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Mar 6, 2005 04:50 PM

Oriental Garden - scrumptous dim sum

  • j

On a monthly family trip down to chinatown for asian ingredients (Dynasty Market) we will usually hit New Green Bo or Joe's Shanghai for lunch, but this time I was insistent we try something new.........we almost headed to Dim Sum Go Go but then decided on Oriental Garden. Can't believe I have missed thislace all these years! What a treat. This bustling, but friendly and clean (restrooms on ground floor and not in basement a Plus!)establishment was the best dim sum I have had. No steam pushcarts, but waiters with trays full of steaming plates of a wide variety of dim sum constantly exiting the kitchen. We were lucky enough to be seated near the kitchen door and had first dibs on everything. All plates were hot and made with the freshest ingredients. We liked most......fresh live baby shrimp deep fried with the shells and heads served with fried garlic, the dumplings were all tasty esp.the chicken and bok choy, the clams in black beans were another favorite. The porkcops, although deep fried and smothered in sweet sauce was somehow not greasy and another favorite. The pork meatballs and baby bok choy were both bland, but overall we had a great experience.

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  1. We had a great dim sum experience there this morning.. We arrived to around 11 am to a room which, by dim sum standards was subdued.. Despite the fact that the tables were filled, the spacing of the restaurant was very comfortable.. They did not pack them in like they do at some of my favorites.. As the poster above states, there are no carts but, people walking with trays of food. We too were sitting by the kitchen door which gave us first crack at plates coming out of the kitchen.

    Besides being placed well to receive the food, there was something even better.. By ordering with the waiter which dim sum you wanted from the color photo menu, you are able to dictate what comes out of the kitchen.. We did not do this with every item obviously.. I asked him for an order of the (excellent) chive dumplings for example, two minutes later there is a girl holding a tray of maybe 12 chive dumpling plates on her tray.. Then I ask him for an order of the fried pork chops.. Again, a woman holding 12 plates of crispy batter fried pork chops come out in a worchestchire,vinegary, sweet sauce.. These were terrific..

    Its more expensive then the hectic dim sum places, but I am willing to pay for the peaceful experience without sacrificing quality..

    1. When do they stop serving the dim sum? Everyone I know does this in the A.M., but I don't think of this food before dinner time or maybe lunch around 1 in the afternoon. Am I out of luck? I like to have a beer with Chinese, but drinking that early seems too depraved!

      1. It was 1 around the time when we left.. We had 5 four dollar Beers with our meal.

        1. I had a very good dim sum brunch at OG on Christmas day. Overall, I thought it was the best dim sum I had had in Manhattan, except for Chinatown Brasserie (which blows it away but has less selection and costs way more). Among other things, their chicken feet, made with jalapeno, were by far the best-tasting I've had in the Five Boroughs, unique in having no cod liver oil taste.

          1. Unfortunately I had a very bad dinner experience at Oriental Garden tonight:

            - First, the restaurant intentionally put the cloct 15 minutes faster (and I will get back to this point later...) and accused us of being late for 20 mins while it was only 4 minutes (I checked my cell phone with univerisal standard time) past 7pm for our reservation.
            - We immediately tried to place order, but the waiter kept trying to push us for expensive food when I tried to order some comfort food for my friends who came to visit NYC.
            - We did order a lot of (expensive) seafood, not because of the waiter's recommendation but because we knew exactly what we wanted.
            - While we were almost done with our order, our first dish (steamed live shrimps) already arrived! I thought: Why the rush??? We hadn't even finished our order!
            - Then subsequently all the dishes came out very fast and the waiter forced us to divide up the food on the table so that he could make space for the coming dishes.
            - One of the dishes, steamed jumbo scallops with XO sauce and cellophone noodles (served individually for each person) tasted stinky. I was pretty sure that it was because the scallop was not fresh (probably dead for awhile before cooked). I thought may be it was only my scallop and in the fear of killing the mood of my companions I did not say anything. Unfortunately later I found that my mother also had a stinky scallop after the dinner, and the rest of the table probably did too without raising our suspicion. (This dish cost $60 by itself...)
            - All the other food was mediocre, except the fried rice was good. (and the steamed shrimp was fresh, I have to admit)
            -Throughout the dinner we felt that we were rushed, rushed, and rushed. In the end, they started to clean up the table when they saw that most of the the dishes were empty. One of my friends was still finishing his rice and food, and the waiter literally gazed at my friend to signal him to hand out the rice bowl and chopsticks! My friend, who did not speak any Chinese and English, reluntantly gave him the rice bowl and chopsticks.
            - Then within a minuate the bill came.

