Food Porn: Sun Garden

In the last 6 months I’ve went out of my way to find the best places for lunch that are within driving distance from my office.  Surprisingly there’s a decent selection of restaurants that are within a 10 minute drive, covering a wide range of cuisines and price points.  I’ve noticed there are a surprising amount of Asian restaurants, mainly offering either Sushi and Chinese Take-out.  I enjoy the occasional deep friend pieces of meat coated in some form of corn syrup glaze just like everyone else.  After trying Wok 28 and not being impressed, I decided to try to find the next candidate for my “go to” Chinese lunch spot.

I ended up at Sun Garden, located right in the entrance to CrossPoint Parkway and standing next to Sara’s Deli and the Amherst Ale House.  After 4 trips I managed to sample as much as I could, but like most Chinese restaurants their menu is incredibly large.  Aside from their selection of Thai menu items, I’d say their menu is near identical to anything you’ve seen before.

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Casual, Take Out
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Prices: Everything is Under $10, Lunches Under $6
  • Location: Getzville

The inside of the restaurant is pretty bare and incredibly cold, it’s apparent that the majority of their customers are ordering take out because there is little to no atmosphere inside the dining area.  There is seating for a dozen or so and some drinks in a cooler, along with a couple of pieces of Chinese memorabilia on the walls.  They seem to have a completely open kitchen, you can watch them cook while sitting at a table waiting for your order.  I would recommend calling ahead, every time that I’ve placed an order on the spot the wait time has ranged from 15 to 25 minutes.

After reading Andrew Galarneau’s Cheap Eats review of Sun Garden (it’s printed on their menu) I decided to try the Orange Duck ($12, pictured above), one of their most expensive menu items.  If you are in a rush or do not want to sit in this cold dining room, I would definitely recommend calling ahead for this dish.  The large pieces of duck breast had incredibly crispy skin, but some pieces were actually very burnt.  That said, the meat underneath was still very tender and there was delicious layer of fat that didn’t completely render out but still melted in your mouth once you bit in.  Served with orange sauce on the side, it’s up to the customer to decided how much or little they’d like to add.  The flavor profile of the sauce was all over the place, one bite would have an intense orange zest flavor (there were pieces of actual orange rind in the sauce) and the next bite would have almost no orange flavor at all.  The sauce did have a small amount of spiciness and some bites were delicious, but the combination of burnt skin and inconsistent orange sauce will probably prevent me from trying this item again.

On another visit I decided to try their Thai Fried Rice ($7, pictured above) off their separate Thai menu.  After placing my order the woman at the counter gave me a curious look and asked “do you like spicy?”.  I thought that was a good sign, I assumed I was ordering something that would be delicious but also life threatening.  The dish was indeed incredibly spicy, not necessarily on the tongue right away but more of slow building heat that wouldn’t let go.  It was almost embarrassing as my face warmed up and I started sweating at my desk.  The rice had a weird orange glow, with a generous amount of egg and large flavorful and tender pieces of beef all mixed in.  The actual flavorof the rice, however, was pretty disappointing and the sauce (while spicy) tasted like tomato sauce and the texture of the whole dish was mushy.

On other visits I also tried the Double Sautéed Pork ($5, pictured in gallery) and General Tso’s ($5, pictured in gallery) off their lunch special menu.  The Sautéed Pork came with a lot of cabbage, carrots and snow peas that were covered in a spicy thick sauce.  The actual pieces of pork were incredibly thin and tiny, but still had a much better texture then what we tried at Wok 28.  The pieces of chicken in our General Tso had a much better texture, the outside was crispy while the pieces were large enough to actually taste the chicken underneath all of the breading.  The sauce had a tarty sweet flavor with a little spicy kick.  I didn’t live up to the foursquare comments calling it the “best General Tso’s ever!” but it was still good.

From what I’ve read from other reviews and comments, it appears that Sun Garden’s ownership has changed within the last 3 years and maybe the quality has gone down with the change.  Some of the items I ordered had some bright spots but the more adventurous items were pretty disappointing.  Sun Garden might be an OK place for people working in the area or who primarily order off the standard, no frills Chinese menu (Sweet and Sour, General Tso, etc) but I’ll still be searching for a better option.

Photo Gallery:

Sun Garden on Urbanspoon

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