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XO Taste

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.

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  1. 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.

    6 Replies
    1. re: CoconutMilk


      Either you're a big eater or you came with others. If so, did they share the same opinions?

      I think Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the slower days of the week.

      1. re: Chownut

        hah, of course there were others, yes.

        yeah, what i said was pretty much the consensus among the bunch. None of your food was too salty? that was definitely the biggest issue for me.

        1. re: CoconutMilk

          I don't recall if the food was too salty, but I also recall that I didn't use too much soy sauce.

      2. re: CoconutMilk

        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)

        1. re: xymmot

          i know that, ive cooked with fermented black beans before.... i said in an earlier post that it is inherently salty....but there is such a thing as too salty.

          1. re: CoconutMilk

            I think he's saying a fresh jar is even saltier than normal so a normal dosage of fresh black beans could make the dish saltier than intended. I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

      3. """ 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!

        18 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          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.

          1. re: Chownut

            """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:



            指天椒 三兩
            150 g fresh red chillies
            江瑤柱(干貝) 半斤
            250 g dried scallops (conpoy)
            蒜蓉 三兩
            150 g garlic, minced
            乾蔥蓉 三兩
            150 g onion, finely diced
            蝦米 二兩
            100 g tiny dried shrimp (unshelled variety)
            金華火腿 一兩
            50 g Jinhua ham
            槽白咸魚 一兩
            50 g salt cured fish (see notes)
            蝦子 半兩
            25 g large dried shrimp (shelled variety)
            黑胡椒粉(粗) 半湯匙
            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!

            1. re: alkapal

              Alka: rworange posts frequently on the SF board and judging by the posts (I lived there for a long time) I trust the poster's opinions.

              1. re: alkapal

                photo: will do more, if i figure it out.

                1. re: alkapal

                  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.

                  1. re: Chownut

                    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.

                    1. re: alkapal


                      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.

                      1. re: Chownut

                        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.).

                        1. re: alkapal

                          here are two more photos, so maybe you can get a clearer look.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            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.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              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.

                            2. re: alkapal

                              "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.

                              1. re: MikeR

                                mike, i think you're onto something, there. it is to be noted that both of the folks who served us were very, very proficient in english (except she didn't know the word "tapioca" -- maybe she said "sago"? ).

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Tapioca in cantonese chinese is "sai mai."

                                  A very nice version of the sweet tapioca soup is when they put a little bit of peanut butter in it. I've only had this version in NYC though.

                              2. re: alkapal

                                "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.

                                1. re: comestibles

                                  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"). ;-).

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Next time you have left over roast pig, I recommend you stir fry it on a wok with some soy sauce and garlic. It's good.

                    2. re: alkapal

                      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

                    3. 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.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        How do you like your white rice? Most chinese/cantonese like it light/dry/rough, not wet, soggy, or mushy.

                        1. re: Chownut

                          well i can tell you that i don't like it wet, soggy or mushy! i like it relatively dry, but not too dry. their rice is "rougher" than hk palace, for example.

                          i'm asking chowhound's resident rice expert, sam fujisaka, about this issue: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5854...

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Maybe they just reheated stale rice...what time of the day did you eat there?

                            1. re: Chownut

                              once we were the first people there. once we were there at 1:15. it didn't taste stale either time. but it just looks and feels different than rice at other chinese places i've been to -- e.g. hk palace or mark's, or nyc or san fran chinatowns.

                        2. re: alkapal

                          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.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Looks like Sietsema finally discovered it, and liked it.

                            1. re: Chownut

                              Wonder how he found out about it.

                              1. re: chowsearch

                                Probably read it here. How do you think he finds out about most Chowhound darlings? <g>

                                He did mention that he had a bit of trouble finding it, as did a couple of Chowhounds.

                                1. re: MikeR

                                  This has happened more times than I can count. I think Sietsema gets MOST of his cheap eats/ethnic recommendations from this board.

                              2. re: Chownut

                                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.

                                1. 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."

                                  1. re: Chownut

                                    Our experiece has been the same: great meal and customer service. However, I assume the past is no indicator of the current situation once the review appeared in the Sunday magazine.

                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                      However, with the crowds at XO Taste currently, it's probably an excellent time to go to Present!

                                    2. re: Chownut

                                      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.

                                      1. 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.

                                        1. 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.

                                      2. re: Indy 67

                                        Maybe it will divert some traffic from Hong Kong Palace on the weekends for a while.

                                2. When the heck are they going to publish a take out menu on line?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: MsDiPesto

                                    For the most part, anything you find in one authentic chinese/cantonese restaurant you can find in another.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      I don't think so. It's a Cantonese place. I wouldn't expect Shanghainese food there.

                                      1. re: dpan

                                        i dont think they have it either. The only place I've had stir fried rice cakes is at joe's noodle house in rockville (they were only ok)

                                        1. re: CoconutMilk

                                          I had them at Bob's Noodle 66 and was happy with the order. This was maybe a year or two ago.

