all of it. Reading in the paper a while later that dead cats had been found in the freezer there explained a lot to me, and made me glad I hadn't eaten anything.

But what are the possible telltale signs you should take heed of at these places?

I have a few suggestions of what, in hindsight, I should have taken more note of:

*Beware of the majority of the clientele either entering or leaving, or currently seated in there, being overweight, and all of a similar age. This is definitely not a good sign.

*I have found too that if the menu you are handed is grubby, soiled or out-of-date, that also is not a good sign of things to come.

*If the toilets are grotty, get out now while the going is good!

I'm sure this list could be enlarged on but these are some things that initially spring to mind for me. Anyone else have any hints for the poor, trusting, unsuspecting, prospective diner?

Posted on by Rita
25 comments

25 comments:

sir grumpy said...

This is fattist, Rita. Beware THIN people coming out of restaurants.....they don't eat!

Anonymous said...

A bit offensive, Rita!
Not all us fatties are bogans.

Rita said...

Sir G - not sure why I'm worrying about the thin people, cos if they didn't eat they wouldn't accurately reflect the food to be found inside.
Anon - Sorry but I didn't say fatties were bogans. I just made the generalisation that if you observe that most people coming in or out, or currently in there, are overweight and a similar age, then that is, to me, a warning sign. I'm not too fussed about the bogan issue, more reflecting on the food I will ultimately receive at the venue.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in many cities and all of them seem to have a cat and dog story relating to Chinese restaurants.
Are you sure about your claim about cats in the freezer.
Perhaps this is why Tasmania picks up its redneck racist tag so easily when people are happy to perpetuate this rumour about asian dining.
You don't here of us Chinese claiming that your cheap food (snags) etc may contain domestic pets.

But, in some depth of fairness, the venue you name has had its run ins, namely the threatening of health inspector staff with a cleaver.
Its a poor example of Asian cuisine, I agree. But can we leave the xenophobia out.

Anonymous said...

Anon - they did get done, quite a few years ago now, but they were caught using cats (or dogs? can't remember exactly, would need to look up old copies of the mercury, it certainly made print news) in their cooking.
~Napkin Guy

sir grumpy lovehandles said...

Rita, you're stirring up a hornet's nest!
What do you mean fatties of similar age groups being a bad sign? Could you spell out the logic here? What makes you come up with that?
You worry about the (faddist) thinnies because they eat very little and the profit margins of restaurants go down. (``I'll just have a glass of tap water and a salad, please'')

Anonymous said...

How hard would it be to round these cats up?
Am I to assume that there are Ninja chefs roaming the streets in snatch squads at 2am in the morning. Sounds like a lot of effort to me.

Got to be an urban myth.

sir grumpy said...

I think the only thing the Diner got into trouble over was that the owner or chef had a row with food inspectors.

Anonymous said...

Known locally I believe as "The vagina diner". Yep, says it all. Mind you, maybe this is where the confusion between eating pussy and tasting like pussy sets in.

Sir Grumpy said...

Rita, I'd pull the plug on some of this mate for everyone's sake.
It's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

No.... its like when God is an absentee landlord, the animals get skinned and eaten.

Stephen said...

This really sounds like urban legend, after all, can anyone think of a less economically efficient method of getting meat than spending hours chasing a bunch of cats through the streets of Moonah?

A google search shows nothing about China Diner serving cats and a search of the Tas Supreme Court database (1987-now) shows nothing relevant. Ditto the muckraker.

In fact, I could only find one earlier court case involving China Diner - in 1994 the Immigration Review Tribunal reviewed an employer sponsored migration application regarding a cook who was going to work there. Nothing to do with the serving cats though.

If this is urban legend, then the reference should be deleted as it is actually quite nasty if its a lie. If its true, then you should include a link for posterity.

Rita said...

