Went to Mark's Duck House for a pre Mother's day dinner and we couldn't get a good table even though the joint was half empty. Instead of taking a bad table, we elected to give XO Taste a try for dinner, which is direclty across the street next to BB&T bank. Previously, I had only ordered take out BBQ items.
It was a great decision. I didn't really want to patronize Mark's Duck House anyway since they jacked up prices while the quality has suffered with the new management/ownership in place.
At XO taste, the place was cleaner, roomier, and more vibrant. Bathrooms were clean, not scary like at Mark's, and the dinnerware was modern, not dated like Mark's. They also take charge cards now. They was a wait when we left, so there are people who know about this place. A good mix of asians and whites and hispanics.
I ordered many dishes. They include marinated jelly fish, Crab Claws with XO sauce, Roast Duck, Sliced Conch with Yellow leeks, Walnut Shrimp, Kingdom Porkchops, Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic, and finally, Steamed Jumbo Oysters with Black Bean Sauce.
Every single dish was great, and the dishes came out quick. Service was attentive, even though I had tea spilled on my shorts.
The flavor of the XO sauce on the crab claws was great. Even better was the sauce for the Conch. It had a slight tint of rice wine and came with shrimp paste dipping sauce. The Walnut Shrimp were huge, and plentiful. Kingdom porkchops had a great sweet/sour taste with crunch. Snow pea leaves with garlic had great flavor.
Be forewarned though. If you order the steamed oysters, get ready for a meal. They are HUGE. Oysters are about the size of a large whole chicken breast. You have to eat it with a knife and fork. They are sold ala carte, or cheaper by the 1/2 dozen.
Meal was topped off with complimentary sweat tapioca soup. Mark's Duck House doesn't give you any dessert no matter how much you spend.
All in all, a great alternative to Mark's. They also have noodle/dumpling soups on the menu. Hope they will consider offering dim sum soon.
went to XO taste tonight...my report...
clams with black bean sauce- tender clams, but the sauce was simply too salty, even when mixed with rice. i know it is a salty dish in nature, but it was too salty even so.
short ribs with black pepper sauce- also a tad salty, though the sauce was good mixed with rice. the ribs were not as tender as they could be. wouldnt order it again
beef chow fun- the flank steak (or whatever cut they used) was superbly tender, which is very difficult to do. the noodles and bean sprouts were well-cooked as well. overall, though, the dish was a bit bland.
eggplant with garlic sauce- creamy eggplant, somewhat sauce, but very, very good. i'd get it again
roast pork on rice- nice skin, decent layer of fat. i haven't had a ton of chinese roasted meats in my day, but i'd say it was good, not great.
honestly, i feel as though the dishes were prepared as they should have been and a few of them simply weren't my cup of tea. the freshness of the food and quality of the produce, meats, and seafood was excellent- i just wasn't crazy about the seasonings.
perhaps i'll get more seafood next time and order more simply, that seems to be the way to go.
portions are huge, by the way.
Anytime you get anything with black bean sauce, it will be salty. The black bean comes from a paste that is salted black beans. Sometimes a fresh jar is very salty and you are suppose to use just a little bit, but not all chefs take that in consideration, they put in the usual measurement (a scoopful)
""" the term XO is often used in the popular culture of Hong Kong to denote high quality, prestige, and luxury.""""
that's what wiki says, and it fits here.
first impression: wow, what a neat, modern, clean space -- marble, high ceilings, modern fixtures & lighting -- GREAT bathroom!
second impression: the place has friendly, helpful, welcoming service. the lady who greeted and took our initial order, and the gentleman who also came by to assist in our ordering, couldn't have been nicer. she also checked in frequently to see how things were, how we liked the food, whether we needed anything, water, napkins, fresh plates, you name it.
mr. alka loves roast pork and duck, so we started with the roast pork and roast duck "combination" served with rice and hoisin. it had good, mild five-spice flavor, but with more fat than meat, though. it was tender and juicy, and not gamy. today, i'm using the leftover meat to make fried rice. the rice served with the meats had a somewhat rough texture, but a nice earthy flavor.
