Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lousy service, $47.90 fish sour us on Lan Garden in Ridgefield

If you think the whole striped bass I was served at Lan Garden in Ridgefeld looks angry, you should have seen my face when I got the bill and realized the waiter neglected to mention it was priced by the pound. The total was an exorbitant $47.90.


I visited Lan Garden three times in August during the soft opening of the Chinese restaurant on Route 46 in Ridgefield, lured by a food discount of 30%.

As you'd expect during the first weeks of a new restaurant, the menu was limited, service was slow and somewhat disorganized, and the kitchen ran out of certain items.

But I liked the food, especially the whole fish served with ginger and scallion, a succulent lobster and greens sauteed with fresh garlic.

Four months later, not much has changed in terms of the disorganized service. 

The kitchen even ran out of steamed white rice, and we had to wait until more was prepared.

We arrived starving

On Sunday afternoon, we returned really hungry from a visit to Manhattan and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and drove straight to the restaurant.

Only a few other tables were occupied, but after we ordered, we waited and waited for our food.

I didn't recognize our waiter from my August visits or an older man who later said he is the manager.

Too many menus

I wanted to try a few plates of dim sum, which are prepared in a separate kitchen and available all day until 1 a.m.

They are listed on a separate paper menu, but you're also handed two bound menus, one containing specials of the day and banquet meals, and the other listing the regular fare. 

Dim sum are priced from $3.50 to $8.95 per plate, but one of the three I ordered -- Pan-Fried Chive Cake -- wasn't available.

The waiter recommended the Peking-style Pork Chops, prepared in a sweet red sauce, but my son said they were merely OK. He had to wait nearly 10 minutes for a small bowl of steamed white rice to eat with the pork, unheard of in a Chinese restaurant.

The menu didn't mention the Dried Sauteed String Beans are made with ground pork, which I don't eat. My wife thought it was garlic. When I sent it back, the waiter deducted the dish from our bill.

We loved two of the dim sum: The Fried Canton Carp Ball, above, and Super Har Gow Jumbo Shrimp Dumplings, packed with minced shrimp and accented by a centerpiece of roe, below.

From dim sum to striped bass

Both of the dim sum we ordered were terrific. The Super Har Gow Jumbo (shrimp dumplings) were $6.95 and the Fried Canton Carp Ball was $5.95.

An appetizer of two soft-shell crabs was priced at $20, but after I ordered, the waiter returned from the kitchen and said they were all gone.

That was the third time Lan Garden couldn't deliver the soft-shell crabs listed on the menu.

The menu listed whole fish, but the only one available was striped bass, a great eating fish.

Still, no price was listed on the menu, and the waiter didn't mention the 2-pound fish was $23.95 per pound or a total of $47.90.

That's outrageous -- the kind of markup you usually see only in a high-end Greek fish house.

During the soft opening, I ordered a whole flounder on two visits and paid $23.95 and $26.95 before the discount.

The striped bass we were served on Sunday tasted wonderful, and the indigestion didn't start until I saw the check.

When I spoke to the manager, he said the waiter is supposed to mention to customers the fish is priced by the pound.

Our other dishes were Pork Wonton Soup ($3.95) and Chicken with Broccoli ($14.95).

The total for four people was $108.77, including three ginger ales and tax. 

I reluctantly left a $15 tip, only learning later the waiter forgot to level with me on the exorbitant price of the whole fish.

The glass teapot and a chopsticks stand are nice touches, above and below, but I'd do without them in return for competent service.

The paper dim sum menu, above, and a page from the specials menu listing what looks like banquet meals costing $188 and $888, below.


Lan Garden, 88 Route 46 west, Ridgefield; 201-840-8688. BYO until the restaurant obtains a liquor license.

Web site: Specializing in seafood and dim sum

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