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Grace Garden, Annapolis Road in Odenton


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#1 Dmnkly

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 03:58 AM

With Rockville a bit of a hike for this father of a one year old, I'm still trying to get a grip on the level of excellence the DC crowd expects from their Chinese cuisine. My education on the finer details is somewhat lacking, but I have spent a LOT of time eating in China (to the tune of 40+ trips to Hong Kong and Shenzhen), so while I'm sometimes fuzzy on the details of how the good stuff got there, I like to think I recognize it when I have it. So I figured I'd share a little place that some of us Charm City Hounds have been frequenting for the past couple of weeks, and see if any of the Chinese fiends here have had a chance to check it out.

Crackers and I have been organizing dinners at Grace Garden in Odenton as of late (and who could ask for a lovelier and more capable co-host than Crackers?), and we've been truly impressed by what we've had. It's a completely nondescript strip mall joint that seems to be subsisting on its Americanized carryout menu for the Army base across the street, but they have an authentic menu as well that focuses on the chef's native Cantonese, but also includes some Sichuan and others.

We've had tender fish noodles in a velvety, subtle ginger sauce. We've had complex, fiery Sichuan fish with rice powder and crispy fried bones. We've had a sticky rice stuffed steamed duck that redefines the word comforting. We've had sliced pork belly stir-fried with toban djan, pristine baby bok choy with salted fish, salted egg shrimp with a crispy fried exterior and a volcanic head gush, mixed seafood with a superbly balanced hot/sweet XO sauce... I could go on.

If it isn't bad form, here's a link to a more complete post with photos:

http://www.skilletdo...ace-garden.html

I'm inclined to think this is a diamond in the rough. Anybody else been there?

Grace Garden
www.gracegardenchinese.com
1690 Annapolis Rd.
Odenton, MD 21113
410-672-3581
Mon - Thu 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM
Fri - Sat 11:00 AM - 10:30 PM
Sun Closed

Dominic Armato
www.skilletdoux.com


#2 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 12:25 PM

http://www.skilletdo...ace-garden.html

I'm inclined to think this is a diamond in the rough. Anybody else been there?

*perk* There's more to Odenton than OnTarget? :lol:

Those photos are making me drool. Hey 1000yregg...recon?

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#3 1000yregg

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 02:10 PM

Those photos are making me drool. Hey 1000yregg...recon?

I could probably bring the parents to see if there are any secret Chinese clientele items as well.

Upon peeking at the menu- looks promising- a lot of Sichuan style food- mala fish, 3 cup chicken (w/basil). Looks like some interesting tofu dishes. They even have my favorite- the sea cucumber! Definitely worth checking out considering Szechuan house in Lutherville is the only place me and the folks go to locally.

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#4 Lydia R

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 02:14 PM

This is where you'll find some great Wok Hay.

Here's a PDF file with their bilingual "full traditional" Chinese menu. But, as Dom mentions, the Chef is eager to made variations on his dishes and expand his offerings. The website also shows their "western, americanized" menu.

The initial mention of this two year old place was just one of 40 replies tucked into a Chowhound post looking for excellent Chinese food in Baltimore. A subsequent thread details several successful forays to this unremarkable location.

This restaurant is a mile off the intersection of Rt 32 and Rt 175 (turn left off the exit towards Ft Meade). It's located in the center-front of the next building past the KFC. There is ample parking behind Grace Garden with a steep, but "wheelchair friendly" entrance through the back of the building.

I was at the second dinner organized by the Charmcity Hounds and really enjoyed not only the food, but the interaction with the Chef and his wife and their obvious delight in finding an appreciative group of diners. This restaurant would fit in well with the burgeoning number of well regarded Chinese restaurants in central Montgomery County. It's a keeper on my list of worthy restaurants as a replacement for restaurants in Columbia that were the halfway meeting place for geographically diverse friends.

For the Baltimore-area market, this is a unique offering. I'm saddened to read the many Chowhound posts about great places that served well-priced authentic ethnic food, but could not survive in Baltimore. Hopefully, Grace Garden will find an audience that's willing to search them out.

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#5 Beto

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:05 AM

Damn, I work literally 5 minutes from there. It's going on the lunch list.

#6 Henry

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 02:49 PM

I can't wait to try this place out, always need to support earnest intention and skillful execution. Hunan Manor seems to have fallen off a bit lately, perhaps this is why.