the gentleman suggested the special lobster -- two, cooked any way we wanted -- for $24.95. (i kid you not). we ordered it with x.o. sauce (natch) over chow foon noodles. what a (messy) feast! (i felt a little conspicuous eating the messy lobster with my hands, but...what else to do? eventually, i stopped worrying about that ;-). they provided lots of extra napkins, and wet-wipe packets.
we also got stir-fried watercress with garlic (stemmy! but we're used to the snow pea shoots, which they were out of because of a busy saturday night, apparently). they had good flavor, but were a little oily; i want to try their snow pea shoots to see how they go head to head with the same dish at hong kong palace.
the tea served from the moment we sat down was very tasty. our food came out fast, but we were there early. during our meal, water was refilled promptly -- for the most part. a shell bowl was provided, and attention was given to making sure we were offered fresh plates when, about 1/2 hour into eating, ours looked real messy (!). we declined, because mr. alka was done, and i was about to be; we thought that it was a grand gesture. (ps the plates are a bit on the small side -- though "artsy" in their oblong shape. knife and fork are small, too ;-(. plastic (read: "slippery") chopsticks were useless for the lobster, of course.
complimentary bean-tapioca soup was served as dessert. it was interesting, and vaguely vegetally sweet.
portions are generous. we brought home almost half the food as leftovers. (and you can't be a cookin' chowhound if you don't ever-so-briefly entertain the thought of taking home the lobster shells for making stock ;-)). leftovers were packed up quickly, neatly stacked and bagged.
observations: i was the only non-asian in the place among many tables filled with asian couples and families, which means this place is authentic!
many others got the lobster special, and the family table next to us had it deep fried (!) with "pepper and butter" (note to self: "next time get that!"), and also had another lobster special (and dang it, i can't recall now how it was prepared! -- though mr. alka just told me that he thinks the deep fried was one prep, and the "pepper & butter" was the second). many other tables got the watercress, and the roast pork starter. the couple next to us got soups, which looked full of goodness for only $6.50.
overall, we didn't notice "saltiness" in the food, either (cf. hkp snow pea shoots, which lately have been very salty, in fact.).
we're definitely putting this place in the rotation -- and it will give hkp a run for its money, i think. it opened in february, and we wish it the best of luck.
also, despite its "arlington blvd./rte. 50" formal postal address, it's "really" located on patrick henry drive -- facing the mark's duck house shopping center across the street. i think this plaza it's located in is called "willston plaza" -- it's the one with safeway.
ps, lunch specials look like a great deal, if you're able to go on a weekday.
also, we have questions.
mr. alka wants to know the difference between "roast pork" and "crispy roast pig."
and i want to know if there's a way to order the pork where the skin-fat and pork meat are separate, and the skin-fat is fried to a crisp -- like cracklings?
also, does x.o. sauce ever have star anise as a slight flavor component? (i know the pork's five-spice was mild).
and...what other ways can i order the lobster?-- i like spicy, but not enough to overwhelm the lobster.
and... what is a chinese "casserole" dish like? served like a stew in a casserole-type dish? more "ingredients in broth" vs. sauce-y?
FINALLY: if you like lobster, hie thee there!
That's a great, detailed review.
Roast pork is marinated in a chinese style bbq sauce before roasting. It comes out red and is usually the meaty cut from the ribs.
Roast pig is lathered with a rub on the inside of the pig before roasting whole. Yes, there is crackling from the roasting process...no need to separate and request for deep fry. The best cut is the pig belly. Mark's duck house charges extra for this cut...which is ridiculous.
The XO sauce is more soy/oyster sauce base..maybe a hint of star anise, but not that much. XO taste has a very delicious shrimp roll with xo sauce. It similar to a fried crab claw.
Lobster can be also ordered stir fried with the black bean sauce. My favorite is the deep fry first and then stir fry with ginger and scallion.
I was at Great Wall one time and saw a waiter from XO Taste there stocking up on lobsters. He must have picked up 50 lobsters.
Yes, casserole is typically served in a clay or metal pot with sauce. I had the brisket casserole and it was good there.
If you like oysters, consider the steamed oysters with black bean sauce. Make sure you only order how many you want, or they will serve you 1/2 dozen. They come out in their shell almost the size of a whole chicken breast....about $4 each, but cheaper if you order 1/2 dozen.
