Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: December 19, 2009 (Sichuan Garden)

Posted 20 December, 2009 at 12:26am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Lunch: We heated up some tamales and ate them for a quick lunch before heading out on errands (my desk chair doesn't do a good job at supporting my back and shoulders, so we went to a couple of stores to try a variety of ergonomic task chairs - then to IKEA to pick up some more bookshelves so we can furnish my office and continue unpacking).

Dinner: After IKEA, we drove over to Origami which is supposed to be some of the best sushi in the Austin area (on par with Musashino). Unfortunately, they closed early today (9pm instead of 10pm). I noticed a neon "open" sign a few doors down at the Sichuan Garden (110 N Interstate 35 # 240, Round Rock, TX‎ - (512) 238-0098‎), so we went there. Upon entering, we were greeted by several stares. A group of older Chinese people were eating at one table and a couple of Caucasians were at another table. All looking at Tina (she was in front of me since I opened the door for her). Finally, after an awkward few seconds, a tired man walked slowly towards us and reluctantly asked in Chinese if we were eating there or taking out. Tina replied in Chinese that we were eating in and the man glanced up at the clock (it was 9:40pm). As he showed us to our table, Tina asked what time they closed and he said 10pm. He asked what we wanted to drink and after a few moments of hesitation (since I hadn't even sat down yet), we responded that we'd like tea. Looking over the menu, I didn't see all that many Sichuan dishes and decided that I'd try the Yang Zhou Chao Fan. When it came, it didn't look very good and had plentiful amounts of spam or vienna sausage instead of cha shao (Chinese BBQ pork). In the end, it didn't taste bad. (Of course, we ordered all three dishes when first and then were served them, but for brevity I've included my thoughts on each dish as I tell how the ordering process went.)
Sichuan Garden - Yang Chow Fried Rice

I also ordered Twice Cooked Pork (hui guo rou) to see how well they did with a Sichuan dish. (I had also considered ordering Kung Pao chicken, but I have to admit that because of my last experience with a sweet version, I was too afraid to order it.) The pork fat hadn't been properly rendered from the first stage of cooking (boiling) and so the dish felt greasier than it should have been. Over all, it was salty and had good black bean flavor, but not enough spice.
Sichuan Garden - Twice Cooked Pork

Here's where everything went really bad. Tina saw Egg Foo Young on the menu and in a fit of nostalgia ordered the Shrimp Egg Foo Young. She had egg foo young for the first (and last) time about ten years ago in Santa Clara and remember liking the flavors and texture, so she decided to try it again tonight. Although based loosely on an authentic Shanghainese dish called furong dan, egg foo young is essentially an omelet with sauce invented in some Chinese restaurant in the United States during the early to mid twentieth century. The reaction was both amusing (to me) and horrifying (to Tina). The man who took our order repeated it incredulously (since egg foo young is usually on the menu because "white people" like it and the restaurant doesn't want to turn away business). Tina repeated that that was what she wanted and the man went to the take of Chinese people and told them what we ordered. It was then that we realized all the cooks were at that table having dinner. One of the cooks exclaimed (in Chinese), "Egg Foo Young?" Then a bunch of them got up and made their way to the kitchen all the while incredulously saying to each other "egg foo young!" (in a tone of voice that was clear they didn't want to make it). I asked Tina, "why did you order egg foo young?!" and she told me how she had it once and liked how it tasted. Tina was getting more and more upset - having received the negative attitude when we stepped into the restaurant (her point was that if we came too late, then tell us; don't decide to serve us and then be rude to us), followed by our rice bowls being plopped down onto our table (any harder and it would be slammed), being stared at by various workers sitting at that table, and ridiculed/talked about while we were in earshot due to her ordering the egg foo young. Anyway, horror of horrors - when we received the egg foo young, this is how it looked:
Sichuan Garden - Egg Foo Young

We had to ask them how we were supposed to eat this (scoop some of the sauce one the right over the deep fried glob on the left, break apart, and eat). I have never seen a deep fried egg foo young before. This was more similar to tempura batter with some peas, carrots, cabbage, and shrimp blended in and then deep fried. It didn't taste all that bad, but it was certainly not what we were expecting. Neither Tina nor I wanted anything deep fried tonight, and, truth be told, I was kind of looking forward to some egg omelet. The check came with this dish, so (because we were there so late) I paid it immediately. We ate uncomfortably with stern Chinese people looking at us (or out of the corner of their eyes with tilted heads at us) and then decided to call it a night at around 10:10pm. I asked for boxes to take the food home and then a woman approached us and started to ask us how our food was. We said it was fine, so (thus emboldened) she asked the question she really wanted to ask: Why did we order the egg foo young? Tina explained she expected a different dish and we described what egg foo young is like. She said that must have been some other dish (as if we couldn't remember what we ordered) since this is egg foo young. She then reiterated that the dish was for American diners and next time we should try some other dishes (where was she when we sat down initially?). A Caucasian man (presumably a business partner since I saw him processing our credit card after a non-communicative girl had taken it away) walked over and said that he knew about the omelet dish we had described, but that's not how they do egg foo young here and he preferred the way Sichuan Garden does egg foo young. Then he went on to tell us at length that they were named one of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants. Telling me the restaurant is good, doesn't change how I feel about the food I ate (which I would rank around a 5.5 to 6.0 out of 10) or the uncomfortableness that I endured through the whole meal.

3 comments to What I Ate: December 19, 2009 (Sichuan Garden)

Scott, December 20th, 2009 at 10:37 pm:

  • For ergonomic chairs, be sure to check these out…well worth the money. It's a good investment, when you think about it. Not only do they last 10 times longer than anything you'd find at an Office Max, but you save on chiropracter bills. :-p

    Liberty chair by Human Scale, Life chair and Generation chair from Knoll, most anything by Steelcase.

    Other brands to look at, Allsteel, Teknion and Herman Miller.

Michael Chu, December 20th, 2009 at 11:31 pm:

  • I believe I tried the Liberty and Freedom from Humanscale as well as the Leap from Steelcase. I also tried the Herman Miller Embody and Mirra before deciding on the Aeron Loaded with Lumbar. I found that the tilt forward option suited my posture while working on the computer and still supported my lower back. It also seemed to stay with me while I leaned back (which was a problem I had with Freedom which felt like it pulled back from my body).

Scott, December 23rd, 2009 at 9:55 pm:

  • I have actually had egg foo young quite a few times, and it's never been deep-fried for me, either. Granted, all but one time it was in various chinese restaurants in suburban/rural Wisconsin. The one time I tried it here in the Bay Area, they put cilantro on it which threw me off…