China Garden in Irvine... very disappointed
I don't like to talk bad about any restaurants but maybe I went into this restaurant not knowing enough about the cuisine or what to order. So here was my first night at China Garden, We sat down and there was tea on the table. Our waiter didn't bring over water or warm hand towels. (We would have requested it but after ordering our waiter was no where to be found) We ordered steamed dumplings and then our 2 entrees, a seafood hot pot and orange chicken. After waiting about 10 minutes the hot pot came out. It smelled like rotten seafood and the calamari was so over cooked i couldn't even rip it apart with my teeth. !
10 minutes later the orange chicken came out. Then about another 10 minutes later the dumplings came out. I might be confused, but aren't appetizers suppose to come out first? I ended up not eating my hot pot and we picked on the orange chicken. I heard only great things about this restaurant and had high hopes. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but the service we had was very poor and even if I ordered not the best dish they had the service would have made up for it.
Sucks that you had a bad experience, since I'm a longstanding cheerleader that apparently steered you into a ditch. I have not tried the seafood hot pot, so I can't comment on what it's like. The orange chicken, or dishes vaguely gringo-ish tend to be their weak spots. The kung pao chicken for example, is only meh here.
The service -IMO, it's fairly standard Chinese restaurant service: abrupt and unpersonal. I find they're very quick to clear used plates, and do it unobtrusively. I've never seen warm hand towels in a Chinese restaurant (they do that?).
As far as the pacing goes, we usually have the opposite problem at China Garden: our orders from the kitchen come out in too-rapid succession and our table's backed up like the Y at rush hour with rapidly cooling plates of food. Sounds like you got Mama Bear service. I get Papa Bear service. Looking, as ever, for Baby Bear.
Give it another chance. Dim sum on a weekend morning, perhaps?
I have also lately been very disappointed with CG. Not only is the quality quite variable, but the prices are increasing - (plus check how they add your total amount.) I have been impressed with Cafe Chen - across the street, and have heard that their hot pots are quite good. In the past, I did like Tri-Village-across the 5, but their dining room set up was such a pain it was hard to get a table.
The order in which items come out in Chinese restaurants is usually in the order that the food becomes ready, not necessarily in the order you expect. You would normally expect soups and appetizers to come first, but I've had many a meal where they came last.
You usually have to ask for water in Chinese restaurants, and I've rarely seen hand towels in any Chinese restaurant, except fancy wedding banquets.
Like others said, I've gone there mostly for dim sum, and I don't think I've ever done dinner there. For dinner, I like SW Seafood, just across the street from China Garden in the other shopping mall across on Walnut.
5406 Walnut #A