If you've eaten much dim sum, you know that a lot of it is pretty ordinary, and so I didn't expect much when I ordered a couple of plates at Evergarden, a restaurant in Tainan in southern Taiwan.
The chances of getting anything good were extra slim, because it was night, when you're as likely to run into sunbathers as dim sum.
These Chinese small plates are daytime food, from breakfast to lunch. But Evergarden lets you eat them until it closes at 9 p.m. It's a yum cha place, which means you get the whole meal there, including tea. The dumplings themselves are dim sum.
With no more expertise than if I had stabbed at the menu, I picked out two dishes. They were vegetable-filled steamed dumplings (in the bamboo container) and pan-fried shrimp and squid cakes (at top).
The steamed vegetable dumplings were so light I could make out the greenery through the sheer wrappers.
The fried cakes weren't doughy and stiff, as I had feared. They were delicate bundles of seafood in thin wrappers, steamed, then lightly browned on the bottom.
No catsup and mustard with these, like in Chinatown at home. The dip was a thick sweet chile sauce.
The fragile pudding, covered with sweet mango puree, came in an earthenware bowl, when what it deserved was fine Chinese porcelain.
The orchid garnish wasn't a surprise, because I was down south to visit the orchid plantations that export overseas, supplying the orchid plants on sale at my neighborhood market. A touch of the exotic and the familiar at the same time.
Evergarden Chinese restaurant in the Evergreen Plaza Hotel, 1, Lane 336, Sec. 3, Chung-Hua East Road, East District, Tainan City, Tainan, Taiwan.