Fun Chow: Lunch at Bob's 66 in Rockville
A rockin' good time was had by the nine hounds who met for lunch at the attractive (no pee-smelling carpet here) Taiwanese noodle house just north of Rockville center. Thanks to Marty L's organizational skills, we were guided today by Hungry Kate and her work/lunch colleague Jenny, a native of Mainland China, who are regulars at Bob's. Others present were Steve Siegel,Louise McG, Roe Panella, Anne/Smokey, Bill Pappert and me.
We had a big, round table in our own little alcove, and personal attention from Bob himself, an affable, flirtatious man who describes himself as "an M.B.A.--married but available."
We wanted to try the "smelly tofu" that we'd heard so much about. Bob was skeptical that we would like it:"sort of like blue cheese," is how he described it. "Some people like it, some don't. Very popular back home." Jenny told us that it smelled bad but tasted good. She also told us that a literal translation of the Chinese name for the dish is "fart tofu." The version we were served was quite mild, by Chinese standards, according to Jenny. It did have a pronounced, "barnyard" aroma which reminded me a lot of a badly brett (brettomycenes)-infected bottle of Cotes du Rhone I once opened, that smelled like poop. The outside was lightly crisped and the interior soft. It was served with pickled cabbage and a spicy chile sauce. The flavor was pungent, slightly sour from the obvious fermentation it had gone through. Not something I'd be in a hurry to eat again, but then it took me a while to work my way from Camembert to Livarot and Pont L'Evesque. Ripe, stinky cheese is about the closest comparison I can come up with.
Bob delivered a complimentary amuse--a plateful of marinated eggs. They were brown and savory from a long soak in a soy flavored broth. Very tasty. Jenny is a good cook herself, and described the process of making them. The first dish we were served, after the tofu, was oyster pancake--a type of omelet, really. Generously covering a large plate, it was fresh and delicate, packed with small, fresh oysters, scallions and had a savory sauce ladled on top. A winner.
We had three soups-- pork stomach with mustard greens had thin strips of tripe and fresh greens in a bland broth; shrimp with spaghetti-like noodles in a chile broth was more interesting. the third soup, mushroom and spinach in a pale, watery broth was, well, delicate and thirst-quenching. Not much there, there.
A whole tilapia in a spicy bean sauce was delicious--very fresh-tasting fish that had been fried and then covered with a complex, lightly spicy sauce.
Chicken in ginger sauce with Thai basil was nuggets of dark-meat chicken with pieces of bone in a brown sauce with hints of star anise and the brighter anise notes of basil. Very good. We also had two different versions of Chinese watercress, one with pork and one with beef that were good, but indistinguishable, one from another. The green veg was a nice balance with the rest of the dishes. And we had clams with black bean sauce, a creditable version of the classic dish. As an afterthought, we ordered a dish of soft-shell crab, which was chopped in bite-sized pieces and deep fried. It was fresh tasting-but mostly of breading and oil. The crab wasn't flavorful enough to shine through.
The piece de resistance came for dessert: a spectacular, heaping "volcano" of shaved ice, piled high on a platter. It was topped with sliced fresh strawberries and surrounded at the base with small mounds of boiled peanuts, canned lychees in syrup, sweet red and brown beans and cubes of black tapioca gel--square versions of the bubbles in boba-tea. One spooned the saved ice into a bowl with the fruit and sweets and mixed it all up. It was cold, sweet, refreshing, with all kinds of interesting textures. A fabulous finish to the meal. Some were initially taken aback by the sweet beans, but we all ended up exclaiming over how good it was. A perfect summer dessert.
The best part was the bill-- $12 each, including a generous tip!
Zora, you devil, you were taking secret and perfect notes of our lunch today. Great job and thanks much.
Sorry I left my camera in the car especially when the desert was served, truly an icy desert volcano with fruits and many goodies. We must do this again, if not but for the "shaved ice" as Bob calls it.
Great to meet the new "Lunch" Chows Kate and Jenny, and really looking forward to Jenny's promised post about the event, she is our newest ethnic specialist Chow Person....hope to hear soon, please. Yumm!
Thanks Zora, I was too busy eating with my head down to take such detailed notes.
