Up to now, I have avoided writing about the small Chinese carryouts here in the Cape Region. No real reason, other than the fact that I hadn't tried them all. But many of the emails I receive about China Garden in the Villages of Five Points are positive, so why not. Is this fine-dining Chinese? Of course not. I call it neighborhood Chinese, and after three visits I have to agree that this neighborhood Chinese place is OK, though it certainly has its ups and downs.
In the appetizer department, we like the fried wontons; crunchy and meaty. They are served with the tasty sweet/sour sauce for dipping. The first time we ordered the BBQ ribs they were sticky, tender and meaty. The second time we ordered them they were tough and a few were freezer-burned. So we are not sure of the consistency there. However, the roast pork fried rice has been perfect every time. The egg rolls are the standard neighborhood Chinese food egg rolls, and I happen to like that variety – especially with the particularly spicy hot mustard they offer. The shrimp toast has been lightly crunchy and flavorful every time we have ordered it.
Egg foo young is definitely a neighborhood Chinese staple. If you like it, you will very much like China Garden's. (If you do takeout, give the gravy about 10 seconds in the microwave to loosen it up before using it. As with all gravies, it loses its appeal when it cools.) The sweet & sour dishes and the lemon dishes all use the same well-fried chunks of meat (we usually get the chicken), and one of the stars of the show at China Garden is the lemon sauce that accompanies the lemon chicken. They wisely serve it on the side so it doesn't get the meat soggy, and it is richly flavorful with an almost vanilla-like sweet lemon kick.
China Garden1/10 Chicken Fried Rice2/10 Roast Pork Egg Foo Young3/10 Roast Pork Egg Rolls4/10 Fried Wontons5/10 Sweet & Sour Chicken6/10 Lemon Chicken7/10 BBQ ribs8/10 Shrimp toast9/10 Kung Pao Chicken10/10
Sadly I can't say the same about the kung pao chicken. Though I ordered it “extra spicy” (at Confucius in Rehoboth that request would take your head off – a good thing…), it was virtually without taste. Beautifully presented, by the way, with little corns-on-the-cob and crispy water chestnuts, but pleasing only to the eye. I want to go back and get some of the Szechuan preparations; maybe they have more personality. (Note that I am NOT comparing China Garden and Confucius in Rehoboth. They are two completely different types of restaurants at two completely different price points. I am only referring to the request for more spice.)
My recommendation is to use China Garden primarily for takeout. They have it down to a system, and though my new friend Harry P. (a China Garden takeout regular) says that there are occasional mixups, the orders are put together quickly and packaged very well. Both times we ordered takeout it was perfect. On the other hand, the sit-down service is well-meaning, but clumsy and confused. Dishes come out of the kitchen in no particular order; for example, on our last visit there were only 2 deuces (that's 4 people) seated in the entire restaurant and the polite but harried-for-no-apparent-reason server managed to mix up all our meals – to the point of setting them down in front of the wrong person, then scampering back to retrieve them and then redeposit them in front of the correct recipient. Definitely a no-no! Technically the dish should be taken back to the kitchen and remade, but a quick look at the original recipient of my entree revealed no obvious physical maladies, so we chose to find the whole thing charming. And I'm still alive to tell you about it.
One very positive aspect of China Garden is that they offer just about every dish in whole or half portions. Fun for ordering lots of stuff and sharing. And that extends to the dine-in experience also. Take a look at the gallery for some of their dishes. China Garden offers almost 200 single dishes, combination platters, chef's specials and lunch combos. And all the required neighborhood Chinese dishes are there: the sweet & sours; the egg foo youngs; the lo meins; Szechuan platters; pork, chicken and seafood. Even dim sum bites, chow meins and the very American chop sueys.
China Garden is located in the Food Lion Shopping Center at the Villages of Five Points in Lewes. They are open 7 days: M-Thu. 11-10, Fri. & Sat. 11-11 and Sunday noon – 10. Call your order in at 302-645-6445 or 302-645-6591. Note that the “service” rating is for dine-in only. The service rating for carryout is 5 STARS.
Price range: inexpensive (L., D.)