Another day, another Chinese restaurant. I keep forgetting to take pictures when I go to J & J Restaurant, so you'll have to wait for that. But today's restaurant, Tasty Garden in Arcadia, was very good, and holds true to it's name (the "tasty" part, not the "garden" so much).
We ordered five dishes, well beyond what two people should eat, but no matter. The first dish was the glazed walnut shrimp, a favorite of my mom's. Although she claims it wasn't as good as the last time she had it, it was still very good and there were some bites that made me wistful for the days when shrimp was like potatoes and you couldn't go anywhere where there wasn't shrimp on the side. You say that never was? Well, I like to dream it. The shrimp were very large, much larger than the average shrimp found at any seafood restaurant. There was a light coating of mayonnaise, and the walnuts were very fresh and crispy.
The second dish out was green beans. At first I thought there were fried with garlic, but upon further tasting, I would guess that they used some rehydrated, marinated turnip. The flavor was intense, like a shiitake, but the texture was closer to a ground meat. It was surprisingly good and I wouldn't have expected such interesting and profound flavors in such a simple vegetable dish.
We had to have some sort of noodle, so we ordered barbecue pork chow fun. I find noodle dishes rarely stand out, and such was the case here. It was serviceable, but not anything to write home about, which is just as well since there were so many other delectable foods.
The pork spareribs in black bean sauce was another disappointment. While all the other dishes were so generous, the amount of spareribs was rather meager. This isn't the type of dish you should order at a cafe, which is sort of the place Tasty Garden is, although not entirely so. Most of the dishes need to be quick, but you can't really rush the rice in the pork spareribs. There was too much moisture when they made the dish, so while the rice formed a koge (or crust for the non-Japanese readers), it became chewy. The flavors weren't really there either, with a little too much star anise appearing in the aftertaste.
The last plate that came out was the salt and spicy squid, which was done very well here. It's probably better than anywhere else I can get it. The coating was very crisp, but not too heavy or greasy, and the squid was cooked to the right tenderness. I would go there again just to get this. And maybe the frog which is fried the same way.
If there were two dishes that were head and shoulders above the rest, they were the glazed walnut shrimp and the salt and spicy squid. These are dishes you can get at almost any Chinese restaurant nowadays, but few places actually do them well. Luckily, Tasty Garden is one of the few.
Some other notes about Tasty Garden:
- As with most Chinese restaurants, Guan Yu is looking out for you. Trust Guan Yu, because if you don't, he'll kick your ass.
- They have a dessert display, so I got the durian pudding and my mom got the steamed egg and milk. The durian pudding tasted like bread, but the steamed egg and milk? It's like what it says. It's like the vanilla of vanilla. It was like a shitty chawanmushi.
1212 South Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007