Garden Fresh Vegetarian Restaurant

Peninsula and South Bay, California


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Excellent Asian vegan food at reasonable prices. It will make any flesh eating, blood thirsty human think about adopting a non violent, vegan lifestyle.....

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One of the servers was friendly, chatty and welcoming and made my stay more pleasant, one server was all business, not warm or friendly. The decor is very sparse, not a romantic or cozy place. The rice shake drink was REALLY delicious and worth a second visit in and of itself. The shui jiao (dumplings appetizer) were mushy, too big, with too much dough coating lending a doughiness on top of the mushiness, and quite bland. Contents seemed to be overcooked vegetable mush. They came with no sauce so I had to make my own from the soy and pepper sauces already at the table. Main entree, string beans with vegan chicken, was more flavorful than the dumplings but not very appealing. Drenched in uncomfortably sweet brown sauce with little character or spice, though this was described as a spicy dish by the waitress. Greasy food. The string beans were cooked just the right amount though, tender yet crunchy, remarkable. I see the problem is probably just the cooking style doesn't appeal to me, as the chef clearly knows what he or she is doing in at least some respects. Unfortunately this greasy, doughy, sugar-drowned cooking style is so common with the vegetarian Chinese restaurants in the South Bay. The portions of the appetizer and entree were excessive. Brown rice was brought with the food without my asking, such a pleasant and rare surprise.

As the restaurant filled up during peak time it became clear 2 waitresses isn't enough for the crew to be able to provide high quality customer service and my table got very little attention. Still, the friendlier of the 2 waitresses kept a good attitude and composure and found a little time to chat amiably with guests at other tables, admirable. I really appreciate anyone running a business catering to vegetarians and feel thankful for their work, I wish I could honestly find more positive things to say, but unfortunately I can't recommend this restaurant on any other merits than being able to enjoy feeling confident the food is vegetarian, the properly-cooked beans, the tasty rice drink, the brown rice and the good spirit of one of the waitresses. Appealing flavor and pleasant ambiance are for the most part seriously lacking.

Image for Dave Rolsky

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I'd give the appetizers an 8 and the entree I had a 6. We tried the dumplings, taro rolls, and the scallion pancakes, and I liked all of them, though the taro rolls didn't contain any taro as far as I could tell. They also gave us small cups of their hot and sour soup for free. It was good, with a fair bit of actual sourness.

The entree I had was the curry chicken, which was okay but definitely on the bland side. My friend tried the beef with broccoli, which was also fairly bland.

The service was notable for the frequency of water refills, which was nice. The servers were very attentive without being intrusive.

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I really enjoyed Garden Fresh. My husband got vegetarian squid, and I ordered sweet and sour veggie pork. The mock meat was only so-so. The squid was kind of weird, and the pork didn't really taste like pork--but was still very good. The vegetables in both dishes were AMAZING. They were very fresh and were cooked to perfection. Just a tad cooked, very crisp. Beautiful.

A warning: the portions are HUGE! After the complimentary soup (delicious) and the veggie dumplings we'd ordered, we were almost full. Then the entrees arrived. We took home a good 3/4 of each dish. I think we could have easily split one entree between the two of us, and my husband is a big eater.

The staff was very friendly. I noticed the waitress chatting with several different tables of regulars. (We were just visiting from out of town.) Our waitress was also wonderful in helping us choose our dishes. I actually changed my choice because she insisted that my original pick was too similar to my husband's for us to enjoy a full range of flavors. :) And when we asked about the presence of eggs in the dumplings, she exclaimed, "Absolutely not! All vegan!" We loved it.

The decor isn't much. It's a small place. I think there were fewer than 15 tables, and every one was full on a Friday night. It's not really a romantic place to bring your sweetie, but if you're looking for a fun time and good food, it's a great option.

The prices were reasonable. Between 7-8 dollars for an entree, which includes brown rice. (I hate having to pay extra for brown rice elsewhere!) We also got free soup. Lunch prices looked to be around 5-6 dollars.

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