My wife and I wanted to go have dinner last week, and I was tired. I really didn’t want to go out of town to get dinner, so we decided to stay close to home.
I’m kinda burned out on close-to-home. We’ve been eating a lot of Papa’s Pizza since they opened, of course. I eat at Mi Lindo Apatzingan more often than I should admit. Tummy’s is a staple of lunch at my day job, and I’m just not a big burger fan any more. So, we end up with Chinese food, which means Amy’s or Villa Fat.
Villa Fat really looks great. I’ve never seen it noticeably dirty. Every time we walk in, it just looks and feels clean to me, and that’s a big deal. They really do work at it, it’s noticed and appreciated.
They also have some new couches and deep barrel chairs. It’s beginning to look like a lounge as much as a Chinese food restaurant.
Another thing that’s consistent with them; Service is always timely. The ladies are always chipper. There’s never been a time when we’ve gone in there and had to deal with a surly wait staff or slow service. They take pride in their service and it shows.
I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want chow mein or rice. I wasn’t starving, so I didn’t want a big pile of combination plate sitting in front of me, daring me to eat it all so I would be miserable later.
I ordered the fried shrimp appetizer, and the lemon chicken entree.
I was disappointed.
The shrimp came to me overcooked. They seem to be butterflied medium shrimp, battered with panko and deep fried, and if someone asked me I would be hard pressed to say they didn’t come out of a box.
These stayed in the hot oil bath a little too long. They were dark, and crunchy hard on the outside, and got harder as they cooled. Once they were cracked open, they were dry and tough. You can’t cook shrimp too long to begin with, but once they are butterflied, they get so thin that it’s hard not to overcook them.
The worst part is that the obvious comparison are the prawns at Amy’s Cafe. Amy’s is admittedly hit or miss, but when they get those puffy, crunchy pillows of juicy prawn goodness right, that’s good eatin’, and that’s what I expected when I ordered.
I ended up eating two out of the six that were brought to the table.
Next up was the Lemon Chicken entree.
These were overdone as well. Not nearly as overdone as the shrimp, but still overdone, over dry, and disappointing. Additionally, I didn’t get any tartness or lemon flavor from the sauce they were coated in. It was pure sweetness, almost like a glucose base with a Chinese five-spice blend thrown in for flavor.
I was starting to get concerned. Villa Fat has always been good. Even when they were off, they were never this far off the mark. Did they have another change in cooks? Was it an off night? Was I there on the back end of a busy lunch?
I pushed the chicken aside, and took a look at the menu. I had to try one more dish and give them every opportunity for redemption before I would dish out a negative review.
I ordered the Seafood Clay Pot. This was listed with crab, shrimp, calamari, scallops and vegetables.
It arrived looking pretty good, and oh my goodness, the aroma was something from out of this world.
Then I tasted the broth. And the angels wept. The birds sang. Colors got brighter. Gasoline got less expensive, and there was much joy in Mudville.
I’ve only had such delicious fish broth one other time, and I’m not being facetious by saying I was completely reminded of my dinner at Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Tchoup at Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida. It was delicious. Amazingly delicious. Magically delicious.
Nothing was overdone. The shrimp and the scallops were tender with just the right amount of resistance when biting into them. They were juicy and spilled juices with every bite. The fried tofu was delicious. There were these little packets of wrapped, coiled, wide noodles that tasted great, but even more so, the texture was very interesting. The snap peas and bok choy and baby corns were cooked well also, but the seafood made the dish.
I was shocked. I really was. So much so that I’ve been back since then to enjoy the dish again.
My lovely wife had the chicken clay pot, which she said was good, but I didn’t even get a chance to taste. I was too busy eating this seafood ambrosia from the Gods.
It was a hit or miss night. The shrimp and Lemon Chicken were disappointments. Thank God for that seafood clay pot. Hope springs eternal for everything else.
Villa Fat gets 2.5 stars from me. They’ve been better before, and I have no doubt they’ll get better again, but on this night, when they missed the mark, they were really quite a way off the mark. If you should find yourself there make sure you try the clay pots.
Villa Fat Cuisine can be found at 440 Elkhorn Blvd in the Rio Linda Plaza shopping center. The phone number is (916) 991-1228.