Red China Bistro is a bit of an enigma. There seems to be very little middle ground when reviewing them. Customers either love them or hate them. They either have great experiences or poor ones. Things there just aren’t very consistent.
Take their service—I had two servers at Red that were excellent. They took care of everything in a timely fashion, answered questions, and were completely polite. I had another server there who completely ignored me and never once smiled during any of my visits. I observed that same server behave similarly with other customers, as well.
Red’s food is likewise a conundrum. Most of what I have ordered has been wonderful. A few have been awful. Red’s Shrimp Dumpling appetizers were quite good; their Crab Rangoon, despite being huge, had no crab flavor at all and were almost bitter. Red’s sushi had similar inconsistencies. The Hot Shrimp Roll was excellent; the Seared Beef Roll was almost tasteless. Desserts, you ask? The Red Velvet Cake was very good. The Flaming Glazed Fruit, however, was a disaster. No one could get the flames out, and all we could taste was burnt fruit, burnt sugar, and strong alcohol.
Prices were a little inconsistent, as well. $5 to $15 for a sushi roll in Des Moines is fairly average. $10 for a large lunch-sized portion of Chicken Fried Rice was also acceptable. $12 for a vermicelli salad, however, is a bit high. $12 for the Flaming Glazed Fruit and $8 for Crab Rangoon is excessive. $20 for a seared tuna dish (Red Bistro Tuna), $28 for Lamb Loin, and $10 for a bowl of Won Ton Soup is, again, too much, while $30 for the Chilean Sea Bass isn’t much off the Des Moines average.
The décor was another area that confused me. The dining room was near-stunningly beautiful…until you looked at the details up close. While the wine racks and flowers and candles all gave off a wonderful vibe, the oddball scratched up table and mismatched chair here and there in the dining room detracted from the big picture beauty, as did the mismatched silverware. Another off-putting gaffe was the men’s restroom. I walked in, and it was like I had entered the Red Light District. The lighting was literally a dim red, and there was a semi-nude framed print hanging by the sink.
I will say this: despite all the above issues, Red China Bistro does serve some fantastic entrées. The Chilean Sea Bass, Lamb Loin, and Chef Zon Special with Beef were all top-notch. The Tilapia with Ginger Sauce, Tilapia Vermicelli Salad, and Chicken Fried Rice were also excellent. Presentation on all the (non-flaming) food was, likewise, excellent. [Check out pictures of the food and the dining room in the accompanying slideshow.]
So where do I stand on Red? I would say it is a good place to splurge on an Asian fusion meal (lunch or dinner), if you stick to the entrées. Everything else is hit or miss.
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