4681 Convoy St. #C
At first glance, Jamillah Garden appeared to be just another Chinese eatery. However, when I peered through the window and saw the loaves of bread and bowls of stew, I realized this was something different. My girl and I skipped the Japanese restaurant where we had planned on eating, eager to try something different.
I'd never heard of Islamic Chinese food, but, according to the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times articles on the walls, this Chinese cuisine offshoot is becoming more and more popular.
Eschewing pork, as is required by Islamic law, Jamillah Garden serves poultry, vegetarian, beef and lamb dishes. What is especially noteworthy, however, is the sesame bread.
Taking the place of rice are large, round, 2-inch-high loaves coated with sesame seeds. Available plain or seasoned with your choice of green onions or sweet red bean, the bread comes to the table fresh out of the oven with a crisp crust and a multi-layered, tender and moist interior. The green onion flavor is delicious.
Listed under Dim Sum on the menu, the bread takes 15 minutes to prepare. I suggest telling your server to wait on bringing out the other dishes until the bread is ready. For one thing, you'll want to have the bread on hand to mop up the sauce from your meal. For another, it's ideal for dunking into the stew.
Served in giant ceramic bowls described as "warm pot," the stews are available in beef, lamb, ox-tail, bean curd and assorted (a combination of all of the above) varieties. We opted for the lamb.
The Lamb Stew Warm Pot features a rich broth, bok choy, cilantro, large chunks of tender lamb on the bone, and a pile of cellophane noodles that absorb a lot of flavor. Seasoned with star anise, the stew is reminiscent of Vietnamese pho.
We also ordered Shredded Chicken in Spicy Sauce. With the heat provided by white pepper, the dish is strong but not unmanageably so. The thick-but not sweet-brown sauce coats the chicken, zucchini and black mushrooms in a delicious glaze, with plenty of sauce left over for bread dipping.
With the stew priced at $15 a bowl, and the bread and shredded chicken at $8 apiece, a party of four can dine for $30. Jamillah Garden is a great bargain for those seeking something different and delicious.