Asian Garden Restaurant
28 Harrison Avenue
Guido (his real name) and I headed into Chinatown for lunch this afternoon. On the way, I noticed for the first time that one of my preferred Vietnamese restaurants is no more. In its place is a small but smartly appointed Chinese restaurant called Asian Garden. I was blown away, partly because it looks like an entirely different place, partly because I go into the neighborhood at least weekly and I didn’t notice it before today.
Surprisingly, I was able to talk G-man into giving the place a try, and I’m very pleased with the results. I ordered the aptly named “Lunch Special #16,” or, more descriptively, “Squid with Sour Mustard Greens.” Ok, so, wow. I had one bite and knew that I had found a new favorite. The two main ingredients are served in a medium black bean sauce, and the whole is flavored by a fine balance of ginger, scallions cooked to sweetness, and a touch of bell pepper. The effect is a subtle but complex flavor where no one element overwhelms the dish. Better, the squid was done to a tender perfection.
It doesn’t end there. Chinatown is known for having some very good Chinese food if you’re willing to lean towards the esoteric, but tends to fail when you order the more American fare that most know and love. G-man ordered what amounted to an appetizer plate, and enjoyed all of it. I didn’t get to try it, but the teriyaki looked like skewered steak...
The one disappointment was the rice which was NOT sticky. (Grrrrr) I’ve been spoiled by good sushi rice, though, so I’m going to let it slide for now. There's a simple explanation for this... while I was eating, I almost had that transcendent experience I’ve had only on rare occasions with food (music is a more likely culprit.) Still, for a $6.00 meal, I can’t ask for much more.
Check it out, and get your stupid-cheap tix to New York as well. (It appears that they are agents for Sunshine Travel, so they may be able to hook you up.)
And no, I don't know why I do this. :)