Around noon on most days, influential veterans of Houston -- judges, top cops, city administrators, elite lawyers and the like -- start a quiet southern migration away from the ever-expanding zone of trendy eateries on the north side of downtown. They ease into the boxy, windowless old shell of a building housing China Garden, exchange first-name greetings with the proprietors, the Jue family, and feast on one of the best secrets around. China Garden knew decades ago that what really counts is on the inside: stress-free service, a longtime waiter snapping out a fresh blazing-white tablecloth for guests, good basic fare -- and some of the best off-menu offerings imaginable. The dumplings are divine, and the snapper so savory (as are all the seafood dishes, for that matter). Culinary skills keep evolving in this unique spot. And so does the patience. The Jues staked their claim in the central city long before the downtown bust. They were loyal to a neighborhood in decline. Now -- with the Rockets' arena and other development heading toward them -- a new Houston will discover what always attracted the old one into this China Garden of Eden.