New Asian Garden Restaurant in Red Bluff
By Melissa Mendonca
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Alexis LeClair
It’s more than the delicious General Chicken, War Wonton soup and special green bean dish that keep customers coming back to to Red Bluff’s New Asian Garden Restaurant. While those dishes are all prepared by an award-winning chef from Taiwan who cut his teeth in the U.S. restaurant business on San Francisco’s Clement Street, it’s the exceptional service and congeniality of proprietor Angela Chang, who would also like you to know that “the Mongolian Beef is pretty good, too,” that truly makes the experience.
Chang has an uncanny ability to remember her customers and their orders regardless of how much time passes between visits. “When a customer comes in, I remember them because it’s from my heart,” she says. “If you’re taking care of your family, you remember things. I really care about my customers.”
If it’s been a really, really long time, she admits she might stumble on a name, but there will be some detail that she’ll remember. Perhaps the outfit the person wore last, but more usually their order.
Such familiarity creates such a comfortable environment that New Asian Garden has become one of those rare places where you’ll hear customers cheerfully greeting Chang by her first name as well, genuinely delighted by the comfort of recognizing each other.
“I have customers that call this Angela’s Restaurant,” she says. “I appreciate that.” All is well when the conversation happens between Red Bluffians in the know. “Let’s meet at Angela’s” is an implied yet understood suggestion for most when making meal plans. More than one person, however, has been stymied trying to Google or Yelp “Angela’s”. It doesn’t exist on those platforms.
New Asian Garden opened in 2002 after Chang and her husband, Chin, decided to leave their Carmichael and San Francisco-based restaurants for a quieter lifestyle. “We found Red Bluff and decided to stay,” she says. “It’s not super busy like San Francisco, but I like the feel. People help each other like a family.”
Chin, who received accolades in a San Francisco newspaper for his work prior to meeting Angela, is the head chef and diligently prepares all of his dishes fresh to order. “He’s very quiet, he’s not like me who likes to talk,” Angela says with a laugh. “He’s a very good cook. My husband, when he was young, worked in a high-class hotel in China.” With another laugh, she adds, “But he doesn’t cook at home. He only cooks in the restaurant.”
The restaurant serves Mandarin-style dishes, and as Angela says, “He can do spicy or not spicy.” The freshness and customization might add a little time to the preparation, but Angela says, “Red Bluff people are usually patient and we really appreciate that.”
The couple, whose sisters were friends who set them up when Chin returned to Taiwan from the United States looking for a wife, have two daughters who have grown up around the restaurant. The relationship was afforded time to blossom when Chin lost his passport and had to stay longer in Taiwan than expected. Today, the couple tends the restaurant seven days a week. “I don’t have a day off,” says Angela.
Hard work is an ethic for the couple. Angela began working the day after she arrived in the United States at Chin’s Carmichael restaurant. Without knowing much English, she set about her language education by taking a menu home and practicing every night for six months. “And then my English got better and better,” she says. “I can read, I can write, I can speak.”
It’s been a long journey of hard work and determination from Taiwan to a successful and much-loved business in Red Bluff, but the Changs are pleased with their North State community and the many customers who walk through their doors. “Some of the older people, they’re like my grandma and grandpa,” says Angela. “I love them."
New Asian Garden • 628 Main St., Red Bluff