Mui Garden in Richmond: Food Was Good But Tips Not Necessary

I just want to start off by saying that “nobody is perfect”. We all make mistakes from time to time. What is important is how one deals with the situation when a mistake is made. Don’t ever lie to cover a mistake. It makes things worse. Mistakes, once realized, must be fixed as fast as possible. More about that later …

A couple of weeks ago, the whole family went out to dinner at the Mui Garden in Richmond. I wanted to go there because I ordered the wrong dish during the visit to the other Mui Garden on Victoria and 43rd in Vancouver. In that post, I complained that Curry Chicken which they are supposed to be famous for was terrible. It seems that they have different curry dishes and we got the wrong one. Yeah, there was a barrage of comments on that post telling us (again and again and again!) saying “Hey Ben, you got the wrong curry chicken!”.

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The O-C (obsessive compulsive) Ben just gotta go and check the deal curry dishes out or else he keeps thinking about it day in day out. Arkensen is more than happy that dad suggested Mui Garden when I told him “yes, it is in Richmond” and “yes, it is like a HK Style Cafe”. He knows that HK Style Cafe means they have salted fish and chicken fried rice.

The Mui Garden in Richmond had been here forever. They are located on a street called Firbridge Way which no one, including Richmondites, knows the name of. To many, it is just that little side street which connects No 3 Road with Minoru Blvd behind the London Drugs building. It is hidden from the main thoroughfare but yet many people knows of Mui Garden and where it is.

Parking here seems limited but there is a roof top parking above the single storey structure that the restaurant is on. You need to drive round the back and up the ramp. We did not even realize it until we saw that inconspicuous words on the awning.

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The dining area is big and it is split into two separate sections. One of the sections is on the upper level overlooking the rest of the restaurant.

There is nothing remarkable about the restaurant. Very typical Chinese restaurant with booth seats and smaller square tables.

The restaurant was … packed when we were there on a Saturday night. We did not have to wait for a table though and were seated promptly.

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Mui Garden is undoubtedly one of the more popular restaurants in Richmond. They had won numerous awards over the years. Everyone knows what they are best known for. It is curry dishes and Hainanese chicken rice. They do that very well.

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Prices wise, they are not the cheapest in town. They are quite OK considering that the food is delicious. I guess they can price their dishes $1-$2 higher than elsewhere simply because these are award winning dishes.

As usual, you can click on the pages above to show it in larger print.

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There are two dishes we wanted to try that night – curry and Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Since we already wanted to have chicken in the the Hainanese Chicken Rice, we ordered Curry Beef Brisket ($8.00) which a lot of people commented was good in the post of our last Mui Garden visit.

It is a simple dish – just rice and curry and beef briskets. Yellow and white, nothing green. They don’t bother about garnishes or making it a balanced meal. It is all about the curry.

The yellowish curry is mildly hot which also has some potatoes pieces in it. There are a lot of rice served and we felt that the ratio of curry jhup to rice is too low. Not enough jhup to drench the rice like we like to. So we had a ration the curry jhup or else we will be eating white rice part way.

The beef brisket seems to have been pre-cooked separately. We think they just pour the curry jhup over the meat before serving because the outer part of the beef does not feel “integrated” with the sauce. Not that it’s bad or anything.

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The curry dish above came with a free choice of coffee or tea because it is a combo dish.

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Arkensen ordered the usual $8.00. His ti-ti (younger brother) was not at this dinner and so he does not have to fight with him. Arkensen is a good natured boy and he almost always allows his brother his first choice. This dish also came with a free drink.

Arkensen said that it wasn’t really good. He said that there were not enough of salted fish taste and so it tasted bland. He was right.

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The choice of our first dish were already made up days before. Hainanese Chicken Rice is what we will have. We were so looking forward to this a lot.

This is how every restaurant who serves Hainanese Chicken Rice must serve the condiments. This is as important as the chicken itself. This came first. delivered right after the moment we ordered it.

Serves to whet our appetite more … serves to elevate our anticipation.

