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Aug 9, 2002 11:04 AM

Asian Garden Report

  • 9

5 hungry hounds got together last night at Asian Garden in Chinatown. Barleywine was kind enough to bring a few bottles of his namesake..and they were awesome. Thanks again. There's an extensive printed menu but most of the dishes we had were from the specials written in Chinese on the wall..Limster providing the translation. Started with geoduck sashimi, a dish we'd had at Peach Farm. The PFS version tasted slightly livelier, but AG was also great. A new twist was that the geoduck head!! was offered to us, prepared in 1 of several ways. We had it stir fried in salt and chile peppers..similar to dry, fried spicy squid..but much more flavorful. Next we had a very rich, very delicious duck dish..also off the specials board. Steamed oysters and scallops in the shell followed..good but a notch below PFS..Next we had the eel..scooped live from a tank, steamed and served in small pieces, with the bone, in a black bean sauce. To me, this was the high point of the meal...possibly 1 of the best dishes I've tasted in any restaurant..Chinese or otherwise. Many of us have become fans of the fried eel at PFS (and it's great)..but steaming leaves the meat more moist and really allows the flavor to shine..even the head was consumed. I think we need to do a steamed eel at PFS next. This is not an inexpensive dish..$18/ pound...ours was 2 1/4 lb..or $40..but well worth it. Finished up with an eggplant and salted fish hot pot..another great dish but somewhat "falsely advertised" as it also had plenty of pork..GG bravely picked around the pork to get at the eggplant..and pronounced it as good (or was it better?) than Taiwan Cafe's...a very strong compliment.

I was overall, very impressed wiyh Asian Garden..staff was friendly, and helpful...the food puts it on a par with the best in Chinatown..or Boston.

Some of us continued the evening at Limbos...and then the Ritz Bar...all in all..a great evening.

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  1. Oops -- minor correction -- $18 per pound was for the geoduck clam, I think the eel was much cheaper. :)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Limster

      even better..let's get a bigger eel next time..:)

      1. re: 9lives

        I'm sorry that I missed this Chowhounders outing, as the old Asian Garden (dowstairs, around the corner) was my favorite Chinatown restaurant for a long time. Pacific Garden, now in the downstairs location, is also very good and the interior has been beautifully updated.

        I am taking my family to San Franciso over Thanksgiving week and I was checking out the SF board only to find Dim Sum postings by our very own Galleygirl.I would be much obliged if Galleygirl(or any other Chowhounders)
        would bring me up to speed on any Italian, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants in the Bay area that would be worthy of a visit.

        Thank you.

        1. re: Frank

          "I am taking my family to San Franciso over Thanksgiving week and I was checking out the SF board only to find Dim Sum postings by our very own Galleygirl.I would be much obliged if Galleygirl(or any other Chowhounders)
          would bring me up to speed on any Italian, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants in the Bay area that would be worthy of a visit."

          You'd do much better posting this question to the SF board.

    2. Great post, 9Lives; see, it was easy!

      That Barleywine proved he was a hound before we even ordered; anyone who comes prepared with two bottles of a malty, toasty brew that makes Guinness seem wimpy is welcome at any chow-gathering! I mean, you don't HAVE to ply us with liquor, but... :)
      It was great to meet both new hounds....

      I've been meaning to get to Asian Garden since I sampled their congee menu back in May, and realized that everyone else around me was getting wonderful looking platters of seafood...They do, BTW, have the longest list of congees that I've found in Boston, including 3 different seafood varieties..This place looks like it should be a coffeeshop, just about the same amount of flourescent ambiance, but like 9L said, a real contender in the seafood stakes...

      I concur about the geoduck sashimi. Tho I enjoyed it, Peach Farms' was a little sweeter and crunchier.. But they never offered to prepare the head seperately..The salt-fried slices captured the sweetness and mysterious, seatasting undertones that one finds in a good fried clam belly, but here, it was captured in a tender yet firm texture...I felt absolutely no shame in grabbing the last slice..

