Many times when I visit Aunt Aggy and Uncle Walken in the States, they take me to new restaurants they’ve discovered. This time, they took mom and I to Little Garden, a mixed Chinese restaurant in Bellevue. I say “mixed” because they offer Shanghai style, Hunan style, Szechuan style; all different styles of Chinese food. Now a mixed bag to me usually means they don’t do any particular one very well. Let’s see how this place fares.
First up, the Sliced Beef Shank in Chili Sauce ($5.95 USD, Szechuan style) was pretty good. It tasted very much like the others I’ve had back in Vancouver in terms of spiciness. It was sufficiently spicy but it was missing the iconic numbing metallic sting of Szechuan peppercorns. It was also missing the lung pieces that the menu item in Chinese suggests. They were replaced by tripe instead.
My first impression of the Xiang Xi Fried Rice ($6.95 USD, presumably of the Xiang Xi region) was that it was very dark. Taste wise, not much to say. There was very good wok hei (heat from the wok) though so the rice kernels were nice and separated, not mushy and stuck together.
The Stewed Beef ($10.95 USD, Szechuan style) in Chinese is what we know to translate to “beef cooked in water”, a pretty common Szechuan dish in Vancouver. With the ones I’ve had, the soupy sauce is always quite watery and red, clear-ish, and with a layer of oil and Szechuan peppers floating on top.
The version at Little Garden wasn’t like that at all. It was a pasty almost cornstarch cloudy sauce. It still tasted good though, just not quite authentic.
Little Garden’s Pan-fried Potstickers ($5.50 USD) were cute little things, and an order came with a lot of them dumplings. Bite-sized and properly fried to a crispy bottom, this was immensely enjoyed by all.
Beef Noodle Soup ($6.95 USD) was ordered for Aunt Aggy because she didn’t want anything too salty this time. This was a good choice for her, as the soup was very mild flavored and clear, just as you would expect from the looks of it. I really enjoyed the copious amounts of cilantro though. The noodles were your typical wheat noodles and they were quite soft. For the price though, this really was a steal.
Fried Rice Jello ($4.95 USD) was my choice because I was intrigued by what it was. And let me tell you, it wasn’t what I expected.
I thought the ‘rice jello’ was going to be chewy a la the cold Szechuan dish of sour and spicy jello. This was more soft and has no resistance at all. The sauce was your typical soy sauce base. It was a huge portion though and I can’t really say I didn’t enjoy it because I did. It was new and interesting enough to keep me having more.
Last item we ordered was the Fried Rice Cake ($7.95 USD, Shanghai style) and you can get it with your choice of chicken, beef or pork, and we picked the first.
This was more like what we have in Vancouver/Richmond. The rice cake slices were chewy but they were smaller than the usual ones here. There was also lots of tender chicken pieces so again this was something we all enjoyed.
I would say that although Little Garden doesn’t prepare the food to the taste I’m used to, the food still tasted authentic enough—not like food court Chinese food. But the best part about this restaurant is the pricing: most of the items we ordered were under $10 USD, and each dish’s portion size was huge, so it’s great value for your money.