Disclaimer – We visited on Christmas Day and I want to give them all of the benefit of a doubt I can. The staff was incredibly friendly during our dinner from 515-645.
There are few options on Christmas Day and China Garden on Military Trail was our choice. We did take-out from there last year and it was an absolute nightmare after the movie so this year we decided to switch it up, dinner early and then the movie. We secured a 5PM reservation and were told to and did arrive at 445. The restaurant blocked off a couple of the parking spots directly in front of the restaurant and filled them with chairs and a table for people to relax while waiting for their table. There was a young man doing a great job with information and procedures out front. It’s Florida so there were a few self-important people that asked the young man, did not like the answer, and then just walked by him into the restaurant, but they returned to the front after they were told the same information inside. Without a reservation he told people that 9PM was the earliest they would be seated. Everyone waited outside until their name was called.
We were seated at 515, not bad, and were quickly asked for our drink and soup order from Wonton, Egg Drop or Hot & Sour. Server had a high level of energy and made a few jokes, nicely done. For the Holiday there was a special menu that included a soup, egg roll or rib, entrée, dessert and a soda or glass of wine. Most prices were $20-25. The most often ordered entrees were included in the four page menu with a few specials on the page one. Take outs were available from the regular menu. The female server arrived to take our dinner orders, she was much less friendly, but efficient.
I ordered Hot & Sour soup, Egg Roll and General Tso Chicken. Soup was fair, not too hot, not too spicy, OK flavor but the ingredients were all in little pieces. The egg roll was pretty bad, small in size and mostly fried dough versus filling. Instead of individual sauce packets there was a metal canister with the duck sauce. It was pretty gross and was sticky on almost the entire exterior. I used my napkin the best I could to wipe clean. The spring roll looked similar and the spare rib was a measly, tiny rib. Everything looked pretty naked on the plate.
The General Tso arrived. Six large fried chicken nuggets sitting in a pool of sauce. China Garden used white meat versus dark (major kudos for this) and it was really well cooked, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. But it was tepid, as if they cooked a large batch earlier, allowed to sit and then just added on top of a one of the sauces that was ladled onto a plate. The sauce was cool approaching cold. It had OK flavor. That was their version of General Tso Chicken, some previously cooked, cool fried chicken nuggets in a pool of cold sauce. We passed on dessert.
Overall, it was a mediocre dining experience. Given the circumstances I think they did a great job in keeping people calm and serving them on the busiest day of the year. When the kitchen is less in the weeds I hope they would be more focused and the food would arrive hotter and would be more than large chicken nuggets with sauce. But given the number of people looking for their meals, I will give them a free pass on the night.