Last night I was joined by my friends Anne and Justin for dinner at Roseville Gourmet. This place has been lurking over on South Harding (I didn’t even know it was called South Harding til now, and I pass through that intersection at least twice a day) for 20+ years and I only first discovered it when I started making my list of restaurants about a year and a half ago. With a name like Roseville Gourmet I wasn’t sure what to expect or what it even was. For all I knew it was a catering company. A couple months back I finally stopped in to see what it was and grab a menu. Turns out it’s a Chinese restaurant. According to the sign on the window it’s California and Chinese Cuisine. I joked with Anne that it might just mean they add avocado to some of the dishes.
We headed in at about 6:45PM and were greeted right away by a friendly woman who served us and the rest of the dining room while we were there. There were about five or six other tables seated when we arrived and this level of business remained fairly constant throughout. One half of the dining room remained empty for the most part. It was oddly silent and we quickly realized there was no music or anything. We started to look at the menu and sure enough, the first item under “California Entrees” was Avocado Chicken. It was actually the only thing that I saw on the entire menu with avocado but it was still kind of funny. The drink section was very simple: Soda, iced tea, hot tea, beer and imported beer. I asked which sodas they had and was told Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Root Beer and one other, maybe Sierra Mist. We each ordered soda. They were served in the can with a glass of ice. The cans were clean and cold so I skipped the glass.
Justin was a little disappointed to see that there were no cream cheese wontons on the list of appetizers. Anne had wanted a cup of hot and sour soup with her dinner but they only serve it in a large bowl, so we shared that along with an order of egg rolls (with beef instead of the more typical pork). These arrived within a couple minutes of each other and she served up the soup to each of us right at the table. I don’t get this kind of soup very often, if ever. Maybe at some Mongolian BBQ joints if it’s all they have. It was a pretty hearty soup, filled with veggies, chicken, egg and what seemed to be tofu based on the texture. What really got me was how hot the soup was. It was hot both in temperature and in spice. Anne enjoyed it as she loves spicy foods. I like spicy food as well, but this was a bit too heavy on the heat for a soup in my opinion. The “burn” is there from the moment a spoonful touches your lips to a while after swallowing. Justin commented that it tasted like they used a bunch of Tabasco. I finished my cup despite the heat. It really wasn’t bad at all, just strange.
I almost forgot to mention, prior to the soup and egg rolls coming out, we were given a little tray with two condiments. She told us that one was a hot mustard. The other was an unknown red sauce. Anne checked it out and decided it was ketchup. We thought this was pretty strange. The egg rolls were three very crispy looking rolls cut in half to make six bite sized pieces which worked out well for three of us. It was served with a bright red sweet sour sauce. These were awesome. Super flaky and crispy on the outside and filled with flavor. A little dab of sweet & sour on each bite was nice, but I think these would probably be good on their own as well.
Our soup cups and appetizer plates were cleared away and soon the main items started to arrive one by one. First up was chicken chow fun. At first glance we thought that it had an awful lot of bean sprouts rather than the flat rice noodles. Once we moved it around a bit we found that the bean sprouts simply covered a good sized pile of noodles and chicken. The noodles were done well, slippery and coated with a light sauce. The tender, juicy chicken was plentiful. The flavor of this dish was not as rich as I had hoped, but it was still excellent and I found myself going back for a bit more several times. I really enjoyed it.
Next up we had an order of Szechuan beef. This reddish dish was filled with lots of beef, bell peppers and onions. Justin ordered steamed rice to have with it. I think the bell peppers could have been chopped a bit smaller. Like the chicken, I found the beef to be tender and juicy. This was very flavorful and a bit on the sweeter side. The taste of the sauce reminded me a bit of the Bejing Beef at Panda Express, but that is much sweeter and I am usually over it by the end. This was enjoyable through the last bite.
Finally, the crispy duck. I love duck and will often order it whenever I see it on the menu. Here it shows up in a few dishes. This one is served with a sweet plum sauce, which was really tasty. This is basically half a duck chopped into a dozen or so pieces, bone and all. With nothing but a fork you are pretty much forced to use your hands a bit on this one. The skin was definitely crispy. I found the meat to be much drier than any duck I’ve had before. That rich, greasy flavor was still there, but the texture was not nearly as nice. Add to that some difficulty in getting some tougher bits away from the bone on many of the pieces and I was not really happy with this in the end.
We asked if there was a dessert selection and our server kind of chuckled and told us that yes, they have a selection of chocolate dipped fortune cookies! So no, they don’t have any desserts, which was a bit of a bummer, but the fortune cookie was actually pretty tasty. I wonder if they dip them there in the store. Overall the prices seemed to be good, on par with or slightly cheaper than most Chinese restaurants. The duck was about $5 more than most entrees but that’s pretty normal. I think this is pretty good and affordable Chinese food. The service was very good and friendly. Price aside I think that Rose Garden and Bambu are a little better overall. Despite the disappointing crispy duck though, I wouldn’t have any problem coming back here again.