The blue cinder-block building on South Market Street that now houses Rose Garden was once home to a liquor store (name long forgotten), then an Asian market, then a series of restaurants including The Experience (which came and went before Femme de Joie had a chance to experience it) and a couple of Thai cafes of varying quality and longevity. Most recently Kanya Garden occupied that spot; it has hosted Rose Garden for some months now.
The interior is bright and cheerful with a fresh coat of paint and good lighting. Service is fast and attentive with cheerful waitstaff. Prices are fair for the portion sizes.
Yum Nam Tok, $6.95
Grilled beef with vegetables on a bed of iceberg lettuce was coated with what the menu calls “a house spicy cilantro lime sauce.” The lime was up front and present as was a fair amount of fish sauce, but we couldn’t discern any cilantro or much that was spicy. “Nam tok” means waterfall, and the salad seemed to get a bit watery as time passed, the salty fish sauce wilting the iceberg lettuce and diluting the dressing.
Red curry with tofu and sticky rice, $8.50
Red curry was ordered with medium heat but was very much on the mild side. Heavy on the canned bamboo shoots and light on tofu cubes, the liquid curry lacked that punch of flavor that makes a diner crave it again – it could have used an infusion of galangal, lemon grass, garlic – just about anything to elevate the complexity. It wasn’t bad, but neither was it great.
The sticky rice that accompanied the curry was wrapped in clingfilm and brought to the table in a small wicker pagoda that fell over frequently. It was kind of cute but also kind of a pain every time it tipped over, which was any time it was touched.
Pad chow mein with pork, $6.95
The Thai version of chow mein was filled with nicely-cooked vegetables and thin-sliced pork. Not overly salty with too much soy or too oily, this would have been very good if the noodles hadn’t been overcooked and on the gummy side.
Get to know the Thai condiment tray (kreung prung): judicious use of these can make a difference in your food. They encompass sour, sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. Clockwise from top: in squeeze bottles, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, prik pon (dried ground hot chilis), sugar (used to balance flavors), Sriracha, Tamarind soup mix (sour flavor), salt, pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce (nam pla). Just behind the soup mix is a small jar of pickled Jalapenos.
Beef pho, $5.00 lunch special
A small bowl of beef pho was accompanied by a plate of Romaine leaves, fresh basil and cilantro leaves, and bean sprouts, plus the condiment tray. With a goodly amount of rice noodles, some beef slices and halved meatballs, this made a satisfying light lunch. But other than a strong star anise flavor, the broth didn’t have the rich melange of flavors that make the difference between an adequate bowl of pho and a really memorable one.
The Not Good:
The moment we walked in we noticed a strong scent in the air. Femme de Joie thought optimistically that maybe it was fresh herbs. Amico del Signore thought it was some kind of cleaning fluid. Eventually it became clear that it was perfume on one of the waitstaff, who had not sprayed it on so much as saturated herself in it.
On M. de Joie’s last visit to Rose Garden, she approached the cash register to pay where she saw a sign saying that any debit or credit card purchase under $10.00 would be charged fifty cents for the privilege. The cashier pointed out the sign and asked if that was okay. M. de Joie told her it was illegal, and got exactly the response she expected: a blank uncomprehending look. A $5.00 pho suddenly became a $5.50 bowl of pho. After a lengthy discussion with her bank, Femme de Joie found out how the consumer protection laws in California can be sidestepped, which is apparently what happened here. Caveat emptor.(Sources: http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/credit_card_surcharges and http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=4e20e4b0-bd7e-47a5-824b-4f7920a45a1b and http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/checkout_fees/)
Femme de Joie had higher hopes for Rose Garden, especially since their predecessor had such good food. But her overall take on the food was that it was pretty average, uninspired, and utilitarian. She wouldn’t protest loudly if she was dragged there, but she wouldn’t advocate for it, either.
Rose Garden, 2825 South Market Street, Redding, CA 96001. 530-243-8863. Open Sunday-Friday, 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Saturday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM. No checks; debit and credit cards (watch for that user fee). Beer and wine. Vegan and vegetarian options. Small parking lot on south side of building. Follow them on Facebook.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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