by Judy Rubin
My husband and I picked a night when we wanted a cozy, quiet setting and moderately priced dinner to check out the food at King’s Garden, 8225 Germantown Ave., which serves traditional Cantonese and Szechuan dishes. It had been awhile since we had eaten there, and it didn’t seem that long ago when we were the first customers of the original owners, who had it from 1998 to 2009, at which time Randy Tsang and family took it over.
I remember the previous owner giving us a free Mississippi mud pie to welcome us! Randy’s mother, Tina, is also ebullient, gracious and responsible for “making sure everything is running smoothly.” Since Tina knew I was reviewing their restaurant, she asked if we would like to try appetizers that they recommended. We were more than pleased to do so, and the result was quite rewarding.
While we waited we sipped jasmine tea, ate the crispy fried noodles, and I had a standard (not made with fresh juice) Malibu Bay Breeze cocktail with rum ($7.95). There is a full bar.
The first food arrival was a lettuce wrap ($9.95). It consisted of chicken (you can request tofu) with shitake mushrooms, onion and water chestnuts, seared to perfection and served over crispy rice noodles.
Tempura vegetables ($10.95) were comprised of shitake mushrooms, string beans, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. Plentiful, colorful, not greasy. A mild chili mayo sauce was a nice accompaniment.
We both enjoyed the fried, tender squid ($9.95) with sea salt, chopped onion, red and green peppers, napa and hot pepper rings. Sesame tofu ($11.95) was lightly fried in a sesame sauce, served on lettuce, garnished with broccoli and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The sauce was a bit sticky.
Tina said that her husband, John, a self-taught cook, comes in a couple of hours a day and makes all the sauces. He learns “by trial and error.” The food is freshly prepared and served hot.
The pork in the wonton soup was barely noticeable, not enough to fill a cavity. Especially tasty, however, was an assortment of Szechuan stir-fried mixed vegetables ($9.95), with fresh basil, garlic and Chinese radish. We enjoyed it because the sauce was very light, and we could differentiate each vegetable. Clear, clean taste.
The jumbo spicy shrimp (all shrimp dishes are $13.95) with spicy black bean sauce was mixed with fresh mushrooms, peppers, onions and zucchini. I requested a taste of the mango chicken ($10.95). The chicken was tasteless, the dish monochromatic, the sauce bland.
The desserts, brought in by Bassett’s, are yummy. We had the Guatemalan ripple (4.95), dark chocolate covered coffee ice cream with a mocha-fudge swirl and chocolate covered espresso beans.
Tina said she was the oldest of six children in a family that moved to Brooklyn from Canton and that she “learned the ropes” by working in her family’s restaurant by washing dishes and cleaning for no pay, starting at age 11. Her husband is from Hong Kong. They came to Philly in 1972 and opened a restaurant called The Silver Star on Academy and Red Lion Roads in the Northeast. Business went south when a nearby industrial park closed.
If you check out King’s Garden on yelp.com, the first review you will see is from Danita R: “I’d eat Chinese food every single day. Some weeks I almost do just that, and those are the weeks that I pop up at King’s Garden very, very often. The staff is so sweet and welcoming every single time, and my food is always PIPING hot and scrumptious. 5 stars!”
And Maureen Gallo, of Wyndmoor, who said she regularly orders takeout from King’s Garden, said, “Their food is outstanding. We particularly like the pork fried rice and the chicken and string beans in an amazing garlic sauce. Last week we had leftovers, and the next night they were still really good.”
Ed. Note: About 60 percent of King’s Garden’s business currently is takeout. For more information, call 215-753-0246. There is no website, but they have a hell of a garlic sauce.