Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: Qin's

Qin's Bistro & Bar opened yesterday in Antioch - mere blocks from our house - and we were among the first people to try it out.

This place is GORGEOUS. We felt very underdressed (he was in a t-shirt and shorts and flipflops, I was in a tank and capris and flipflops). This place has a very nice lounge-y vibe and I could easily see it drawing crowds of twenty- and thirty-something singles if it were located in Walnut Creek. The water wall is the first thing you notice, followed by the large, open bar immediately behind it. The light fixture over the bar is stunning. The restrooms are beautiful, and there's wood and tile everywhere. The place is very large, with (I believe) private banquet rooms in the back.

They had lots of staff there last night and the service was very attentive. I ordered a cosmopolitan with Grey Goose Orange vodka; Mr Wonderful got a Guinness. The drinks took a little while to arrive but when they did, my cosmo was perfect. Delicious, not overbearing but not weak either. Our waitress was sweet, but seemed inexperienced (not just because it was a new restaurant; I believe she hasn't had much experience as a waitress at all). We ordered Salt & Pepper Calamari and a Thai Steak Salad to start. The appetizers were amazing -- the calamari was perfectly cooked, with a little bit of spicy kick and no rubbery texture (which would indicate overcooking). The salad was excellent, with a tasty lime-based dressing and tender slices of steak.

The first indication that something might be not-quite-right was when our entrees came out. We were only about halfway through our starters when they arrived. This is likely due to the inexperience of the waitress (putting the order in to the kitchen all at once, rather than waiting a few minutes to submit the entree order after the appetizer order). But the entrees themselves were disappointing. I ordered the Thai Lemon Grass Shrimp with Coconut Rice. The rice was tasty, but the shrimp were woefully underseasoned and didn't taste like much of anything. In fact, I ended up dipping the shrimp in the chili sauce that came with my calamari in order to salvage it. And for $23, I think they could have given me much more than four (admittedly huge) shrimp. If I remember correctly, the dish mentioned green curry, which I was looking forward to, and I didn't taste any curry at all. I could be mistaken; I read a blog post about green curry earlier in the day and maybe I was just projecting, but I thought it mentioned curry. Anyway...disappointing. Mr Wonderful's Peking Duck was not much better. Again, the meat was underseasoned. It tasted fatty and bland. The duck came with three taco-shaped buns (I say buns, because they were obviously made of the same white, puffy dough as dim sum pork buns) and two sauces - a plum sauce and something else. He said it was "decent" when all the elements were combined, but it certainly wasn't spectacular.

After we finished our meal, we spoke to the manager and gave him our assessment. Generally I'd shy away from being so blunt about a restaurant's failings (I'd usually just not go back if it was bad) but we really want to see this place succeed. It's a HUGE step up for Antioch nightlife, and I'm thrilled that we're getting more high-end options out here in the far east bay. I hope that Qin's can overcome their difficulties in the kitchen and develop a good base of customers, because this place is definitely a step in the right direction. If Antioch's image is going to improve, we need more restaurants like Qin's. So please, if you're looking for a night out on the town, considering dressing up and heading for Qin's instead of going over the hill to the 'Creek.

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