When Alli and I first started Buffalo Eats, our knowledge of Buffalo’s dining scene was pretty bad. We were vaguely familiar with the Southtowns (we grew up in Orchard Park) and knew a little bit about the Northtowns (both went to UB), but that was about it. So in 2009 I attempted to visit all of the restaurants on Local Eats’ Top 100 Restaurants List, because I figured that would be a good start. It didn’t take long for us to quit that idea, but I remembered Gin Gin being on the list and I had read mostly positive reviews from places like Buffalo Spree and Buffalo Chow.
Over the years new and interesting Chinese restaurants started to grab our attention and we kind of forgot about Gin Gin. It actually took a visit to another Chinese Restaurant (Miss Hot Cafe, located next door) to remind us that we still hadn’t been there. Last week, we finally crossed it off our list.
- Restaurant Type: Casual, Takeout
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Location: Amherst
- Prices: Most entrees Under $10
The restaurant has a larger then average dining room but still looks like most Chinese restaurants you’ve already seen. The menu still has all of the American-ized favorites that are apparently some of the best in the area, so if you are into General Tso’s or Beef w/Broccoli, this might be a good take out spot. But if you flip the menu over, you’ll see a huge list of Rice Dishes that have some more unique items. You’ll also find daily specials written in Chinese (some with English translations) along a wall (see top picture), offering some more exciting and authentic options. We decided to try a couple items from all over the place and get a good sampling of what they had to offer.
On our visit the restaurant was incredibly understaffed, the cashier/server was apologetic and told us that they only had one person working in the kitchen and our food took about ~40 minutes to come out. It definitely wasn’t ideal for a lunch break but we stuck it out. We started the meal with some Hong Kong Dumplings ($6, below), Pork Buns (gallery, one of their specials that day) and Cold Noodle Sesame Peanut Sauce ($5, gallery). The Hong Kong Dumplings were interesting. The juicy pork filling had a great flavor but the structure of the dumplings was lacking and made it a little difficult to eat. Even though the quantity of dumplings was impressive, they were all stuck together and it was hard to pull them apart without having everything become a big mess. The Cold Noodle Sesame Peanut Sauce were one of the bigger disappointments, we ordered the dish on a whim but found out it was basically just thick luke-warm noodles that were covered in a very thick, sugary, peanut sauce. The flavor was really weird and there was just way too much of the sauce on the dish, the order was gigantic but we didn’t like it at all.
The Pork Buns (two per order, pictured above) were probably the best thing we ate on our visit. They were listed on the ‘daily specials’ board and almost completely went unnoticed. The exterior was incredibly fluffy and sweet with just a small amount of ground pork inside. They were really fantastic and I could have eaten two orders myself.
For our main entrees we ordered two dishes off the back menu, the Chicken Chop with Garlic Sauce ($8) and the Szechuan Pickled Vegetables Pork with Dry Bean ($8). The entrees were also hit or miss. The Chicken Chop with Garlic Sauce was pretty good and had large pieces of chicken chopped right off the bone after cooking with the skin left on. The crispy pieces were fantastic and the sauce was a thick BBQ-like sauce that had a nice kick of sweet and sour, some bites had a little heat but it definitely didn’t live up to the chili pepper warning on the menu. It wasn’t anything too exciting or unique but still was enjoyable in a ‘guilty pleasure’ type of way. The Szechuan Pork dish was very disappointing, again the spicy warning on the menu meant nothing because this dish had zero spice whatsoever. The pork was covered in a weird brown gravy that was incredibly salty and the only pickled vegetables I noticed on the dish were some onions. I would have thought we got the wrong order except our server confirmed that it was correct when she placed it at our table.
Including a Bubble Tea and bottle of water, our bill was ~$40 and the trip to the restaurant lasted nearly two hours, not exactly ideal for a lunch break. Considering Alli and I had a very good meal at Miss Hot Cafe next door and other good meals at Peking Quick One and Wok & Roll nearby, I don’t really see myself going back to Gin Gin anytime soon. I have heard positive things about their Sunday Dim Sum from other trusted foodie friends and maybe they have some really great dishes that are worth a trip. But after only really enjoying two of the five dishes that we ordered, I’m not going to order my way through their very large menu any time soon just to find those hidden gems.