168 Restaurant (Pacific East Mall)
I've tried this restaurant before, but not in the last 2 years. I went back last night because a friend raved about their salt and pepper chicken. They specialize in Taiwanese snacks and main dishes.
Once I stepped in the door, I remembered why I hadn't been back. The food has always been pretty good but service was inattentive, for lack of a better word. The waitress led us to a table without saying a word. Although there were only about 6-8 tables occupied and about 6 servers, we had to wait and finally waved someone down to take our order. Again, not a word from the same waitress. I felt like I was just talking to myself. When we asked for the bill and takeout boxes, the waiter (a different person now) took everything away and brought the check without saying anything. All my "pleases" and "thank-yous" were ignored. I'm not quite sure how to describe the experience, a little bit surreal, like my friend and I didn't exist. :)
But the food was amazing. The chicken reminded me of popcorn chicken. Little bite-sized pieces that you can just pop in your mouth. Salty with a nice peppery kick, and extremely addictive. We also ordered dried sauteed string beans which were nice and spicy. The Yang Chow fried rice was different from the type you'd see in a Cantonese restaurant. This version had shrimp, little strips of chicken, diced ham, egg, and green onion. The rice was a little moister as well. The Taiwanese meat ball (rou4 yuan2) was generously filled and topped with a sweet chili sauce. The dough was not tough or chewy at all.
Overall, I enjoyed the food a lot. The service makes me hesitant to return.
I agree that the service is poor. But (maybe this is a bad thing) I don't expect good service from a Chinese restaurant, especially when the food is good. I think most Chinese people take the same attitude, they don't mind bad service as long as the food is good and the price is cheap. 168 is both of the above.
I almost always go to 168 when I make a trip to the East Bay for 99 Ranch gocery run. They have a decent beef stew noodle soup, and their salt and pepper scallops are excellent
I agree about bad service traditionally being associated with Chinese restaurants. 168 didn't even come close to the low level of service I've had at Chinese restaurants. Service wasn't rude, just non-responsive, and I'll probably be back there soon. But 168 isn't a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown with formica tables and a lone waitress, either. I expect better, if only slightly, from a place like this.
In general, I think times have changed and restaurants need to pay more attention to service quality. Maybe it's because I'm second-generation but I pay a lot of attention to customer service. There are many Chinese restaurants out there that have managed to balance good food and service. And I'm always on the lookout for them so please pass on any hot tips!
P.S. Wendy, thanks for mentioning the salt and pepper scallops. I'll be sure to try that next time.