I received an in-person request this morning by a co-worker to check this place out. Having had a small and early lunch I was more than eager to please. I was headed out the door with my camera before 5PM.
This is Koi Garden, an Asian Cuisine restaurant located on Roseville Parkway at North Sunrise. Some Yelp reviews give the impression that this is a rebranded and downsized iteration of the previous tenant here, Koisan. Although I can find no official evidence of this, I do believe it to be true because the friendly server greeted me and said “long time no see,” and she did seem familiar from my Koisan visit.
They have split the big anchor space in two and now occupy the left half. They are reusing the tables, chairs, and other than a new red wall and the obvious lack of a buffet, the dining room feels about the same. The atmosphere was a little boring due to a lack of music. The only sound came from a small TV at the front of the room, playing a procedural crime drama, at low volume and the droning of the kitchen exhaust, which actually was fairly loud in comparison.
I had popped in here a couple weeks ago, while stopping next door for a quick Mango Lassi to-go from Tandoori Nights, and grabbed a menu, so I had already looked over everything and picked out a few items to order prior to arriving. As soon as the server came over to see what I wanted to drink I went ahead and ordered everything – General Chicken (lightly battered chicken in a spicy sweet sauce)[$9.50], Honey Garlic Pork Chop (in a honey garlic soy sauce)[$10.95], Walnut Shrimp (lightly battered shrimp in a chef’s creamy sauce with caramelized walnut)[$12.95] and a diet coke (because I’m trying to watch my figure)[$2.25].
It took about 13 minutes for the first dish to arrive, and the others came one by one about a minute apart after that. Perfect timing to grab some photos of each before digging in. I started with the shrimp, which is usually my favorite. Lending itself to evidence that this is the same place as Koisan, I found the shrimp to be hot, juicy and generally tasty, but not particularly noteworthy beyond that. This is especially the case when compared to the same dish from Leo’s Kitchen, Bambu or Wong’s Garden, all of which are unbelievably good and have a crispy texture that is unmatched elsewhere, including here. The walnuts were OK, they just lacked the crunch I expect from candied walnuts. One upside to this dish is that I received more shrimp here than at the previously mentioned places for about the same price.
Next up I tried the General Chicken. This was a very good sized pile of medium to large pieces of chicken doused in a thick, dark, syrupy sauce. It was nice and piping hot when it arrived. Now this one was special. Flavor aside, and it was delicious, the texture of this chicken was downright magical. It had the most delicate yet satisfying crispy shell, just underneath its thick coating of sauce, which gave way to the tender chicken within. The sauce was very rich, sweet and with just a hint of spice that only built over consecutive bites. I’m looking forward to my leftovers on this one for sure.
Finally, the Honey Garlic Pork Chop. When this was set down before me I immediately got strong aromas of sweet honey with a little bit of garlic undertones. Interestingly, tasting it was the opposite. The garlic was front and center and only here and there did I get little bits of honey. This one was another excellent dish in terms of texture. The pork was sliced thinly and the entire outside had a bit of a crunch to it. Internally, the pork was flavorful, but not as tender as I would have hoped. I did come across a piece here and there that almost melted in my mouth, but those were few and far between. Most was a tad dry and chewy. The water chestnuts did not add anything really exciting to this.
The service throughout my visit was good. My server checked on me regularly, offered refills just before I needed them and boxed up my leftovers right at the table. The food was obviously a bit of a mixed bag. My lunch experience at Koisan faired a little better than here, so they have the potential. I think I just didn’t order quite the right dishes to experience what they have to offer. Despite this I’ll likely be sticking to my go-to’s for Chinese (Wong’s Garden and Leo’s Kitchen) in the future.