      The steamed oysters would have benefited from a minute or so less in the steamer..Too bad, because they were plump, juicy specimens, they had must lost their edge of sweetness...We decided the perfect meal would involve the steamed oysters from PFS, then a stroll to AG for the.....

      ..Amazing Steamed Eel in Black Bean Sauce!!!!!! I have a new favorite eel dish! I love this; eat your heart out, Psmith, this'll make you REALLY miss Boston! Big chunks of eel were so perfectly cooked they fell right off the center bone in your mouth, leaving just one neat little morsel to remove. The taste of the eel is so much lighter than I expected, and the pieces stood up well to the salty, cooked-down bits of scallion-laden black-bean sauce clinging to them...I'm usually a fan of a chunkier version of the sauce, but this really combined well with the oils from the eel to form a perfect synthesis..As 9L said, a real winner...Next, we try the dish at PFS and see how theirs compares!!!!

      I will definitely try more of their hot pot dishes, and next time, I'm gonnah order than eggplant and salted fish without the pork, because the eggplant was meltingly good...Altho I love the Taiwan Garden Eggplant for it's basil, I really liked being able to taste the actual fresh vegetable here, without the homestyle brown sauce....

      And we saw Huey Lewis at the Ritz bar...Clearly, I don't get out enough! (g)

      5 Replies
      1. re: galleygirl

        Which barleywine was it? His own home brew?

        My favorites are:

        Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
        Rogue Old Crustacean
        Brooklyn Monster
        Ipswich 1084
        Anchor Foghorn
        Victory Old Horizontal

        1. re: C. Simon

          He posted back on the " chowdown reminder thread", but it probably got lost in the shuffle...I quote,

          "To Galleygirl, 9Lives, Yimster, Emma (and other potential barleywine fans), the barleywines which I brought to Asian Garden were J.W.Lees Harvest Ale 1998 (the best year, IMHO) and Thomas Hardy ale 2000. You may be able to find them at (or order them from) Downtown Liquors in Somerville or Blanchards Liquors in Brighton."

          The guy knows his stuff; these were awesome!

          1. re: C. Simon

            Hey C.Simon,
            Great to meet a fellow barleywino. Where do you go for barleywines around here? Know of any barleywine festivals? I used to get them mostly at Ginger Man pub in NYC. Send me your email, maybe we can get together to hoist a few (or have a barleywine crawl)!

            1. re: barleywino

              Redbones in Somerville has a Barleywine festival every winter, I believe. A few months ago, I stumbled across a Rogue Crustacean 1996 there. On tap! It was left over from their Northwest Beer Festival, which is every November. By they way, their sausage of the day (made fresh daily) goes great with almost any beer.

              Ginger Man in NYC is a favorite of mine as well. d.b.a. and Blind Tiger are the other two great NYC beer (and sometimes barleywine) spots in my mind. Actually, until last week (when a fifth branch opened in Greenwich, CT) I had been to all four of the Ginger Mans! The best one is probably in Austin, TX. Then New York's. Then Dallas. Then Houston (which was the first).

              Locally, other than Redbones, Sunset Grill and Tap (and their upstairs cousin Big City) usually have several barleywines.

              Given your Asian Garden treats, it sounds as though out tatses might be slightly different. While I appreciate any great beer (including the two you brought along), I tend to favour the extreme hoppiness of the USA microbrews to the malty (and sometimes syrupy), scotch-like British renditions.

              As for shops, Blanchard's isn't a bad source. Marty's is so-so as well. There's a shop with a decent beer selection in Davis Square as well, but I can't remember the name. It's very near Redbones. (Quality-wise, Redbones probably has the best beer list in the area, while Sunset has the biggest.) In general, however, there aren't any good beer shops around.


          2. re: galleygirl

            Remember to ask for extra salted fish in the eggplant! *grin*