#7 1000yregg

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 02:56 PM

So I finally went to this place. Took the folks with me, who are probably tougher critics of Chinese food than I.
It was pretty darn good - a great find for the area.
We ordered the Peacock Chicken (had to call 2 days in advance)- it was a Mala sauce- sesame, chili topped on a whole steamed chicken cut up nicely. Yummy- still eating leftovers this week.
We were recommended by the chef to try the Pocket tofu- the tofu were like fluffy white meatballs- my mom figured they got some tofu and blended it with egg white and shrimp mousse for the flavor. We chose the nonspicy sauce with it. This was probably my favorite item. I love a good tofu dish.
We got the lauded Sichuan pork with rice powder. I don't know if he did it for us, but he steamed the dish in a lotus leaf. Really good- fatty, not greasey- great flavor. It reminds me of a dish my aunt makes with duck for the holidays.
We also tried the basil fish filets- it was basically 3 cup chicken with fish instead (1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup wine, 1 cup sesame oil) with lots of basil- It was good- not the best i've had though.
All in all, this is a place I would go back to. It for me is a good substitute for my childhood fav Szechuan Best for the south side of Baltimore.
pics

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#8 Beto

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 04:08 PM

All in all, this is a place I would go back to. It for me is a good substitute for my childhood fav Szechuan Best for the south side of Baltimore.
pics

We've been there 3 times for lunch just this week! Today, the 5 of us had the:
Hot and spicy smoked shrimp - not too hot, probably my favorite.
Szechuan steamed pork with rice powder - seasoned with star anis, cinnamon, and other spices. Well-balanced.
Ma Pau Tofu - spicy cubes of tofu in a pepper oil. Not as hot as appearances suggest.
Noodles and mushrooms - subtle-flavored noodles in a light sauce
Taiwan style fish - cubes of fish and minced pork in a garlicky, pepper sauce, very good!

I'm determined to work my way through the entire menu. Every dish surprises me that I try, since my exposure to authentic Chinese food is limited. This place has caused me to completely rethink what I thought I knew about Chinese cuisine.

#9 Beto

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 09:28 PM

Today marked the fourth, the fourth time that I had lunch there this week. This is unprecedented for me. I didn't plan on it, but when a coworker invited me, how could I resist?

We had the:
Pocket Tofu - wonderful little pillows of tofu and minced shrimp in pepper sauce
Fish Noodles (2nd time with this dish) - pureed fish and shrimp piped into boiling broth to make flourless noodles that are served with scallions, Chinese sausage and mushrooms
Szechuan Pork - thinly sliced pork belly stir fried with green pepper, garlic, onions and ginger.

I think that some of the recipes include crack, because it's so addictively good!

#10 DanielK

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 09:40 PM

Hey, so I'm going to be dropping the kids off at BWI on Monday afternoon for two weeks at "Camp Grandma" down in Florida. We were looking for a place to dine before going to the airport - is there a critical mass here that could do lunch here on Monday at about 12:30?

#11 Lydia R

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 01:45 PM

I've been a couple more times. The energy and pride that Chef Li and his wife convey is unique for Chinese restaurants and a real component of the experience.

Their website states that they will be closed on July 4th.

There's also an updated Eastern/Traditional menu. Some of the English text has been expanded to be more descriptive of the dishes and their preparation. The Braised Pork Belly with Mui-Choy is now, officially, on the menu. Braised_Pork_Belly_with_Mui_Choy.JPG

Two dishes that require two day advance order:
Tea Smoked DuckTea_Smoked_Duck.JPG
Peacock ChickenPeacock_Chicken.JPG

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#12 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 10:27 PM

1000yregg decided to give it the Chinese Moms Test (ours are old, old friends) so we did a joint family meal there. If you're taking MD175 eastbound to get there, once you pass the National Guard depot on your left, it's the next shopping center on your left, about another half-mile down, just prior to the KFC.

It's surprisingly good. Really good flavor in each of the dishes we tried. Given the primitive hole-in-the-wall location and decor (the spot is a total dive), one could easily be forgiven for driving past this place a thousand times without looking twice, but the cooking here is excellent...I'd say on a par with Bob's, and possibly a little better. Mom was seriously considering adding it to her rotation, despite the long haul from Potomac. While we were there, two other large Chinese parties came in to occupy the other large tables, having also read about it online. The local clientele were entirely focussed on take-out...chicken wings, cheap pizza, and Americanized Chinese food.

The chef learned his craft in Hong Kong the old-fashioned way - apprenticed at age 13 or 14 - and his wife is from elsewhere in Guangdong. As a result, the menu is at its best with fancy southern-style dishes, with some obligatory Sichuan thrown in. His ma la isn't quite as numbing as I'd like, but the spice blend he compounds for the tongue/tendon/tripe dish is fantastic (and hot). At most other places it's little more than hot pepper oil and tendon, but here it's a serious dish. The "pocket tofu" are impossibly light. The noodles made of fish are both uncommon and delicious.

