Grace Garden this week -- a fun dinner for yourself and a "welcome back" to the owners who just endured several weeks closed by snow on their roof.
With my cousin last weekend, we explored the vegetarian options, which were more limited than I had predicted when I suggested the joint. Grace Garden puts slivered pork or shrimp in almost everything. That's how you to make authentic-tasting Chinese food, but we still got a nice meal -- although we did cheat and order fish noodles for me and Mrs. HowChow.
The key to getting vegetarian at Grace Garden is to ask the question. Last weekend, they had three seasonal vegetables -- pea shoots, baby bok choy, and Chinese chives. They also had two tofu dishes that could be made without meat -- ma po and "homestyle."
I loved the bok choy. It's the skill of Grace Garden that the tiny bok choy arrive perfectly cooked -- tender, but still slightly crisp. The sauce was garlicky and satiny. The sauces are what really separate Grace Garden from other Chinese restaurants and from anything that I could wok up at home. They're thick without being greasy, satiny without tasting like corn starch. The "homestyle" tofu came with cabbage, hot peppers and shittake mushrooms. Again, everything was cooked perfectly. The shittake mushrooms alone are worth a visit. But it was a one-note dish with the spiciness crowding out other flavors and without the complexity that we love in the fish noodles, the braised pork, and other dishes.
And remember: A one-note dish at Grace Garden is still the equal of any Chinese in Howard County.
Click here for my original post about Grace Garden, which links to a bunch of other bloggers and directions to the Odenton restaurant.