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Help me decide: Hong Kong Palace, A&J, Lucky 3, or Full Kee

DH and I will be going out next Saturday night with our 16 month old. We have not been out since she was born. We are new to Chinese (expereineced in American CHinese) and are adventurous eaters. We need to stay in NoVA since DD is unpredictable and we want to stay close to home.

Where should we go and what should we order?

I'm anxiously awaiting your responses.

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  1. That's a few different types of Chinese cuisine in each restaurant. HKP is Sichanese, which is generally spicy. A&J is Taiwanese/Northern Chinese, Full Kee is Hong Kong style Cantonese. Not sure what Lucky 3 is other than their dim sum, but probably Cantonese. Figure out what you like and then pick the place.

    9 Replies
    1. re: dpan

      HKP or A&J. What would you order at these places?

      1. re: nissenpa

        At HKP I would order the chengdu noodles, the twice cooked pork, the tiger skin peppers, and the corn and egg. Yeah, you'll have plenty of leftovers. Must ask for the Sichuan menu.

        At A&J, the pickled long bean with ground beef, beef tendon, cucumbers, xiao long bao would be a good start. Small plates, so you can try more things here.

        1. re: Steve

          My experience at HKP is that they are unashamed of their authentic menu, and present it by default - if someone looks unsure, they then present the "take-out flier" and explain "this is American Chinese food, this is real Chinese food."

          Hurray!

          1. re: wayne keyser

            That's good to know. Thanks!

            Hey does anyone know if A&J has a website? I thought I had it at one time but can't seem to find anything online.

            1. re: wayne keyser

              You must have the adventurous look. I always have to ask for the authentic menu, which I do as soon as I see them pick up the takeout flier.

              1. re: bacchante

                I'm going to remember this Saturday---if they reach for the take out menu---insist on the authentic. I bet my life they will reach for the take out menu.

                1. re: nissenpa

                  Once they realize what you want, though, they couldn't be happier and more helpful. Go with Steve's recommendations. That twice cooked pork is out of this world. You'll never eat it in a Chinese American place again. I also like their spicy tangy wonton, which he didn't mention. Perhaps not as good as Peter Chang's, but great none the less.

            2. re: Steve

              I had a great lunch at HKP last week -- of course I overordered so I'd had another great lunch the next day.

              One oddity: I again tried to order the cold wood ear mushroom salad, and was again dissuaded from doing so. This time the server seemed to think I wanted only spicy dishes. So I was "forced" to get an order of the chengdu noodles -- which the server said were better than the north szechuan noodles that are right below them on the menu.

              Next time I am going to get an order of the wood ear mushrooms whether they want me to have them or not. It's starting to sound like a Seinfeld episode (like so many other aspects of my life).

              1. re: Bob W

                Oh! Do not let them dissuade you again from the wood ear mushrooms! They're delicious. Light, tender, and delicately flavored. I *really* enjoyed them. And I recall the hostess telling me that they were specially harvested or a special breed (I can't remember which), so they're not nearly as tough as some of the cheaper kinds that you get in hot & sour soups.

        2. If you have an afternoon open, I'd go for Lucky 3 with the 16 month-old. Lucky 3 is the only restaurant of the 4 you listed which is full cart dim sum--one of the best real restaurant meals you can get with a small kid in tow. The bustle of the carts and the proximity of the food is fun for kids, and there is almost no wait for food. But I believe Lucky 3 does dim sum only at lunchtime.

          13 Replies
          1. re: PollyG

            Thanks! I will keep this in mind. DH and I decided to do HKP this Saturday but we do hope to hit the others I mentioned at some point. I've never had dim sum. Do you have anything you recommend?

            1. re: nissenpa

              One of the nicest things about dim sum is that it's exotic, often exciting, but never (at least in my experience) too strange for even the tamest palates.

              I know I've just used several words in the previous sentence that might mark me as a "rube," but it gives the sense of what I'm trying to get across.

              Enjoy! (What's Chinese for "mangia!" ???)

              1. re: wayne keyser

                Well, the duck's feet are kind of off-putting for a beginner. ;)

                I'm allergic to shrimp and so many of the dim-sum cart offerings (buffet offerings at Lucky 3, as well) have shrimp in one form or another, so it doesn't take long for me to get marked by the waiters as a wimp. I guess shrimp is pretty popular so they bring a lot of it around, and when the pork comes around, it's usually those big puffy buns - I love 'em but a couple is enough and then I want some variety.

                1. re: MikeR

                  No shrimp + dim sum + "waiter language gap" = "yeah, you got a ptoblem."

                  I feel for you - truly, you never know where shrimp (fresh or dried) will be hiding.

              2. re: nissenpa

                As the steam cart rolls around (a deep cart, rather than the usual trayed cart), ask for the sticky rice, which is a rice steamed in a lotus leaf along with various bits of meat. Also, when you see something that looks like a huge rice cooker rolling around, get the fresh tofu served within--it is a big favorite of my 7 year-old.

