7 members of Charm City Chowhounds (a Facebook group) got together for a first-time return to Grace Garden, the former Holy Grail of Baltimore area Chowhounds. The original thread on Grace Garden reached at least 316 comments, which I imagine is a Chowhound record for a single restaurant or perhaps any subject on Chowhound.
Chef Li departed November 2019, and I was there twice that last week. This was our first test of the new owner’s commitment to keep up the high standards.
There are two things evident from this meal: the standards are still high and beat out almost any Contonese offerings in this area. Still, the magic is not quite there and it will take more meals to figure out the best dishes.
tea smoked duck (3 days in advance notice)
hot and spicy smoky shrimp
tofu in crabmeat sauce
szechuan pork belly
szechuan braised beef.
Tea smoked duck is the only offering for advanced notice. It’s worth it. Not as smoky as some other versions, which is entirely in its favor. Great thick meat, beautiful fat, and a rich dipping sauce.
The fish noodles are still a great dish.
The only serious disappointment was the powerfully salty pork belly. Also it was served so crispy that you could hardly tell it was pork belly. The braised beef dish is the famous Sichuan “water cooked beef” served not as overwhelmingly spicy as at other places, so it was a tolerable and pleasant heat.
The other dishes were very carefully executed even if a bit different than their previous iteration. Do not go expecting copies of the original and you will be rewarded with an excellent meal.