Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Garden Rice

Type: Chinese
Location: 234 Main St., Chatham, NJ
Price Range: Inexpensive

This place advertises itself on its menu as "Szechuan & Cantonese Cuisine," although it has a few Hunan dishes on the menu as well. As is typical, their lunch specials range from $5.50 to $6.15, and include your choice of rice (white, brown, or pork fried), and soup (wonton, egg drop, or hot & sour) to go with the main dish.

The dinner menu ranges in price from $6.35 for varieties of Foo Young to $12.95 for a few things on the "chef's special" section, with most dishes in the $9-11 range.

There's a $10 minimum for delivery, instead of the customary $20. Garden Rice also claims to use only vegetable oil and no MSG. Delivery is prompt; the usual half an hour they quote over the phone is normally an overestimate for delivery to my neighborhood, a town away.

Best dishes are:
  • Lemon Chicken (nobody around makes this better than Garden Rice; it's phenomenal)
  • Hunan Beef (nice and spicy, the way it should be)
  • Kung Po Chicken (what you expect from this dish)
  • Shrimp in Lobster Sauce (hard to mess this one up, but they always get it right, and never overcook the shrimp)
  • Lake Tung Ting Shrimp (see above)
  • Szechuan Beef (it's almost all onion and pepper, and not even slightly spicy)
  • Hot & Sour Soup (it doesn't have enough vinegar to give the sour flavor, and has those weird green greeblies that I pick out, as I find them, but at least it doesn't have strips of mystery meat)
Could Go Either Way:
  • Pu Pu Platter (the value for the money is there, but the pork dumplings are really bland)
The pu-pu is almost all fried. The stuff that looks burned is shrimp toast. It's not burned, and tastes great. It just looks odd. The fried shrimp and fried chicken nuggets are excellent. The fried wontons are so-so, but if you're starving, they'll do nicely.

The lemon chicken is to die for. No other Chinese restaurant around here makes it better.

Normally, I'm not into battered and fried food other than fish and chips, but this is phenomenal. For $20, the pu-pu and lemon chicken is enough food for three meals -- for three people. OK, I consider an egg roll to be an entire meal, so you'll have to adjust my take on the amount of food to your own stomach size.

It's best immediately after delivery, but believe it or not, the leftovers reheat really well.

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