|Pretty bleak. May be more appealing at nighttime.|
The dining room is generic ugly Chinatown stark. The red and gold Michelin Guide indicator on the door outside is more intriguing than the red and golden dragon wallhanging, but there are some nice poems written in artful Chinese characters that can entertain and educate a bit if your at a loss for conversation until your food arrives. While dim sum is provided instantaneously, ordered food takes a touch longer. Pots of tea are set in front of you as soon as you sit, so
you can nurse away your hunger pangs with the complimentary brew until more substantial fare arrives.
From a lunch prix-fixe menu I chose a veggie soup, filled with bright vegetables in a salty chicken broth, scorchingly hot. Peas and bean sprouts afloat, carrots and broccoli sink underneath. Nothing spectacular,
but a pleasant, warming little bowl. And speaking of warming, beware of the stuffed eggplant: this innocuous-looking plate of nightshades ensconces such searing temperature it actually scorched my dining companion's lip. I guess the peel insulates the incendiary flesh, tamping any steam, so the heat
only releases when punctured... and then, watch out. Better enjoy a couple bites of dumpling as your eggplant cools, since they arrive just edibly hot. The shrimp dumplings, illustrative of the
freshness of their seafood, barely contain the flavorful pink shrimp inside their thin wrappers. We also ordered a pork version, but were served the shrimp-and-pork combo instead, which may have been even better than the shrimp alone. The superior quality of the shrimp made it not too regrettable a misstep, although a bit redundant. A generic-but-serviceable saute of Chinese vegetables were super-fresh, tender-crisp and just slicked with that mild clear gravy, I guess of chicken broth and cornstarch. It boasted mostly emerald pea pods and water chestnuts- those nutty, crisp little discs so rare outside of Chinese cuisine, that I find such an exquisitely anticipated treat. Perhaps a little heavy on the baby corns, though, which I'm quite sure are enjoyed by just about no one. After this, and a few rounds of dumplings, the eggplant had cooled enough to taste. It benefitted from a spike of soy sauce, which enriched the silken, oily flesh to contrast
the fluffy steamed rice and called it a wrap.
The spartan surroundings and laughably gruff service doesn't really invite lingering, anyways, and there were no apparent desserts to be had: not even orange wedges or fortune cookies. Slthough I'm sure if we were going to spend more money,
they'd be happy to accommodate (note: Cash and AmEx only, so be prepared).
Our little lunch wasn't the most astonishing meal I've ever had, but it seemed indicative of solid preparations, fresh ingredients and reliable quality. I'd definitely return to explore the dinner menu, which looks more expansive on all levels. The little laminated lunch menu we were given didn't seem to offer a quarter of what is listed online or on the dinner menu, but using this repast to test the waters, I'd hesitate not at all to revisit this Garden.
14 Elizabeth Street
Between Canal & Bayard
New York, NY 10013
(if there's a phone number, I couldn't find it, but if you do, good luck in communicating if you don't speak Cantonese/Mandarin)