Food Porn: Serene Gardens

Asian Ramen

UPDATE: Since we wrote this article, the restaurant section of Serene Gardens has closed and they are primarily a garden shop. Check out SATO, the new restaurant from Josh and Satomi Smith.

Occasionally we get emails from restaurant owners about reviewing their restaurant, and while we don’t accept free meals or make any promises to visit, we generally try to eat there at some point. When Serene Gardens emailed us (the restaurant had just opened last April), a couple of details about the restaurant caught our attention. For one, they are located on Grand Island and after 360 restaurants, we still haven’t written about any restaurants on the island. The other was the interesting combination of a Japanese restaurant and a pottery/garden shop in one location. We made plans to go out to lunch with our friend Christa and see how the food was.

Our curiosity peaked when we drove up to the restaurant and found Christmas trees lined up for sale; we actually had to double check to make sure we had written down the correct address. After looking around their shop (featuring clothing, garden decorations, dishware) and taking a seat, we placed our orders with the waitress. A couple diners in our group ordered some tea and were presented glasses of loose leaf tea and timers (pictured in gallery).

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Casual, Cafe
  • Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi
  • Location: Grand Island
  • Prices: Specialties $5-12, Stir Fried Noodles $8-12

We decided to order dishes from all over the menu. I started with an order of their Karaage, Japanese style fried chicken that was mostly dark meat. There was enough fat to prevent each bite from being too dry and the light breading had a little peppery spice. It was one of those dishes that would have been better with a cold beer. Christa ordered a bowl of ramen (pictured top) that she had mixed feelings on. Serene’s Noodle & Rice Soups menu is customizable and you can choose from several options. Christa chose the ramen noodles, the traditional soup base (soy and bonito based) and ‘Asian’ toppings (tofu, various veggies). The vegetables were a little too stiff and the noodles weren’t that great, but she was impressed with broth and passed the bowl around so we could get a taste.

Karaage

Yakisoba

I ordered the Yakisoba (above) as my main course. The plate included a big pile of ramen noodles and stir fried veggies (lots of caramelized onions) coated in a salty soy sauce. It was by no means haute cuisine or really anything that extraordinary, but at that exact moment it hit the spot and the serving size was gigantic. If I didn’t have a slight headache/hangover, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the dish as much. Alli ordered the Tonkatsu (panko fried pork chops) and was pretty bummed out what what she was served. The pork chop had been over cooked and was really tough and flavorless. She only finished a few bites before she gave up.

The service was friendly. They forgot to bring out one of our dishes, but still charged us for it at the end (though it was quickly fixed when we brought it up with the waitress). The dining room is clean and bright and the shop near the entrance actually had some pretty cool stuff for sale. The restaurant is still fairly new and offers some cuisines/dishes that aren’t available to Grand Island residents. But for someone like myself who lives in the city, I can’t imagine driving out to Grand Island to go back and revisit.

Photo Gallery:

Serene Gardens on Urbanspoon

4 thoughts on “Food Porn: Serene Gardens

  1. Next island stop… Dick and Jenny’s. You will like.

    • Don Burtless

      I’ve heard good things.

  2. Pam

    When did you stop accepting free food? You have written about free food sent to you, and given to you at restaurant tastings before?

    • Don Burtless

      We’ve received a couple of free packaged products but it’s generally being sent by a NYC PR company and I don’t have to talk to these people or really worry about saying something negative about the product. Perry’s has sent us a couple things of free ice cream and we’ve posted about it, but I don’t think we’ve really gone over the top in our ice cream coverage.

      The only times we’ve visited restaurants for a free tasting was Mike A’s and as a guest of Ross Warhol for a farm to table dinner in 2011. I tried to point out that those meals were incredibly unique experiences and were posted in more of a ‘whoa this is happening in buffalo’ type of post rather then a serious review.

      Getting offers from restaurant owners to come and review their restaurant with potential free meals seems awkward and we don’t want to start doing that. Alli and I like to just go to a restaurant and try to have a normal experience for most Food Porn’s. We also try to take every meal/post as a case by case basis and figure it out.

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