Because demand for the authentic menu has been erratic, his best dishes must be ordered several days in advance. 1000 preordered the duck stuffed with sticky rice and bits of Chinese sausage, and it was thoroughly tender and addictive, probably due to the disappearance of all that duck fat into the rice. We also had a credible dish of sea cucumber in a particularly good sauce, but he had to use the small sea cucumbers...the desirable and expensive large ones are also available, but should be ordered a week in advance so he can get them soaking. He's also practiced in making Cantonese dim sum, but there are no plans to offer any...it's too labor-intensive, and the restaurant is too small. They figure a max capacity of 40 if you were to book the entire place, which is possible only on Sundays.

Well worth a detour if you're anywhere in the between-Beltways corridor. If the red-bordered "authentic" menu isn't sufficiently explanatory, they've been getting great mileage out of a set of photos that Dmnkly had taken...apparently lots of people now just point at the walls and say "I want that!"

Weird synchronicity: iPod shuffled to the theme from Curse of Monkey Island on the drive home. Finally realized why dmnkly's name seemed vaguely familiar.

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#13 1000yregg

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:45 AM

I posted up more pics from Grace Garden from my dinner with the folks, ol iron stomach, and gubeen.
I gotta say- the Eight Treasure Duck was a piece of art. I also loved the "Triple T" or Sichuan Beef Treasures.
Since I'm taking friends to the airport Friday, I may try to carryout some stuff.

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#14 1000yregg

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 01:51 PM

Stopped by Grace Garden this weekend, this time for carryout.
I got the Curry Beef Stew- wow- whatta dish- it was a mild curry with potato, onion, and some great tender beef which included tendons. So good and rich.
I also tried their Ma Po Tofu. It was beautiful with all the spices and oils mixed in. They kicked it up some with more Ma La sauce. The tofu was so tender. Another outstanding dish.

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#15 1000yregg

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 11:38 AM

Grace Garden got a great writeup in Baltimore's City Paper today.

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#16 Pool Boy

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 06:25 PM

We hit this last night.

Whoa.

The crispy fried eggplant stole the show for us, but we totally forgot about the fish noodles, which we will try next time. The noodles with mushrooms was good, but not great -- a little too subtle. The Seafood with XO sauce was wild and had perfect heat for me, but it was too hot for my wife. The braised pork belly with mustard cabbage was wild. So fall apart porky good, but the broth, the BROTH. My gosh. We picked up the serving spoon and were drinking the sauce -- screw mixing it with rice, pump that sauce in to my system NOW. So good.

It is clearly in the rotation for dinners out with just a short ride from Laurel.

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#17 pkoons

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Posted 29 August 2008 - 11:44 AM

Add another rave to the list - this place is about 15 minutes from my house in Crownsville. Have been twice and tried the fish noodles, ma po tofu, pork belly with mui choy & mustard sauce, and garlic head-on shrimp. All great dishes but I was particularly enthralled with the perfect spice balance and custardy texture of the tofu (it was way too hot for my friend though). Portions and prices are great. I would have liked a little more crispiness/caramelization on the edges of the pork belly, but otherwise that was a favorite too. It was nice that I was recognized on only my second visit, too, and the chef seems truly concerned about the patrons enjoying the food (and trying new dishes). Great find!!!

#18 Pool Boy

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Posted 29 August 2008 - 09:17 PM

Went again tonight and I finally got to try the fabled fish noodles.


>whoa<

The breath of the wok is on these sublime noodles that have a texture all their own, but the dish, while subtle, really excels when this of the sea, yet almost earthy wok-breath undertone is paired with the crispy texture of the thinly sliced vegetables and the, what is it, some kind of ham flakes strewn throughout. This dish is disarmingly good and really sneaks up on you.

The Twice cooked pork was quite good, but could have benefited from being a bit more crispy around the edges. The cabbage and the spring onions served up with this complemented the pork well, but I thought that the gree pepper was a bit misplaced. That said, the sauce serves up the linking deliciousness of the different components. Delicious.

We also tried the Cantonese Wok-Fried Quail. Wow. The presentation of the dish was amazing in its own right -- a pile of quail parts that made you salivate like some pavlovian dog. So good. I thought it was the skin alone that made it excel, but the meat is wonderful, the seasoning bold but nuanced, and the sauce, the SAUCE! A dish best consumed with your fingers, too, by the way.

We also got the crispy eggplant because, well, they are just so good.

What a winner of a place!

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#19 1000yregg

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 12:06 PM

Good news- the Baltimore City Paper is going to name Grace Garden the best Chinese restaurant in Baltimore. They deserve it.
I went last night, and Mrs. Li has some bitter melon (Ku Gwa) from her garden on the menu- it was served with beef and black bean sauce- good stuff.
She mentioned that they have some winter melon's coming in for soup sometime in mid-late October as well.

