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I’ve been searching for a “go to” restaurant for family style Cantonese food in Manhattan as a replacement for South China Garden since it unfortunately closed. In Flushing, I go to Imperial Palace / East Lake Seafood, which you can read about here. However, since I live in Manhattan and can’t make it to Flushing as often as I would like, I’d like a place like South China Garden where I can get reliably decent Cantonese.
I started my search by trying Oriental Garden, which has been recommended to me several times. It’s known for having fresh seafood and being a little more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown.
The restaurant is a typical Chinese banquet hall type of setting although it is definitely a little cleaner and nicer than most other Chinatown restaurants. The service was fine and they definitely speak English, so language is no issue. The clientele was interesting as it was probably 80-85% non-Chinese on a Saturday night, which was sort of surprising. Also, the prices around probably anywhere from 30-100% more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown, but part of that is a function of them priding themselves on having fresh seafood.
Here’s what we got:
- Steamed Scallops with Garlic and Vermicelli: This was a special on the menu. It was fresh scallops steamed in the shell topped with minced garlic, scallions and vermicelli noodles. The scallops were fresh and sweet and the garlic and vermicelli complimented them well. However, I had to take off some of the garlic because it was too strong otherwise, but besides that this was a well prepared dish. 8/10
- - Braised Tofu: The waiter recommended this as a tofu dish. It was a typical preparation where the tofu is fried and then braised in a light brown sauce. The tofu was served with a spongy white vegetable that I couldn’t identify and some green vegetables. The sauce wasn’t gloppy and was decent, but it was a little too light handed flavor wise and was a bit on the bland side. 7.25/10
- Country Style Lobster: This was also recommended by the waiter. It was lobster sautéed with eggs, spring onions and pickled vegetables in a slightly dark salty sauce. The lobster meat was nicely fresh and sweet, but I wasn’t crazy about the seasoning. The eggs and pickled vegetables were good, but the overall seasoning seemed a little bit on the bland side even though it didn’t look bland at all. 7.25/10
- Peking Pork Chops: This was a typical preparation of fried pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce. These were nicely fried and the meat was good. The sauce was decent, but was a little too watery and didn’t stick to the pork chops well although it still tasted good. 7.5/10
- Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves in Egg White Crab Meat Sauce: I almost always get this dish and the version here was good. I liked the sauce and the snow pea leaves were cooked nicely. 8/10
- Fried Garlic Chicken: This was fried chicken with minced garlic, scallions and soy sauce. The version here is decent, but not great. The skin wasn’t crispy enough and I thought the non-dark meat pieces weren’t quite as tender as they should be. However, overall it was still tasty enough. 7.25/10
- Sautéed Broccoli Stems: This was a very simple preparation of broccoli stems with oil, salt and garlic. It was pretty decent although not amazing. 7.25/10
- Steamed Fish: This was one of the things that I looking forward to here given their reputation for having fresh seafood. I told the waiter I wanted a good ocean fish. He picked this fish out, which I’m forgetting exactly what kind it was right now. He did a good job; the fish was fresh and didn’t have any bad fishy flavor. It was cooked in the typical Cantonese fashion where you steam the fish then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it very quickly. Overall, this was quite good and probably the best dish of the night. 8.25/10
Overall, while the quality of their seafood was a little better than South China Garden the chef is less skilled in terms of how the food was prepared, seasoned, cooked etc. So I’d say I prefer SCG over OG, but that said it is probably one of the better restaurants in Chinatown. Also, as a side note, do not go here for dim sum, it’s awful.