Tonight I had dinner at Wong’s Garden. This family run Chinese restaurant is located on Harding Blvd just north of Roseville Square. It’s a bit back from the street and in a corner, so it’s not something you might notice when driving by. This is one of the many places in Roseville that I’ve meant to try out for years and just never got around to. I headed in at about 5:30PM.
The first thing that was interesting about Wong’s Garden was the entrance. It’s got one of those enclosed entryways that sends you to the left or right to go through another door before you’re inside. They have signs on each door directing you to the right. Through that door you’ll find yourself basically in the middle of the restaurant, where they have a little counter set up. The dining room has 3 distinct sections, to the right of the counter there is a big room with tables that can be closed off via a floor to ceiling retractable divider wall. To the left there is a section with small square tables and a couple big circular tables. Running parallel with that section is a couple rows of booths which have fairly high backs, enough that I only noticed the one customer in there by the top of his head. At first it didn’t seem like there was any staff, but a few seconds after I had made it to the counter a woman came around the corner with a take out order in a big cardboard box. She handed this to a lady that was waiting a few feet away and came back to me, asking if I also had a take out order. I said no, that I would like to dine in, and she gestured for me to take any seat.
I took one of the little tables in the front that gave me a good view of the place. A moment later she handed me a menu and an ice water. From my seat I was able to just barely see outside. There isn’t much to see if you have one of the few seats with any view out the front. It’s pretty much the parking lot. There are other windows but they are covered with blinds and face other buildings anyway. The place looked very clean and well kept. Just from my impression of the outside I had always expected it to be a cramped, dark and cluttered place, but it’s pretty much the opposite of all those things. Looking over the menu (scanned take out menu) it seemed pretty typical, I didn’t see anything that stood out as particularly unique for a Chinese restaurant. Prices were normal, about $7-10 for most dishes. There was a separate lunch menu with some combos and smaller versions of the dinner plates. My plan was to get a few items and have the leftovers for lunch/dinner tomorrow. One thing I knew I wanted to check out was the Sesame Chicken [$7.95]. I saw a comment recently that said it’s totally different from anywhere else and that you won’t regret trying it, so I was in. I went with Pork Chow Mein [$6.60] and Walnut Shrimp [$10.95] as my other items and ordered a Dr Pepper [~$2] to drink.
The woman that seated me took my order back to the kitchen and brought my soda back out. The restaurant was very quiet when I had first arrived. There was no music and just the one customer so no conversations. A handful of customers trickled in over the next 10 minutes or so and at some point the radio was turned on, but very low. My food was prepared pretty quickly. It was maybe 7 minutes from order to food on the table. All three plates and a big bowl of rice were brought out together. I was curious to see what the Sesame Chicken would be like based on that comment, and it was definitely different. Instead of the typical strips of breaded chicken, these were balled up, deep fried spheres of chicken pieces. I cut one open to see what it looked like inside and found what looked like pretty much 100% white chicken in small chunks and some that looked like it was shredded. Each piece was a little bigger than bite sized. The batter was fried crisp. All the chicken was covered in a dark, syrupy sauce which was tangy and a little sweet. The chicken itself was tender and moist. I thought it was pretty good overall.
The Pork Chow Mein was made up of little strips of soft, juicy pork mixed into a big pile of thick noodles topped with bean sprouts. It didn’t occur to me what the green slices were until I had a couple in one bite and realized they were celery. This was a decent dish, perhaps a touch on the salty side. I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other on it. The pork was a little more flavorful than I expected and there was quite a bit of it, so that was good. The rice was rice, nothing to really say about it. I had a little bit with some soy sauce and it was exactly what I expected.
The Walnut Shrimp is what I keep thinking about. I’ve had some really good versions of this dish throughout Roseville, my current favorite being at Bambu Asian Cuisine. This one is either a very, very close second or tied with Bambu. It was awesome, and the thing about it I loved the most was the texture (not to discount the flavor, which was superb). Each piece had this wonderful dry crunch which gave way to the tender shrimp within. The crunch was accompanied by a hint of walnut flavor, aside fact he fact that there are actual walnuts served with it, and of course the sweet glaze with a touch of honey to it. I hope the ones I took home hold up well tomorrow (the leftover ones I had from Leo’s Kitchen were surprisingly good, the next day in the microwave, for being shrimp).
I was generally very happy with Wong’s Garden. The chow mein could have been a little better, but the other two dishes made up for it I think. The service was very good. Both the woman that sat me and took care of me for most of the time and a guy that came out of the back after a little while were both very nice and checked on me often. When it was time to get boxes for leftovers she offered to box everything up for me, which she did, and then tied one of those brilliant knots in the plastic bag, that I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around, so I could safely carry it with nothing more than a finger. I think I’ll likely stop by here for take out in the future, especially since it’s very close to home for me.
I didn’t realize I had a problem… Damn you, fortune!