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#20 Beto

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 10:42 AM

Grace Garden's quest for world domination continues...

#21 Lydia R

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 04:06 PM

Good news- the Baltimore City Paper is going to name Grace Garden the best Chinese restaurant in Baltimore. They deserve it.
I went last night, and Mrs. Li has some bitter melon (Ku Gwa) from her garden on the menu- it was served with beef and black bean sauce- good stuff.
She mentioned that they have some winter melon's coming in for soup sometime in mid-late October as well.

Grace Garden's quest for world domination continues...

Here's a photo by Sam Holden from the City Paper Best of Baltimore issue.
Posted Image

It is a sad commentary on the state of Chinese chow in this burg when the best Chinese restaurant in Baltimore is actually in Odenton. Fortunately it's a quick ride south of the city to stupendously good Grace Garden, where the Hong Kong-born owner and chef, Chun Li, turns out authentic food--with some ingredients organically grown by Mrs. Li in her garden--in a simple storefront restaurant. Don't-miss dishes include everything on the menu, but beef triple treasure, fish noodles, and silken shrimp-stuffed tofu pockets are standouts among standouts.

Coincidentally, I had a quick lunch there today on my way back to DC from Baltimore. There were only two occupied tables: a three-top from across the street and me. There's nothing like a nice plate of Beef Chow Fun to mellow one out for a drive on I-95. I'd had a late lunch at Joe Squared the day before and nabbed a copy of Baltimore City Paper. Mrs. Li saw me read the City Paper and hoped it was today's BOB issue. Sadly, it wasn't and the closest City Paper drop-off point is miles away in either Ellicot City or Glen Burnie. Hopefully Balto City Paper will give them a plaque to add to to their growing collection of accolades.

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#22 Treva

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 08:25 PM

Dined at Grace Garden about 10 weeks ago with ol_ironstomach, Henry, Beto and a nice group of Charm City Hounds.

The following is excerpted from my thank you note to the organizer:

"Grace Garden with Chef Li, Mei Lei and Charm City Hounds was a sublime and happy occasion! Our table was so-very eager to have the first course of ooh and ahh melon soup; we could hardly believe the second course: egg-white omelet wontons - pretty pretty gift-wraps for nuggets of chicken as nuggets should be..

Surprising dish after surprising dish. Dizzy good stuff. My head was spinning more than the lazy susan. I want more of that duck. I want crispy-fried flounder skin again and again. Mmmm-mmm pork belly. And the three T beef treasures- so memorable and sichuan-derful. Lamb and shrooms - two of my biggest weaknesses in one - oh I'll have just another taste please, and another.

Green is good. The bok choy and broc were welcome and refreshing.

The mango tapioca pudding was smooth and sooth.

You must forgive my silliness. I haven't recovered yet.

Thank you for the amazing menu choices and collaboration with Chef Li."

It wasn't my first visit to GG and I've returned a few times since. I'm addicted to the Tofu pockets and Fish Noodles. Like Beto - I want to work my way through the menu.

#23 Lydia R

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 09:35 PM

Yesterday, Richard Gorelick in the Baltimore Sun gave four out of four stars to GG.
Posted Image
Gene Sweeney, Jr's photograph accompaning the review shows Chef Li's artistry and skill.

Grace Garden operates with both an Eastern, or traditional, menu, and the Western, or Americanized, menu (General Tso, kung pao, lo mein, etc.). Here, diners are handed the Eastern menu and have to know to ask for the Western one. This is the opposite of every other restaurant I've ever been to that does it both ways, and I really loved that gesture. I'm not an authenticity snob. I love good, clean versions of Americanized Chinese food. But I like a good dining adventure, too, and I found Grace Garden's level of cuisine to be pitched at the perfect level - adventurous but still accessible to a Western palate and sensibility.

Yes, there's that pork belly, along with such other rarely seen menu items as smoked tea duck, sea cucumber, mini octopus, tripe and quail. Yes, heads are left on the shrimp, and on whole chickens, too. But the flavors and textures are uniformly gettable. Any kid would love those big, fat, slurpy fish noodles, which are made from ground fish. But tossing them with mushroom, cilantro and slivers of Chinese sausage makes them into something triumphant.

A few things are instantly and ridiculously pleasurable. Salt & Pepper Squid has a crunchy, savory and just slightly sugary coating that reminded us of the fried dough you get at carnivals. Usually, sweetness in Chinese dishes is off-putting, but not here. Not in the crispy fried eggplant dish, which is a big heaping plate of coin-purse-sized treats.

Today's GG lunch united eleven DC & Balto Chowhounds. It was like the golden stake going into the transcontinental railroad. We had a newbie at the table and his report is posted on Chowhound.

