I've posted about yelp before. I have a love/hate relationship with it. There are only a few reviewers whose reviews I always look forward to, and China B. is one of them. Her yelps are charmingly written, and usually very kind and cheerful. I love how much emphasis she places on a smiling face, and that she even refers to Vinh Phat as being the kind of store that smiles at you as you enter (as well as dishing some juicy info about the former owner not paying for protection). The little bits of personal information that she includes made me curious about the person writing the reviews, so I yelp messaged her and asked if I could interview her for heckasac. She characteristically kindly answered all my questions. Here they are:
How did you choose the name “China B.”?
The name came about because for some odd reason most people who think they know oriental will call me Chinese. Or the ever famous “Hey China.” A lifetime of glaring at them doesn’t help so I just decided one sunny day to go ahead and take the name China in my handle. “B” stands for – TO BE MYSELF. No matter how much parent pressure or peer pressure I was always myself. I wanted to put 2b or not 2b on my license plate.
Where is your favorite pho spot? Why is it your favorite?
The Pho is something that Vietnamese love. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they could. The Pho Broth is the making of a great soup. With this in mind I enjoy the Pho soups at SAIGON and CU’DO. Both places are great to eat at. But if you want a good old country Vietnamese experience with style it’s Cu’do. The owner is always smiling and trying to make everything run smooth.
With my mom being Vietnamese I was introduced to the soup in my mid teen years when San Jose was spring up with all the Vietnamese places. My first bowl was like biting into ambrosia. The meat was just getting cooked from the broth and the juice from the soup. There was no other word to describe pho when it’s done right.
I notice that you place a great emphasis on décor and service. How important to you is service in proportion to other aspects of the meal? What is the key to good service?
The décor of an establishment is like art. If you think on it. The art of the food is going to be served to you. The tables and chairs leave a little to want if it’s just plain Jane style. The need to see and branch your mind out as you wait for the meal helps emphasis the texture of the experience. Somewhat like an art critic. Some places give you eye candy to look at as you wait. It helps you relax in honesty.
Service is a most. I was a hostess and waitress once. The idea of being able to give service beyond the call of duty. The people are waiting and you want to give the, a good experience. When I go to a restaurant I don’t think it’s too hard to keep the water glasses and beverages are full. If there is anything we might want the waitress should be able to get that without any trouble or hassle.
There are two waitresses that I have ever encountered that were there on cue. The little waitress at Thai Basil. She was there when or before my eyes watered with glasses of water. She was all smiles when I didn’t know if I wanted this or that and she was patience. I enjoyed her conversations about what we were trying and what we weren’t trying. She made the experience at a new experience all that much more educational.
The other lady was at Chili’s in Elk Grove. She was able to attend the patron at the bar and at her tables. She had sodas, teas, waters and condiments all ready. She did this when the All Star Shoot Off was being broadcast with the televisions on. She was the best with smiles and laughter.
Good service is some what hard to explain but I shall take a stab at it. Good service is a hostess/waitress with a great smile, helpful attitude and giving ways.
Unlike most yelpers, you mostly seem to write positive reviews, and you rarely use your yelp reviews as a way to chastise any restaurants. If you were very, very displeased with an establishment would you ever write a harsh review?
I have indeed done a negative one on Old Soul. I am in Special Education and teach students that are from run down or inner city places. With this in mind I scout places that would be a new experience. I want it to be a positive experience.
The first time I went there the server (ended up being one of the owners) waited on us. He looked so perturb to help us. Like he had a lot of other things to do. The lady in front of me knew him and she tried to talk to him. He seemed to brush her off with a smile and grimace. When it was my turn. It was awful. He seem to look at us like what are you doing here.
I went home and blasted him in YELP. Original I read the Yelp reviews about the place and thought it was a great place to take my students. Especial the urn with money in it.
I wanted my students to learn that no matter what you look like, dress and or act you can go into places like that. I HAVE TAUGHT MY MENTEES AND STUDENTS THAT IF YOU HAVE CLEAN CLOTHES, GOOD MANNERS AND A POSTIVE ATTITUTE WHEN YOU GO INTO PLACES. People will see that in you. That you are human and can be treated as equal.
