Deer Garden Signatures 鹿園魚湯米線Posted: 04/04/2012
I was craving noodles a while back, and since I was in Richmond already (I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon), my family and I decided to head over to the Deer Garden at Continental Centre for dinner. There was a line out the door by the time we got there at 6pm—a pretty good sign that good food and deals were awaiting us!
Deer Garden is something along the lines of an HK-style café, but the main reason people go there is for their mix-and-match noodle combos, as opposed to set meal combos that most of these restaurants are known for. They do have a selection of curries, rice and pasta meals and snacks, but all I could see on the tabletops around me were gigantic bowls of noodles…
Everyone at the table gets their own order sheet for the noodle combo (if you order the set meals you just tell the waiter like you normally would at a restaurant), and on it you tick off your own soup base, two kinds of toppings, noodles, and a hot drink. The noodles also come with complimentary toppings of bean curd, mushrooms, and siu choy. For a little less than $8, I’d say that’s a pretty good deal—some meals at fast food restaurants can be even more expensive than that, and I’d say this is quite a bit healthier too.
My grandma had the Tomato-Pumpkin Soup with Thick Rice Noodles, Beef Tendon and Fish Filets. The restaurant claims that their fish soup is free of MSG, and that was believable as we weren’t ridiculously thirsty or sleepy after the meal. Nevertheless, the soup still had lots of flavour from the veggies and fish soup base. The beef tendon was nice and jellied (as opposed to hard and too-chewy), and the texture was just right; there wasn’t too much beef flavour to it (it really shouldn’t anyway), and there were minimal amounts of fat stuck on it. Sounds delicious, huh? I’m personally not a fan, but my grandma loved the tendon. The fish filets were soft and flakey, and didn’t taste too fishy or like they were just defrosted.
The second bowl of noodles belongs to my aunt– she ordered the Tomato-Pumpkin Fish Soup with Udon, Sausage and Fish Filets. One thing that can be said about Deer Garden is their consistency; the soup base and fish filets in both my grandma’s and aunt’s bowls were about the same (they were probably cooked together anyways), so I don’t have too much to say. The udon was also cooked al dente (something I don’t generally find at non-Japanese restaurants), and so it had a nice consistency. The sausage wasn’t too salty, and I liked that the casing was satisfyingly snappy when I bit into it.
My mom chose the Gingko and Pepper Fish Soup with Korean-Style Sweet Potato Crystal Noodles. This soup had a nice balance of peppery and fishy (in the best possible way, I know that sounds a little too ocean-y for some people), and it went very well with my mom’s noodles, which were prepared al dente as well, and didn’t stick together in a clump. The tendons were the same quality as the ones in my grandma’s meal, and the beef brisket wasn’t too tough to eat—it still had some chew, but I wasn’t gnawing on it for ages. This was a pretty solid bowl, and I would definitely order this one again.
For myself, I chose the Malay Laksa Soup with Thin Rice Noodles, Vietnamese-Style Pork and Fish Puffs. I have a thing for Malaysian laksa– it’s just so coconutty and creamy and delicious… it’s too bad that it was probably the most unhealthy bowl of noodles because of this. Since Deer Garden is an HK-style restaurant, I didn’t really expect it to be super authentic (The only “authentic” laksa that I can compare it to is the one at Banana Leaf). However, it wasn’t too bad– the soup had a good amount of heat and seafood flavour (the dried shrimp probably added to this), and it wasn’t as oily as I thought it would be. I would have liked it to have a more pronounced coconut flavour, but despite this it was pleasant to eat. The Vietnamese style pork was nothing special, but the fish puffs were great, especially since they soaked up a lot of the soup. The size of the bowl doesn’t lie– there were a ton of noodles and toppings in it, and I thought that it was well worth my $8.
We also wanted to try two of their sides: the Desert Chicken Wings with Ginger and the Pan-Fried Fish Puffs. The wings were deep-fried just right: they were perfectly crispy on the outside, and were very hot and juicy. I thought they tasted a little peanutty, but I think that’s just the kind of seasoning they use. The Fish Puffs were a miss — they were only lukewarm when they came out, and so cooled down rather quickly. They were also quite greasy, and it was apparent when we ate them after they sat around for a while. For $1.75, I didn’t think that these were a good deal, and besides, I prefer the soup-cooking method to the pan frying one.
I enjoyed my experience at Deer Garden– the food was generally good, the staff were surprisingly polite (for a Chinese restaurant, anyway), and the dining room and washrooms were bright and clean. One thing that does irk me is that the people waiting for tables tend to spill over into the dining room area, making it really crowded and annoying to navigate through; they also have this rude tendency to stare at and talk about the people who are already eating, as though by making them uncomfortable they’d leave faster. I understand that the waitstaff are already very busy taking orders and serving food, and that this is more of a customer-culture kind of problem, but I would have liked to see more of an effort to keep the people in the waiting area. Nevertheless, if I’m in Richmond and crave noodles (and a cheap meal) again, I think I would return.
Deer Garden Signatures 鹿園魚湯米線
1118-3779 Sexsmith Road