"""Yes, there is crackling from the roasting process...no need to separate and request for deep fry."""
but ours was not "crispy" skin. it was softer. is it an affront to then ask for that roast pig/pork to be stir fried with something else or heated? or is that what the menu item "meal on rice" is?
as to flavor, we must've had the roast pig, because of the five-spice flavor and no red color.
the lobster -- how do you eat it? i can't imagine dealing with it using only chopsticks. i had to employ fork, knife, hands!
for some of the pieces, it was easy to pluck the meat, while other pieces were oddly cut, and it was hard to figure out where the "meat" was to dig out or gnaw on. is this normal? also, do you eat what's in the head of the lobster, or is that just served for presentation's sake?
in the xo sauce, i detected some ginger, some garlic, sweet soy (and the gentleman said dry scallop), and i thought oyster sauce, but the lady said she didn't think so. it was stir fried with green onions (or is that chinese chives?). i expected the lobster to be spicier, but it's cantonese, right, so ....it's not supposed to be spicy. i did use some chili oil and vinegar, the condiments on the table.
here's a recipe i found on about.com - chinese food message board:
150 g fresh red chillies
250 g dried scallops (conpoy)
150 g garlic, minced
150 g onion, finely diced
100 g tiny dried shrimp (unshelled variety)
50 g Jinhua ham
50 g salt cured fish (see notes)
25 g large dried shrimp (shelled variety)
½ tbsp coarsely ground pepper (see notes)
(btw, the way this pasted, i have no idea if the characters correlate to the adjacent english translation). here's the link to the original, which has a parallel set-up: http://forums.about.com/ab-chinesefoo...
it seems to pack some heat from fresh chillies, though! maybe the restaurant went "easy" on me. it seemed a wee bit sweet, too.
and here's a recipe from fellow chowhound rworange: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/311431
his recipe and giada's (!) have sesame oil, too. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...
hers also includes lemongrass.
none of these recipes contains any ginger, like we detected in xo's xo. so, it seems like a pretty "flexible" sauce.
btw, as soon as i get mr. alka to help me, i'll post the photo! it was beautiful! ;-).
as to mark's duck house. phooey! they served me BROKEN lo mien noodles --- on my birthday, no less -- a couple of years ago. and they didn't give a rat's a$$ when i brought the quality of the dish (NOT!) to their attention. plus, it's grungy and expensive. i have never been back, nor will i go. xo is beautiful and very elegant -- sleek, moderne, quality food, eager-to-please! that's the kind of place i want to succeed and will patronize. viva la free market!
When you asked for roast pig over rice, the steam from the rice could have softened the crackling.
You can just order the roast pig straight up and/or take out. It should be crispy, and will definitely be that way if you order early in the afternoon. Come dinner time, the pig may not be fresh from the roaster. I would recommend you get the pig around early afternoon time on the weekends.
Lobster is actually easy to eat. With my right hand, I use the chopsticks. On my left hand, I hold the fork. The chopsticks hold the lobster piece in place while the fork is for digging the meat out. Next time, ask for some chinese spicy mustard and dip the lobster meat in that. Really good.
Then, you can use the chop stick to pick up the shell and slurp the gravy off. The head is mostly for presentation. The only drawback from having the lobster stir fried is that the lobster's brains are usually dumped out. That's good eating, but very rich.
I think you are right about the XO sauce. I did taste some dried scallops. Cantonese food in general is not spicy. It's more soy sauce based. There's usually some chili oil on the table for you to spice up to taste.
Yes, Mark's Duck House is a grungy place and they lack severely with customer service. Also, they do not give you free sliced oranges or sweet soup after your meal, no matter how much you spend. It is only included if you order a course meal that includes dessert.
Yes, for your birthday, you should have had long noodles to symbolize long life. Next time, order the Crabmeat or scallion E-Fu noodles, which are typically served on one's birthday.
Mark's duck house is overpriced and has poor service, but they do serve a good roast duck and roast pig.....Roast duck for them usually goes for about $22 whole and roast pig is $12.50/lb for the pork belly and $11/lb for the dry white meat.
