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Menuplease at Sailing Boat: No Pop in the Pao

Sailing Boat is still very popular after 14 years and consistently gets voted Best Chinese Restaurant in those polls certain publications run. The prices are low, servings are generous, the interior is clean and attractive, staff is friendly and service is quick. It’s very popular for banquets, parties, and meetings. George Yu is well-known and liked in the Redding area for sponsoring fundraisers and being an all-around nice guy who remembers customers’ names and hands out boxes of tea and cookies to regulars.

So if the owner was rude or had questionable personal hygiene or was known to frequent those kinky strip joints where the pandas and weasels run around in thongs and stilettos, it would be a lot easier to say the food at Sailing Boat is not very good. But the owner being a really nice guy doesn’t make up for tasteless and disappointing meals.

Kung Pao Calamari, $7.95 at lunch, $11.95 at dinner.

All meals come with an egg roll – which is your standard egg roll with a saucer of sweet & sour sauce, hot mustard on the side – and chicken & corn soup. The corn soup was weirdly yellow and didn’t taste much like either chicken or corn. It needed some pepping up from a bit of soy sauce – which M. de Joie dislikes adding to prepared Chinese dishes except as a last resort – and chili paste.

There was no pow to the Kung Pao. For a dish that is supposed to be spicy, it was very mild and didn’t have much taste at all. Calamari doesn’t have a lot of flavor by itself and depends on the preparation to liven it up. This was a disappointingly bland mixture of frozen peas, carrots, and overcooked zucchini in an indifferent sauce.

You also get your choice of steamed rice or fried rice with each main. The best thing that can be said about the fried rice was that it was freshly made; it simply had no taste whatsoever. The steamed rice had been sitting for a while and was starting to get a not-quite crunchy surface.

Pork with Hot Ginger-Garlic Sauce, $6.95 at lunch, $8.95 at dinner.

Usually a Szechuan- or Hunan-styled dish is prepared with whole dried chilis stir-fried in the wok with the other ingredients. Hot and Spicy pork was in a bland brownish sauce that gradually became a watery puddle on the plate, with no evidence whatsoever of chiles, ginger, or garlic. There was a sprinkling of pizza-parlor type pepper flakes mixed in. The pork bits seemed more steamed than stir-fried and tasted more like white-meat chicken than pork.

After these two meals, Femme de Joie complained to Amico del Signore and friend Coquille Moule that she was really not looking forward to her third meal.

“I don’t understand why it’s so popular. Why do people keep going there?”

“Habit,” said Coquille.

Amico de Signore asked, “Why are you going back there? You had two bad meals. Do you think the next one is going to be better?” It was a reasonable question.

“Because I am trying to be fair.”

Coquille Moule asked, “And what if the next meal is good? What will you say?”

“That it’s inconsistent.”

So Femme de Joie pulled up her Big Girl Panties and put on her Sunny Attitude and headed out to Sailing Boat once more.

Hot and Sour Soup, $4.95.

The hot and sour soup had everything going for it: freshly made, loads of substantial vegetables, perfect consistency. Unfortunately the sour element was chokingly overwhelming – so much vinegar had been poured in at the last minute that after coughing and gasping through the first few spoonfuls, M. de Joie added all the sweet & sour sauce that had been brought with the egg roll in an attempt to neutralize the vinegar smell and taste. This was only partly successful. Pungent vinegar fumes continued to rise and block any savory smell and taste hot and sour soup ought to have.

Almond chicken, $6.95 at lunch, $8.95 at dinner.

Almond chicken is M. de Joie’s favorite Cantonese dish, but again, this was simply tasteless. More frozen peas and carrots, overcooked zucchini, far too much celery, weird twists of tough, flavorless chicken. M. de Joie scooped up some of the rapidly-thinning sauce by itself: thin chicken broth only, no garlic, ginger, or soy sauce to flavor it.

After years of hearing how good Sailing Boat is, Femme de Joie is very disappointed in the food. While attractively presented and priced, preparation and execution is indifferent and even sloppy. Obviously Sailing Boat has legions of fans, but they must be seeing something M. de Joie doesn’t.

Sailing Boat, 2772 Churn Creek Road, Redding 96002. 530-222-6868. Open Monday-Friday, 11 AM – 9 PM, Saturday and Sunday noon – 9 PM. Beer and wine. Vegetarian and vegan options. Banquet facilities. Credit and debit cards; no checks. On-site parking.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.

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