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Aug 16, 2006 11:14 PM

Garden Cafe (Arcadia) - review - disappointing lunch

Went to Garden Cafe in Arcadia for lunch today. It's the old site of Chez Sateau, on Baldwin, just south of Huntington Drive.

The space was really nice - on the contemporary side. Great looking bar area, some modern lighting in the restaurant - a cool looking private back room -- I was pleasantly surprised. The place was packed, almost 100% asian, I was getting excited.

I ordered the pork chop. You have your choice of pasta or rice. I ordered rice. The portions are HUGE. A mound of steamed rice (easily 2 cups), a small side of veggies (very good) and two huge pork chops. The pork flavor was ok, but it was very fatty. I only got through 1 one of the chops. Also had a cream of chicken-type soup which didn't have a lot of flavor to it and had one sliver of chicken in it. In a nutshell, the food experience was mediocre.

If I were to categorize it, this would be the asian version of Claim Jumper. You get tons of food, for little money, and it's packed. I'm sure there is something on the menu that is a keeper, but the pork chop was not it. Other dining companions had the pork spare ribs, the pork knuckle (this thing is huge), and the filet mignon/chicken(?) plate. I didn't try any and no one finished their portion, but they all said it was pretty good.

The pork chop was $5.50 and could easily feed 2. Not sure how much the soup was -- I don't think it was included in that price.

Again, if you want massive quantities of so-so food for little money, this is place for you. As for me, the food wasn't good enough to warrant a return visit.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Another typical HK-style diner.

    By the way, is that small little bakery (right next to Chez Sateau) still there? That place used to be a gem ...

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I didn't notice one, but plan to go back to the area to Hop Li (directly across the street) for $1.60 dim sum, so I'll keep a lookout for it. If it's there, I'll stop in and report my findings. I'm assuming it's just south of the place, (since north is Marie Callender's), is that correct?

      1. re: The Oracle

        Yeah - south.

        If you are standing outside of Hop Li, look directly across Baldwin Ave. and you should spot it.

        It's litterally a little hut.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Are you talking about Cakes Unlimited? I think it's still there.

    2. i can't stand these kinds of places... bland food that's all the same. cantonese denny's knockoffs. claim jumper lol...

      1. I agree. While the decor was really nice, the food was rather ordinary. For better Hong Kong-style food, I'd recommend Tasty Garden, which is about a mile south of this place. It's across the street from the Burlington Coat Factory (on the southeast corner of Baldwin and Duarte). I believe it used to be Anthony's Deli or something like that.

        I don't believe the bakery is still there. But I'm not completely certain.

        1. Ughhh - If only I'd seen this in advance! Ended up here today after our favorite dumpling/dim sum places in the area were packed w/ lines stretching out the door.

          I'm just curious - and yes, we had a spectacularly terrible lunch that included beef so fatty it was inedible, paste-like soup, and greasy, bullet-proof-glass-joint-type noodles - I noticed this place is one of a chain of 3 others. Since we're not Chinese, I was wondering if anyone (Ipsedixit - help!) can explain these places to me. It was crowded w/ patrons ordering large portions of spaghetti (which we didn't notice until after we'd sat down), and the waitstaff and patrons appeared to be 100% Chinese (so naturally, we stayed). A glance at the menu was just baffling - seafood curry, oxtail soup, but mainly non-chinese entrees that looked right out of maybe an airport Marriot restaurant circa 1986. Only a little section had what looked like anything close to Chinese food. I'm pretty sure I like Hong Kong food, but these places are a different animal altogether.

          One possible tip-off: a lot of these Chinese-but-not-Chinese places have the word "cafe" in the name of the restaurant. Could this word be a translation of a term that indicates this would be Americanesque diner-food prepared by and consumed by Chinese? (just a guess). Sort of in the same vein as the Italian-for-Koreans places in K-town? I'm so confused!! (and hungry!)

          Thanks for any insight you can offer. By the way, the old bakery in the parking lot appeared to be closed, as in permanently.

          1. Most Chinese restaurants with "Cafe" in the name are Hong Kong-style restaurants. Quite often, their names in Chinese will say something like "Hong Kong and Western Style Restaurant". They are usually a combination of Chinese fast food (e.g. chow mein, rice dishes) with a Hong Kong version of Western food. They are geared toward Chinese eaters, so the cooking style and flavors are a bit different from what most Westerners are used to. Some of the places are really good. Others, as you have discovered, are rather lacking. Most "cafes" will serve lots of food for a low price.

            Remember: just because a place has a lot of Chinese patrons does not necessarily mean the food is good. After all, McDonald's has served billions and billions of burgers, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has the best burgers.

            1 Reply