Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lei Garden 利苑

Expensive Cantonese food is all too easy to find in Chengdu. Really good Cantonese food presented in a beautiful setting is much rarer. Lei Garden is part of a respected Hong Kong based restaurant chain whose main branch has been graced with a Michelin star. The Chengdu branch is about a year old and we've stopped in for dim sum a couple of times.

The interior is elegant and non-smoking. There are a couple of tables outside for diners who want to smoke or enjoy the atmosphere. Each place setting has two sets of chopsticks - one for serving yourself and one for eating.

Chrysanthemum tea (菊花茶).

Crispy shredded taro spring rolls (芋丝脆春卷),  one of our favourite dishes:

Classic cha shao bao (叉烧包), light and white as a cloud with well-sauced pork inside:

Our main difficulty with Lei Garden is that with no English and traditional Chinese characters only on their dim sum menu, we had a tough time ordering. (The regular menu has English.) Even with the help of their servers, who know the menu well, we had some ordering missteps.  I tried to order turnip cake but ended up with a turnip pastry (银萝千层酥). Decent, but their turnip cake is better.

The server recommended we try the colorful coral roll - 五彩珊瑚卷. Nice creative dish with eye appeal, and a better treatment of seafood than we usually run into in Chengdu. The sauce was bottled French style salad dressing.

This lovely basket of classic shao mai (烧卖) made us forget for a moment all the terrible factory frozen dim sum that we've been subjected to in Chengdu.

Soup dumplings, (利苑小笼包), held together well and had rather gingery soup inside. Very good.

We sadly could not find any veg on the dim sum menu, so we ordered shrimp sauce lettuce from their regular menu. It was good, but cost more than three times our dim sum items.

Shrimp chang fen (鲜虾仁肠粉).  Good shrimp but the big chunks of celery inside were so crisp they seemed almost raw. It seemed more like a display of steam cooking skill than an attempt to make a good dish.

Water chestnut cake (马蹄糕), bigger chunks of chestnut than most versions. Nice but not really to our taste. We would order their deceptively light and rich custard bun (奶黄包) next time.

Ice cold, tart, and gorgeous 杨枝 甘路, a typical Hong Kong dessert with mango, tapioca, and pomelo. Lei Garden's version is deservedly famous. We ordered this off of the regular menu.

We didn't love every dish and there are certain dim sum that we prefer eating at other places. Prices are on the high side for dim sum in Chengdu, and ordering a couple of dishes off the regular menu nudged our bill well north of 100 yuan per person. However, even with their premium prices raising our expectations most of the dishes do not disappoint, and their servers are some of the best we've run into locally. Lei Garden has become one of our favourite places for occasions.

成都 兰桂芳


  1. oh my goodness your page looks delicious! do you have any recipes to share?! especially the cha shao bao!! or the dumplings. really everything!

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