In San Francisco, a whole roast duck can be had for about $8, and in NY chinatown, about $11.
we didn't ask for the pig over rice. they brought rice in a separate bowl. we didn't even expect rice with it.
we were there around 1 pm, the first people there for lunch on sunday. so the pork should have been crispy, then. hmmmm.
and if you can hold the saucy lobster pieces with those chopsticks, you are a real pro. those pieces were slippery.
You got there at 1pm and were the first people there for lunch? I think they open early than that.
My guess, worst case, is that they served you roast pig from Saturday. Reality is that all joints probably do that.
Since they have a BBQ stand right by the register, I would make sure or double check to see if they are hacking off your piece of pig from a whole carcass.
i'll be sure and pay more attention next time. maybe the pork was from the day before, but it was juicy enough. i just think "crispy" skin should have less fat underneath it than what we got -- and would actually "crunch" if you bit into it. maybe i just don't like chinese roast pig's fatty layer and not-so-crisp skin. i wasn't pleased with the duck skin at all. it was definitely not "crispy." btw, the menu says the whole roast duck is $19.95.
note: if you look in the linked photo, you'll see my plate in the foreground. the pieces of meat on my plate are *just* the fat layers i separated from the pork meat. maybe you can compare the serving plate's pieces of pork (the meat on the far side). one-third to one-half of almost every cut of meat was fat. i think i've read that the chinese like their pork with fat this way (it is representative of abundance, and also adds another important "textural" element to the food). if that is true, then i understand why their roast pig was as they served it.
and as far as i know, we were the first folks there, as nobody else was there except the workers sitting around a table in the back -- and they weren't eating. the time might've been closer to 12:45, now that i think about it. but it did pick up considerably within the next hour. (because of the holiday weekend, i thought a lot of businesses were slow).
they are open 11 a.m - 2 a.m., 7 days a week. (wow, open till 2 a.m.? -- but that's what their takeout paper menu says.).
From the photo, it looks like the layer of fat is pretty normal. The fat layer will range as you get your order from different parts of the pig but on a good roast pig the fat layer will range from about 3/8" to about 3/4 inch. The skin should have a crunch which is contrasted with the unctuous softness of the fat. Have not been to XO so this is just a general comment on piggie.
Looks to me like you got the good part...the pork belly. This is always fat. You can eat the lean cuts because they will be dry.
Crackling was not crunchy possibly from soaking up the oil from the fat.
I also know that XO Taste offers hoisin sauce with the pork, which is the right condiment.
Mark's only offers the drippings from the roast duck that doesn't go as well with the roast pig.
Worse comes to worse, order a section of pork belly unchopped and take it home and heat it up in the toaster oven.
With regard to the fatty part, I never eat the fat part...I just bite and spit it out. I also soak the crackling in a napkin to absorb the fat.
"note: if you look in the linked photo, you'll see my plate in the foreground. the pieces of meat on my plate are *just* the fat layers i separated from the pork meat. maybe you can compare the serving plate's pieces of pork (the meat on the far side)."
Those pieces that look like big chunks of bacon? I'd probably eat one or two of those and leave the rest aside. It's been quite some time since I've been to XO. I really should go back. I see they now have a real sign, so I guess that's an indication that they're doing well enough so that they think they'll stay in business for a while.
When I commented to the hostess at the time (who I think was the manager at the time) that I'd like to try the roast meats, but that the portions were too large for me to have for lunch, she brought me over a sample plate of a few chunks of each. I recall the duck and one of the porks having quite a layer of soft fat, but that the other pork had nice crispy skin. That would be the one I'd order if I could figure out which one it is. My few experiences there suggest that there are enough people around with decent English so that if I said "I want the one with the crispy skin" I'd get the right thing.
"maybe the pork was from the day before, but it was juicy enough. i just think "crispy" skin should have less fat underneath it than what we got -- and would actually "crunch" if you bit into it. maybe i just don't like chinese roast pig's fatty layer and not-so-crisp skin. i wasn't pleased with the duck skin at all. it was definitely not "crispy." btw, the menu says the whole roast duck is $19.95."
'Crispy skin roast pig' will not have less fat underneath than reheated roast pig. I have never seen anyone eat the fatty layer. It is pulled off and the meat underneath is eaten. It is unfortunate that you were served reheated roast pig. I have never seen this at a restaurant. I've only seen this at home when you've bought a chunk and could not finish it at one meal and need to refrigerate and reheat the leftovers.
