Cascade Garden’s cuisine worth discovering

December 4, 2008

By David Hayes

Tucked deep into the northwest corner of the Meadows Shopping Center, unless you venture beyond the QFC grocery store, you’re likely to miss a hidden gem of a restaurant. Cascade Garden features the cuisines — Szechwan, Mandarin and Hunan —of northern China.

The first thing I noticed when seated were the most cushiony, comfortable booths I’ve ever sat in at a restaurant.

The lunch menu is varied, even offering four platters suitable for my vegetarian co-diner. He ordered the assorted vegetables with fried tofu, while I went for the old Chinese standby, General Tso’s chicken. The lunch also came with an egg roll and fried wonton, with sweet and sour sauce to dip them in.

Vegetarian Greg was out of luck when it came to the choice of soups — both the egg flower and hot and sour soups use a meat-based broth.

I was a little disappointed in the hot and sour soup’s ingredients — I’ve been to Chinese restaurants with ample, chunky fillers in the soup. But what Cascade Garden lacked in content, it made up in flavor.

Another anomaly was the tea that came with the meal. It didn’t taste too flavorful. I’ve had memorable tea before, and this just wasn’t it. Plus, it got cold rather quickly once out of the small teapot.

The meal itself was a delight. One thing Cascade Garden does not skimp on is portions. I highly recommend coming on an empty stomach for the best chances of cleaning your plate.

The General Tso’s chicken, once it cooled to a level that didn’t burn the inside of the mouth, had literally a burst of flavor in every bite. While some Chinese restaurants tend to over batter their protein, Cascade Garden’s has a perfect coating that doesn’t bury the chicken’s presence.

Greg especially enjoyed his dish, which featured soft and crunchy tofu and precisely cooked vegetables — including broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, orange peppers and water chestnuts — leaving them crispy and crunchy.

While his white rice was fluffy and tasty, my fried rice was a little too bland, with only egg, peas and carrots blended in. But the restaurant features several other versions of fried rice on its dinner menu.

If you come with a bigger appetite and wish a prelude to the main course, I highly recommend the chicken lettuce wraps. The stir-fried chicken pops when scooped into the fresh and crisp iceburg lettuce leaves.

Be aware, however, there have been complaints in the past by finicky eaters who’ve found their shrimp not deveined.

Overall, Cascade Garden has enough hits to recommend it over its misses, especially since I haven’t even touched yet upon the homemade noodles and their popular Peking duck. In fact, the menu is so varied, overheard at a booth next to mine was a regular customer commenting to his wife, “My problem here is I like everything. It all looks good.”

So, walk a little farther off the beaten path past QFC and you’ll be rewarded with a memorable Chinese meal, sure to become a family favorite.

If you go

Cascade Garden Northern Chinese Cuisine & Lounge

1580 N.W. Gilman Blvd. (Meadows Shopping Center)
391-6090
www.cascadegarden.com
Lunch — 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Dinner — 3:30 – 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 3:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3:30 – 9:30 p.m. Sundays
Lunch specials —$7.50 – $8.95; appetizers $2.95 (kim chi) – $9.95 (assorted platter); dinners — $9.95 – $17.95; family dinner specials, available for up to eight

Reporter David Hayes can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com.

Restaurant reviews are a regular feature of The Issaquah Press. Reviewers visit restaurants unannounced and pay in full for their meals.

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