To us the most important condiment is the grated ginger and green onion, not so much the chili sauce. Tip: if you eat Hainese Chicken Rice with Suanne, move this plate away from her. It happens to me every time … by the time I had my second spoonful of the rice, half of the saucer will be empty. And when I confront her, she always says that I don’t like it as much. That is beside the point right? Ist against fairness to consider it is all hers.

So if I was paying attention, I will move the saucer closer to me so that I can monitor the consumption.

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We got half a Hainese Chicken. Half a chicken is $11.00 and a full bird is $21.00. So beautiful. I like the plumpness of the chicken which is a sight to behold.

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Beautiful chicken. Look at it … it has the all important layer of jelly-like skin finishing made by dipping the chicken in ice.

It is so good and flavorful that we did not even care that the plate it came in did not have sweet soya sauce.

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The chicken did not come with the rice. The rice is extra. We can get either order the plain steamed rice or the oily rice. We opted for the oily rice.

And this was the problem.

We waited and waited and waited. We asked one of the waitress and she said “it’s coming” and added that they are busy that night and that she will check for me. That’s fine.

We waited and waited and waited some more. We waited until we had finished the curry rice and the fried rice. And so we asked again, adding that we had finished the dishes and the chicken rice was no where to be seen.

Apparently they dropped the ball. The order was forgotten. The earlier waitress told me a lie that she will check but she did not. AND … they had the gall to lie to me some more that they had told us that it will take another 30 minutes to prepare the dish. We had waited for 30 minutes and now they tell us we need another 30 minutes more?

You see. I was not upset that they dropped the ball and forgot the order. Really I was not. What annoyed me was that they did not admit it. Instead in the confusion the waitress covered it up saying that we had to wait another 30 minutes on top of the 30 minutes we had waited for the dish because I wanted the oily rice. What sort of oily rice take 1 hour to make? She said she can serve me white rice if I want it immediately. I reluctantly agreed to the white rice.

The last straw was when I saw another table served oily rice 5 minutes later. That was IT! I called the supervisor over and asked for an explanation why I was told to wait another 30 minutes for an oily rice after having waited for 30 minutes more when I see other tables served the oily rice almost immediately. I gave them an earful. They knew I was not happy (hungry people are angry people).

They did not know what to do. They knew the waitress gave me BS. They did not say much. They did not do much in response. And I did not tip much in counter response too.

Actually I did not tip at all. And I know they expected it.

I am quite sure this does not happen to everyone who goes to Mui Garden. It just had to happen to us. The waitress should have checked when I asked the first time when it was apparent something was not right. And when a mistake is made, don’t make it worse by telling lies and try to wiggle out of the situation. Just fix it. It is not difficult. A speedy word of sorry goes a long way.

OK enough of my rant. 🙂

Life goes on …

The total bill came to $32.20, sans tips.

Mui Garden on UrbanspoonBUSINESS HOURS:

Open 7 days a week
11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

This Post Has 43 Comments

  1. Ugh Ben, sorry to see your oily rice delivery was botched.

    But worst of all was the BS and lack of responsibility (accountability) the server and management showed. That is un-acceptable. Truly un-acceptable.

    You absolutely did the RIGHT thing by not tipping. If it were me, I would have gone even one step further by demanding the supervisor/manager that I get a discount on the meal, clear and simple. Ultimately, management should be responsible, and take the heat, for bad service. In fact, I might have gone even another step further by demanding to speak with the restaurant owner (or ask for their contact info).

    I don’t want to sound mean, but getting BS’d like that, as a paying customer, is simply not right for me.

    Sorry to rant vicariously, Ben !

  2. Wow Ben, sounds like you did not have a pleasant experience there. You should try haianese chicken at Prata-Man, it’s pretty good there!