I couldn't possibly recount the whole experience, which went on for an extravagant 2.5 hours. But here are a few of the standout memories.FIrst, Chefi had very enthusiastic hellos for several folks at the table, including lots of big hugs for Nick. It was nice to feel welcome.

After a bit of getting to know one another, the food started coming out. The duck didn't look very appealing to me, but I dug in and found it truly delicious. It was stuffed with seasoned sticky rice, chestnuts, and other savory things. The appearance suffered a bit from the skin not being browned at all, probably because it was steamed.

The "wonton" soup was a mind-blower. Too bad it's not on the menu. First a big bowl of chicken broth and a small bowl of steamed baby bok choi appeared. Then a bowl of "won-tons" showed up. Each was a bit of filling wrapped in a thin white wrapper, which was bunched up on the top and encircled with a ribbon of shaved carrot. We dutifully served ourselves a wonton a wonton and some bok choi and ladeled a bit of broth over it. Having had wonton soup free with purchase of many a disappointing Chines special, I didn't expect much. I was wrong. Nothing was at it seemed. The wrapper was not the usual pasty dough, but was gossamer thin and tender -- made almost entirely of egg white. The filling was a mixture of chicken and shrimp. Also light, and really great. The broth had a chicken flavor, but also some pleasant peppery heat to it.

The fish was incredible also. For this dish, I would have to say that the presentation was its most spectacular aspect, even though the taste was terrific as well. It was a whole flounder fried in a very lively basket shape. It looked like it was getting ready to jump off the table. The middle of the fish was hollowed out and filled with pieces of fish fillet and lovely vegetables (I remember bok choi, don't recall the others). As instructed, we took some of the mixture from the middle but also broke off a bit of the crispy fried fish and bones from around the edges. Never ate fish bones before (at least not on purpose). These were wonderful.

Their website states they will be closed from January 5th to January 7th. They will reopen on January the 8th.

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#24 deangold

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 04:29 PM

IN one way I feel alte to the party on Grace Garden but with no activity on the thread for such a long time I am glad to post. Kay & I finally made it here as they are closed on Sunday, our typical day to go far afield in search of good food. The appearance is as stated, dive-y but very clean. Getting food this good in such a surrounding reminded us of our favorite gems in Both Monterrey Park and SF.

We had:

Tripe, Tendon & Tongue- a great version of this dish with lots of other flavors besides the meats and the typical spicy sauce. Kay marveled at the texture of the tendon which she usually does not like that much. It was quite peanutty but the veggies added several layers of flavor in addition tot he funkyness of the innards. The sauce was less oily than at Joe's or Sichuan Pavilion and the dish more nuanced than at either of the others.

Fish Noodles- this is an extruded fush dumpling cooked in water (as I later found out). We just had a similar dish at Sichuan Pavillion {there it was fish dumpling in white sauce with cucmber} and SP's version did not have the just made gelatinous quiver of the version today. This is a subtle dish and made a great foil to the TTT. There were slivers of pickled veggie of some sort, cabbage, green onion, shiitake & chinese sausage. There was but a scant coating of white sauce which made more for lubrication than anything else. The plate was clean when we finished it. I would love to go ahve this dish with a larger group as then it would be just a few tantalizing bites of the noodle just out of the water & wok as opposed to seeing it cool down and take on a heavier, thought not heavy, texture. Extraordinary!

Flounder Filet Sichuan Style- we asked fo a ma la dish and were immediately pointed in this direction which was a good thing indeed. Plump bits of fish, lots of bamboo shoot tips, cabbage and other stuff in a nicely vinegary sauce topped with a sprinkle of fried Sichuan peppercorns, chili flakes, garlic & ginger. If you ate from the center out getting the full effect of the hot stuff. the dish was fiery and layered with many flavors in addition to heat. Eaten from the outside in it was far less fiery yet still fully flavored as reported by my more heat sensitive dining companion. We cold only eat about half of the dish as we were in danger of bursting at that point which would have blown the Chinese foodie cred we had established at this point.

When we mentioned coming back with a larger group, the waitress told us to call in advance so they could make stuff not on the menu.

We asked about the Chef's background and he is from Hong Kong but he had a Sichuan master which explains both the excellence and lightness of his Sichuan cooking. I looked into the tiny kitchen and saw but a single wok station. Of the three parties who were there or came in after we arrived, 2 were of the sweet & sour pork & egg drop soup style. This is a place that could just go thru the motions and have a great following from the Fort Meade crowd, but bravi for their dedication to bringing a personal vision of food to fruition.