The smelly tofu sounded much worse than it tasted. That said, I saw Steve stuff his piece under his plate, then slide the lazy-susan around so that the dish was no longer in front of him.
I thought the seafood soup, in a bright red chili broth was great. It was full of head-on shrimp, scallops, and squid...but not at all fishy as it is in some places. I also thought the whole tilapia, though very boney, had a wonderfully heady sauce of garlic and chilis that I just couldn't resist. And finally, I'd like to give the softshells a slightly better review. While I admit the seasoning took away from the crabs natural flavor, I thought the crisp breading with hints schizuan(?) peppercorn and star anise was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious.
A fun bunch too. Thanks again to Hungry Kate and Jenny for leading us through the menu and introducing us to Bob!
The smelly tofu "sounded" bad, eh? Well then, just to complete the tour of the senses:
1. Tastes: good (but not a "destination" dish, right?)
2. Sounds: Bad (per Pappy's exquisite sense of hearing)
3. Smells: Like Teen Spirit. (others detected hints of barnyard, sewer, that unreal cheese No. 5 on the Laboratorio cheese plate; and other unmentionables)
4. Looks: Ordinary.
5. Feels: (anyone?)
Two errors have been pointed out in my original post: one each of omission and commission. It was LIZ McG who was there. And I forgot to mention the dish of cooked loofah. Yes, the same squash that is noted for its ability to remove dead skin in the shower. There was a good reason, other than incipient dementia, that I forgot to mention it. It wasn't memorable. A soft, slippery texture, and to me, hardly any taste. But then, I'm not a big fan of zucchini unless it has been prepared with way too much garlic.
An astounding parade of food to be sure! I hope our new friend, Jenny will post to enlighten us or make corrections. The only thing I could not stomach was the stinky tofu, whose only other attribute was that it didn't taste as bad as it smelled. Still, this is bad-tasting tofu.
Aside from having tried a multitude of exotic dishes, I'm also trying to figure out what dish I could make a meal of. At the top of my list would be the tilapia, a whole fish smothered in a colorful gravy as pretty as confetti. Does anyone know how this was listed on the menu?
The two biggest surprises came at the end. After we had eaten everything - or so we thought - Marty L. found out they have fried softshell crabs. That was prompting enough for us to indulge in an order. If you have an interest in breaded and fried seafood, this is the ultimate preparation, so expertly done. The other dish that regaled us was the shaved ice. I'll always remember the look on Liz's face when she took one spoonful and exclaimed, "What's the NAME of this!?!?" like she had to know IMMEDIATELY.
"At the top of my list would be the tilapia, a whole fish smothered in a colorful gravy as pretty as confetti. Does anyone know how this was listed on the menu?"
I was told that it is listed on the Lunch Special menu as #L16, Wucuo Fish w Spicy Bean Sauce (I didn't notice any beans, however)
And what was I thinking when I left my camera in the car, the shaved ice was a genuine Kodak Moment.
After about two years (?) of being closed, Bob's 66 is back in the old Bob's 88 space. I stopped by for a carry out menu. I'm told that they have been open for three months.
If anyone does a food trip up to Rockville, keep in mind their Taiwanese 'hamburger' is on the menu.
One of the all-time great food snacks of the DC area, and only $4.
re: Worldwide Diner
Since it appears almost nothing has been posted on Bob's 66 in Rockville recently, I want to briefly report on an outstanding dinner I had recently at the new location. The overall level is outstanding and it has to be put on par with the area's top Chinese places both in Rockville and around the Seven Corners area. Standouts were a perfectly grilled and seasoned fish appetizer served with chunks of garlic, the oyster pancake (really more like an omelet, with lots of oysters), a strong rendition of thick noodles with beef, and a beautiful, fragrant steamed whole fish in a ginger broth. Some perfectly done string beans laced with more garlic (not the Sichuan beans on the menu) came out as a substitute when the waitress announced they were out of mustard greens. The only disappointment was a deep fried shrimp appetizer with an interesting but nonetheless overly sweet sauce, which was ordinary. I don't want to start an discussion about the authenticity thing etc., but it is relevant to note that I couldn't help noticing we were the only non-Asians in both large dining rooms that Saturday night. And I didn't even begin to ask about all the specials in Chinese covering the walls! This is definitely a place for more hounds to report on.