Sunday, October 14, 2012

Orchids Garden - Las Vegas


It was Sunday morning in Las Vegas and though I was still recovering from a pool cabana bar tab and a lackluster dinner at Carnevino, I was bound and determined to see my friend Michael before my flight back east.  Of course, there are few better ways to catch up with an old friend than over a fine meal, but I was still unsure about where this meal would take place. Tempted by the idea of all things Keller, I had suggested Bouchon Bistro for brunch, but, as if by instinct, I cancelled that idea and decided it was dim sum or nothing. I suppose the family habit of seeking out dim sum when it is available is as strong as ever; that aside, it was still a matter of where to go.

Despite being a newly minted Vegas homeowner, Michael wasn’t up to date on the latest and greatest in Las Vegas dim sum. In fact, aside from a meal at Ping Pang Pong three years ago, he had only enjoyed the Chinese tradition once. However, that one time,  had been  at a restaurant named Orchids Garden and was, in his opinion, a fine meal so after picking me up from the hotel, we were off to Orchids Garden for the first wave of Sunday dim sum.

Arriving just as the restaurant opened, the carts seemed to trickle out of the kitchen, but it wasn’t long before out table was full of plates and steamer baskets. One of the first plates was an order of shrimp dumplings.
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Still crisp from the fryer and not too greasy, these dumplings had a big and juicy shrimp filling.

They say you can judge a restaurant by its har gow.
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In that case, Orchids Garden may very well receive a failing grade.
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From the thick, doughy, and hardly translucent wrapper to the meager shrimp filling, there weren’t many redeeming qualities to these har gow. While each bite of these dumplings was a mouthful of wrapper, the shrimp that were present were decently briny even if they were missing the usual crunch of bamboo shoots.

Most dim sum outings, I’ll skip the sugar cane and shrimp paste, but I decided to indulge at Orchids Garden.
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As you might expect, this shrimp paste had a tinge of sweetness.
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When combined with a well-cooked exterior and the natural flavor of shrimp, the sugar cane was a fine choice.

A constant component of any dim sum meal, the bell pepper shrimp were a welcome addition.
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Far too often, I’ll find pepper shrimp that have been on the cart for too long with cold shrimp and limp peppers to show for it. These pepper shrimp were quite the opposite. A crispy snap of bell pepper, the crunch of seared shrimp paste, and a sweet sauce made for a satisfying example of the dish.

Often labeled as seen juk guen, Orchids Garden calls the next dish bean curd skin rolls.
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Always on the messy side, this bean curd skin rolls are almost always worth the effort but Orchids Garden prepared theirs a little differently.
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Instead of the usual mélange of pork, shrimp, and vegetables, this roll was completely filled with pork, large chunks of juicy, silky, and incredibly meaty pork.

There’s not much more than meets the eye with Orchids Garden’s pork balls.
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Little more than two massive pork meatballs in a black mushroom broth, this dish showed just how well pork and mushrooms work together.

Usually one of the first dumplings out of the kitchen, I was surprised it took the siu mai so long to arrive.
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If there’s one trend I noticed at Orchids Garden, it’s a propensity for big cuts of meat in every dish. Instead of finely minced pork, these siu mai were filled with large, greasy yet savory cuts of pork and topped with a tiny bit of carrot for contrast.

Typically, I steer clear of pork buns in a restaurant, not because I have anything against the combination of sweet dough and well-cooked char sui but because they are so filling but when Michael expressed an interest, it was one order for the table.
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Glistening in the light, these baked bbq pork buns were incredibly sticky so much so that they were held fast to my hand when held upside down.
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Inside the sugary wrapper was a filling that I can best describe as sweet custard mixed with char sui. As delightful as this pork bun was, maybe I should order them more often.

In the world of dim sum, beef is a relatively small player so I was surprised to see these short ribs on a cart.
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Greasy to the touch, it was sheer beef flavor that saved these short ribs.
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 Of course, a healthy black pepper punctuation helped a bit.

Pan fried chives dumplings are always a treat, especially when still crisp from the kitchen
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Once again a well-seared crust gave way to a filling of large, juicy pork pieces but this time each bite was riddled with the oniony bite of chives.

Fung Jao, chicken feet, call it what you want, these appendages have a polarizing effect on people. Luckily, Michael is willing to try anything even an order of three giant chicken feet.
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Almost too hot to heat, these chicken feet were sweet and gelatinous. I kept hoping to find a slice of chili pepper to tame the sweetness but no such luck.

Hoping to end the meal on a more approachable note, the last dish was an order of steamed pork spareribs.
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More often than not, these spare ribs are more fat and bone than meat, but Orchid Garden once again errs on the side of meatiness. With plenty of meat to each rib, it was just a matter of enjoying the flavor of fermented black beans, pork, and the unusual addition of sweet potatoes.

If there’s one glaring trend at Orchids Garden, it’s that finesse and moderation are not a priority.  From the siu mai, to the bean curd skin rolls to the chicken feet, big and meaty cuts were the name of the game and for the most part, it worked.   Oddly enough when it came to the typical dim sum litmus test, Orchids Garden failed spectacularly, but every other dish was satisfying if a bit too greasy.  With the bill paid and hotel checkout looming, Michael and I both agreed that Orchids Garden offered a perfectly fine dim sum even if it does come across a bit ham handed at times.

Orchids Garden Address & Information
Orchids Garden on Urbanspoon

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