Mood Garden

Mitchell, 3. August 2008, 20:03

On Don’s recommendation (when will we ever learn? haha), we went to Moon Garden, which is at the end of Vineyard in the Buck Toy Club building, just before Palama Settlement. Don and Tracy supposedly raved about the seafood soup in XO sauce and the fried oysters. We ordered those, plus lemon chicken, honey walnut shrimp, and some kind of stir-fried veggie udon noodles.

Reid and Penny seemed unimpressed with the seafood soup thing, and I didn’t much care for the textures, but I loved the sauce. I thought there was a great depth of flavor there I don’t usually experience in Chinese restaurants. The fried tofu was the best ingredient in this soup, mostly because it just soaked up that yummy sauce. This was my first experience with XO sauce, but I hope it wasn’t the last. It’s too bad I don’t care much for the texture of most seafood.

I wasn’t much impressed with the fried oysters. Fried, the oysters seem to take on a chewy consistency I find displeasing. I am sort of a beginner with oysters, but I kinda liked the grilled oysters (in their own liquor, of course) Sean made at Don’s house four years ago, with the lemon juice, shoyu, and hot sauce. I also really liked the long oysters we had at Sushi Sasbune, served in their own liquor with a light ponzu. I just found too many weird feelings in my mouth eating the fried oysters; maybe I need to get used to them.

The lemon chicken was very good. The chicken was tender (I broke it apart with my chopsticks, and I’m not too skilled with Chinese chopsticks), and the breading was nice and light, airy and crispy. The lemon sauce was light and tart and not at all candy-like, the way so many local places make their sauces. This was the best dish of the evening, I thought.

The walnut shrimp was very delicately flavored, and also had a light, airy breading. If you ask me, there’s not a lot of difference between one place’s version of this dish and any other’s, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

The noodles were okay.

The four of us left very little food on the table and paid fifteen bucks each, counting tax and tip.

Some comments to add to Mitchell’s.

Moon Garden

Everyone liked the lemon chicken, but I just thought it was OK. The batter was light and well-fried, but it was the blob-looking batter they use for shrimp canton. To me it reminded me of deep-fried poi or funnel cakes and with the tart-sweet sauce, it was too close to dessert for me.
The fried oysters were OK, but I didn’t think they warranted Don’s raving. (After Mitchell tried these, he made some comment about how Tracy’s taste buds just might be different to which I replied, “Yeah but, Don raved about these, too.” Mitchell’s response: “I think she’s polluting his tastes,” or something to that effect.) I still prefer that ginger onion fried oysters at Hakka Seafood, Don Kung Lau or the oyster jun at Yakiniku Mikawon. I really liked the oysters at Sasabune, too, especially because of the ponzu sauce.
The dish I was waiting for was the seafood hot pot in X.O. sauce. I thought this was OK, but, again, I don’t get why Don was raving. (The “corruption theory” is starting to be more plausible. I didn’t have a problem with the texture, and the sauce was fine; I liked the spicy aspect of it. But it’s not something I’d ordered three times in a short period of time. (Don, you got your X.O. seafood, and I got the oyster jun. Oyster jun is way better, man.

Mitchell, I think there are way better X.O. dishes. Try the X.O. green beans at Mei Sum. Then again, in all fairness to Don, maybe we’re the ones with the problem. Don has been eating more Chinese restaurants in the past three years than he has in his entire life, I bet, and maybe he’s getting a finer tuned sense of the food. (How’s that for throwing you a bone, Don?)

Oh, I forgot the noodles. I actually liked that the best. It was pretty standard shanghai noodles (fried udon). Nothing spectacular, but solid.

What can I say I love the sauce in the XO pot. It’s really garlicy, a little spicy, and oh so ono. And like Mitchell, I love the fried tofu best in there.

Nothing much for me to add re: Moon Garden. I liked the lemon chicken, since it was tender, the breading was light and the sauce was not syrup-sweet. I liked the shrimp honey walnut, because the breading was light and the shrimp tasted really, really good. Like they put MSG on it, but I don’t want to start rumors in case they’re an MSG-free zone or something. The noodles were fine, nothing really special. The XO seafood pot was good, but not so spectacular (maybe my expectations were raised too high?) I’ve had the XO sauce before (at the now defunct XO Seafood across from the Convention Center) that was spicier. I liked that better.

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