#25 deangold

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 09:40 PM

Just got back from a group outing of 9 to Grace Garden. Loads of fun and incredible foods. Last week I spoke with the waitress and told her we wanted to have a varied meal with two spicy dishes and we would eat anything. We wanted dishes the chef "was proud of". The reservation was made last Thursday for tonight so they had time to include some of their "order ahead" dishes. As best I remember we had:

Winter Melon Soup - this was an entire winter melon with the seeds removed and a soup steamed inside the melon. The soup had dry scallop, ham, tiny shrimp, veggies and the broth was very mild, even a little bland. But that is because the soup was not the reason for the dish. The star of this dish was the winter melon which had been picked from the Chef's garden this morning for our dinner. The melon has a subtle flavor that grew with each bite, leaving a citrusy tang in the finish.

Next up were the fish noodles. These are noodles made from fish that are first simmered in water ala spatzle then stir fried with chinese sausage, slivers of veggies and black mushrooms. Wonderful.

Next up was a quartet of dishes:

Green beans in a marinade with slivered ginger - good, very fresh (maybe home grown?) very simple
Three Treasures: Tongue Tripe & Tendon in a spicy sauce with garlic, ginger, hot chile oil. This is the best version of this dish I have ever had.
Chinese broccoli with garlic cloves - the garlic was as darkly colored as it could have been without taking on a bitter taste. The greens tasted fresh picked. Simplicity itself.
Hakka Eggplant - steamed eggplant topped with a spicy sauce with ground meat, green chiles and more stuff. I prefer my eggplant in this dish more steamed, but the topping was lighter and more delicate than I have ever had before.

Whole Shrimp with long life noodle - the noodles, which they purchase, as we found out, seemed to be hand pulled. They had an incredible flavor and the sauce was wonderful. The whole shrimp, which were scattered over were good but, oddly enough, we did not finish them all off. But the flavor they contributed to the sauce made this dish a stellar one. As this dish passed, one of the group said please stop with the yummy noises and my only response was to say pass the food faster because I don't know how long I can hold them in.

By now, the "yummy noises" were being heard with groans of fullness as well. But we soldiered on!

The next group came out in an order that I cannot now recall but I think these were it:

Crispy shrimp - minced shrimp formed into logs with some sort of coating, deep fried and then stir fried with a green that might have been in the leek or garlic chive family, along with hot peppers and other flavorings. This was incredible and incredibly rich.

Pork Belly in Sichuan style - leeks, onions, lots of other stuff, rich pork belly smoked, but much less so than the version we had a Sichuan Pavillion dinner recently. That dish was all about the smoke, this all about the belly. Again, stellar.

Sticky rice stuffed duck - the ugliest dish I have been served in a long while, yet supremely tasty. The duck is stuffed with glutinous rice studded with chestnuts, dried dates, bits of sausage, ham, cured meats etc and then steamed. It is a huge gray plop of duck and rice hacked into large pieces. I was eating the rice first and raving "I don't care if the duck is lousy, this is great" when someone said "don't worry about the duck." They were right.

By now we were worried that if we had more dishes coming, we would need cars with heavier suspensions to get us home. But lucky for us, there was only one more dish......

Whole Flounder, Deep Fried Bones & steamed meat in Sichuan style. The Chef explained that the bones were deep fried for 1/2 hour, the fish filet steamed and then stir fried with hot chile oil. The hotness was lively and not more then medium. The filet was a mass of pieces with what seemed to be rice powder in the sauce, resting in a boat made of the rack of the fish. Chef demonstrated how to eat the bones saying "Don't eat the center bone" but I fear that I for one, ignored this direction and lived to tell about it. My only regret was eating lunch today and not being able to dig in on the crispy head of the fish. But the lower fins, engawa in sushi terms (but I am not sure of that spelling) with a bit if sauce on it made for the best chips and dips I have ever had.

The Chef came out to check on us and we applauded, but far less enthusiastically than he deserved. Being comatose will do that to you!

The feat was $300 tax & tip included. We asked if they would do this again wiith another group and the answer was an enthusiastic yes!

#26 chaofun

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 05:26 PM

Just saw on Chowhound that Grace Garden is closed for the foreseeable future due to damage from the snow. If this is true, hopefully they will be back on their feet quickly.

#27 1000yregg

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 09:51 AM

I spoke with Mei yesterday, and she said that the roof to the whole strip collapsed from the weight of the snow.
They won't know what their status will be until this snow melts and they can assess the damage.
She will keep people posted as to what their plans are as soon as she knows.

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#28 HowChowBlog

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 08:18 PM

The Grace Garden Web site says now that they're temporarily closed during reconstruction. Let's hope that means the damage was light enough that they can reopen soon.

