Kung Pao Chicken at May’s Garden in Ottawa
I have mentioned elsewhere, notably in my post on the Kung Pao Chicken at Juxiangyuan, that the almost ubiquitous Chinese Restaurant dish of Kung Pao Chicken, has a classical Chinese form, and a much more Westernized version.
Some restaurants cleave much more to the original, some are definitely western in character, while some fall in between the two. At May’s Garden in Ottawa, they managed to miss the mark for both styles and ended up with something that was Kung Pao style in name only.
May’s Garden lies at the far end of Ottawa’s Chinatown, on Preston street, actually placing it more in the Little Italy District. It was a little shabby, and not terribly tidy or clean when I visited it, but they did have a pretty decent menu and the service was friendly.
I actually went inside intending to see how they made their Kung Pao Chicken and discovered it was on special that day for $6.95, with fried rice and a choice of Soup, or an Egg Roll. I was really only interested in the main dish, wanting to try it for comparison with others, so I waived the accompaniments. In retrospect, I rather wish I had tried the other dishes too, as I might have formed a different general impression of the place.
As you can see in the above picture, there was a lot more going on than just Chicken and Peanuts. The extra additions included green pepper, canned water chestnut and chunks of baby corn. As I always acknowledge, restaurants have to turn a profit, and some ‘bulk’ is to be expected, but I thought that the additions in this case, especially the latter two, were a bit too much.
The Chicken was breast meat (more Western than traditional), and irregularly cut, rather than the required diced pieces, but was otherwise alright. The sauce, on the other hand, was a non-descript brown affair based on soy sauce with a faint chili heat and no lychee-sweet and vinegar sour notes at all. There was also a jarring presence of 5 spice powder, although this taste seemed to be associated, strangely enough, just with the peanuts, and all in all, the whole affair was just not a proper Kung Pao dish by any reasonable interpretation of the style.