One of the Yelpers was friends with the owners. She blasted me about how much one of the guys volunteered doing things. I blasted back until he spends hours volunteering in Oak Park or Meadowview teaching the children that they have a chance in the world she should think on what she wrote. I fight for the children. It’s the way I have been all my life.
I did take the review off after a year almost. But still will never bring the children there. I did also returned and bought a gourmet chef with me this time. He wasn’t as impress as I thought he would be. But he said it had charm.
I think your reviews are very poetically written. Do you view writing as a hobby, and do you write other things besides your yelp reviews?
I write all the time. I can write dreams fantasies, erotic fantasies and stories, poetry and long letters. I have been writing since I was able to make literature in my mind.. I’ve been playing catch up after I learned the language structure.
How long have you lived in Sacramento? Have you lived anywhere else? What do you like and dislike about living in Sacramento
I’ve been in Sacramento since I was four. My father was dying of heart failure and at the time UCD was the leading hospital on heart surgery. My dad wasn’t ready to live. They gave him the option to stop smoking and drinking after the surgery that they recommended.
I spent twenty-five years of my life in the Elmhurst tress of Coloma Center Community area. The quiet neighborhood where everyone seems to know one another and watch out for one another.
Then I moved to Elder Glen. That was like moving into the area of South Central. I am now used to the gun shoots in the night. The police helicopter going over and announcing everyone stay in your house or the detail of the suspect.
I don’t even blink an eye as the DEA team ran sack the house next to my mother-in-law as I pick up my daughter.
What neighborhood do you live in?
Elder Glen,. South Sacramento
You also have a love of hamburgers. Which place is your favorite?
When you have children hamburgers is sometimes the nearest places to eat with some calmness. In honesty I miss the hamburgers I grew up with. The ones you can see the juice run out of the patty as it’s sits on the bun. Suzi’s and Willie’s are my favorite as of now because of the atmosphere they both provide.
You seem to have quite a sweet tooth, where do you go to buy your favorite sweets?
I have a sweet tooth? Non? Yes, I do. I love chocolate. But chocolate doesn’t love me. Sometimes you will find me in Old Sacramento debating which one decadence piece of chocolate I should purchase on this outing. I love chocolate like everyone else but the chocolate I eat doesn’t like me. My students know when I have had too much chocolate. I break out. They tease me unmercifully at times.
My second best sweet is the yummy taffy. Salt Water taffy is the best. I purchase it at Kobaics. He’s great. I didn’t realize what went into a candy maker. He has some great stories and I spend time listening to him. He also makes candy.
Do you enjoy cooking?
I enjoy cooking. It’s my hobby. There are days I need to distress and you can find me in the kitchen when I get out of work until 9 that night cooking. It’s a great feeling to lose the day’s activity as you cook. I can have four burners going on entrees and main dishes. My little daughter now helps with the desserts. She makes the cakes and brownies. My youngest son is learning to cook with me. He’s very good at times making dishes with his grandma supervising. Cooking is a family thing and it brings us together.
On rainy days you will find me cooking. It’s a good smell that comes from the kitchen on those days. Like a memory. I hope I am making memories as I cook for my family and friends.
I loved your review of Hoa Viet, in which you wrote a breakdown of various Vietnamese dishes. I can’t wait to go there and try their Ca’m tam, which I had never heard of before. This isn’t a question, I guess, just praise.
I wish more people would do that . I find it extremely helpful.
Where do you think is the best place to eat with children?
I like places I know of well. Where they know you and your children. Many a times I am at Luigi’s with the children. Sal has been there forever. I used to watch him toss the crust in the air through the window when I was very young,. They know me and my family. A few video games and a pinball game keeps the children occupied.
Chili’s is good if it’s a quick in and sit down and eat. But sometimes my youngest daughter gets ainst. So I try to find places where she can go ahead and drive me nuts. I like Taste of China for that because the children can get what they want when they want.
Where is your favorite place to get sushi?
I love sushi. I was introduced to it three years ago. The best place so far is Drama. The cost is outrageous if you don’t watch out. It’s well worth it though.
The other place that is great is Nara in Elk Grove. I enjoy those two the best. The décor at Nara is great. It’s great for children too.