Christine Chiao covered Flavor Garden on Squid Ink last year. There isn’t much else to add except a few items.
The soy pork (“Chinese sauce Steamed Pork Bun” on menu) bao is the size of a typical Tiajin-style bun, except the center is filled with soy sauce braised pulled pork butt tamed by scallions. Yes, this is a pulled pork stuffed bao. And it’s freaking wondrous. The fluffy dough hides a good amount of pork and taking the first bite yields a small sluice pork jus, soy, and none of the generic Knorr-ness found at Hui Tou Xiang or Emperor Noodles. Think of it as a Chinese sloppy joe bun. $6.50 gets 6 buns, and 3 buns per person is enough to fend off even the most gluttonous of fatasses for lunch.
The beef roll ($6.50) at Flavor’s is also mighty glorious. The brisket is sliced extremely thin, crepe not at all oily, and the innard is dressed with plentiful, salty sesame oil/sweet bean paste that lubricates every bite. Mama Kitchen’s tasty egg stuffed beef roll may be an overstuffed Chinese beef burrito, but the messy version Flavor Garden is far more sophisticated like a savory French crepe.
The only thing that looked rather unappetizing was the thick though panfried dumplings which were obviously fried in too much oil. It reminds me of a deep fried Korean mandu, and therefore carried the visual attractiveness of a small, poorly fried empanada.
The other dish that seems to be missing from all othe wordy blurbs was this gem:
A small dimsum portioned steamer full of marinaded pork short ribs over sweet potato. This is a very traditional Shanghainese/Taiwanese prep of steamed “rice powder” spare ribs, or as I like to call it: pearly steamed spare ribs (rice powder, after steaming, expands to small white pearls). Here, the five spice isn’t overwhelming, but merely complements the savoriness, which is then balanced by the sweet potato at the bottom. Flavor Garden chooses the spare ribs carefully, resulting in a a composition that isn’t obnoxiously greasy when compared to the typical Cantonese dimsum of black bean spare ribs. The fact this basket of pork is only $3.50 is a testament to the ridiculously cheap swine prices in America. It’s also a great reason to haul one’s ass from the Westside — one basket of pork ribs, one basket of baos and one order of beef rolls result in a satisfying $20 meal for 2.
There are many new tumbling houses of carbs started in 2012, but Flavor Garden is one of the few edible choices carried over into 2013.