                The steam cart is full of goodies, primarily steamed dumplings, but it is also where you will find the duck feet, the tiny chunks of spare rib, and the tripe steamed with ginger. You may have to ask for all of those; our experience is that servers at dim sum rarely mention all the goodies in the steam cart UNLESS you have ordered the tripe. Once you order the tripe (and you may have to point at your stomach to bridge the language barrier), they will show you all the other exotic items.

                Particularly good fried items include a chive dumpling and taro dumpling.

                Clams in black bean sauce are also generally pretty good.

                And you can ask for char sui bow ("sui" is pronounced "sue," "bow" as in "take a bow") which is a baked roast pork bun.

                1. re: PollyG

                  Thank you SO much. I'm now thinking I might have to take DD to Lucky 3 for lunch one day next week just for the experience.

                  1. re: nissenpa

                    Go on a weekend if possible. Unlike other 7 day a week dim sum places, Lucky 3 does a buffet on weekdays. The carts are much more fun. One thing I forgot to mention are the double-fried shrimp, which are really good (grownups eat the shells along with the shrimp) if they are hot. It is okay to ask the server to confirm that they are hot before taking them.

                    Fortune in 7 corners and Mark's Duck House, also in the 7 corners area both offer cart service dim sum 7 days a week. Of the two, I think Mark's is better, but Lucky 3 is probably a little better than Mark's--an opinion that other people on the board won't necessarily share; both are pretty good.

                    1. re: PollyG

                      Cool!! Do they do dim sum at dinner?

                        1. re: nissenpa

                          I'd be leery of restaurants that serve dim sum past lunch. Dim sum is traditionally a lunch meal and all the food is steamed or prepared during that time. Anything you get past lunch will probably be leftovers from that time and reheated.

                          1. re: dpan

                            I did not know that. Thank you.

                          2. re: nissenpa

                            Dim sum is brunch. It might be tempting to go slightly early (11am) or late (after 1:30) to avoid the crowds, especially if you have a little one but the quality of food suffers. Too early and you get yesterday's leftovers. Don't order off the trays where there is a variety of food because they've combined leftovers from the carts. Lucky 3's buffet is what you'd expect from a buffet, not comparable to cart service. But, if your little one likes french fries, it would work for you (though any chinese place that serves french fries...). I like Mark's Duck House much better for the food, would not take my parents or in-laws to Lucky 3's. Lucky 3's is much more spacious and with a little one, you might feel a little claustrophobic at Mark's.

                            At night, I'd probably go to Mui Kee down 50E. They have great dumplings, soup, won tons. Nothing like won tons and dumplings you'd get from American chinese places. And, the beef chow fun is very good, sometimes it's excellent, w/ a great smokey flavor, but it must depend on who's cooking because you don't always get that.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Miu Kee is worth a visit just for the dumpling soups - unbelievable clarity of flavor!

                              Look for the dumpling soups on the table card (I don't think they're on the menu even though they're the specialty there).

                2. A&J is small plates and a not so great high chair for your daughter. Things to try at A&J:

                  Pickled long beans and beef
                  pan fried pork dumplings (8 to a serving, easiest way to spot them on the menu)
                  cucumber dish on the back page of the menu
                  Spicy beef tendon--one of the best preparations of tendon anywhere
                  smoked chicken (comes on the bone, but a big hit with kids)
                  Any of the noodle dishes, ask for the house-made thick noodles when they give you an option of thick or thin
                  Bubble tea. A&J's versions are consistently good. This is a choking hazard for your 16 month-old right now, though they can make a version without bubbles. My kid loves the passionfruit.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: PollyG

                    Thank you all for the recommendations--we ate at HKP last night and here is the report.

                    All the food came at once which was the only complaint. We ordered green onion pancakes which I thought were incredible. They had great flavor and I was surprised by a buttery-ness taste. Probably just oil but it was really good. DH liked them but did not love them. We also ordered sesame balls which we probably should have ordered for dessert because they were so sweet. DH LOVED these and ate them right away--he has a HUGE sweet tooth. I was still working on the pancakes. We then ordered a braised pork with garlic leaves that we would give a B. We love the spice and sauce and the fatty parts of the pork but there were a lot of overcooked pieces. Didn't stop us from polishing it off though. And the other dish we ordered was the corn and egg. Looked like golden popcorn and was AWESOME. We had TONS of this leftover and DH will probably eat it as a snack after he gets home from the gym this morning. It had a great buttery taste that cooled down the pork a bit. I liked putting it in the chili oil that was left on my plate from the pork. I ate way too much. Now I feel like I'm retaining the Red Sea--and that is AFTER a half hour on the elliptical.

                    So we have decided to go back and try the other chowhound recommendation---ziran lamb (cumin lamb). I also want to order what the table next to us had. It was so cool looking that I asked our server what it was. It looked like a huge bowl of soup with a dozen things in it but when I asked the server he told me it was the whole fish. I guess it's on the menu as 'whole fish'. Anyways, DH is up for it and told me I can order for us again. So thank you all!

                    1. re: nissenpa

                      I'm also terribly fond of the tiger skin peppers on the last page. One of us felt they were sauteed in black vinegar. The Chengdu noodles are served room temperature with absolutely perfect texture and are very hot.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Tiger skin peppers will be on the list for next time.