Somewhere I read that the reason there are Chinese restaurants strewn across the miles has to do with the history of railway construction in Canada and the U.S. Yep, immigrant labor -- poorly paid and treated badly. I have also heard that restaurant trends follow displacements associated with war, genocide and refugees -- so after the Vietnam War we got Vietnamese restaurants, etc. So, this summer's exploration of various Asian restaurants in Medicine Hat is less surprising than it felt. There are loads of Chinese restaurants, a pan asian restaurant, a new Indian restaurant, several Vietnamese restaurants, and a Thai place in Medicine Hat, a city of around 45,000 people. Wow. We, of course, did not go to all of them, but here are reflections on those we did get to. . .
We ate "smorg" -- also known as the buffet -- at both the New Imperial Palace and the New Mandarin. Both are, as their names indicate, Chinese. I have no idea why both have the word "new" in their names. The buffets offered an array of foods -- soup, dry ribs, almond chicken, stir fries of various sorts, sesame chicken, broccoli and beef, etcetera. The Imperial Palace had salt and pepper shrimp (and a chatty server). While both restaurants were ok, the Mandarin was the better of the two with much crispier vegetables and clearer tastes. Both were marred by a bit too much fried food on the buffet, which was, though, inexpensive and varied in other ways. The new dish at the Imperial Palace -- a honey chicken with sesame seeds -- was quite tasty. Perhaps ordering off the menu leads to better options -- but for an inexpensive meal the buffet goes a long way.
There are two Vietnamese restaurants in town -- and we lunched at the one local people said was best, located downtown. It's name? Thuy Tien Vietnamese Restaurant. We shared a lemongrass chicken on vermicelli and salad rolls and we each had a Saigon beer. I also had a "vietnamese style lemonade" which was swell -- very lemony and clearly fresh. What about the meal itself? While there was not a lot of meat in the lemongrass chicken, it was definitely tasty. We did, though, order poorly so we ended up with vermicelli in everything -- there was in our opinion way way way too much vermicelli in the salad rolls (aka spring rolls). (The other option was rice with the chicken and kknowing what we know now, we might have gone for that.) The ambience was basic and the food inexpensive, especialy when shared. Perhaps we will return and order a bit more adventurously. (The waiter was not a lot of help, alas.) For another review, click here.
Sushi Miso Japanese Restaurant serves just that --sushi and sashimi and related Japanese food. We did take out -- and were glad we did because the restaurant itself is a busy little place. (All the restaurants reviewed here do take out.) The service was efficient and the food packaged well. We ordered way too much food -- several types of tuna and salmon, a red snapper, barbacued eel, and a california-like roll with roe on it. (We were tempted to get the eel because we had some very good eel in a sushi meal elsewhere, but somehow we didn't eat the eel in this setting. Hmmm.) Everything we had was quite good -- though the portions of fish were big and thick. We'd have preferred them to be sliced much thinner -- and should have ordered a lot less as a result. We got extra ginger ($1.50) because there is often too little ginger in sushi elsewhere. Not true here. Next time, we'll try some of the specials; we passed up tempura yam and asparagus rolls which looked good as well.
Finally, the best of the group: Thai Orchid Room! In fact, the anonymous restaurant reviewer called this "the best Thai restaurant I have been to in ages" and both we enjoyed it so much we went twice. Advertised here and there in town, we were delighted to find this newish restaurant which opened about a year ago. Hidden behind various other businesses, the restaurant is nondescript until you enter - the interior is beautiful (all the other places reviewed here had truly nondescript interiors) and the food delicious. Turns out we had been to the Thai Orchid in another guise when it was located in Bow Island. Its new incarnation in Medicine Hat is well worth a visit; the colors are beautiful, the huge high windows let you see the prairie skies without the prairie parking lots, and the art work is subtle silver. Beyond the decor, both meals were great, The first time we had chicken satay, pad thai, and a barbecued pork dish; the second time we had green curry and an appetizer we were unfamiliar with which was sort of like steamed pork meatballs and shrimp balls. The satay was incredibly tender and came with two delightful sauces, including the traditional cucumber and rice vinegar as well as a peanut sauce. The pork/shrimp dish was great! And the main dishes we had both times were worth a return visit. They do both spicey and mild very well. And the owners are quite gracious -- one checked with our table both visits -- and the staff was kind(and well informed) as well. It is a restaurant which is easily accessible for elderly people and given the range of folks we saw while there, great for all sorts ofpeople. Plus, this is the restaurant where we experienced a new trend in restaurant bathrooms -- dryers for one's hands that are so loud and so intense that it feels like you are standing behind a jet engine. While they work much better than the usual hand dryers in bathrooms, these really blew us away.
So: West meets East in Medicine Hat. If you have one place to try, go for the Thai Orchid -- or try them all.
New Imperial Palace 93 CARRY DR SE, MEDICINE HAT, AB T1B 3M6
New Mandarin 1865 Dunmore Rd SE, Medicine Hat, AB T1A 1Z8
Phone: (403) 526-3939
Sushi Miso Japanese Restaurant 1561 Dunmore Road SE Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
Thai Orchid Room: 3 36 Strachan Court SE Medicine Hat, AB T1B 4R7
Phone: (403) 580-8210
Thuy Tien Vietnamese Restaurant 647 2 Street SE Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
Phone: (403) 526-8500