    1. yes i agree that prata man has one of the best hainan chicken in the lower mainland… i live in HK and i’ve been trying to find hainan chicken as good here 🙂

      1. Hi pekoe and Christine: We had been to Prata Man once and we did not intend to go back again. Not sure about it now but at that time they were a Singaporean restaurant. We ate there and asked for sambal and the waitress did not know what sambal is. To be fair it was almost 10 years ago. I think this restaurant had changed hands many times already. I had been hearing more people recommending Prata Man. OK I will check Prata Man out one of these days. Ben

        1. Ben, I don’t think Prata Man’s Hainanese Chicken will live up to your standards, just my opinion. Been there last week and frankly, nothing special about theirs!

  3. I loved the fact that you didn’t tip. I’m sure the food is great there but the unsubstantiated lying is unnecessary. I would just like to ask the readers out there about their tipping habits. I believe that tips are directly correlated to the type of performance the restaurant makes. My aunt recently was in LA where she treated her friends to Chinese food and when she left 10% the owner tried to get her to put down more before she walked out the door. I think tipping should be a reward.
    Thoughts?

    1. I agree that tipping should be reflected by the type of service you get from the servers. However, I feel it’s not our job to reward them, but the restaurant owner’s. Providing good service brings customers back which brings in more revenue and profit for the owner, so why would I as a customer who’s already paying for the food and experience at their restaurant be expected to dish out more to help out the restaurant’s payroll expenses? It would make sense if customers reward good service by pointing it out to the manager/owner and they provide a bonus for the staff.

      The service industry expects tips for good service but what about other careers? I’ve been in heated debates with ppl who were in the service industry who claim that servers rely on tips as a huge part of their pay as they have a lower base salary. I don’t disagree with that, but so are the rest of us who works hard because we want to keep our jobs.

      I tip generously (before taxes) and let the staff know how awesome they are on spectacular service and I tip less for ass service. I still tip, I just don’t agree with the idea that we should be the ones doing the monetary rewarding. I’m sure some ppl don’t agree with me though.

      Also, are we supposed to tip extra when a “service charge of %” is included?

      1. Well to be fair, we are talking about people getting minimum wage, so relying on tips (reward system) to make a living ends up not much like a reward systen. I would think it is more like a need. I can see the fairness why other ccupations may not have tips because our hourly wage already covers our bills and needs.

        It is always easier to shake a finger at others on things that we have never been in their place.

        Having said that, I do agree that the tips should be earned with good, respectable, professional service. Otherwise, the person should consider a non-tipping food service industry like McDonald’s or KFC.

      2. I think the concept of tipping, while widely accepted, is plenty flawed. I don’t always separate my experience at a restaurant into quality of food versus customer service. To me, its the aggregate that matters. For example, when a plate (say I wanted my NY steak cooked to medium rare) is not prepared to my satisfaction, is it because my server did not properly advise the kitchen or is it because the kitchen messed up? What about when the food is only lukewarm, is that because the kitchen did not heat it up sufficiently or is it because it’s been sitting on the counter for too long before the server brought it over? And there’s something to be said for paying the wait staff a higher wage (so they provide better service) instead of having them work for tips. That way, the proprietor accepts all responsibility for the diner’s experience. So the food costs a bit more, but you’re also saving on tips, not to mention the fact that the modern practice in the restaurant business is to share tips between all wait staff and the kitchen. Sharing tips means that if you had a crappy server, they are not going to be penalized alone, but rather as a part of the entire group (so they may end up not caring as much).

  4. I’ve traveled to America and Europe and there tip is automatically added to our bills. Thus, why we get no tips from Europeans or some American because they assume tip is already added on to the bill. They don’t know HST is actually a government TAX!

    I always tip 15 percent because I work in the restaurant industry, I’ve experience every possible bad and good service. I had to bite my tongue many times, even though I know I did nothing wrong because of other witness, anyways customers are always right…

  5. I went to Mui Garden once (Victoria Dr.) and won’t go back. BF ordered the Hainese Chicken and they gave him a hard time about the oily rice, too. In the end we only got white rice. But the worst part is the pieces of hair we found on the chicken, as if the cook had gotten a haircut earlier in the day and a few stray trimmings landed on our dinner. The entire experience was so uncomfortable and unpleasant that we just wanted to get out of there without making a fuss.

