I know I’ve probably said it before, but I hate parking. First, you have to circle around the parking lot looking for an empty spot to park in. Next, you have to actually park, obstructing all those who want to pass by you. You also have to ensure that you don’t hit any of the adjacent cars, and that all of your passengers can safely exit your vehicle. Normally, this is a doable process, even if it’s time-consuming. However, what happens when you mix this up with a whole generation of people who share the same sentiments towards parking? You have Richmond and, in particular, the plaza on Alexandra Road where Deer Garden Signatures is located. Nevertheless, we all had a hankering for some noodles in broth, and decided to venture out during the peak of the dinner hour on a Friday night. Gulp. Of course, parking took quite awhile. One car ended up having to be parked in nearby Lansdowne, as the cramped lot of the plaza itself was completely full.
Upon our arrival, we also had about a 30 minute wait near the restaurant’s front, which was also limited in capacity. Reservations are apparently possible, although I’m not sure how successful these typically are in Chinese restaurants. This wasn’t helped by the high volume of people who also want in, ranging from high schoolers to elderly couples to entire families. When you enter with your party and notify a server about your presence, you’re hastily given a checklist to customize your noodles. The most distinctive aspect of Deer Garden is your ability to choose the broth, type of noodles, and two types of toppings with a drink, all for $8.50. Sides and more exciting drinks are also available for an additional price. In order to maximize efficiency, you receive these sheets for immediate order-placing when you manage to get a table, as well as some space for doodles on the back while waiting for these blessed seats. Nonetheless, be prepared to wait quite awhile for your food.
When you finally manage to get seated (hopefully alone with just your party, if you’re shy), you’re served some hot tea. I believe the cups were haunted, as they would spontaneously slide around on the table by themselves; make sure you keep an eye on it, lest it wanders over to the other party you’re probably dining with. The tea itself makes you appreciate that some form of a drink will be served with your food, as it tastes like regular hot water.
The desert wings with ginger ($1.75), a popular side dish, came first. These are a decent snack to tide you over until your main bowl of noodles arrives. While these tend to be a little skimpy on the meat, they came hot on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The general consensus on Deer Garden’s signature item would have to be the noodles in fish broth, which is available with a variety of different vegetable mixes to cater 2 u. My dining companions all opted for this more classic choice, with a variety of toppings. Their fish soup is advertised to be MSG-free, which is always a plus. Clearly, popular toppings included fish balls, tofu, mushrooms, and luncheon meat.
I suppose I felt more adventurous that day, as I got the Thai tom yum goong soup with rice noodles, tripe, fish balls, and beef tendon instead. Each additional topping after two is another $1.25. The broth wasn’t overly spicy, although it did pack enough of a kick so as to not make the soup bland. All of the other ingredients were cooked well, with the noodles soaking up a sufficient amount of the flavour of the broth.
Surprisingly enough, our drinks came closer to the end of our meal. Oops. I opted for some good old milk tea, which tasted rather watery, but was saved by a pinch of sugar.
Upping your drink order to cold is another $1, or upgrading to a speciality drink entirely is an additional $2. Somebody else opted for this and got the coconut milk tea instead.
Overall, Deer Garden certainly isn’t anything luxurious. From the horrendous parking to the neverending wait-times, the experience can almost be chaotic. However, it’s almost worth it for the comforting, inexpensive bowl of noodles that awaits you at the end, though their prices have been steadily increasing over the years. Maybe that’s even part of the fun for some, as that fish broth must be even more pleasant after sticking it out for so long to attain it.
Conclusion: Andy ate a fair amount.
Deer Garden Signatures
2015-8580 Alexandra Rd.