Annie Chuiís Sun Luck Garden reopens

Sun Luck Gardenís exterior is non-descript, but the menu is packed with personality
When it comes to cravings for Chinese cuisine, I admit Hunan Coventry has been my go-to stop in the Heights. But, this summer I heard lots of buzz about Sun Luck Garden’s beloved owner, Annie Chiu, when a Who’s Who list of Cleveland chefs hosted a benefit in her honor since she had to close the restaurant for a few months after emergency open-heart surgery.

When the restaurant recently reopened, I made my first visit to sample Chui’s warm disposition and contemporary Chinese cuisine, which features Szechuan, Cantonese and Mandarin dishes.

Calling a strip plaza home, both the restaurant’s exterior and interior are unassuming and petite. But, the menu and staff are packed with personality.

Like a butterfly, Chui floated to greet guests and knew some diners by name. In contrast, our server didn’t have the best social skills. For example, when we asked for appetizer suggestions, he said he hated when people asked for recommendations and trailed off without further explanation. We did just fine with the potstickers ($5.50), which were delightfully doughy and plump with pork.

Equally amusing was the suggested wine list, which included a cabernet sauvignon ($6/$24) that was described as “smells exactly like blueberry pie.” Of course, we had to try it, and it did present a whiff of blueberry.

For our entrees, we enjoyed mu shu chicken ($11.95), shredded chicken sautéed with vegetables and served in four Mandarin thin pancakes with a sweet Hoisin sauce (Chinese-style fajitas), and vegetarian hawphen ($12.95), soft wide rice noodles tossed with a Szechwan chili sauce. This latter dish was tasty.

Sun Luck Garden includes a honey walnut chicken entrée ($13.95), which is my favorite dish from Hunan Coventry, so I was excited to conduct a honey walnut chicken challenge. When I ordered takeout to sample Sun Luck Garden’s rendition, I also added wonton soup ($1.75), spring rolls ($1.75) and pork lo mein ($11.95) to my order.

However, Chiu’s presentation of Honey Walnut Chicken is very different than Hunan Coventry’s Chicken with Honey Walnuts, and I prefer Hunan’s simplistic version. Chiu’s version is more of a stir fry.

The spring roll was the best I’ve had – a perfect flaky crust and very fresh veggies. The wonton soup’s full-bodied broth also was good, but it was a little sweet for my taste, a trend I noticed with other dishes. Unfortunately, the pork lo mein was unmemorable, possibly because I ordered it mild.

I regret that Chui’s famed spicy mussels that are served just a few times a year were not on the menu. But, I did add my e-mail address to the contact list for future notification. I also have heard her homemade sorbet is delicious, so I plan to sample some on my next visit.

For the next few months, Sun Luck Garden is only serving dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. Lunch will be added at a later date.

Sun Luck Garden
1901 S. Taylor Road
Cleveland Heights
(216) 397-7676

Tuesday – Friday: 4 – 9 p.m.
Saturday: 4 –9:30 p.m.
Sunday: 4 –8:30 p.m.

Per her grandmother, Christina Klenotic is a “good eater.” She enjoys sampling our area’s eclectic restaurants, galleries and neighborhoods.
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Volume 1, Issue 8, Posted 9:49 PM, 10.24.2008