#29 1000yregg

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 02:44 PM

Spoke with Mei today about the status of the restaurant- They hope to reopen for business tomorrow!

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#30 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 06:16 PM

And so they have! (Thanks for the carry-out today!)

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#31 perrik

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:31 PM

I did a re-con lunch trip to Grace Garden last Tuesday - it remains unpromisingly grubby on the outside, filled with wonders on the inside. After a lunch of braised Hak-Ka tofu, I pre-ordered a tea-smoked duck for Saturday. Five of us showed up to feast on the duck, fish noodles, Pang-ka tofu, shredded beef with black pepper, something with eggplant, sauteed pak choi, and those evil little Chinese doughnuts that you know you shouldn't eat eight of but you do anyway. Grace Garden seems to be back to normal, but I'd better go back this week for another lunch, just to make sure.

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#32 1000yregg

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Posted 04 June 2010 - 10:24 PM

Stopped in for dinner tonight. It looks like Chef Li's added several new items to the menu as of the last couple weeks.
He's included the "Phoenix Purse", an item that he has made in the past for special dinners as a regular item you can order a few days ahead. It is a dumpling using skin made of egg white and filled with chicken and veggies.
He's also added several new seafood items including a conch dish and something called Cantonese Sea Treasures (also a preorder).
I had the Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles which was noodles with sesame sauce topped with pork cooked with Sichuan peppers.

I already hoping to make it back again later this month.

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#33 theminx

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 12:24 PM

Stopped in for dinner tonight. It looks like Chef Li's added several new items to the menu as of the last couple weeks.
He's included the "Phoenix Purse", an item that he has made in the past for special dinners as a regular item you can order a few days ahead. It is a dumpling using skin made of egg white and filled with chicken and veggies.
He's also added several new seafood items including a conch dish and something called Cantonese Sea Treasures (also a preorder).
I had the Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles which was noodles with sesame sauce topped with pork cooked with Sichuan peppers.

I already hoping to make it back again later this month.

I'd love for Chef Li to add the lamb chops we ate during the New Year's special dinner! I'm drooling just thinking about them.

#34 goodeats

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 08:29 PM

If you have been to a family Chinese dinner before, then you can understand the warmth a communal feel emits, much like those virtually sent from this board, often. For me, dining here was very much going to an aiyi and shushu (auntie and uncle's) house, where there was chatter about everything and nothing, lots of laughter and lots of feel good vibes.

I feel like I don't need to add any more accolades than those posted above before, but I wanted to share the strong memories dining at this place last night evoked, that the General Tso's chicken thread eluded to, and that it is a feeling I have not captured/felt at nearby, more local Chinese restaurants yet.

Chef Li and Mei are indeed cooking and caring from the heart and everything, from the greetings to the food, shows. A nice bonus was tea brewed from real leaves.

A dinner of Peacock chicken (I believe); Pipa tofu (Fried tofu in crabmeat sauce on their menu); Stir-fry water spinach (altered to suit yours truly for reflux issues); and the famous-you-must-try Fish noodles warmed the heart like dim sum and stuffed the stomach like good Thanksgiving stuffing. The bonus was enjoying the company of a new friend, whom I could have chatted with for a long time after we were full and close to closing time.

For those unfamiliar, Fish noodles are hard to make right. This one had such noodle consistency that either the fish mix was pounded the crap out of + right mix of gluten binder to get to this chewy greatness, or just magic. The sauce on the chicken (served cold) was rich in spicy, garlicky, peanuty gravy (not for those with peanut allergies). Pipa tofu is one of my favorite dishes and I always try it if the restaurant has it. Either served steamed or deep fried (this was the latter), the center should be soft and tender, which this was.

To note, most of the poultry items need to be ordered 2 days in advance.

For me, it was well worth the drive of horrible DC traffic and wishing that teleportation would be invented faster. In the meantime, I will make the trek soon, as mom is coming to visit, and as those with Chinese mothers can attest, that is the strictest test to pass. :-)

PS. Mei mentioned a new dish but I already forgotten parts of it, except that it was steamed chilean sea bass and made my mouth water, even though I was too full for anything else.

PPS. Pics. If I can find my card reader. It was too funny when dinner came and 2 cameras emerged simultaneously.

Edited by goodeats, 03 August 2010 - 10:10 PM.

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#35 DanielK

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 08:36 AM

(cross-posted in "On a Whim" topic)

Picking up the kids from BWI Saturday noonish. Anyone up for lunch at Grace Garden around 1pm?

#36 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 09:31 AM

Do they take reservations?

#37 goodeats

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 11:09 AM

Do they take reservations?

Not sure, but they had, iirc, 3 tables of 6-tops, so if you have more than that, I think no reservations are needed. Unless you want to call-in to pre-order 1 of their dishes. Hope you enjoy there!

