I was searching for food earlier this evening along Stuttgart’s Koenigstrasse, and as I was just congratulating myself for walking by McDonald’s without giving into the temptation of a quick, familiar meal, I saw a sign for the China Garden. The sign was right on Koenigstrasse, and it said to go up to the 2nd level to find the restaurant. I haven’t had good ol’ MSG-laden, sauce heavy, Chinese food in a while, so I walked right in without even glancing to see what was on their posted menu.
I must admit that as I walked up the stairs I wasn’t expecting anything beyond your average quick, cheap, and dirty chinese restaurant. At the top of the stairs, to my left was some sort of kitchen area (judging by the sounds coming from there) and so I deduced that the restaurant must be to my right since there was no other way to go.
I was completely surprised by how nice the interior was. There was a black baby grand player piano to my left, softly playing songs. The tabletops were light pink cloth, and every place setting had a perfectly folded pink cloth napkin flanked by perfectly arranged silverware. There were flower arrangements everywhere, including some flowers that ran along the ceiling, actually fitting in with the rest of the decor. Um, I may not be appropriately dressed, I instinctively thought, before I realized that I was in a Chinese restaurant, so of course I was appropriately dressed. I was instantly impressed, but maybe most so because I was expecting so much less.
After saying my best “eins” and holding up my index finger to the host, I was brought to a corner booth. The menu consisted of your standard Chinese dishes, slightly expanded, and was reasonably priced relative to the other restaurants on the Koenigstrasse. What really caught my curiosity was Shark Fin soup, and I was very tempted to order it, but then the bleeding heart liberal side of me thought about all the poor sharks that have to die for me to try this delicacy. I silently debated for a while, but probably my lack of German saved some sharks, because I just pointed to menu dinner #1, so that I didn’t have to really say much.
First I was brought some standard egg drop soup, which I was wolfing down when they brought me the 2nd course of random fried foods. There was a mini eggroll, battered and fried strips of chicken breast, some sesame covered ball containing some dark paste, and those fried white crunchy things you find in all Asian restaurants. I was still pretty hungry at this point, so I quickly finished everything in front of me, drinking about half of my Hefeweizen Hell in the process.
They brought my main course in parts. First a metal hotplate was placed on my table with an empty plate sitting on top, and then a little later a covered metal bowl of rice was brought. Then finally after a little longer a plate was brought containing deep fried duck and chicken cooked in some sort of sauce. The empty plate was moved to in front of me, and the new meat plate took it’s place on the metal hotplate. They also brought some thick soup, which I wasn’t sure if it was actually soup or some sort of dressing for my duck. I already wasn’t hungry anymore, but I knew I had to push on, fighting the good fight. The chicken was decent, and the duck was pretty good. Occasionally I would have a spoonfull of the “soup,” but not too much in case they were laughing behind my back because it was dressing. After that was finished I was brought a bowl of assorted fruit for desert, which was actually quite nice.
It’s pretty hard to top the Super Buffet Chinese restaurant in West Ashley, South Carolina, so I think the China Garden will have to be my favorite European Chinese restaurant. Apparently I haven’t been the only person to be impressed by the place, because as I was leaving, so completely full it was hard for me to walk, I noticed there’s a wall covered in photographs of celebrities and dignitaries with signed messages thanking the China Garden. Well, I assumed they were German celebrities and dignitaries, because I didn’t recognize a single person, but there sure were a lot of them.