            I felt really upset of the service because I did not think that we should be rushed to finish our dinner. Then I realized that the clock was set faster than usual because they tried to get people think that they have been eating long enough to get them to leave. While the food was ok (and I meant ok; I have had better dinners in Chinatown for sure), the service was just not acceptable, especially that they charged for a higher price compared to other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. After this experience, I am so sure that I will not go back to this place. Period.

            15 Replies
            1. re: kobetobiko

              I'm definitely not defending the service, but you should have been more assertive. Why didn't you ask your dining partners how their scallops were? Why didn't you speak up when they were taking your friend's food? Pardon me if I'm missing something; I could well be.

              1. re: Pan

                Hi Pan,

                The reason that I did not speak up during the dinner was because I hadn't met my friends in 3 years and we were busying catching up. We only had the night to meet and so I did not want to waste time to argue with the restaurant staff. Plus I really did not want to "kill the mood" when my friends and I were having a great conversation. True me, if it is an ordinary dinner, I will so sure speak up and ask the staff what the food and rush is about.

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  Completely understood on all counts.

              2. re: kobetobiko

                Kobe - I assume you are not Chinese and not intimately familiar with Chinatown. Restaurants in chinatown are not about relaxing and spending the entire evening catching up with friends. It is about fast fresh food. Food comes quickly after ordering and dishes overlap. That's just a fact. I do think it was strange that the restaurant questioned you about being late. Everything else is par for the course. If you wanted fine dining and lingering, you should have booked a table at Daniel. For good quick food, Chinatown is your best bet. Also, your scallops were most likely not fresh. Chinese cook alot with dried scallops which have been soaked and reconstituted. They may be a bit stringy and strong tasting. You should ask this before you order next time. Finally, I have never heard of a seafood dish costing $60 in a Chinatown restaurant, ever, and I have eaten there for 35 years (except maybe shark's fin soup or some crazy abalone dish).

                1. re: ssamantha

                  No, people who go to a place as upscale as that for a banquet expect to linger... and linger they do, as the kids run around the restaurant and the old guys drink toast after toast. Also I've heard of steamed dried scallops with ham, but I think that steamed jumbo scallops with XO sauce are probably not dried but fresh and should taste fresh.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    Hi Ssamathan,

                    I think I have to disagree with most of the points that you made. I am indeed Chinese (I grew up in Hong Kong, and my parents are native Cantonese) and have been to the Chinatown in many cities in the US. I go to the Chinatown in NYC every week to dine, just not usually with a large party. As Brian S mentioned, there are more upscale type of Chinese restaurants (though nothing that upscale compared to those in Hong Kong) in Chinatown, and Oriental Garden being one of them that charge much higher than regular Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.

