After reading multiple strong reviews, I made it over to Rice Garden in Washington Square tonight. I wish I knew more about the different regions of Chinese cuisine. Our food tasted very different than the standard Chinese food, and I think I get the raves.
We just sampled a couple of dishes because we weren't very hungry, but we'll be back. The sweet and sour soup was sweeter than the other versions I've tried. The soup also seemed fresh - the egg had a little crunch in its texture.
For an entree, we shared the chicken and shrimp dry cooked with chiles. It is a little oily, but that is the only negative thing I can say about it. We asked for medium spiciness, and it was the perfect level. The chunks of chicken and shrimp were firm and cooked well - i.e. they didn't soak up a bunch of oil.
The people were very nice, and I am looking forward to eating there more often. If anyone can enlighten me about the different types of regional Chinese food, I'd appreciate it.