After what feels like years of hearing about the deliciousness that dwells within Mao’s Kitchen in Venice, I finally found myself an opportunity to try the place out. A big perk of the place was that it was BYO, so I grabbed a sixer of tasty beer and brought it along to see if Mao’s could really be good Chinese food. Before delving into the meal itself, let’s take a moment to consider the name of Mao’s Kitchen. Honestly, I’m not so sure I would want to eat whatever Mao would have served. Most likely it would have involved mass atrocities and a side of untimely death. Cultural faux pas aside, I was still drawn in by their reputation for culinary goodness.
The menu wasn’t entirely inspirational, but did include names like Mao’s Hometown (“Made just like Mao’s mama’s in Hunan Province!”) and Long March Camp Fry, but none of these mattered to me if they couldn’t make a tasty Kung Pao Chicken. So as usual, I took a look at my favorite dish, but found Mao’s Kung Pao ($10) to be a lot different from what I’m used to. This one came with onion, green onion, bell pepper, carrots and finally peanuts. That was a whole lot of vegetables to order without, so at first I decided to be a nice guy to the waitress and only order without the two onions and bell peppers. After realizing where I was going, though, the waitress asked if I wanted to go veggie free. I replied that yes, I do have the appetite of a 12-year old and would simply like chicken, peanuts and sauce. Apparently her brother (who may happen to be 12 years old) ate the same way, so this wasn’t too nuts for her.
Not too long after the order, the meal arrived. What was this? A plate full of carrots? Surely she had realized carrots were a vegetable, but maybe the mistake had come from the kitchen or elsewhere. Either way, this made me an unhappy unvegan. Sure, throw a few carrots in with my meal and you might get marked down a notch, but when I can hardly find the chicken buried under a pile of carrots, then we have a problem. Even without carrots, though, the meal would still have left me wanting more. Although the chicken was nice and tender, the sauce tasted really generic and had no kick to it. It was almost like a thickened soy sauce and very un-Kung Pao. And on top of that, peanuts (the cornerstone of Kung Pao), were dashed few and far between.
It all added up to a most disappointing meal and restaurant I won’t be returning to. Sorry Mao, but your Kung Pao didn’t take that great leap forward.