Many thanks to all Anons, plus Napkin Guy, Sir G and Stephen for their contributions to this subject. Apologies also for not contributing to this exchange last night myself - I am currently house-sitting with no computer access, so catching up on the blog in between engagements.
As my memory is my chief source of info on the Diner cat debacle, and that definitely made our esteemed daily paper (which is obviously where I got this 'urban legend'), I can add no more to this discussion other than to say I don't make this stuff up because I'm bored!
I can't tell you when the cat 'thing' was made public (not year or even era), so would have absolutely no idea where to start searching back issues of the Merc, but obviously it was way before online searching and internet ease of acquiring info.
Yes, it probably now has turned into urban myth, and like all fairy stories, over the years these things acquire a life of their own, which is good or bad.
I didn't know on the day I read about it in the Merc, and still don't, whether or not it was, in fact, so. I have read many things in the Merc that, in the end, turned out not to be so. This may well be one of them.
(I also found it extremely interesting on Saturday that the front page main feature of the Examiner contained a story of Nick McKim and Cassy O'Connor being now a couple and as such having to declare this fact to the party. There was no mention of it at all in Sat's Merc that I could find - and believe me, I searched long and hard!)
Anyway, to revert to the original subject, hasn't anyone else had this happen to them?

Anonymous said...

The cat in the fridge place was the a chinese restaurant just up from Elizabeth College, Har Wee Yee and we are talking back in the 1970 to 1980's?
Stephen can you have a look at that on your databases.

Stephen said...

Nothing either for Har Wee Yee.

With all due respect to the memories of those concerned, this is looking to be an urban myth. Snopes.com even has an entry for this myth:

The rumor about Fluffy's or Fido's being slipped into Chinese food by unscrupulous restaurateurs has been traced by British researchers to the earliest years of the British Empire in England and to the 1850s in the United States. [...] Ancient slur or not, wherever this rumor goes it affects how the locals feel about the Chinese in their midst, and it often impacts a restaurant's fragile bottom line.

steve said...

Hi Rita, I really liked that hiipy song 'Signs' by the Five man Electrical Band, was it just me or did you use it for your post title?
I'm with you on this one & after years of working & eating in restaurants I guess you learn(usually the hard way at first) to trust your initial impressions. From the cleanliness of a place to the greeting, to the service & ultimately to the food.
I can usually safely negotiate these things but if too many warning signs flah, then I'm outta there!

Rita said...

Yay Steve - thank god it's not just me! Yes, I DID mean it to be a play on words, and the words of the 5 Man Electric Band song "Signs" is exactly what I was hoping someone would recognise!
Glad you agree with me here. SO unusual that we agree, again!!!x

sir grumpy said...

I think some of the comments of respondents may be defamatory Rita. I'd counsel caution and delete the claims that can't be substantiated.

Kris said...

For what it is worth, a similar tale about a Chinese restaurant/cats in the freezer was doing the rounds in Burnie in the late 1980s. I can't say that I believed it then or now.

As Stephen says, it's not particularly credible. Mutton dressed as lamb, I can see it. Different cuts passed off as something they're not, of course. Cats? Presented as what? From what I've heard, they're quite the acquired taste.

sir grumpy said...

I remember a restaurant in Britain getting fined for ``half a cockroach'' in an asian dish.
The owners hardly spoke any English and just copped it.
I heard the story later that it was really a brown cardamom pod and an ignorant customer. Who do you believe...I think many restaurants do it tough.

Anonymous said...

Burnie - it was true. I used to live near there....

Anonymous said...

for private consumption apparently, the frid rice was great (vegetarian!)

Kris said...

Anon, re. the first Burnie "cat in freezer" story doing the rounds, the cat even had a name: "Marco Polo".

Yes, Marco Polo the cat was found in the freezer of a Chinese Restaurant that may or may not have been in the same suburb as an Olympic pool.

Anonymous said...

I lost my cat in Acton - Marco Polo was his name.....I miss that cat

Anonymous said...

How hard would it be to round these cats up?
Am I to assume that there are Ninja chefs roaming the streets in snatch squads at 2am in the morning. Sounds like a lot of effort to me.

Got to be an urban myth.

RITA is the cat thing really true??????