Note: This is the second of two reviews conducted at this restaurant. The first review took place prior to 1997, resulting in an overall score of 4.1.
503 W. Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Review Date: February 27, 2009
Reviewers: Michael Pocinki, Lucy Moore, Jody Hamilton-Davis, John Davis, Jennifer Wood, Ankit Shah, Adrial, Beth Levine, Ricki Zameck, Christine, Vladimir Koval, Jean-Marie M.
We dined at Oriental Garden restaurant on a Friday evening at 7:30 pm. Parking is in a private lot, adjacent to the restaurant. Our table was ready, upon arrival, in this non-smoking restaurant.
Oriental Garden has been around for years, yet it remains undiscovered by many. Tonight, several members of our party said they'd seen this place for years but had never been inside. The menu offers a variety of veg-friendly Chinese and Thai dishes at very reasonable prices, with some entrees as low as $6.95 at dinnertime. This is not at all your typical Asian/Chinese restaurant: it has a wider selection of vegetarian options than perhaps any other area restaurant of its type. Tofu is generally steamed, not fried, and is an option for any of the dishes. Also, the "heat" of dishes may be customized to your liking.
The owner provided our group with complimentary steamed and fried vegetarian dumplings. The thick wrapping of the dumplings was pleasing to some and not so pleasing to others.
We passed around dishes to share, so many of us got to try a nice variety of menu items.
Beth ordered the Tom Yam soup ($4.95) as an appetizer. She said, "The Tom Yam soup was one of the best I have had. The variety of veg options was great."
Jennifer said about her Thai Iced Tea, "not enough cream/sugar." Her Evil Vegetarian Delight was "spicy and delightful."
Jean-Marie and John ordered the Buddha's Vegetarian Fish ($10.50). This menu item is a specialty of the house: it is a vegetarian (soy-based) creation presented in the shape of a fish. John said, "The fish's most prominent flavor was anise or fennel -- one of the licorice flavored spices which I don't like so I didn't enjoy it very well." Jean-Marie said, "Good sized portion, very tasty, original." Michael added, "I've been going to Oriental Garden for years but have never tried this dish. It was a tiny bit too spicy for me, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It has the pleasant, chewy texture of tofu after it has been frozen."
Vladimir, Adrial, and Ankit ordered the Pad Thai (veg) for $8.50. Ankit said, "[It] was very sweet. I expected a bit more salty and spicy vs. being sweet." Vladimir said, "I miscalculated the spice -- very spicy."
Ricki ordered the Miso Tofu soup ($3.95), Veg. Steamed Dumplings ($3.25), and Curry Tofu (Chinese, not Thai) for $6.95. She said, "Really great service and fabulous food."
Christine ordered the Thai egg roll (steamed, topped w/peanuts) for $1.85 and the Vegetarian Delight in white sauce ($5.95). She appreciated the mildness of her dish. And, she enjoyed the samples she took from other dishes. She "didn't care for the atmosphere (bright, not many alcoves) and the service was a bit slow (esp. re: getting water refilled -- sometimes [the waitress] disappeared for quite a while), but I did enjoy the food." She would come again and try other dishes.
Michael ordered the Sweet and Sour Cabbage ($6.95), with added tofu for slight additional charge. He is pleased that the tofu is not deep fried. He said, "My only complaint is the extra charge for brown rice and hot tea. The steamed vegetarian dumplings are particularly good. The restaurant has two fake meat dishes that are quite good: Golden Nuggets (seitan) and the Buddha's Vegetarian Fish (soy). This is my favorite local restaurant, partly because of the huge selection of vegetarian dishes, both Thai and Chinese."