Saturday, May 5, 2018

Jumping Aboard The Titanic--Yang's Braised Chicken Rice

It was big news last year when Yang’s Braised Chicken Rice, a restaurant chain with 6,000 branches in China, announced they were opening their first United States branch in Tustin., with the opening being trumpeted in the Orange County Register and the local food press.  Well, I finally was able to make my way down there, and I feel fortunate that they were still in business so I could try the place, as I can’t imagine how they have been able to survive so long. The concept itself is quirky–a one item menu (braised chicken rice, if you didn’t guess) with the only choices being variations in spice level. I could see that working for something, say, like Savoy’s Hainan Chicken, and indeed there are successful one trick ponies such as BongChu chicken in Koreatown with its glass noodle, vegetable and braised chicken dish. . But if you're going to have a one item restaurant, that dish had better be awfully good.  Unfortunately the braised chicken at Yang's Braised Chicken Rice is both too salty and too oily.

On top of that  the presentation of the dish is laughingly ugly.  The dish doesn't look at all like this picture I took, where I had to rearrange the contents to make it look appetizing.

Rather, they fill the bowl with the braised chicken, then stuff a giant scoop of white rice on top, which kind of makes it look like you could only afford to eat a bowl of plain white rice, with a small amount of chicken on the side for flavoring.

So where other restaurants now make their dishes attractive with the express purpose of encouraging people to Instagram their meal, Yang’s does the exact opposite, as nobody in their right mind would want to photograph the presentation of their dish, except perhaps on a lark. 

Lastly is the cast of characters behind the counter. The lady behind the counter would easily pass for a homeless person.  And the “chef” in back isn’t Asian, either.   Clearly the concept of the people in the home office back in China is if all you serve is a single dish, formulaically prepared, you can hire anybody to man your operation.  But if your recipe isn't any good, this manner of staffing just makes the operation look that much more inept.  

With Sichuan Impression and O’Shine Taiwanese cafe each just a couple of doors down on either side, I’m not sure what Yang’s owners were thinking in opening up here.  I don't know if there was a breakdown in the formula once the home office people set up shop and went back to China, or if this is just a taste that's successful in China but doesn't play well over here, a mistake that you can't make if you're only serving one dish.  Or perhaps the dish would be better if the rice wasn't soggy--the restaurant wasn't busy so the rice probably sat too long, and if the rice is soggy you'll eat less, making the dish taste saltier. But in any event this is one of the biggest head shakers I've seen in the annals of Chinese restaurants in the Los Angeles area.,

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