How important is texture? That depends on the individual, of course. I love tofu if it’s prepared well, but I know a lot of people who don’t like its resilient texture. And I am not a big fan of escargot, which too often is poorly prepared and ends up tantamount to a garlicky Goodyear.
When it comes to meat, the most common textural complaints tend to stem from improper cooking as well, but usually from undercooking rather than over. I’m not talking about something like simple grilled strip steak, but rather a less-tender cut that would be wonderful if it had been braised for hours, but isn’t — either braised for hours or wonderful.
So you might imagine our surprise at the texture of the meats we encountered at Orchids Garden. Far from being tough, they actually were too tender. That may sound improbable, but too tender is almost as much of a flaw as too tough, because the meat ends up lacking any real character.
There was, for example, the House Special Pan Fried Noodle Hong Kong Style ($9.95), which our waitress advised would contain chicken, shrimp and pork.
The nest of noodles was very nice, with a bitey texture, fried crispy around the edges, and so far, so good. The Chinese broccoli was crisp-tender. Mushrooms were fine. The sauce was kind of generic brown, about what we expected. The shrimp were a little soft, but that’s better than overcooked to the point of rubbery.
My quibble here was with the pork, and particularly the chicken. The pork had been cut into delicate scallops, but even so, the texture was pretty much nonexistent. And the chicken was mushy.
An entree of Broccoli Beef ($9.95) ran along similar lines. The broccoli was plentiful and perfectly prepared, crisp-tender and fresh. The sauce was decent enough, the steamed rice hot and fresh. But again, the meat; the beef was as soft as the pork.
What gives? I’m guessing either excessive pounding or excessive marinating, albeit with a marinade that left no flavor behind. At any rate, the meats paled in comparison to the quality of the vegetables.
And that was a shame, because the kitchen showed great promise in other areas. A huge bowl of chicken and sweet corn soup ($8.95, and more than adequate for two) was delicious. Served piping hot, it contained lots of corn and lots of chunks of chicken that actually had the texture of chicken. We’d order that again in a heartbeat.
An appetizer combination plate ($10.95) also was pretty good. The fried wontons departed from many others in that these actually contained enough minced-pork filling to add flavor. The fried shrimp were fresh, the egg rolls filled with shredded vegetables — but that’s standard these days — the platter served with bowls of both hot mustard and sweet-and-sour sauces. A sheen of oil clung to all of them (we think because the oil wasn’t hot enough, because it did taste fresh), but everything was perfectly crispy.
Service was OK, the atmosphere fine if a little big-barny, and we liked the dim sum option; this is the only place in the valley that I know of that serves dim sum all day. (We didn’t indulge because I didn’t think it was fair to critique it during the evening, which isn’t prime dim sum time, but some parties near us did, and the variety and service seemed pretty decent.)
So what’s the deal with the meats? I’m baffled, but I do know this: Orchids Garden would be well served to try a little less tenderness.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 83-0474 or e-mail her at email@example.com.Review
Orchids Garden, 5485 W. Sahara Ave.; 631-3839
Overall — B-
Food — B-
Atmosphere — B
Service — B
Pluses: Nice crisp vegetables, broad menu.
Minuses: Too-soft meats.