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Best Bites: Zen Gardens


Published July 21, 2009 at 1:07 p.m.

7 Fayette Drive, South Burlington 862-8885

When people find out I'm a food writer, the first question people ask me is, "Do you ever need someone to taste things with you?" The second: "What's your favorite place for Chinese?"

I didn't have an answer for the second question — that is, until I tried Zen Gardens. My tastes in Chinese food have always leaned toward dim sum and large pieces of meat hacked with an equally sizeable cleaver, and this is the place for both.

On your first visit, go right for the pinkish sheet filled with traditional dishes, mostly from Taiwan. Other choices are all good, but not necessarily the place’s best representation.

To start, try the Seaweed with Garlic Sauce ($5.95), more like cold sesame noodles than munching nori. Want to get fleshy? I recommend the Aromatic Sliced Beef. At $8.95, it may seem expensive, but the cold five spice- scented meat is enough for an appetizer that night and sandwich fillings for several days thereafter.

House Special Rice Cake ($11.75) is far more exciting than it sounds. Think of the thumb-sized cakes as chewy gnocchi in a garlicky brown sauce with cabbage, scallions, mushrooms and skinny slices of beef, pork and chicken.

Usually, though, one of my favorite pork dishes prevails. The Home Style Pork Chop ($14.50) is little more than thin planks cut across the bone, breaded and tossed in a citrus-based sauce, but somehow, I continue to crave it. Even more frequently on my mind is the Deep Fried Pork Chop with Spicy Salt ($14.50) . The meat is coated in the aforementioned seasonings as well as five spice and a Chinese-style salsa of garlic and peppers.

The only desserts on the menu are green tea and red bean ice creams, but I haven’t tried them. I never have room.