I’ve loved Princess Garden since the day I first went in 1981. The Chang family is still running it, with brothers Sammy and Robert taking the reins from their father some years ago. It’s a comfortable spot where everyone knows your name, they always ask about your kids and know what kind of beer you drink. The entire family genuinely wants its customers to enjoy their dining experience and is eager to please.
Normally when I go to a restaurant, I try something different each time. But over the years, my family has a set menu from which we don’t usually waver. Once we hit on our favorite dishes, we decided not to mess with success.
So, here’s my list. Most dishes are either variations of menu items or are not on the menu at all. But ask, and Sammy will make sure that you get what you want.
Hunan Egg Rolls. More substantial than the regular egg rolls on the menu. They also have a kick.
Steamed Dumplings. These come with a soy based dipping sauce, but we like them with vinegar and hot oil, too.
Crab Rangoon. One of the few restaurants in town where you can taste crab in the cream cheese filling.
Dry-cooked Chicken in pancakes. This is a riff on traditional mu-shu pork. It’s made with carrots, sprouts, and green onions in a flavorful brown sauce. Ask for plum sauce to spread on the pancake first. Better yet, ask the server to roll the pancakes for you.
Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Snow Peas. I know of no other Chinese restaurant where the chicken is not fried for this dish. It’s light and flavorful, with a strong orange essence.
Szechaun Noodles. The name would suggest that this dish is spicy, though it’s really not. It’s a fairly mild combination of chicken, shrimp and pork tossed with noodles in a tasty sauce.
Harvest Vegetables. The vegetarian version of their Harvest Beef, this is full of crisp, fresh vegetables that have been cooked in a garlicky black bean sauce. My favorite.
Ask for Robert’s special sauce. It goes with anything and everything. It’s redolent of garlic and ginger and adds an extra layer of flavor to the egg rolls, steamed dumplings or any dish you order.
For a special experience, order Peking Duck ahead of your visit. I still remember when Sammy and Robert’s father carved it at the table with great flourish. Or to wow your friends, have Princess Garden cater a dinner party with some of the dishes that aren’t made in the restaurant. Bon Bon Lotus Chicken is a real crowd pleaser–the chicken is cooked in a hard casing and split open with a hammer at the table. Lobster with black bean sauce and stuffed shrimp with scallops and crabmeat are also a hit.
One criticism I have heard over the years is that Princess Garden dishes have too much sauce. It’s true that the serving plates are often close to overflowing, but I find that’s one of the reasons I am so fond of the place. And my husband would be happy just to have bowl after bowl of rice with any or all of those sauces.
Princess Garden recently got a face-lift and business seems to be steady, even in this economy. One reason has to be that it’s one of the friendliest and hospitable restaurants around. But I wouldn’t go back year after year if I didn’t love the food.