This was our first meal out together of 2019 and not being all-seeing and all-knowing, we were struggling to find a good, new (at least to us) places to eat.
I read about a relatively new Chinese restaurant in Los Cristianos and sent the link to our friends who like Jim and me were not overly impressed with the thought of a buffet menu, nevertheless, we still decided we would give Mr Chen a try.
As you approach, there’s little sign that this place is anything out of the ordinary. Indeed, it looks no different from many oriental-type operations. There is a rather small dining room with some outside tables and importantly, immaculate loos, but as someone once said, looks aren’t everything.
Similarly, noodles are good and sushi can be splendid if you’re in the mood, such dishes retain their ethnic status, but are so commonplace they are hardly exotic nowadays.
However, Mr Chen is not your normal Oriental Buffet.
There’s not much new under the sun except this, we tried something similar many years ago in Farnborough and thought at the time what an excellent idea, but to the best of my knowledge this is a new concept in Tenerife.
Whilst you can have anything on the menu as many times as you like, you must eat it, otherwise, if you leave half a plate or more you pay extra. The buffet is also not a pile it high, help-yourself. You choose from the menu and the food is freshly prepared and served to your table. This is not like any other good-but-extremely-dull Chinese restaurant, nor is it a typical buffet restaurant. It is special!
In terms of something for everyone, its menu is an appealing combination of the familiar and slightly more adventurous options. It is not just Chinese, or Sushi, or even a bowl of chips, it is a fusion of flavours, so both very good and straightforward as well as exciting oriental cooking at extremely modest prices. It is also well labelled for those who have food allergies or intolerances.
But aside from the choice, it is the cooking that is so impressive we could not believe just how good it was. The food is fresh, tasty and nicely presented. Dishes by their nature are not large, but the price is such that you can have a huge meal and all you need to add is a drink or two.
So what did we have – starters were prawns that were wrapped in angel hair pasta and deep fried with mango sauce, for me this was a first as was the Canarian smoked cheese in filo pastry with a palm honey dressing. Both of these dishes I thought were standouts and would have been happy with those alone. But of course, that didn’t happen we also had sesame toast and vegetable spring rolls.
For our mains we had Peking Duck and then reordered a second portion as it was so good, this was followed by Sweet and Sour Chicken again two portions and a large bowl of rice. I was going to order noodles but by this point was feeling the need to undo the belt. Andrew ordered a bottle of red wine, it must have been good because he scoffed the lot apart from half a glass that Christine managed, she also had a couple of vodka and cokes and Jim and I had our usual soft drinks and we had a beer to start.
By now we had to take a break and chatted to Alexi who runs the restaurant, he isn’t oriental but from La Gomera and I don’t know whether he owns or just manages Mr Chen but either way, he does a great job as do the rest of the staff.
Which takes me to service. The staff have achieved a rare double-act, they are not only charming and treat you as individuals, (you don’t feel you are being processed as you would in some faceless chain), but they also understand idiomatic English so as well as describing the dishes, should the client be in doubt, you also receive excellent recommendations as well as having a joke thrown into the conversation. We loved this as being a nosy bunch we like to get to know what makes places tick and Mr Chen ticks all the boxes in all the right places.
If I remember correctly at the end of last year I was grumbling about the hike in the price of meals but I couldn’t possibly do this with Mr Chen, our evening cost us €85 including wine and drinks because the menu is just €12.95 per person. Under 8s eat for €8.95 and under 5s are free.
We will certainly be returning, in fact, it is now in our top 4 restaurants which include Excalibur, Casa Castilla and the petrol station at Buzanada. It is well worth seeking out and I would recommend without hesitation.
We ended the evening with a few more drinks and coffees by popping in to see Reyes and the team at Mestizo before calling it a night. If this continues we will be having another great year.