Monday, April 25, 2005

China Garden Dim Sum - Irvine


We arrived quite late in the afternoon on Saturday. It might have been around 2 pm. We waited only a short time, perhaps around 5 minutes and got a table. But alas, the table was in the side room, not in the main dining hall. This was not our first time at China Garden. This was probably our third or fourth, but by some cosmic force, every single time we did, we always get a table in this side room. The problem with the side room is this; the carts do not come around often. Those that did were carrying the same items we saw already. We saw the turnip cake tray come around three times before we ever saw the shu mai, which came once, and only after our repeated urging with the guy who refilled our tea pots. I'm more and more inclined to go to Sam Woo now. Because first, they don't have a side room, and also there's a menu that one could order everything in one fell swoop. I know, it takes away from the dim sum experience, but you weren't there in that side room last Saturday with a growling stomach.

Service and the undesirable location of our table notwithstanding, we had good dim sum.


First was the turnip cake. Still hot and crispy on the exterior. I loved how the pudding-like texture played against the thin caramelized crust and the chunks of turnip. A good dip in chili paste completes the experience.


Then it was the taro balls. Filled with lightly curried minced meat, these delectable morsels are crispy and lacy on the outside, giving way to a warm starchy mash when bitten. Yummy!


The BBQ flaky pastry was to die for. Probably the most surprising thing about this item was that it had a honey glazed crust that exploded with flavor. The cha su filling was sweet, savory and porky.


Next we picked out a palate cleanser; marinated seaweed. Luminous and green, it looked striking on our table. Clean and crunchy with the essence of the sea and a hint of sesame oil.


Then we had some tripe and braised pork short ribs. The tripe was simmered in a velvety sauce. It was rich and fatty, filling my mouth with tripy goodness. The tripe was just the way I like it. Not overly chewy, it was spiked with a good bit of ginger. The pork short ribs were also good. I would have liked a little stronger black bean flavor on it though.


Finally, the cart with the rice flour wrapped shrimp finally came. I forgot what these things are called. Basically a sheet of rice flour, sort of a wide soft noodle is wrapped around steamed shrimp. The whole thing is then doused with a sweet soy sauce. The texture is a dreamy. Glutinuous and warm. Cha su buns promptly followed. Good and sweet. Typical cha su bun, nothing all that special, but still a must for any dim sum outing.


The shrimp har gow was okay. The skin seemed to be stickier than usual, and quite thick.


We finished with a few egg custard tarts. They had a light, sweet, flaky crust contrasting the cool custard; one of the better renditions I've had.

Irvine China Garden
(949) 653-9988
14825 Jeffrey Rd
Irvine, CA 92618

18 Comments:

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Diamond Dog said...

I have tried most of the Dim Sum places in OC and this one is still the best in my opinion. I think that whole "sit by the kitchen" thing is overrated. But I do agree that the carts should come to you frequently and if they don't it ruins the experience.

This place has the best chicken feet around. Chicken feet are my favorite!

Try this place again and get their earlier so that you dont get placed in the "side" room

 
At 6:59 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I agree, their dim sum is one of the best in O.C. If not "the" best. Sigh, if only Sea Harbour opened up a shop here.

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Authentic" dim sum experiences usually don't involve carts..especially in Hong Kong. Those are mostly an american invention

 
At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Danno said...

I lived in Hong Kong for 10 years, and I have to disagree with "Anonymous". The only real difference is that the food comes in small bamboo steamers rather than the metal ones they use here. The food and the atmosphere in a HK dim sum place is very similar to a good one here - including the carts.

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Danno. I live in Vancouver and Los Angeles after living in HK for over 5 years. I agree with first anonymous comment that good dim sum doesn't always have to be on a food cart. -sws

 
At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Kyle said...

My family and I used to eat at China Garden almost every Sunday and then I guess one day part of it caught fire, so we had to wait about a year or so before the restaurant was reopened. That was when they really implemented the dim sum and I do agree that they have great dim sum. Another good dim sum place is Dragon Phoenix located in Garden Grove or Westminister. It's located on the 2nd floor of a shopping center. Other than that I rarely eat dim sum anymore as I am on a health trip.

 
At 12:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should try Russell's Seafood somewhere east of the 405 in between jamborree and john wayne airport.

 
At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The HK dim sum experts need to do some research. Serving it on carts is not an American invention; it is the traditional way of eating dim sum. However, it is quite common in HK to order dim sum from a menu as opposed to the carts because it is often considered classier in the modern and wealthy HK.

Thanks for the restautant tip. Will probably try this one out today!

 
At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't recomend this restaurant because everything seems to be dirty!!!!!!!!!

 
At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the people in the kitchen don't use gloves to cook...they touch it with their hands!!!

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous s wong said...

I just went to Hong Kong twice in the last three months and I know that having Dim Sum carts is the traditional way in Hong Kong. The reason you don't see them now is because of the astronomical prices for real estate in Hong Kong because running those carts means bigger aisles with more spaces between tables and a lot more expenses for the increased space.

 
At 4:02 PM, Anonymous raytamsgv said...

Dim sum has not always been served in carts. In the really old days, men used to carry the dim sum around on huge trays. When you wanted a dish, they would set the tray down on a portable stand by the table. Eventually, this was replaced by the cart system, which was far more efficient--you could keep the food warm, and the staff didn't need to be that strong to hold up all those dim sum trays. The most recent innovation is directly ordering dim sum items from a menu, although it should be noted that for quite some time, special dim sum items could always be ordered from the menu.

As S Wong mentioned, the real reason for abandoning carts is the lack of space in a restaurant. Using cars requires a certain clearance between tables, which reduces the amount of seats and tables you can have.

 
At 12:17 AM, Blogger Phinneas Quincy Thurmond Haberdash said...

"luminous" hahaha

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmh... i went for their lovely dim sum, but...
has anyone had the soup here? if so, can you tell me what kind of meat it's made of?
i found some huge, i'm talking, huge, vertebrae. the manager claimed it was chicken, but really, they didn't look like they wanted to give it to me or tell me what kind of soup it was.
it didn't taste like chicken or like anything i've ever had before. and the vertebrae belonged to an much larger animal than a chicken...
any ideas?

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dim Sum involving carts is not an American invention. In the olden days, trays were used to serve dim sum to patrons. Then the adoption of carts so that it's an easier and efficient way to serve food. Moreover it keeps the temp of the food at it's best. However due to space constraints and high rentals, restaurants got rid of using carts. Now carts are back in retro as can be seen in Asian countries. It gives patrons a better feel to it because food can be served warm and also can be cooked in movable carts. Best dim sum can only still be found in HK, S'pore, M'sia and China. Of course there are still good dim sum here but it's hard to find a restaurant that serve its authentic flavor.

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"filling my mouth with tripy goodness"

HA. haha haha.

 
At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you seriously saying this is the best dim sum place in O.C.? How about Seafood World, Dragon Phoenix or Furiwa? Those are way better and in the O.C. and I would go there more often if it wasn't for the major traffic and incompetent drivers on Bolsa.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

:D

 

Post a Comment

<< Home