Ultimately, I think that Tony Hu needs to take more time to figure this location out. I have now been here three times with two bad, and one good. Here is a recap of the three visits.
First Visit - March 4,2014:
I was so excited to have a more authentic Chinese restaurant here in Evanston (especially after losing Pineyard). However, after heading there for lunch at noon, I was excited to see that the place was half full which meant that I could probably easily score a table for two!
However, the hostess turned away the group in front of me and then, told me that they were so understaffed and couldn't bear a table of two at this point. I asked if there was a private room or possible menu for a group dinner. I was told no this was not possible. As we were leaving, a lady that was sitting there said that she had been waiting for her food for 45 minutes and was just going to leave because she couldn't bear to wait any longer.
This is probably the biggest disappointment so far - why have a soft opening when you're not prepared for it?
Second Visit - March 28, 2014:
After one month, my husband and I decided to return here again. And we are so happy that we have come back. From walking in the door to leaving, we were in and out within 40 minutes so perfect for the lunch hour rush. Keep in mind that for lunch, they only serve regular dinner sized portions. Prices are just right for the quality and size of portions. The decor is very panda-esque and staff was friendly.
For the food - we were pleased to see some of our favorites and stuck to our usual order: We usually like to start with the Szechuan style beef brisket noodle soup. It was delicious, spicy and I did wish that there was just a tad bit more vegetable or maybe radishes in it to soak up more of the chili oil used. We typically like getting the fish with sour pickle chili but opted to try their dry chili chicken instead. Paired with the Szechuan string beans, we were good to go. I was surprised to hear that rice was an extra cost but since we had our noodle soup, we were good on the carbs. They don't take reservations yet but we do look forward to returning but with our family in tow to appreciate some authentic Chinese food. My favorite part? The guava candy at the end! I love fresh guava and the candy brings me back to my Taiwanese roots.
Third Visit - April 21, 2014:
I called ahead and they still don't take reservations. I asked if we had a group of ten and showed up at 5pm, they said that would be no problem. Despite typical Chinese restaurants that have a round table that will seat 10 people, their round tables would only seat 6. They tried to push several tables together but we would have been squeezed so tight that we couldn't' even move our chairs. We ended up at the tables by the wall sitting on the booth seats, which is bad Chinese feng shui.
The food started off well but there was a particular dish that didn't taste fresh and was just masked by the spiciness. We tried to tell the server that it there was something off about the dish. They tried to tell us that it was just the spice in the sauce. We have eaten at the Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown back when it was just Spring World for the past 15 years! We know how that particular dish should taste. The one person in our group who did attempt to eat it and ended up with food poisoning that evening.
All in all, we won't be frequenting this location given the poor customer service that my mother (who flew in from California) and in-laws received. There are too many good ethnic restaurants in Evanston/Chicago that don't need poor customer service on top of serving spoiled food.