    Doug – I’m from the US and have never seen auto tips unless it’s a big party. Usually the waitstaff makes less than minimum wage because they are expected are earn tips.

    1. Hi Cindy: Oh my … hair trimmings, with a “s”? That would be utterly gross. I would have called their attention to it. I would eat it provided if the restaurant eat it together with me. Ben

      1. “I would eat it provided if the restaurant eat it together with me”.
        hilarious Ben…

        I agree with you wholeheartedly. mistakes happen…just bloody-well do the right thing and we’ll all get over it. If they don’t ……well, I won’t be back, I’ll tell all my friends not to go back….ya and now I’ll even blog about it. Sure my little blog won’t make much of a difference, but I’m sure the thousands of Chowtimes readers will think about what Uncle Ben has said about this place……Mui Garden won’t even get a chance to meet some of us …their loss!!!

        It’s a shame when restaurants/servers/managers/owners don’t get this.

        I don’t know how many times I have returned to restaurants where the food is just adequate….I’m not talking bad food, just adequate because the owners/servers actually made an effort and provided friendly, honest service. If they go out of their way to acknowledge something that goes array….no big deal. A little decent customer service goes a long way.
        Tipping is just a one off….they won’t miss the few dollars, but in the long run…..

        don’t get me started about the horrible service at Hon’s on 3 Road…..and where are they now?

        ahhhh!….so nice to get that off my chest

        BTW about Prata Man….yes the chicken is quite decent, but I was really turned off by the state of the place. (I really can’t imagine what the kitchen might look like)

        It didn’t help that the time I went they must have decided to do a bit of a cleaning/deodorizing. I was nauseous from the stench of Pinesol. I was there for take out as the chicken had been highly recommended….there would have been no way that I could have eaten in this place.

        Chicken was OK, but the whole time I was eating it….my nose was burning from the pinesol …….and I was all they way across town at my office 🙂

        1. Hi Joy: I am too soft. 🙁 While I was rather unhappy, I do realize that it is just the one waitress which ruined the dinner. So I can’t bring myself to say things like “I’m never gonna go back again”. It is just me … who I am. Life is too short to let anger fester (and am saying it literally, someday I’ll explain) and allow someone else make me unhappy. Yeah, I know … some people want to knock some senses into me. LOL! 🙂 Ben

  6. Ben, you definitely did the right thing by NOT tipping. Too many servers assume tipping is mandatory.

  7. I ate the hainanese chicken at Prata Man a couple of years back. It was stone cold from the fridge and not a bit good. First and last visit.

    1. Hi Lissa: When I was glancing at your comment, I thought that Hainanese Chicken should be cold … and then I saw that you mention it was cold from the fridge. Now that is not good! Ben

  8. I totally understand how you feel! The exact same thing happened to me at The Prince. Man, were my parents pissed off. They still ended up tipping though..

  9. I like the hainanese chicken at Kam Ho in Richmond. Way better than Mui’s.

    1. Hi Tough Cookie: Yeah, we had tried the Hainanese Chicken Rice at Kam Ho before ( see http://goo.gl/YM1Vq ) … they are pretty good but I have to grudging say that Mui Garden’s is not bad too. Ben

  10. Marv: Hey Ben!
    If I had been there with you at Mui, tables would have already been flipped. I personally can’t deal with that kind of pathetic service. The worst is when they stand next to you while your paying the bill and they say ‘its not enough tip” I say, its not enough service!

    1. “Hey, you can be my wingman any day, 604Munchies !” LOL

    2. Hi Marv: Whoa!! Violence!! 🙂 Ben

  11. The Mui’s people not only not deserved tips but need to be spanking. I always thought that Hainan chicken is steam together with the rise, because when I ordered Hainan chicken rise in Indonesia or in China (I have never try it in here) it always came the chicken the rise and the broth and other condiments, and the rise was creamy chicken taste, so they must have steam together.

