Last Friday night a few friends and I finally made it to this Chinese restaurant where we had been intending to eat for weeks. My only previous experience here was picking up a togo order a year or so ago for someone else and getting a bonus cream cheese wonton out of the deal. That wanton has stuck with me since then, and I knew I was probably in for a treat.
Rose Garden Chinese Restaurant is located in a short strip mall in the Bel Air shopping center, sort of behind KFC/A&W. Being so far back from the street it can be an easy place to miss. I’m always game for a new Chinese restaurant and I’ve yet to have a dish I didn’t enjoy. Upon entering it appears like most other independent Chinese restaurants in decor and music. We were sat at a booth towards the back corner. It was a tad tight for 4, but not uncomfortably so. They have a few large circular tables with lazy susans for bigger parties that look spacious even if you had 10 people. Each place setting has a plate, tea cup and a nicely folded napkin. Piping-hot tea was served immediately. I’m not big on most teas except for some rich rooibos varieties, so this tea didn’t really appeal to me, but my friend said she loves it and that Rose Garden has the best.
We were waiting on the last of our 4 person party, so we took our time looking over the menu. The server was very patient and did not rush us. She checked on us frequently though which was appreciated because as soon as our friend arrived we were ready, or so we thought. We were planning on running the order by our friend quickly to make sure he was ok with everything. Our server checked on us right as I was about to go down the list and once again I told her we were not quite ready yet, but that we would be in less than 30 seconds, she laughed at the timeframe and left. More laughter as we called her back not more than 15 seconds later. I quickly rattled off 4 main dishes and one of my friends added the cream cheese wontons to start.
I was busy with conversation so I’m not sure how much time passed, but I don’t feel like it was much before things started arriving. The first appetizer item – fried wantons with sweet & sour sauce – that was set in front of us is apparently a standard item that is always included with dinner (lunch as well, perhaps?). They were as good as any other I’ve had before, I don’t think this is a hard appetizer to screw up. I love them though and was munching on them up until the cream cheese wantons showed up. Oh, the cream cheese wontons…. I can say without hesitation these are the best I’ve ever had. They were full of cream cheese, super hot (but not quite to the point where you burn your mouth), rich, crispy and just delicious on every level. They are also served with sweet & sour sauce, but you really don’t need any. They’re amazing.
The first main dish to come was the Moo-Shu Pork. I’ve seen this on menus over and over but I had never tried it, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s a dish of chopped pork, eggs, sliced mushrooms, day lilly buds, lots of cabbage and a few other ingredients. Along side it came a fairly sweet hoisin sauce and a stack of small flour pancakes (a lot like tortillas) to wrap it all up in. The whole thing was excellent. Today I finished the leftovers, which I’ve been eating without the hoisin sauce or pancakes, and it was great with or without.
The next two dishes arrived together, Chicken Chow Fun and Mongolian Beef. I love chow fun which has rice noodles, which tend to be in my favorite dishes in many asian cuisines. This was an excellent dish, the noodles were perfectly slippery and tasty, as they should be. This also reheated well as leftovers. Why bother saying this for each item, we all know that Chinese food is the best reheated food, so I’ll just leave it at that. The Mongolian Beef was incredibly tender, easily the most tender dish of it’s kind I’ve every had. I expected the typical chewy beef, but this almost melted in your mouth. It was decently hot (as in spicy hot) but I could have gone for more. I suppose that’s what I eat Thai food for though…I’m sure many people might find this to be just right.
The last dish to arrive was the most anticipated by my friends who have been here before, the General Chicken. I was not disappointed despite the hype. Most chinese places have some variety of this dish, lightly battered chicken pieces in a sweet orange flavored glaze. This was the first time I’ve ever had full on pieces of unprocessed chicken breast though. They were clearly fresh and hot, and the quality was outstanding. It’s definitely a must-have dish here.
To-go containers and bags were brought to handle the fair amount of left overs. Apparently I had used the wrong bag, a clear one meant for the remaining pancakes, to put all the boxes in, and two separate severs came and laughed at this. They all seem to have a good sense of humor here and provide great service. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and I fully expect to return sooner rather than later. Rose Garden is clearly an amazing restaurant and is now at the top of my list for Chinese food, in Roseville or elsewhere. We have many other Chinese spots in town, and they are going to be held up to some high standards after this visit. Five out of five is an easy rating to give. A quick mention should be made that their Dr. Pepper was superb. Anyone that’s been reading this blog has probably figured out by now that I’m a bit of a Dr. Pepper snob. Rose Garden delivers.