Hong Kong style cafeteria-style cooking in Monterey Park.
I first went into Tasty Garden by mistake…in a way. Me and a pal were headed somewhere else, and came in here instead.
The odd thing is, the place we were original going to? Long gone. Tasty Garden we keep coming back to and back to and back to…
Tasty Garden is something like you’d find in the heart of Downtown Hong Kong. It reminds me of a cafeteria, even though there are waitresses and servers. The decor goes along with that concept. They’re not trying to set any new standards. This is a place to sit, eat and relax. You’re not here to soak up the ambiance. It’s a place where if you’re working in a high-rise in Hong Kong you come down for a quick bite at lunch or before going home. There are TVs playing, most of the time they’re playing Chinese-language Television, but come on a Monday Night, they’ll have the game on.
Oh, this is soooo my comfort zone.
If you are new, or unfamiliar with Chinese cooking, the stuff on Tasty Garden’s menu that’s going to be both familiar and unfamiliar. There are some Chinese classics as well as some…let’s just say interesting takes on foods you’ve known forever.
But that’s kind of the point.
Come inside, get a slice of the real Hong Kong. Try something you haven’t tried before. Eat outside your comfort zone.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Okay, there is a lot of stuff on the menu that…frankly…you may not be totally down with. Frog, for example, is on the menu. Pig’s stomach is on the menu. These are Chinese dishes that may not appeal to the someone not used to them. No worries. There are some real gems here if you know where to look. One of them is (or rather was) the Honey Glazed Fried Chicken, which was really good. I don’t see it on the menu anymore, but I do see a lot of things I would get in its place: Filet Mignon in Black Pepper Sauce, Chinese Style-Sausage with Rice in Hot Pot, Filet Mignon with Ginger Hot Pot. I could go on, and on…
Now, it seems they have a Honey Glazed Pork Rib…which brought back happy memories of the Honey Glazed Fried Chicken they had.
Also, for a hyper-Chinese place (as in a Chinese Restaurant that won’t necessarily be seeing a lot of non-Chinese clientele) Tasty Garden has got a lot of boring American Stuff on the menu, like: French Fries, and Club Sandwiches, and Baked Bolognese Pasta. But because it’s Tasty Garden, I’d be willing to give them a try.
I’ve had the Baked Pasta, and it was pretty good. Not sensational. The flavors are not as strong as you might expect, and the addition of cheese to the whole thing was an equally unexpected surprised, but it’s not bad. I’d say the flavors are a bit subtle, if anything. Having this on a cold Winter’s day would be outstanding. So of course, I had it on the first week of summer…
I also like their version of Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s basically poached chicken on a bed of savory, fragrant rice, which you can adjust with chiles and sauces to your taste.
Chicken Rice is one of the great meals in Asia. If you go to Singapore and get Chicken Rice, you will have total strangers bothering you and telling you how to do it their way. (Bourdain is charmed by people doing this to him. Me? Not so much). Still, you look at it, and wonder what the hell is the big deal? It’s a lukewarm hunk of chicken, dumped on plain white rice. How can it generate such love?
Then you bite into it, then you mix it up with the various chilies and sauces, and you start to wonder how you lived without it. Hainanese Chicken Rice is poached in Chicken Broth (which is popular enough for it to be its own menu item). The stuff that Tasty Garden makes looks like minced ginger in oil, with scallions. I only had the one sauce (sometimes you can get three), and I was still in heaven.
I also got the Iced Lemon Tea, which is Sweetened Tea for all intents and purposes. Served in Texas Cowboy Boot glass/mug, which really threw me off…but what the hell. It was good Tea that would pass muster past the Mason/Dixon Line.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Originally, this space said there was no Tasty Garden Website. Well, that has since been corrected. All I can warn you about now, is that the place gets way crowded.
PARKING: Pretty good, not excellent. This branch of the Tasty Garden empire is in it’s own Business/Retail complex off Valley Blvd. There is a free garage out back of the location, and it’s usually pretty crowded, so…go in knowing that. You should be able to find a spot with a bit of patience.
Tasty Garden (Alhambra)
288 W. Valley Blvd. #110
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 300-8262
Daily: 11:00 am – 1:00 am