        1. Yeah, I was thinking of the same thing too. LOL!

      1. Thanks guys, now I can try to cook chicken Hainan my own style.

        1. James of VSE ? 🙂

          After you made the Hainanese chicken, don’t forget to send us the invites, hehehe 😉

  12. I think the best thing to do to show that you were upset with the service is instead of NOT tipping, is to tip with just 1 cent. That way they know for sure you didn’t forget to tip, but you were making a statement that the service was horrible.

    I had the same situation when I went to The One restaurant on kingsway in burnaby where the blockbuster use to be. The guy completely forgot to enter our order in and told us a lie and then went to the computer to put in the order. Funny thing though is that they will take the order receipt and tape it on your table which shows when the order was taken. Obviously he forgot. I wouldn’t have been upset if they just told us to begin with instead of having to wait all that darn time.

    1. LOL! Tipping 1 cent does make a strong statement!

      1. Another way to express bad service is to write it on the bill (or back of it). Usually the manager/owners tally up the bills of the night and that’s when they will read it.

    2. Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. Brilliant. Imagine all the money I can save now (and still technically tip) at restos with bad service.

      Are there any compilations of restos with really yummy food but with really crappy service ? I’d like to be their regular customer, LOL 😀 !

  13. Hi, Ben:

    Thanks for a very entertaining read. I was going to call it an early night and just couldn’t resist reading about one of our family’s favorite place. When I had to drive my youngest to Richmond for the Sea Scout meetings on Saturdays, it’s a place where my kids enjoyed. Their favorites are the Hainese Chicken & oily rice, curry beef brisket & oily rice plus the spicy green beans and minced pork. It’s sad to see they are not delivering the same kind of quality after all these years.

    I used to work as a waitress in my parents’ coffee shop years ago and I know how much difference a good server helps to make the customer’s dining experience good or not. Sometimes when I or the kitchen dropped the ball, we’ll make the customer feel better with a little extra something and profuse apologies. Like you said, most people dine out and expect a good experience. I’ve also learned to give myself or others a second look because I know I have off days, too.

    As a business owner, I really appreciate it when there’s something amiss and someone brings it to my attention before it builds up and explodes in my face.

    Ben & Suanne, as I have said, it’s very enjoyable to read your blog and especially the conversation between readers and you. Great community here.

    Cheers to Happy Food Blogging ^(^

  14. Ben, you didn’t elaborate too much on how much you liked their Curry Beef Brisket. You did say it was good, but not sure how good. Did it live up to your expectations?

    1. Hi WS: Unfortunately, I did not quite like the curry beef brisket the way they made it. It is just a personal preference because I like it if the curry flavor permeates the beef. However, I realize that some people like it having a separate crunchy beef slathered with curry so as to enjoy the two components separately. Ben

      1. I had curry beef brisket with rice at i-Cafe last night. The curry was very good ….. thick, not-too-coconut-creamy but also not the straight “tumeric”-pretend curry variety. While the brisket pieces were on the small side (~ 1″ squares) the curry colour and flavour was well-permeated into them, and they were clearly stewed in the curry sauce itself until fork-separating tender.

        The potato pieces were soft, and when I do the inspection (cut potato in half, see how deep the curry colour penetrates) the curry colour permeated about 1/2 way in. Not bad.

        I like how this is a pure brisket curry (brisket, potato, onion) and no green/red peppers and other non-essential accessory ingredients.

        The portion of brisket and potato was acceptable for me (~ 9″ round saucer bowl about 1″ deep) and more “jhup” than I could use for the big bowl of rice.

  15. i’ve been to this restaurant a few times. love their hainanese chicken and the rice that comes with it.
    i stopped going mainly because of parking issues.

    1. Hi Jeprox: Did you realize that Mui Garden Richmond has a roof top parking? Ben

      1. yup, i know about their rooftop parking.
        on busy days though, rooftop can fill up as well. 🙂 sometimes i go to prata man. prata man is very good, but the whole place is kind of dirty. 🙁

  16. I really like the Prataman HCR. Not as fat as HK HCR more kampong-ish. I liked the HCR at Prima Taste too though they closed and the portion size was tiny for the price. My tow picks right now are Cafe D’lite for more HKish CR and Prataman. I know its dirty but they do have takeout.

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