This article is solely the writer’s opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of UBC Food Society
Welcome to Battle of the Basement round two. Before we get into the much anticipated second installment of BOTB, I must address two points from my previous article, the first of which was brought to my attention by my grandmother.
When describing the shawarma that we tested last month, I used the term “sexy”, and caused quite a stir between my grandparents. My grandmother thought that my choice of words was inappropriate, while my grandpa applauded my use of free speech. Nevertheless, I will refrain from using provocative language from here on out when describing food, in hopes of pleasing my older readers. Love you Nana.
Secondly, for those who tuned in last month, you will recall my intention to compare the sushi restaurants in the Village Food Court for this month’s article. I was eager to share a particularly clever joke likening sushi rice to the snow on the ground, but alas, the snow has disappeared, as has one of the sushi restaurants in the basement. By forfeit, Miyamae Sushi has claimed the title of best sushi restaurant in the Village Food Court by virtue of being the last one standing. Kudos to them.
Shifting my focus, I chose Chinese food as the cuisine of the month- a fitting decision seeing as it is Chinese New Year. I again recruited Spencer, who has visited China and is a certified expert on the subject of Chinese cuisine, as well as Jeremy, who really hates Chinese food but is a good sport. It was an extra special occasion because, as it turns out, all three of us had yet to lose our bubble tea virginity… but we’ll get back to that later.
The Chinese restaurants in the basement provided too many choices for us to handle after the Berkowitz brainwashing we had just received in Stats class. Because of this, we let the store workers choose the three best dishes they had to offer, to get a good taste of each restaurant and avoid the stress of picking ourselves.
When we arrived at the food court, it was 12:30 and quite busy. My Home Cuisine (contestant 1) had a lineup across its storefront, while the Black Pearl Café (contestant 2) had not a single person placing an order. We went to Black Pearl first and were met with a smile by two girls who were incredibly kind to us, taking their time to suggest what they thought were the best items they had to offer. If they were intimidated by the formidable challenge we were putting before them, they did not show it. After chuckling at our inability to pick a bubble tea flavor, they sent us on our way with a sweet milk tea (the generic, baseline flavor), as well as a 3-piece combo consisting of sweet & sour pork, braised beef and boring chicken. The last dish was re-named because we forgot what it was called, and because the name holds true.
Next, we stepped up to the well-oiled machine that is My Home Cuisine. Their remarkably efficient team suggested half of their menu to us, so we picked sweet & sour pork for a comparison, as well as their most popular dish, spicy chicken, and Kung Pao chicken. We chose the same flavor of bubble tea as we did from Black Pearl, and stood in line as each customer’s identical Styrofoam container was shoved in a pile, causing everyone to watch intently to ensure theirs would not be taken accidentally. We ended up paying a dollar less for the food at My Home Cuisine so our traumatizing payment experience was soon forgotten.
At 1:00 we met Spencer at Henry Angus and dug in. 1/3 of our group took the liberty of eating on the table itself, which has been proven to enhance any eating experience. Another third of us could not use chopsticks, and attempted to carve their pork with a plastic spoon. Regardless of the method, we ate quickly and soon came to a consensus.
My Home Cuisine has the best food. All across the board, the taste tells why most people flock to their store as opposed to their neighbours’. Although, it could also be due to the fact that it is three metres closer to the entrance. Their “signature” spicy chicken hit the spot, with enough chillies to make you blow your nose a few times, yet not enough to make your poop burn the next day. When comparing the sweet & sour pork, My Home Cuisine was the clear winner, with tender meat boasting sweet, and sour flavor. Although that seems like a given considering the dish’s name, Black Pearl’s take on the dish was just plain salty, and overcooked to the point that the meat was too tough. My Home Cuisine then managed to complete the trifecta with some good-old-fashioned Kung Pao chicken.
That being said, an honourable mention must be given to Black Pearl’s braised beef dish, which was very tasty, albeit similarly tough to their pork. The beef was especially memorable because it was cut into head shapes (or at least I thought) and could be given a face. Check out the glamour shot we took of our beef man for proof. I personally see a striking similarity between he and Donald Trump, but you can decide yourself. As for the third dish we got from Black Pearl; boring chicken, the name really does say it all, seeing as the dish was a simple combination of chicken and veggies that stood in a sauce that acted as nothing more than a sodium vessel.
To sum up our second expedition into the village food court, My Home Cuisine has the best food from what we tried, and is much cheaper, so go there if you don’t mind waiting in line. On the other hand, if you value your time, and don’t mind leaving the food court with a mild crush on the girl that scooped your steamed rice, go to Black Pearl Café
Before we move on from this riveting discussion I’d like to acknowledge a few shortfalls in this scrupulous academic study of ours. First of all, I am aware that what we ate is not “Chinese” Chinese food, but rather a westernized creation with a genre of its own. Secondly, as you may have noticed, we did not discuss any rice/noodles in this article because we messed up. Big time. When placing our first order, we misheard the lady serving us, and accidentally asked for steamed rice rather than fried rice. Unable to swallow our pride and ask her to change it, we accepted the plain rice and ordered the same from the second restaurant. Although many people may be able to examine the idiosyncrasies of steamed rice and declare a winner, we were unable to do so and left out a comparison from this article.
AND FINALLY, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Bubble tea. What did three first-time drinkers think of the marvelous creation that has charmed the world over? Well, we didn’t think much. We purchased the blandest flavor and drank it already bloated from the ton of Chinese food we had just consumed. When first writing about the experience I had some choice words about tea pearls, and the experience overall. However, after some self-reflection I have resolved to give bubble tea second chance. I guess you could call it my Chinese New Year’s resolution…
GUNG HAY FAT CHOY/XIN NIAN KWAI LE
P.S. Shout out to Eric and my mom for saving the world from the first draft of this article.