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#38 1000yregg

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 02:02 PM

They don't officially take reservations, but if you have a large party they can hold a table for you. I do this when 8-10 people are getting there a certain time.

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#39 KMango

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 05:12 PM

Had the privilege of joining GoodEats and little gentleman for an early evening meal at Grace Garden. Their three-day call ahead order enabled revelatory tea-smoked duck. This was, hands-down, one of the best ducks I've ever had, smokey earth flavor in every moist and tender bite.

Fish noodles, as mentioned above, are another can't miss. And the mushrooms that come with the tofu pockets will erase any doubt as to what the word "umami" means.

This is a tiny venue, and parking can be a trick with rapid traffic on Annapolis Road. Goodeats recommends parking behind the liquor store, and I echo that by recommending braving the traffic journey, was well worth the weekend jaunt from Alexandria.

In fact, if ye doth headeth to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year, take the 17-minute detour and zip over to Grace Garden. Call a few days ahead for the slow-cooked poultry items.

And forsooth, amazing vittles will be had by all.

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#40 porcupine

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 01:24 PM

Google maps said it would take 45 minutes to get there, with traffic. We gave ourselves 55 minutes, and promptly got stuck in the Saturday afternoon DC Beltway rush, and so ended up 10 minutes late meeting our friends.

I hate being late. "We really ought to give up on Grace Garden," I groused, as we finally broke free and got up to speed on I-95.

"Why?" asked Steve. "Because it's such a pain in the ass to get to?'

"Exactly."

But one of our party had ordered for us (whatever did we do before cellphones?!), so shortly after arriving the fish noodles landed in front of us. And then pocket tofu with shrimp. And then crispy eggplant in some sort of lightly spicy sauce. And a big plate of greens with garlic and ginger. And pork belly. And those damned doughnuts "that you know you shouldn't eat eight of but you do anyway".

I hate being late. I hate traffic. I'm not giving up on Grace Garden. It's just too damned good.

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#41 1000yregg

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 08:20 AM

A few months ago when I was eating at Grace Garden, Mei told me that sometime, I should try their General Tso's chicken. Just recently, I did, and it was delicious, a wonderful combination of spicy and sweet cooked beautifully that may be the best General Tso's chicken I've ever had.
I was also lucky enough to try their version of zongzi, the sticky rice dish wrapped in bamboo leaves.
They suggested to me that they are hoping to test out some new items for their menu in the next few months.

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#42 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 10:32 AM

I was also lucky enough to try their version of zongzi, the sticky rice dish wrapped in bamboo leaves.

 

What style were they? sweet or savory?



#43 1000yregg

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 03:12 PM

What style were they? sweet or savory?

 

Savory with pork & Chinese sausage.


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#44 Justin Bittner

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 12:21 AM

This is my go to Chinese, I will drive out of my way to eat here. In fact as I write this I am munching on cold basil chicken. They have the two menu system so you can order the good ol stand byes such as egg rolls and shrimp toast but then they have the Chinese menu, from there my favorite stand outs are the Dan Dan noodles, the Thai fish and the salt and pepper pork chops. This place is so worth the drive from anywhere it's not even funny. The food is on point. Little Asian dude chef rocking it out with the rest of his fam working the place. Please go and eat, take friends too cuz the portions are most def meant for sharing.

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#45 Pool Boy

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 06:26 PM

I need to get back again soon. It's been too long. I really want to try the dusk and other dishes that require 2, 3 day notices.

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#46 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 10:43 PM

Chef Li's health hasn't been good lately and we keep admonishing him to go see a doctor, but he's a stubborn man who is also irreplaceable in his own kitchen.

 

And his cooking has never been better.  A few of us stopped in last week prior to a concert in Annapolis, and everything was a solid hit.  Try the Taiwanese-style fish, a diced stir-fry whose perkiness elevates what is normally rather ordinary fare.

 

But I worry about the guy, and the toll it must take on both of them.  It's clearly a lot of work keeping this mom-and-pop operation going, and it's also fairly obvious that they do absolutely everything themselves while the kids are in school.  Go say hi, and take in another great meal.


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#47 Night Owl

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:03 PM

I'm meeting friends at Grace Garden next week for lunch -- is it the same as the Chinese dinner menu (I'm hoping)?


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#48 Lydia R

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 09:02 PM

The Li family is super pleasing. Even though I'm an infrequent diner, Mrs. Li automatically hands me the full traditional Chinese Dinner menu during weekday lunch time instead of the "western" menu. 

 

For some updated Grace Garden dining reports, there is an original thread on Chowhound (with almost 300 responses) and a new-ish splinter thread started by a meet-up report from mid-April. 


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