                    Brian S, who from past postings I can tell is very familiar with Chinatown here, is absolutely correct. You go to noodle shops (such as Great NY Noodletown) or cafe-style restaurants (such as XO Kitchen) for fast cheap food. Not in the case of Oriental Garden. It is a banquet style restaurant and dishes should come one by one at the table in the order of appetizers, soup, entrees, rice and noodle, and then dessert or fruits. I certainly did not expect service to be any level close to Daniels or Per Se, but I expected from the restaurant was the comfort to enjoy my meal without being rushed. I don't see this expectation as being over the top, as I have had good service at Chatham Sq 6 and Dim Sum Go Go (both cheaper than Oriental Garden) without any feeling of being rushed.
                    I have had dried scallop in my every day meal all my life, and the scallops that we ordered were NOT dried scallops. They were the JUMBO sized scallops, each bigger than the size of my palm (and supposed to be live) in the water tank. If they were fresh, they should taste extremely sweet and succulent and juicy. Not the case of the scallop dish that I ordered. They tasted like they were dead and that's why they had a stinky taste. Each single one of these jumbo scallops cost $9 and for 7 of us, the dish cost $63. It cost more than shark fins, which we did order (and only cost about $40+). In fact shark fin is not that expensive when compared to a lot of the unique exotic Chinese fresh seafood or delicacies that you may not be familiar of.

                    I am sorry to hear that in your 35 years of Chinatown experience you haven't had the chance to try some of these more rare Chinese food. You may want to order the jumbo scallop next time if you go to Oriental Garden, just make sure to ask the waiter if it is live.

                    1. re: kobetobiko

                      I don'tknow anything about Chatham, but Dim Sum Go Go is owned (at least in part) by non-Chinese which is maybe why they don't rush you. In every other Chinese restaurant I've eaten at, except Michael Tong's restaurants, the food is served as soon as it's cooked, piping hot. And not just 1/2 hour later because you want to linger. I think yourexpectations are a little much. Oh,and a couple of points about the food - bigger is not better, and I wouldn't order scallops that are as big as my hand. Second, by ordering shark's fin soup, you are enabling the extinction of sharks. This dish should be on a "do not order list" and you should simply avoid eating it. And, by the way,I've eaten in restaurants in Chinatown,and the service is similar to NY, SF and everywhere else with the big Chinese restaurants. You're there to eat and enjoy the food. You want time to have interesting long conversations, go for coffee or bubble tea afterwards.

                      1. re: ssamantha

                        Hi ssamantha,

                        I think you might have misunderstood my meaning of "being rushed". The way to serve dishes for large party like us is exactly what Pan mentioned below: The dishes were brought out one by one, each arriving when we had finished most of the last dish, and the first portion of each dish was served to us individually. I completely agreed with you that the food should arrived piping hot as soon as it is cooked. In fact that's the way I prefer. Orientat Garden did accomplish that, so all the dishes we had were hot.
                        The "rush" that I was referring was that 1) they brought out the first dish before we even finshed the all the orders and 2) they started to clean up the entire table and took away my guest's bowl of rice when he was still eating it. I think in any restaurant this was just plain rude.

                        And another point that you might have misunderstood was that we did not try to linger at the table half an hour between dishes. As I mentioned, I am Chinese and I eat out in Chinese restaurants every 2, 3 days. In a typical dinner for 7 or 8, the meal should be (in this restaurant setting, particular when we are ordering Shark fins and a lot of seafood, not just fried rice or noodles) should be around 1 to 1.5 hours. Even in Congee Village, it will probably take an hour to finish a whole meal of 8 or 9 dishes. During my dinner, the staff started to clear our table (and I mean everything including the bowls and chopsticks, our tea, etc.) at in less than 40 minutes after we walked in the door. If you think about the time it took to order and divide the food, plating the plates, etc., it's almost like 2 to 3 mins per dish. To me, that's a rush. I wasn't planning to spend a whole night there to catch up with my friends, but I did think that our dinner would have taken about an hour or more before we headed back to my friends' hotel to chat.

                        There is a point that I want to mention. The JUMBO scapllops that we ordered were supposed to be out-of-the-world-good because I HAVE TRIED THIS DISH MANY TIMES! It is a very popular dish in Hong Kong and Toronto (which IMO has much higher quality Cantonoese food), and this was better (when cooked correctly) than any shark fins or abalone IMO. That's why I was willing to pay more for that dish as in Hong Kong you could may drop $15 or more for one single jumbo scallop fresh from the sea. I wasn't complaining about the price of the scallop at Oriental Garden, but the scallops were not fresh, and that's a no-no in any restaurants that serve seafood regardless of whether they are Italian, French, or Thai. People order the jumbo scallops mainly to enjoy the freshness of the juicy flesh and it is a few notches more juicy and sweet compared to normal scallop . In all my experience of having jumbo scallops other than in Oriental Garden - this BIGGER ONE IS BETTER! In fact I don't think you can even compare the normal scallops with these Jumbo ones because they are just not the same level, just like the real Kobe beef in Japan is just many leagues better than beef you get in say Applebees.

