Monday, October 19, 2009

Tasty Garden-Arcadia

Lemon Tea
(The addicting and delicious H.K. lemon tea)

Like I said before in "Jazz Cat Cafe-Alhambra", I can not write about Garden Cafe 3 times without even writing about its nearby competitor down the street, Tasty Garden. Both of these places opened their doors around the same time, and are Hong Kong style cafes. However, Tasty Garden focuses on Hong Kong style dishes, while Garden has a larger variety of international and fusion dishes to choose from. These different interests that these restaurants have makes for plenty of difference.

Front

Coming from the entrance from the parking lot (NOT the front- park in the large back parking lot, not on the street), you will find a large drinks and desserts area, which they call "T. Tea Express". In addition, you will find plenty of seating for waiting as well as eating, along with a fish tank (for display). This area has changed quite a bit from its opening. Before, the billboards for the items available was completely glass, where the text would then change color. Pretty and expensive. Now it has been simplified to wood and paper. Cheaper, but easier to read.

Interior

Walking further after the dessert area through the arch leads you to the main dining area. If you ever find yourself with no one to assist you, just simply walk to the main dining area and someone will help you (this occurs often during off hours). As you can see in the photos, Tasty Garden's interiors have a mish-mash of various colors, mainly brown, beige, and orange. Even the waiters have different colored shirts to differentiate between their jobs.

Table Setting

At every table is a standard place setting of a plate, chopsticks, placemat, napkin, and fork. In addition there is also a condiment platter (vinegar, pot rice soy sauce, et cetera), bowls and spoons, and the afternoon tea menu. The plates at Tasty Garden are quite interesting and have various designs- some have cherry blossoms and fish themes.

As for ordering, Tasty Garden does have a lunch special menu which offers discounted drinks. In addition, Tasty Garden has a afternoon tea menu from around 3-5:30PM which offers a discounted item along with a free drink. Lastly, there is also a new dessert menu which has the items in the dessert area as well as some others. We've tried all except for the dessert menu and so, we definitely have plenty to write about today.

Corn and Chicken Rice

How about we start with the plate rice dishes. Tasty Garden offers plenty of rice dishes- baked rice, hot pot rice (which is electrically cooked like at Green Island- across the street May Mei is gas cooked- more flavor!), fried rice, and plate rice. Above is the chicken and corn rice. An immediate difference from places like May Mei is that Tasty Garden uses egg fried rice for the bed of rice, not steamed white rice. So, the dish does get a bit complex in terms of flavors- sometimes I like it, but sometimes I wish it was just plain rice. The topping is simply a chicken, corn, and egg sauce which is light, not salty, and simple. Nothing too special, but a nice way to fill you up for lunch. If you are a light eater, you probably will take about half of the plate home. Makes for nice leftovers as long as you do not mix the sauce and rice together.

Minced Beef Rice with Egg
(The result of sitting next to the window where the sun is seeping through the closed blinds)

Another rice dish we order here is the minced meat rice, which also has an sunny side up egg on request. No, it is not as beefy or flavorful as May Mei's version, but it does have more rice. In all, it is pretty good- the sauce has a slight sweet soy sauce flavor similar to other HK cafes.

Wonton Noodle Soup

Now let's move on to noodle soups. The wonton noodle soup is a simple noodle soup consisting of five wontons, thin egg noodles, pieces of choy sum, and a light broth which is topped with sliced green onions. We like Tasty Garden's version quite a lot. Not only the bowl is large (but deceives you with its thick bottom), the egg noodles have a nice bite to them along with a slight bounce (although they are precooked- see the clump?). The wontons are large and are chock full of pork and shrimp pieces which are seasoned nicely. Green onions add a nice brightness, and the choy sum adds some needed veggies. A great simple dish for lunch.