Roast duck is not supposed to have crispy skin. Peking duck is.
"also, we have questions. . . . . ..what other ways can i order the lobster?-- i like spicy, but not enough to overwhelm the lobster."
There is a style, and I don't remember the name, where the lobster pieces are lightly dusted w/flour or corn starch and quickly deep fried; then drained and stir-fried w/chilis and scallions. It is a delicious dry presentation.
when i roast duck at home the skin is crispy. but we eat it hot, from the oven. i'm thinking room temp, the crispiness factor will really be diminished.
as to the pig, it wasn't heated. it was room temp, as was the duck.
as to the fatty layer, i'd like to save those bits, and render them for crackling.
last night, we steamed the leftover pork and duck pieces with the watercress (and a touch of added roasted sesame oil) over rice. next time, i need to reduce the amount of water used in the rice, as it was too mushy because of the moisture/fat from the steaming tray over the rice. but i think the technique is promising -- to kill two birds (or one bird and one pig!!) with one steam (er, i mean "stone"). ;-).
what does it say when a chinese restaurant opens during a down economy, and goes head to head against a number of others chinese restaurants next door. You better be good, or you be squashed. XO is good, not the best, but good or better than the rest. Consistency will determine the outcome, but XO is good
mr. alka recently had the shrimp dumpling soup, and it had 12 big dumplings full of chunks of toasted sesame oil-scented shrimp! it was a good value. he liked the light broth with a bit of scallions and five spice, but i thought it was quite bland.
i enjoyed the 6 large fried prawns on the lunch special for 7 bucks. (what i'd really like is to get a po-boy roll, some remoulade, and some finely shredded cabbage-lettuce to make those puppies into a great new orleans po-boy!). eat them while they're hot, or they get greasy in feeling.
the meat quality was *excellent* on the szechuan beef lunch special, but the dish wasn't made spicy hot at all. plus, there was too much sauce, in my opinion. also, the szechuan green beans were (too) saucy, and the sauce wasn't hot, either. next time, i'm asking them to ramp it up spice-wise and make the stir-fry drier.
does anyone else find their rice a bit "rough" in texture and a tad dry overall? i know that is an odd observation, but that's the best description i have.
rice today was "normal."
but i have a beef with them: they packed my leftover dumpling and noodle soup (virtually the entire bowl, save a small bowl of noodles) in too small a container, and left out virtually all the broth. i was sick, so didn't have the gumption to say when i puzzled looking at it, "how did you fit all that soup in this small plastic container?" but just now when i took it out to eat here at home, it was indeed short of the broth.
has this ever happened to anyone? i guess they just didn't want to use a larger container? sort of annoying.
Was anyone brave enough to dine there last night? How insane was the experience?
Last night, my husband and I drove past the restaurant around dinner time. Since we were planning on eating out, we gave X.O. Taste about 2 seconds worth of consideration, and, then, decided the place would be a madhouse. The memory of our previous meals there will have to hold us until the furor dies down.
re: Indy 67
I ate here about two weekends ago and had a great meal and great customer service. There was no wait, but most if the tables were occupied and most were occupied by Asian families.
One thing about this place is that they will let you order as much as you want to order without holding you back to say "that's too much food."
Your last sentence is so true. My husband and I ate dinner at XO last night and we went a bit insane with our ordering. Nevertheless, we managed to put a surprisingly large dent in the ridiculous amount of food we ordered.
We began the meal with BBQ smoked duck. The skin on one side was really, really crisp. In contrast, the side of the skin that had been sitting in the sauce was soft yet it had its compensations; the skin was more intensely flavored by the hoisin and soy marinade. Whatever process had produced the seriously crispy skin, this still didn't render all the fat underneath. My husband and I pulled off as much fat as we could. However, much more fat than we usually eat remained on the skin. Now, here's the weird part. Normally, I'm really turned off by fat, and you'll see that in some comments about a goose dish below. However, in this case, there was something delicious and decadent about the contrast between the hard skin and the soft, juicy fat. Incidentally, the meat was moist and delicious.
