** Copied this post from my old food blog!** IT CLOSED DOWN :\
Happy Valleys is the newest [chinese] restaurant in the Waterloo Plaza (140 University Avenue West) next to the University of Waterloo. Obviously, this "congee & bar" attempts to cater to two things. (1) The Chinese demographic in Waterloo (2) the large university student population (hence the word "bar"). I was under the impression that they served some kind of sake and congee concoction, which sounds disgusting. Good thing that's not what they had!
Happy Valley's opened on Thursday, November 22, with $4 meal and $4 pitcher specials. They became that-new-restaurant-that-ran-out-of-food-on-opening-night around campus. They didn't re-open until Monday, opening at 5:30pm each day. A week after opening night, I went to see if Happy Valley's would be a happy time...
Food: Typically, I'm not a fan of congee, which is just rice cooked with a lot of water. Missing Toronto and the flavours that reminded me of home, I opted for the Roasted Duck & Rice. This costed me about $8 (tax included). Firstly, the soup that came with my meal was some sort of tomato/veggie/cabbage chucks salty nastiness from a can. I wouldn't go to Happy Valley's just to have their soup... More importantly, the main meal included (1) some duck (2) a HUGE scoop of rice (3) some under cooked vegetable. The duck tasted rich, flavourful, and a bit oily. I was a bit underwhelmed by the amount of duck, but duck is expensive. If you've ever had Chinese-style roasted duck, you'd know that it is more fat and less meat. The rice scoop was way too big, bigger than a normal bowl of rice and the stand-alone veggie piece was nearly raw. Overall, the meal was pretty good, decent compared to what's at home, but I'm pretty sure there's not too many places serving roasted duck in Waterloo.
On a side note, some others at my table had curry, chicken congee, fried rice, French fries and General Tsao chicken. Some said the congee didn't have enough meat. Others enjoyed their meals thoroughly. I think the consensus around the table that the food was pretty good, better than what was offered around Waterloo.
Service: For a group social, I called in to see if they could accommodate around 20 people for 3:30pm instead of 5:30pm. They were kind enough to say yes, however, when I called to confirm the day of, there was some sort of confusion. We did end up going in at 3:30pm with no issues. When we got to the restaurant, the waitresses were kind enough to bring us water when we got there and took group pictures for us.
Ambience & Environment: Happy Valley's replaced Caesar Martinis, a place I had been to once for the 2012 release party for Fashion For Change. The decor looks exactly the same, other than a few Asian-esque hanging lanterns. There are couches scattered around, tables on the perimeter of the room, and the bar in the middle. I sat in the area behind the bar. They also have a few TVs but they are small not visible from where I was sitting in the restaurant. My biggest complaint of the ambience is the lighting-- too dark to even see my food.
Price & Menu: For a new restaurant, Happy Valley's had a fairly wide array of options including preserved egg congee, roasted duck and rice, BBQ pork (cha siu) and rice, chow mien, curry and rice "Asian-spiced" French fries, and more. Some items on the menu were labelled "COMING SOON", which was a total anticlimax because nobody could order them. In terms of price, items ranged from around $4 (congee) to $9 (noodles). There are also some late night specials (Portugese fried rice, salt and pepper tofu, etc) for discounted pries. Each item (except congee) came with soup and a drink. Happy Valley's pricing is comparable to other places in the plaza. For about $7+tax, you'll get a full meal.
The Verdict: If I'm feeling like Chinese food, I'd probably eat at Happy Valley's over another Chinese place. The food is decent, but nothing special. Overall 3.5/5 for decent Chinese.
UPDATE 29/12/2012: Went to Happy Valley's for dinner with a group of friends. They fully cooked the veggie with the roasted duck and increased portion sizes. Their food may be a little inconsistent as they just opened very recently. I tried the General Tsao Chicken. It was not bad, a little on the salty side, and nothing amazing.