Capital Tea Garden
1110 T Street
Sacramento, CA, 95814
The Capital Tea Garden is a diminuitive Chinese joint in downtown Sacramento. The menu sets it apart from its chow-mein and orange-chicken slinging compatriots by the addition of some authentic Chinese dishes. There's even dim-sum, available any time of the day, although you'll have to do without the carts. The decor alone lets you know you're visiting an authentic Chinese joint- as my friend Kevin said about the place, it is profoundly Hong Kong hash house in there.
A very hefty portion of chicken feet. I love chicken feet, although they're a real bitch to pick up with chopsticks. These were just okay. The black bean sauce was definitely not enough in evidence. But the phenom of being able to order a mega-huge portion of poultry feet in downtown Sacramento is a pleasing one.
Pea greens cooked in a simple ginger-garlic sauce. God, I love these suckers. They're fairly seasonal - can't get em' all the time - and they must be pounced upon and devoured when they are in. The flavor is a combination of stalky spinach and broccoli, with a verdant, fresh snap.
Mixed seafood in X.O sauce. X.O sauce, in case you were wondering, is a salty and umami ridden Chinese condiment, made of dried chopped seafood with chili, onion, and garlic. Formerly a prestigious condiment for Hong Kong's very rich, it's trickled down to the plebes, and is often marketed in the same fashion as French liquor in Asia (!). I highly recommend giving it a shot. It's only a teeny bit funky. This was a pretty good rendition, though the flavor of the X.O sauce could have been stronger.
Salt toast shrimp and asparagus, a perennial favorite around here. Sadly only okay. Why in the sam hill did they remove the heads? Don't they know those are the best part? I also thought there was too much batter going for what can be a charming ethereal dish. Still would be good if one is hungover. I suspect hangovers make up a healthy portion of the Capital Tea Garden's business.
A claypot with salty chicken, eggplant, and Chinese sausage. Aside from the obvious non-claypot status of this dish, it was quite tasty. I'm always big on Chinese casseroles, which tend to have a delightfully intense, unctuous flavor. Good and rich, although as always heavier on the eggplant then on the other stuff.
On the whole, the Capital Tea Garden is a pretty good choice for authentic Chinese food in the Midtown area. With cheap prices and a no-atmosphere sort of atmosphere, I can see myself returning again.