Wonton and Beef Stew Noodle Soup

Pay a dollar more and you can also get some pieces of beef in your soup (or the other way around- 5 wontons for a dollar extra). Tasty Garden's beef stew is quite good and tender which is what we like. Not many places seem to actually cook their beef stew to the point that the beef is tender and falls apart. Tasty Garden is one of the places not in that category.

Preserved Vegetable and Duck Rice Noodle Soup

Coming in during Afternoon tea hours, we like to order the Preserved Veggie and Roasted Duck Rice Noodle Soup which comes along with a cup of tea or coffee with unlimited refills. Again, this is quite simple- a big bunch of thin and bouncy rice noodles are put together with shredded pieces of roasted duck and a handful's worth of preserved veggies ( in this case it is preserved mustard green), and covered with a light broth (slightly different from the wonton noodle soup broth- less flavor). Fills you up quite easily even if it is an afternoon tea dish! You'll get about 6 individual bowls from this bowl- plenty to eat or to share.

Soy Sauce Chow Mein
(Another photo in the blind and sun area)

We do not always order noodles in soup form obviously. Above is another staple dish- soy sauce chow mein. Tasty Garden's version offers thin chow mein noodles that have been cooked to a slight crisp on the edges as well as bean sprouts, green onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and yellow chives. It is a oily dish and so we asked them to decrease the amount of oil and they obliged. What makes this dish different than say getting it at a dim sum restaurant is that the noodles are fresh and very warm and all the textures are the best they can be. Bean sprouts have a nice crunch. Yellow chives and green onion add brightness. The slight crunch from the noodles along with the noodle's bouncy nature adds an interesting texture sensation. Again, soy sauce chow mein is a simple dish, but Tasty Garden makes a tasty rendition.

Concubine Chicken (House Special Chicken)

How about regular entrees, you may ask. Well, we have tried some of Tasty Garden's large menu of HK dishes. Above is their House Special Chicken (concubine chicken) which is full of chicken flavor. The chicken is relatively lean and has plenty of bones like you would expect, but unlike regular boiled chicken cut into pieces, this retains a LOT of chicken flavor, just like Green Island. However, the ginger and green onion sauce is quite different than the competition. It not only looks different but also tastes different. The ginger is coarse in feel, not smooth. It is a good accompaniment but be prepared for a large textural difference when you compare it to other places.

Fried Tofu with Mushrooms

Tasty Garden's Fried Tofu with dried scallop and mushroom is also a delicious dish. The fried tofu is very crispy and hot, and the mushroom sauce adds tons of flavor. The mushroom sauce tastes similar to what you would find in sharkfin soup or braised abalone- concentrated in flavor. Mushrooms taste like the way they are- mushrooms, and the dried scallop adds bursts of concentrated scallop flavor. You'll find your free plate of rice (one free with every entree, like Green Island) to be devoured quite quickly when eating this dish.

Beef Stew Curry

Really however, my favorite and most ordered dish here at Tasty Garden from the beginning of the school year is the Beef Stew Curry. The beef stew is taken from the slow cook pot and then simmered in the curry sauce which has both bell peppers (a necessary ingredient for the Hong Kong style curry taste, I have found) and onions. Curry sauce is quite spicy, but not too salty either. I've been having this for at least 10 meals (that is also leftovers with this dish), so you can see how I like it. After all, eating this dish requires a ton of rice, as there is plenty of meat and sauce. Ask for tendons too if you like- they are also very tender and melt in your mouth. We have asked them to add tendon now- the photo above has no tendon, and shows more curry sauce than beef stew (compared to usual).

Choy Sum

How about a veggie option now? Tasty Garden offers plenty of veggie stir fries and dishes and we quite like the simple choy sum in supreme broth. The choy sum is cooked to tender but still with a slight crisp, and the soup is slightly salty and great with rice. Good side dish to go along with all the other dishes I have been showing you.

Hong Kong Egg Waffle Maker

Now now now now now... I can not end this post without a very special dessert that is offered here at Tasty Garden. Can you guess? Hint hint. Look at the photo above. What is that machine. What does it make?

