Get what you pay for

Asian Garden owner Chi King cooks up some vegetable stir-fry at his restaurant.

Asian Garden owner Chi King cooks up some vegetable stir-fry at his restaurant.

Photo by AMY BECK

Asian Garden is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Asian Garden Restaurant

1945 S Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 825-5510

I’ve reviewed and tried so many budget Asian places in this town that I know where to get something I’ll like for a decent price in basically any sector. Still, knowledge is power, for myself and the readers of RN&R’s dining section, so I recently deposited my twins with my husband and dad and took my mom out for a ladies’ lunch at Asian Garden.

It was a cold and snowy day, and we speculated we might be the restaurant’s only guests. Surprisingly, the place was promisingly full. But after being seated and looking around a bit, we were skeptical. The interior was frankly on the cluttered side—dusty windowsills, crumbs on the tables—and a bit of a turnoff, but I’ve braved worse, and sometimes great food has slipped through the detritus. While I have my conceits, I’m not the I-cannot-work-in-these-conditions type.

But the foibles compounded. For example, the 100 menu options for lunch and dinner entrees sound impressive. However this no-longer-pregnant mom was keen on trying the sushi, which was one reason I wanted to review the place. (It’s an interesting angle, right—Chinese places that branch out with sushi?) It took me a while to decide which rolls to order, and by then I was looking forward to it. However, I was informed upon ordering that sushi wasn’t available then. Shouldn’t menu limitations be acknowledged before the order—maybe even posted on the window? Again, all of the above could be glossed over in appreciation of delicious food, but what we got wasn’t quite equal to that adjective.

Since I was underwhelmed by the Kung Pao shrimp ($5.50), in fairness I shouldn’t begrudge their paucity: Just a half-dozen crusty, over-fried invertebrates on a disproportionately large bed of average vegetables in a sauce that lacked ambition. My usually omnivorous mother went with the vegetable chow mein with fried rice ($5.95), and her report echoed my own. The veggies were a little tired, the noodles of dubious squishy texture and unspectacular flavors, and the whole concoction the lesser of other renditions in the same zip code.

The salad sides we each received—a reasonably fresh mound of iceberg lettuce in a cloyingly sweet standard dressing—were basically worth the buck they cost. This was, in fact, the general rule; at $13—including Mom’s Coke but not counting tip—we can basically say we got what we paid for.

Maybe they just aren’t on their A-game during the day. Asian Garden does offer quite an extensive list of potentially more rewarding chef specialties for dinner, such as the marinated Asian beef, Mandarin pork chop in honey ginger sauce, or the seafood pot, all in the $9-$12 range. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to find out since I have about a half dozen places like this with which I’m already comfortable.

In the end, those who find themselves near Plumb Lane and South Virginia Street and who want quickly and politely served, filling, and—most important—cheap Chinese, won’t do horribly with a sub-$10 quick strike at Asian Garden. However, if time and price are not of the essence, there might be a better overall value waiting elsewhere.