Friday, February 3, 2012

The Vegetable Garden, Rockville, MD

UPDATE: This restaurant has moved to Silver Spring.

The Vegetable Garden has been serving all-vegan, Chinese food for over 15 years. Located in Rockville, MD, about 35 minutes outside of DC, this low-key, casual restaurant has long been drawing patrons from Maryland, Virginia, and DC with its consistently good food and fresh juices.  On this particular trip, Zach and I were there on a Saturday night at 6 p.m. because we had other plans later that evening and it was already a packed house.

They sat us at our usual table against the wall and we began perusing their extensive menu. They offer so many dishes, all of which are vegan, which makes it very hard to choose. The menu is organized into different sections such as appetizers, steamed dishes, stir-fried dishes, macrobiotic, veggie chicken, and veggie beef, etc. They also have American selections such as veggie burgers and pastas.

As soon as you sit down, they always bring you a plate of their carrot bread, which has a nice flavor to it. It is especially good when it is served warm, but on this particular occasion it was pretty cold.

The service in this restaurant is quick, which can be a good and bad thing. The good thing is that you can get in and out quickly if you are in a hurry. The bad thing is that they make you feel rushed as everything is delivered very quickly.  Our waitress approached us and asked if we were ready to order pretty soon after we sat down. We requested a few more minutes. I typically order the same dishes, but this time, I wanted something different. I finally settled on the Veggie-Duck Hot Pot while Zach ordered the Garden Feast and a soup.

They immediately brought Zach's Hot and Sour soup out, which was pretty good. It had fresh tofu, lily flower, black ears (fungus), white mushrooms, and hot peppers. As he was eating, they were already preparing our table for our entrees, which made him feel very rushed.

Then, they brought our entrees out. Zach had one of my favorites, the Garden Feast, which is loaded with vegetables and meat analogs. The funny thing is that it is listed under "Chef's New Specialites" and while it was new at one time, a few years later, it is no longer new. This dish has textured soy protein, veggie beef, and veggie chicken along with prawns, snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, baby corn, jicama, and kale in a brown sauce.  The true key to all of these dishes are their sauces, which are excellent.

The Veggie-Duck Hot Pot looked very appetizing, but I was disappointed to find that despite my request for them to make it very spicy, it had no spiciness to it at all. I requested some hot peppers, which they brought quickly and that definitely helped. It was tasty, but it wasn't as good as some of the other dishes I've had there. The "veggie-duck" was actually yuba, or tofu skins, which I loved, mixed with broccoli and mushrooms. It was cooked with fresh basil in a brown sauce and served with brown rice. But, not only was it not spicy, it wasn't even hot, temperature-wise. I requested that they heat it up so they took it back to the kitchen, then brought it back to me piping hot.  After all of that, the dish had some nice flavors, but definitely tasted like it was missing something.

Based upon this experience alone, I would not have given them high marks, but as I've eaten here more than 10 times, I have to say that it is usually a better experience than this. Not to mention that The Vegetable Garden has a benefit day on the first Thursday of every month during which they donate a percentage of their profits to Compassion Over Killing, which is awesome.  Some of the dishes that I have enjoyed here in the past include: Jian Pao Vegi-Gourmet, Double Delight, and General Tsao's Chicken.

So, all in all, this is a nice, casual restaurant that generally serves great vegan food. The entrees are a little on the high side at $12 - $17 each. One thing to keep in mind is that they are usually very busy and do not take reservations for small parties, so if you are going on a weekend night, be prepared for a short wait. The wait is usually worth it though.

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