Hong Kong Egg Waffle

The machine makes Hong Kong Egg Waffles, a favorite dessert and snack of mine, as you can see from a previous post. Tasty Garden's is actually quite good compared to most places in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong these past years, I have been getting a lot of misses in terms of a tasty egg waffle. Either the interior is so dry and hard to chew, or the outside is as hard as a cracker. Yuck. Tasty Garden does a pretty excellent job most of the time though. The outside is crispy and hot (most of the time), and the interior splits into 2- one side becomes half of the outer shell with nothing, and the other side is the chewy,eggy, soft, and sweet dome shaped interior. Quite comparable to my favorite HK egg waffle in Hong Kong, with the exception that this version is quite sweet in comparison. Oh well...after all restaurants do have to cater to a clientele 7000+ miles from where this snack is widely served.

Only negative for such a good snack? The price. Hong Kong's cost- 10-15HKD (cheap to overpriced- about 1.50USD). Tasty Garden: 4.50USD. Do the calculation, and the price at Tasty Garden is 3 times more than in Hong Kong. After all, it is expected that customers pay more for a snack that competitors do not have in the area.

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UPDATE November 28, 2009

Just a bit more items to show you.

Watercress Soup

The watercress with chicken soup was pretty good, but for the same price I could have made a giant pot of it enough to feed eight people with a larger portion! As you can see in the photo the watercress cooked for a very long time- not very good in my opinion.

Soy Sauce Tofu Pot

Think the soy sauce tofu pot will have no meat? Well, you are wrong. The fried tofu pieces actually have a filling of bouncy shrimp mousse inside them. Mushrooms and green onions add flavor to the dish. A pretty filling dish just by itself, with the free rice of course. No frying problem this time around. I guess you should just tell the employee serving you to not to fry the tofu for so long.

Lamb Hot Pot

The lamb pot had pieces of rehydrated dried bean curd sheets as well as lamb, which was served with fermented bean curd sauce. Very rich in lamb flavor and very warming to the body- perfect on a warm day! The fermented bean curd sauce is a proven match for this dish, so obviously it worked well with the lamb. Interestingly, I got the flu from last month the day after eating this meal, but according to the doctor it was not due to the lamb pot or any of the food.
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And if you thought this was the end of my post and wish to read more, go over to Tripadvisor and read my earlier review of Tasty Garden with more photos of different entrees like the filet mingon cubes and minced beef and egg porridge.

Overall, Tasty Garden is a reliable spot for Hong Kong cuisine, and its opening hours makes it convenient for a daytime meal or a late night snack. Can't tell you how many times I've been here after coming back from LAX from a long plane flight or from picking someone up at night. Food is simple, tasty, and well made. Nothing too WOW, but if you are looking for Hong Kong dishes you will find nice results here.

Tasty Garden
1212 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007-7510
(626) 445-9388
tastygarden.us

Arcadia Tasty Garden on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

Mochachocolata Rita said...

wow! how authentic!...and they're even showing TVB!! LOL

EatTravelEat said...

Mochachocolata Rita,
It seems like any HK style cafe with a large TV shows TVB! :)

Protocol Snow said...

Nice review. I've been here a few times. Cheap, easy and tasty food! I'll have to try the egg waffles next time.

Big Ghost said...

Wow, you guys know how to eat! Was that all from one visit!? :) I love Tasty Garden btw. I go to the Alhambra one - I love how they jack you up on sugar with their free lemon tea refills.

EatTravelEat said...

Protocol Snow,
Thanks! Those egg waffles are yum. Get them during the afternoon tea time for a extra discount :)

Big Ghost,
If that was all in one visit it would be definite I would have at least 5 boxes worth of food to take back home :). The visits to Tasty Garden were from July to now.

Alice said...

The Egg Waffles looks interesting. Would love to try it one day!!

EatTravelEat said...

Alice,
Hope you get to try it someday!

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