Twice a month, El Estoque goes to restaurants around Cupertino and takes a chance by asking the waiter to personally choose our food for us. This week, we continued the alphabetical theme with Lan’s Garden, located on Stevens Creek Blvd.
Overall Rating: ⅘
Overall Price: $10.99
Lan’s Garden serves authentic Chinese food. The food items offered had good flavor, variety and were of reasonable portions. The food, however, was not the major factor for the score that it received; the service, cleanliness, time spent preparing the food and the price were all extraordinary and exceeded those from the average restaurant. Lan’s Garden is a quaint Chinese restaurant located within Portal Plaza filled with many Asian restaurants similar to it it. Despite the size, this restaurant can easily seat many people with comfort. Modern abstract artwork decorates the walls and everything from the booths, tables, plates and even the bathrooms are kept surprisingly clean. The meals we ordered were part of a $10.99 lunch special.
Location: 19634 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Appetizers: Hot and Sour soup and Wonton soup
Overall Score: 4/5
Hot and Sour soup (left) and Wonton soup (right)
Hot and Sour soup: 4/5
This soup had a comforting texture and coated the tongue. However, the flavor was bland and the spiciness of the soup was diluted with water. The soup had a welcoming sour aftertaste which urged us to take another spoonful. This soup definitely lacked some spice, yet the variety of flavors worked together, like a symphony inviting in an elegant taste into your mouth.
Wonton soup: 3/5
In a soup, the broth is usually accompanied by other ingredients. For example in chicken noodle soup, the broth is accompanied by chicken and noodles, but the broth is the star of the show. This, however, was not the case with the wonton soup; the dull and watery broth seemed to accompany the wonton. Although the broth was flavorless, the wonton packed an explosion of flavor into the first bite. With the addition of chives, another dimension of taste forms,adding diversity to the dish. The soup contained only two wontons however, and the taste of the wontons fade away after the first couple of bites. Once the serving of wontons was finished, you were left with the flavor-lacking broth.
Side Dish: Egg Rolls
Egg Rolls: 4/5
Quantity: Three egg rolls
Although these egg rolls had an amazing taste because of a variety of ingredients including vegetables and meat, the texture of these egg rolls were what made the dish most enjoyable. At first glance, these didn’t look special, just your average frozen food egg roll from the local grocery store. These egg rolls, however, surprised us as they had a crunchy texture on the outside with a soft doughy texture that melts in your mouth. These two factors worked as a team to create an enjoyable experience.
Side Dish: Pot Stickers
Quantity: Three (Comes with dipping sauce)
Potstickers usually have a crunchy skin stuffed with a meat filled inside. These potstickers, however, were soft throughout and were nothing to rave about. The vinegar sauce accompanied the potstickers well, and the meat was juicy, but the flavors were a little bland.
Dipping sauces (Sweet red sauce on the left, Spicy mustard on the right)
Sweet Red Sauce: 5/5
The actual name of this sauce is unknown to us but the richness of the flavor spoke for itself.. This sauce went well with the meat dishes and added another level of taste. The sauce was not overpowering and brought out the flavor of the Mongolian beef.
Spicy Mustard: 4/5
This sauce was thick and had a clumpy texture. A small dip goes a long way with this sauce as it is overwhelming and steals the show from the main dishes. This mustard contains great flavors and spice, but can easily disrupt and ruin the flavors of the other dishes.
Main Course: Honey Walnut Shrimp
Thickly coated shrimp resting on cabbage mixed in with walnuts and a cherry on top.
Honey Walnut Shrimp: 5/5
This dish was filling and dense; it had a thick, creamy sweet sauce that covered the fried shrimp and came with crunchy honey-coated walnuts. The shrimp had a very sweet and tangy flavor that was unique and was not overwhelming. When combined with the crunchy walnuts it created a satisfying combination of flavors. This dish begs the customer to take bite after bite as the taste never gets old.
Main Course: Mongolian Beef
Mongolian Beef: 5/5
On first taste, the customer is hit with a taste of pepper that sets the scene for the juicy flavors that come after the few chews. The caramelized onions in this dish are outstanding and filled with a sweet and juicy flavor. Both the meat and the onions are soft to the bite and melt in the mouth. Although those soft textures might have lead to the customer getting tired of the dish, a crunchy addition of dried noodles makes it hard to stop eating this dish.
Main Course: Garlic Chicken
Garlic Chicken: 3/5
Price: Main course of $10.99 lunch meal
Out of the three main courses we tried, this by far was the least tasty but it still had a good assortment of flavors. The garlic taste really overpowered the dish, however, the chicken and the vegetables made up for this as they were juicy and full of flavor. The chicken was very rich and tender and had a chewy texture. The vegetables were sweet and full of flavor and contrasted the bitter taste of the garlic, but the garlic still overpowered and muffled the other flavors.
Unlike most cheap restaurants, the quality of the food was not compromised because of the cheapness. The dishes turn boring ingredients into an adventure. The servers were hospitable and even cracked a few jokes, which made a good experience into a memorable one. The food was prepared quickly and brought out hot. If you’re low on money but looking for a quality meal, Lan’s Garden would be the place to go.
All photos by Anthony Moll