Let's put it this way . . . N and I went so you don't have to.
Just call us "sacrificial diners".
You're right. You rarely see a negative review on eatsalem. There are a few, you just have to dig a bit to find them. It's something the eatsalem contributors talk about amongst themselves. We know we should be heading to places we have heard are iffy, but when it's our own belly and our own dollars, it's not an easy decision. Kinda like willing yourself to get under that cold shower--not that I have any experience with that.
I suppose I could be generous and say that this restaurant provides an inexpensive sit down dining option for families. But if I were too tired or too busy to make dinner, I'm pretty sure I'd make a toasted cheese sandwich and open a can of soup if my only choice was Blue Willow.
Too harsh? Maybe you like this type of Chinese food: cheap with large portions. Personally, I've always been fairly picky about my food--more so since I've been with eatsalem.com. I believe that quality ingredients are the key in creating quality menu items. The more items that are made from scratch on site, the more apt my taste buds are going to respond in a positive manner.
Chapter 1--First Impressions.
As N and I stepped out of our car, the first thing we noticed was the nearly full parking lot and the row of visible diners seated near the windows. Once we were inside, it was apparent that the window seats are filled first. It's a technique N and I have seen often. The long continuous bench seat along the south wall, the bamboo chandeliers, the flowered wallpaper and carpet, all reminded me of the first Chinese restaurant I was ever taken to 40 years ago. The restaurant appeared clean, though a little worn around the edges.
Chapter 2--The Food
We were seated quickly. A pot of tea, menus and glasses of water arrived soon after. The tea was warm and had no flavor. I opted for the ice water instead. We decided to order Family Dinner B with hot and sour soup. The soup and then appetizers, spring rolls and barbecued pork, arrived immediately. The hot and sour soup was okay. It did have hot and sour flavors, although not a lot of character or depth overall. The spring roll had a nearly impenetrable exterior shell and was the same diameter as my wrist--daunting, yes daunting is a good word for it. It was difficult to determine exactly what was inside. It might have been mashed potatoes for all I know, except I did find some slivers of carrot and a fragment of a shrimp body. On a slightly more positive side, the barbecued pork was moist and the dipping sauce was okay (no heat).
Approximately, 6-8 minutes later our fried rice, Triple Dragon and sweet & sour chicken arrived at our table. I was anticipating what the "delicious sauce" on the Triple Dragon would taste like. (Yes, I was still hopeful.) Well . . . I understand there are people who enjoy the flavor of soy sauce. I like what soy sauce can contribute to a sauce or dish, but don't enjoy it solo. All I could taste in the "delicious sauce" was soy sauce, nothing else. The sweet & sour chicken had an overly generous amount of breading surrounding the dry chicken breast and the sweet but bland sauce tasted like it had been poured out of a can. The fried rice was the best part of the meal and at that point (yes, I was disappointed and still hungry) it didn't matter that the added mushy peas and diced carrots were most likely canned.
Chapter 3--The Verdict
It felt wrong to fill the 3 to go boxes with food we knew we wouldn't eat, but the family who run the restaurant were very sweet and attentive. I just couldn't bring myself to leave so much food behind. (What a dope!)
Bottom line? We can not recommend Blue Willow. We just can't.
1985 Lancaster Drive Northeast
Salem, OR 97305-1020