                        I understand that different people may prefer different things, like there may be people who prefer McD's hambuger than the real Kobe beef in Japan. That's the beauty of Chowhound that everyone is free to express their preference and opinions. IMO it is perfectly fine if you don't feel like ordering jumbo scallops. However, I think we should NOT impose an opinion about a food when you haven't even tried it before, and more so to discourage other people from ordering it. My point is that we should sharing our opinions in food based on our experiences so that other chowhounders can make better judgement and to experience and explore the wide horizon of food cuisines.

                        Lastly, there are many different types of shark fins, and only the very very big (and very very expensive, cost $1000+) types are from sharks close to extinction. As far as I know there is no restaurant in NYC that can even get their hands on this type of shark fins. The one that I ordered was much cheaper and it is vastly available everywhere. Until they call this type of shark as endangered animal, I will continue to order them as shark fins is not just a "food" to people in my culture, it also shows that you respect and honor your guests when served in special occasions.

                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          Wow, obviously, Samantha doesn't know most of so-called "shark fins" are made of gelatin?! As Kobetobikosaid, you can't have real shak fin dishes for nowhere near $10-20 or even $60!!

                  2. re: ssamantha

                    I think that the only time you're going to get ur dishes unrushed and in order is if you're actually at a banquet. It doesn't matter if the place is a banquet hall or not unless it's a banquet. Most of the time at the busier places they are going to put many if not of your dishes on the table all in one shot.

                    1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                      I'd have to disagree. I've had impromptu banquets at Congee Village, where a group of 6-8 or so people ate upstairs and I ordered a bunch of dishes from a manager, in consultation with my dining partners. The dishes were brought out one by one, each arriving when we had finished most of the last dish, and the first portion of each dish was served to us individually. I believe I called for reservations in each case, but I did not work out the menu until we were there. They did let us linger, talk, and laugh at the end of the meal and got a nice tip for providing such beautiful meals, great service, and wonderful experiences.

                      1. re: Pan

                        Honestly, you had a very rare experience at Congee. That place is usually a madhouse and there is no "nice banquet service" to be had. Unless you're celebrating a wedding or baby birth. They have people spilling out the door during dinner so to be fair, they should not be serving you banquet style and allowing you to linger. That's just not the type of place that Congee Village, doing so leaves the rest of us to wait in the cold for you to finish up!

                        1. re: ssamantha

                          Well, if YOU feel hurried in these places, you should find a good restaurant that's never crowded. Since there are a lot of empty tables, the staff will let you stay more or less as long as you like. You won't have to worry that others are waiting for the table, and in fact you'll be helping the restaurant by making it seem less empty to passersby. One possibility is Lucky 11 at 11 Mott. Here are others:

                          1. re: ssamantha

                            I definitely see your point. But the fact that I'm a regular and was recognized by the manager on duty may have had something to do with our treatment.

                            To be fair, we didn't linger very long after the meal was finished. Also, I don't think that the banquet-style service slowed down the meal; rather, it was an efficient way to serve the group.

                      2. re: ssamantha

                        I wouldnt expect to be rushed in this sort of a place. Ive had a few similar experiences recently, one in particular, where the waiters pushed particular dishes agressively and cleared too fast (in that case with no reason wasnt like there was a line out the door) but its pretty uncommon. It may make sense to ask specifically for banquet style service since most places will definitely throw everything on the table rather quickly otherwise. Its the uncommon restaurant that serves thoughtfully so you get to enjoy each dish hot and fresh.