Just like misbehaving people, misbehaving restaurants sometimes deserve a second chance, even when the generosity of spirit required to bestow second chances is difficult to summon.
For that, I have readers. Persistent readers. Readers who refuse to take no for an answer.
Back in 2009 we made a few visits to a humble Asian restaurant on Calloway Drive called BGF. It originally opened as MGM (no relation to the movie studio or Vegas casino), and was pretty decent at first, but visit after visit to the nearly vacant restaurant had left us discouraged; the food brought to the table was old and weary. Especially the vegetables. Living in Kern County, there's no excuse for weak, wilted and tired veggies. We stopped visiting.
Enter reader Mike Espinoza, who sent an email asking about the place. We told him our tale, and apparently were so unpersuasive that he went anyway. And he liked it. Mikey, just like the Life ceral kid, liked it. He wrote back: "My food was made to order, which in turn was brought to the table fresh and hot. I ordered the spicy Kung Pao shrimp and fried rice and it was terrific. They said that they have not been in business that long. There are a couple of names within the restaurant. They could be different owners since you last visited. You might want to give them another shot."
Apparently Mike is more persuasive than I, because we went back and sampled the Kung Pao chicken ($5.99) and the shrimp with broccoli ($7.99).
At first I was leery because once again we were the only customers in the place. I noted the shortened hours, too; the restaurant closes by 8 p.m. and doesn't open at all on Thursdays. It's hard to build dining clientele with what used to be called banker's hours. That aside, I'm happy to report that both dinners were nothing like the cuisine that led to our breakup in the first place.
My chicken, served with either white or brown rice -- perfectly steamed -- had green and white onions, peanuts, green and red peppers and those dried red peppers that you must discard before eating. The balance of vegetables and poultry was nearly perfect. We were almost as impressed with my companion's entree, though the shrimp had that vague note of chlorination that not-fresh-tasting shrimp pick up in the processing. They were large shrimp with an appealing mix of vegetables (bamboo shoots, green onion, mushrooms, carrots) all bound with an intriguing but subtle ginger presence in the sauce. The broccoli also was perfectly steamed -- not too soft, not too firm. My biggest complaint was the mushrooms, which had the mushy texture of the canned rather than fresh. The other veggies were mostly fresh.
And as Mike mentioned in his email, the prices were reasonable: We got out for less than $20, including tax and tip, though we ordered only water (there is no alcohol served here). Service was somewhat indifferent, especially considering we were the only customers. It took me walking to the cash register to get the check.
Of course I had to go back for lunch on a Saturday, just to make sure the trend to fresher food was consistent. We ordered hot and sour soup ($1.99), which was very salty and some amazing pot stickers ($4.99), made with chicken instead of pork. The Chinese just adore pork, which is why pot stickers are usually filled with chopped pork and vegetables. The version here is crisp, clean and tastes much lighter.
I also sampled the Mongolian beef ($6.99), this time with chow mein noodles instead of brown rice. The beef had some smokiness as did the noodles, though there was an oiliness to everything that was off-putting. All the veggies on my plate (celery, carrots, bean sprouts, white onions) were fresh. So my previous visit wasn't a fluke and, in an encouraging sign, two other parties were dining at the time.
Thanks again, Mike.