Due to a dumpling craving, Dickson and I ended up at Happy Garden (6525 111 Street NW) for dinner instead of a pre-planned trip to Il Forno. He had heard from a coworker that their servings were quite generous, and after being unsatisfied with Western interpretations of dumplings at Brewster’s, convinced me to come along for the ride.
I remember reading a review of this off-the-beaten-track Chinese restaurant in the Journal last year, and was happy to hear that it hadn’t shut down, which was a possibility hinted at in the article. It took us long enough to find the place, after a few wrong turns and not having the slightest idea what we were looking for to begin with. We finally ended up at a tiny strip mall in the middle of Parkallen, with every storefront dark with the exception of the restaurant.
Wandering in, I spotted a sign near the door that requested patience from patrons – staff turnover meant the kitchen might still be on training wheels. That wasn’t a good sign – we had tickets to a show across the city, and time would be tight as it were. But in spite of my hesitations, we followed the waitress to a table in the back corner.
Happy Garden was surprisingly busy – for a restaurant that I hadn’t heard much about, it was nearly full, and provided the lively ambiance I have always associated with Chinese establishments. The decor was dated, with a few haphazard Chinese “artifacts” added to the interior as seeming afterthoughts – a lantern, a scroll. Twinkle lights hung from the ceiling – had they been on, I’m sure they would have given the space a touch of charm. The pink vinyl tablecloths were a bit off-putting – I know they meant to assist staff in the clean-up phase, but they were sticky and probably should have been replaced.
I let Dickson do the ordering, based on his friend’s recommendations: Pork Dumplings ($7 for 12), Mu Shu Pork ($9 for 6 “thin cakes”), and Steamed Buns ($7 for 10). I wasn’t expecting to find samosas and “Thai wings” on the menu, but as I was about to find out, Happy Garden specializes in plates meant to be shared.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before our first course arrived – the Pork Dumplings were absolutely massive. Their comparison on the menu to perogies were spot on, though quite frankly, they were larger than any perogy I had ever come across before. Pan-fried to a crisp on the outside, the dough contained a flavourful concoction of meat. I managed to work my way through four before crying for mercy, but Dickson likely could have eaten more than the eight he finished.
The Mu Shu Pork was next – warmed crepe-like wraps accompanied a plate of steaming stir-fried pork and vegetables. Assembling the dish was half the fun, which including drizzling hoisin sauce to taste. It was definitely my favourite of the three courses – the texture of the filling and the sweetness of the sauce had me at my first bite.
Mu Shu Pork
We received our Steamed Buns last. A mixture of pork and crab meat awaited us inside, as did quite a bit of oil that pooled along the bottom of the dough. If we hadn’t already gone through the plate of dumplings, I’m sure we would have been more receptive to the buns, but in the end, we felt as if we had exceeded our starch content for the week.
My introduction to Happy Garden was brief but positive – I hope to be able to linger (and order seconds of Mu Shu Pork) on future visits.
6525 111 Street NW
4 thoughts on “Starch Overload: Happy Garden”
I’m drooling at the site of those dumplings.
I could eat a whole plate of those right now :p
OMG… those do look incredibly tasty. The massive dumplings look great. The interesting thing is that from all I’ve read, the dough to make pierogies and dumplings are essentially exactly the same — the only difference is dumplings have Asian ingredients inside, while pierogies have well, potatoes and other variants.
Gotta love any meal you can wrap up.
Glad to hear that HG is still alive and kicking. I used to frequent it for lunch way back in 1999/2000 when I worked on the southside. I imagine the decor is pretty much the same from your description. I recall that I liked their Green Onion Cakes back in the day…