Rating for Phoenix Gard: PG...Pretty Gross

Last night I met AS and SN for dinner. Usually they rely on a Miss Menu suggestion for where we should meet, but yesterday SN said she got a recommendation from a co-worker and thought we could give it a shot. I've walked passed Phoenix Garden probably 500 times on my way to and from work. It has a big, green awning, and is set down a few steps so it caught my eye. But, since you can't see inside at all, I always thought it seemed sketchy and probably best left for delivery. I heard a few good things and read a few decent reviews, so I tried my best to go in with in an open mind and not rely on my impressions from walking by. FAIL. I should've stuck with my first impression!

Phoenix Garden is one of the few real (and I'm not talking 2 tables in a fast food place) sit-down Chinese restaurants in the area, despite there being dozens upon dozens of take-out/delivery options. I was hoping that this could become my little hidden gem of a restaurant in my neighborhood. Instead, it quickly became a place I will never return to and never recommend! I so rarely have a terrible meal in New York, and always loathe when I do.

When we walked in, it was pretty empty, but the place filled up really quickly. The decor was minimal, and it was dark and dreary inside. We looked over the menu and decided to get soups and split two entrees family style. Usually this would be plenty of food, but the waitress copped an attitude and tried to convince us that the portions are small and we should get another dish. She suggested the most ridiculous (and expensive) things...lobster, fried shrimp paste stuffed vegetables. Finally we put our foot down and added an order of dumplings.

We each got an egg drop soup, and it was fine. We asked for crunchy noodles, they had none. We got an ordered of steamed vegetable dumplings...the order came with three, and they fell apart the second you tried to pick them up out of the bowl. Then came the chicken with mixed vegetables...it was fine, but nothing remarkable. I've had better Chinese from the fast food places where you order from a picture menu behind the counter.
We asked for a side of brown rice, since the menu said rice was served with the entrees. They only had white rice, which isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but seemed a little strange. We also ordered a chicken lo mein that was bright yellow, had a weird texture, and had no flavor. You know it's bad when you have to douse it in soy sauce for it to be edible.

The service was horrendous...rude and unhelpful. The busboys and servers were constantly reaching over us to clear off unused bowls and plates as if they had a severe shortage. AS finally said, "you can leave it, we are fine" just to get them to leave us in peace. And, just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, even the water tasted bad! How do you mess up NYC tap water?!?

I am usually comfortable to admit that maybe I had a fluke of a bad experience, but there is absolutely no way that I could've gotten this wrong last night. The three of us all agreed that it may have been the worst Chinese food we've ever had. The tiny silver lining? Phoenix Garden is BYO. Unfortunately, it would take me many, many bottles of wine to ever consider a return visit!

Phoenix Garden
242 East 40th Street
b/t 2nd & 3rd Ave
Menu Pages listing