Undercover Buffet: Jin Xiu
Located within the confines of the City Centre Mall lies the most hidden buffet the City has to offer: Jin Xiu Restaurant.
For those of you who are uncertain of its location, it's the former St Tropez Bistro or Cordova Bistro, just south of the Grant Hall Hotel on Main Street. It's less than one short block away from the main entrance to Crescent Park so if you're out at the park it's close by.
JIN XIU RESTAURANT
#105 361 Main Street North
Licensed with a limited selection of domestic beer and wine available. Don't go there if you desire fancy cocktails.
In existence for over a year, this buffet offers a fairly limited selection and for those of you hoping for your share of Chinese prepared fresh vegetables, this is definitely not the place for you.
But in the world of looking to save a buck, the $10.99 lunch-time buffet might be what you are looking for.
As with any Downtown restaurant, parking can be an issue as there is no free off-street parking to be had.
If you are going at lunchtime during the week be forewarned that you will be plugging the parking meter to eat here.
In the evening, be prepared for limited on-street parking, as there is a bit of a fight with the hotel and its restaurant guests and a nearby fitness facility users for the same spaces.
For the most part the restaurant is wheelchair accessible but there are a couple of notable exceptions.
That being accessing the washroom stall in the men's washroom is a bit of a chore as there is a narrower lane way you must navigate to reach the stall.
The fancier upstairs dining area is only accessible by stairs.
No telltale dust was found on surfaces in the washrooms but the men's room had one section of burnt out fluorescent lighting.
A black plastic bag was taped, it seemed, permanently on one of the three urinals.
The women's washroom was larger with plenty of room in front of the mirror.
Overall, there is some privacy in the main dining area, near the buffet, as there are three booths with tall headboards which extend two feet above your head to prevent people from interrupting your dining experience.
As you enter to your right there are some semi-private tables with a cruise ship inside cabin feel, a limited view for those who have cruised to Hong Kong should readily understand.
The top level had some tables with chairs and a very pleasant view back towards the park.
The booths look nice and clean, however the red cushioned fabric seating needs a redo, as the foam has seen much better days and you can feel the hard bench boards beneath it on your back.
The staff are friendly but the two times I was there - at both lunch and dinner - they settled into other "chores," ignoring the clientele in favour of mobile devices.
In the evening visit, my companion was told by a staff member he had a real appetite and when he stopped to answer a text the staff member quickly took his plate, with some unfinished items and fork still in it, thereby ending his dining experience.
For those of you looking for free in-house wi-fi, you are out of luck, as none is available. If you want to check out your Facebook you are going to have to be on a plan.
Selection of food dishes is fairly limited, so if you are interested in a massive selection it's just not here.
Meatballs seem to be out of place for Chinese fare but they are there waiting for you, resting in their sauce.
If you are looking for the sweet and sour variety of meatballs, sorry, it's not these. They were tender, without gristle nor inundated with fat. There was very little in the way of spices other than pepper. They and not sweet but work well with most Moose Jaw pallets and tastes which are not overly spice-friendly. If you want to liven them up there is some hot sauce to be had on the dessert table.
Shrimp was provided in two varieties. One in a sauce and another battered.
The shrimp in sauce were of the smaller variety that possessed a small zing to them which sadly quickly fizzled out in my mouth.
The deep fried shrimp were much larger although they were slightly over batterered. They were not greasy but the batter really packed nothing extra in the way of taste.
The mixed vegetables were not overly immersed in canola when stir fried but sadly they were also slightly under cooked. And a little bit too crunchy in my mind.
The celery was fresh and the undercooking meant it wasn't smoothed out by the flow of other vegetables in the dish.
The broccoli had a noticeable brown tinge to it, slightly undercooked but no oily after-taste to it.
The sweet and sour pork was OK and passed the tender portion of the dish but the outside coating truly failed to excite.
The chicken ball batter was passable although it was a bit bland. The sauce, though, helped rescue it to some extent.
The chicken sticks and crinkle cut fries seemed out of place and sadly had that "out of a box" taste to them.
The dry pork ribs have a simple outside coating and are not marinated. But they weren't greasy and full of the fat you might get in other places. But were not extraordinary.
The rice was cooked within the acceptable range and properly raked to keep it from clumping together. But the peas, judging by their shrivelled appearance, gave away a tell tale sign it was a little bit older on the freshness scale.
Surprisingly the won ton soup was clear, refreshing and quirkily straight on the mark. It only lacked a few green onions but the cook seemed to knock this one out of the park.
Dessert selection is severely limited and there was no fresh fruit available during the two times I was there. The selection was canned peaches, canned pineapple and waffled cookies.
If you have a sharp eye you can see an ice cream scoop nearby, so if you ask they can bring you out some.
During your meal you can just drink water but if you are hoping they'll leave you a pitcher with ice in it you're sorely out of luck.
On my visits there I selected a soft drink it came out plain in a can, no glass (let alone a chilled one), and a straw. On a coldness scale it didn't require added ice; always a big plus.
All-in-all though, in this reviewer's opinion, what is available here, is, in many ways, a small country town buffet, both basic and bland and sadly not on par with what most city dwellers are looking forward to.
I give the Jin Xiu Restaurant 5.4 out of 10.
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