Chowlunch at Hong Kong Palace, a report
Half a dozen of us assembled at the Hong Kong Palace in 7 Corners last Friday to chase away the blues caused by several consecutive days of rain. We ate:
Spicy szechuan dried beef
Dried baby fish and peanuts
Cumin fish filet
tiger skin pepper
twice cooked pork with fresh garlic leaves
spicy tangy potato with chicken
A beef/beef tendon stew (Steve, do you remember the name?)
The meal was a good cure for the weather. For me, the highlights were the Cumin fish fillet and the spicy tangy potato with chicken. The second dish was on the specials menu on the wall and our helpful waitress urged us to order it. The chicken chunks were small pieces of dark meat, moist and tasty, and the potatoes were quartered small red potatoes, coated with a mixture of cumin and other spices and, I believe, a bit of sugar. Sure, you could scoff at this dish for having New World potatoes, but hot pepper is also New World. The cumin fish fillet was flounder in a very light breading with cumin and other spices that didn't overwhelm the fish.
We were a bit unbalanced with our orders; most of our dishes were hot and we had few soothing dishes to buffer them. The tiger skin peppers came out much hotter than on my last visit; the consensus has generally been that the heat of this dish varies greatly as they use different sources or varieties of peppers from week to week.
Hong Kong Palace continues to be a very solid restaurant. Everything was carefully prepared and no two dishes tasted at all the same. There is a lot of depth to the menu and plenty left to explore.
The tab for the 6 of us, with tax and tip, came out to $100, and we were stuffed.
No, this isn't Fortune, nor do I think it is the old Inn. I have a vague memory of eating there in a Vietnamese initial incarnation. This is a strip mall on the Rt. 7 side that is adjacent to the Shoppers Food Warehouse and near the new Dogfish Ale House, across from the Sears that was once a Lord&Taylor.
6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044
The previous name for the Hong Kong Palace was Saigon Palace. They never were very much Vietnamese (they served canned bean sprouts with the pho), but it became a very good Cantonese restaurant, then a good Szechuan restaurant, and somewhere along the line changed to Hong Kong Palace. For a while they had the Saigon Palace menus with "Hong Kong Palace" rubber stamped over the name.
Lots of owners, lots of chefs, a few names, but the same location.
Thanks for the report. This restaurant continues to exceed expectations. Quite excellent.
Has anyone tried their version of Beijing Duck? I love the duck at Peking Gourmet but thats about the only thing worth ordering there, IMHO. Meanwhile we continue to work our way through the Szechwan dishes.
Yes, I've had the Beijing Duck. I am not a stickler for this dish, so all I'll say is that it tastes the same here as just about eveywhere else.
The beef dish was beef and vegetable in peppery broth, the same as the H-20 at Joe's Noodle House. This is a good version, Joe's is better.
I am thoroughly delighted with the golden corn and egg dish and the tiger skin peppers,. Those two plus any of the typical 'red oil' dishes will give you quite a well-rounded meal. Add the twice -cooked pork, which is dry-sauteed with black beans, and you have the makings of a real feast.
Steve -- Isn't the H-20 at JNH the FISH in the hot sauce? The beef is another dish I think. Or maybe my memory is going bad (no maybe about that, unfortunately).
[Did you try the general tsao's chicken? I know you're a stickler for that dish, but yes it probably tastes the same here as everywhere else. Is it true they get the sauce from the Wendy's just down Rt. 7?]
Scoff? Heaven forfend!
I know 'hounds go to HKP for their outstanding 'authentic' dishes, but we ought to be able to stretch to allow a top chef to create something new (a bit like Mary Cliff's weekend folk music show on WETA radio, described as "traditional music and music in the traditions" - maybe "traditional dishes and dishes in harmony with the traditions")
I know I got an eye-opener long ago at Chang's [NOT 'PF Chang's] in Sterling, with dishes successfully and delightfully including tomatoes and zucchini among their more expected ingredients. I was a bit put off at first ... until I tasted them. (BTW, Chang's still has the most wonderful hot-and-sour soup, balanced and bell-like in its light clarity).
PollyG is right. In my experience, the staff is very friendly and helpful. They tend to ask questions to be sure we really are up to spicy food as they know it. There's a transliterated term for saying "as it should be" in chinese, and there is someone reading this that can enlighten us. I can never remember the phrase. There are some customers who think they need to order "extra spicy." They will do it, but IMHO I think that will most often ruin the dish. They will work with you, including translating the specials.
Seven of us ate here last night, all former expats from China (assorted Beijing & Shanghai). I thought the food was just okay... but if this is the best the area has to offer for Chinese food then I am a little blue. The food was spicy, but not the spectacular fiery-numbing combo that I'm used to. Here's what we had (we ordered in Chinese so dish names may not accurately reflect menu translation) -
-Wontons in red oil - the highlight of the meal
-Scallion pancake - imo, too doughy. Others enjoyed.
-Assorted pickles - salty, sour and spicy. Very good. Odd assortment of veg (broccoli stems. ?)
-Cumin lamb - nothing like the cumin lamb in China. Good flavor, but just different.
-Yuxiang pork - okay, but disappointing. Lacked depth of flavor.
-Mapo doufu - okay, but needed more chili and huajiao.
-Chicken dish - I've never eaten anything like this in China, but it was tasty. Stir-fried chunks of chicken with peppers and onions.
-Stir-fried bittermelon - yum!
I think HK Palace is good, but I'm not sure I'd make a special trip over there again. Maybe for the wontons. The food is tasty but it's just different from what I was expecting. On the plus side, it was rather cheap. In any case, the search continues for authentic Chinese eats. Next stop: A&J.
I for one am glad to hear that Chinese food is better in China. Not that I don't want great Chinese food here, but my otherwise feeble instincts tell me that this is the way it should be given the marketplace.
My favorite Sichuan is at Joe's Noodle House, but I am sure that you will find it not authentic as well. The single most fiery Sichuan dish I have had in the Washington area is the dry beef at Joe's (marked with the most peppers and numbing on the menu). One person can't finish it without being reduced to a puddle. The most fiery in general is China Star, without a doubt. The cumin lamb in sizzling wok at China Star is usually searing.
Of course, I think it's possible to have a great meal at HK Palace, but I am partial to the Chengdu noodles, the tiger skin peppers, the corn and golden egg, and the twice cooked pork. Of course, if you want more heat or numbing you can always ask. I always ask for more sichuan peppercorns on my ma po tofu. Someitmes when I get otherwise bland take-out, I toast my own and crush them on top.