We ordered the lobster special prepared with spicy meat sauce. This is basically a dry presentation. The lobster is coated with cornstarch and wok sauteed. Then, a mixture of crumbled pork, diced chilis, green onions, and other spices is sprinkled over the lobster on the serving platter. Seriously amazing eating. I can't eat lobster with chopsticks, and I generally don't like to play with my food. Still, at this point in the meal, my husband and I were muttering "We never ate anything this good in Hong Kong."
For a bit of balance, we ordered ang choy. We were first introduced to Chinese watercress from our 2002 vacation in China. That's now our go-to vegetable. Unfortunately, it's not available in too many places. We can get it Mark's Duck, a place in Wheaton on Georgia Ave, and, now, at XO. Lots of garlic and perfectly crisp-cooked. Swoon. (I know someone complained about the stems on this vegetable compared to the pea shoots. What can I say? We love the taste regardless.)
Our final dish was shrimp paste wrapped around a scallop to form balls and served in black bean sauce. The texture of the shrimp paste is a little off putting any time you need to cut into the outer layer. It's quite resistent and rubbery, but that sensastion disappears in the eating, and the focus is on the intensely shrimp-y taste. The black bean sauce is very authoritative. There's way too much sauce compared to the shrimp balls, but the sauce is wonderful on the rice. Enthusiastic recommendations.
We kept muttering "We never ate anything this good in Hong Kong" so often, we sounded like we were perseverating! For the record, here are the two restaurants where we ate in Hong Kong: Yung Kee and Peking Garden. The former is a Hong Kong institution with a reputation for awful treatment to tourists, but we were dining with friends who are Hong Kong natives and visit family several times a year. Our friends seemed quite pleased with the meal. In particular, I have notes criticizing the roast goose on the basis of fattiness. Had the goose been as phenomenally delicious as our fatty duck, I would never have made that observation. Peking Garden produced a perfectly competent if wholly unremarkable meal. (Our third dinner was at Vong. This can't be included for comparison purposes since it is a chef-driven restaurant in the Jean-Georges Vongerichten empire and serves Asian-French fusion cuisine.)
This time, for dessert, we were served sweet red bean soup which we liked in contrast to our previous dessert, tapioca soup, which we didn't care for.
This was our visit post-WASHINGTON POST review. I would have assumed over-whelming crowds would still be innundating this restaurant, but this was not the case. The place was busy, but coping well. We arrived without a reservation at 7:45. Every table was filled. All the large group tables were occupied by Asians. The tables for four were occupied by a mixture of Asians and non-Asians. We were the only people waiting for a table and we were seated within five minutes. A steady stream of new diners, all pairs and small groups, arrived during the course of our meal, but the departing diners balanced things out. At any rate, the restaurant seemed to be handling its fame.
The gentleman who seated us chatted with us a bit and recommended the specific lobster preparation we ordered. He also mentioned that the restaurant's BBQ preparations were the best in town. Our waitress recommended the specific duck choice over two other options and suggested the shrimp dish. She also suggested bok choy, but we choose ang choy.
Definitely one of the best Chinese meals we've ever eaten.
re: Indy 67
Last time I was there for lunch, I had the roast pig (over rice) which had skin very much like you described your duck. Crisp as a a potato chip on the outside, with a tender layer of flavorful fat almost 1/8" thick between the skin and the meat. All three flavors and textures were delicious. Nothing fancy, just slices of pork over a mound of rice with some sauteed greens on the side, but just a delicious way of cooking the pork.
re: Indy 67
"Better than HK...." nice...
Yes, the only gripe really that I have about XO Taste is that they don't help you control your urge to over order.
I once ordered steamed oysters with black bean sauce....just like that....and they brought 6 of those out.
Doesn't sound like a big deal except for the fact that all 6 of them were the size of split chicken breasts.
I could only eat one.
After the fact, the waiter told me that I could have ordered 2 or 4 or single....It just would have been a tad more expensive per.
Total cost for 6 was about $24 though, so not a big deal.
The only place that really "ripped me off" was when I ordered Geoduck from Mui Kee. After I placed the order, I was a big taken back by how alerted the wait staff was. They served the geoduck up two ways....the head fried with pepper salt, and the tube stir fried.
Bill for that geoduck was $84.