                                    2. <BUMP>

                                      our three dishes last night were close-to-PERFECT!

                                      crab and asparagus soup -- rich broth, very flavorful of "asparagus" and plenty of crab.

                                      deep fried spicy shrimp, scallops & squid: light coating, VERY FRESH seafood, cooked to just tender, perfectly salted and accompanied by a nice "condiment" of sliced hot chilies (plus a little something else ?). the condiment was underneath, though; maybe it had it fallen through. i'd ask for more chilies on top next time -- and maybe extra on the side ;-).

                                      sizzling steak with black pepper sauce (#1 in "sizzling platters" menu section): i don't know if i've ever had more tender (but it was not mushy) beef. <EVER!> the beef had a true, "clean" beefy flavor, and the sauce was a dark brown sauce that was very (very) slightly sweet but not too strong as to overwhelm the beefy flavor. the beef was rare, and the pieces were not too thick or thin (hey goldilocks, talk to me!)

                                      it could have used more chilies, because it was supposed to be a hot dish, but i couldn't taste it. the beef is served on a bed of chinese broccoli, the bitterness of which is a good counterpoint to the sauced beef.

                                      all in all -- it is the best SURF and TURF!

                                      i have a new respect for XO taste. maybe they've hit their stride.

                                      (this was a sunday night -- and we were there around 5:30; by 6:30-ish, it was packed with chinese people at maybe six or seven very large family-style tables, plus smaller groups). the atmosphere was "lively," which is just a few decibels lower than "loud." mr. alka likes the atmosphere much more than HK palace. it is much nicer, i agree 100%.

                                      last night, the duck looked great, too -- and it was plentiful. (their carry-out business seems to be thriving. good for them). their peking duck special is $26.95 these days. lobster prices are $13.95/#.

                                      and for you people who really appreciate clean bathrooms, XO taste retains its high marks in that regard!

                                      anyone know when they added a page or two of "szechuan" dishes?

                                      i've heard from a little bird that this place is the after-work dining spot for many of our DC chefs.

                                      10 Replies
                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                          I guess they must, since they have a bar.

                                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                                            XO only displays wine and beers. it seems that they do NOT have a liquor license, or if they do, they sure hide the liquor. we never tried to order drinks there, though. i don't recall drinks on the menu, either.

                                            just recently had the shrimp dumpling soup (again). it is a great deal -- $6.50 for a huge bowl with maybe 9 big shrimp dumplings. we also got the spicy fried pork chop with kingdom sauce. it was fine, with a mild sweet & sour sauce (not gummy, of course) on lightly fried pork chops -- about 1/3" thick pieces -- some bone-in, some not. the dish tasted good, and the meat was fried right, but it wasn't a "shout to the rooftops crazy-good i've-never-had-this-kind-of-food" dish, so, next time...another dish. there are so many to explore.

                                            in general, i have noticed that no matter what we have ordered, the meat is always so tender at XO!

                                            the next dish i really want to try after seeing it at a table next to us is "shrimp with walnuts," with huge shrimp in a light batter piled high, then topped with walnuts. it looked like a feast dish.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              We went for dinner on Christmas Day with some friends. They had a special of two lobsters for 30 bucks, which we ordered with XO sauce. Succulent and delicious. We also got the shrimp with walnuts, a giant fried flounder with chili sauce, beef chow fun, some perfect little pot stickers, pea greens with garlic and some beers. Everything was fresh and flavorful. They don't have liquor, but the food here is great. Five people ate very well for 130 bucks including tip. We got there around 4 when the place was mostly empty, but was packed with Chinese families by the time we left. Next time I want to try the roast pork and a few more of the dozens of intriguing dishes.

                                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                how was that shrimp with walnuts dish?

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  Kind of sweet for my taste, but it was a big hit around the table. The shrimp were large and crispy and there were a lot of them. I left out the beef with crispy noodles and basil, which was quite good. I know this is supposed to be a Chinese place, but there are some definite Vietnamese overtones to the cooking. I totally approve.

                                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                    i find the meat sauces to be a tiny bit on the sweet side, in general, but maybe it is just the dishes we've had so far....

                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                      It's not surprising about the viet influences. Many of the Cantonese restaurants are run by ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. I believe the owner of XO Taste came from Vietnam.

                                                  2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                    I often have the roast port, or roast pig. They both come from the same animal, but one has a layer of fat and crisp skin, the other is solid meat. I've asked for, and received half-and-half so I can get some of that good artery-clogging stuff without total overload.

                                            2. shrimp with walnuts. meh. the walnuts were nice and slightly sweet, but the jumbo shrimp were in a so-so batter, and then dressed lightly with mayonnaise. yep. mayonnaise. served alongside were cold (room temp) broccoli florets. strange. anyhoo, i can cross that dish off my list. two adjacent tables got the pork chop, which we had gotten the other day (though ours was with the "kingdom sauce.").

                                              mr. alka got hot and sour soup which was good, and the singapore rice noodles which were slightly burnt (tsk!) and light on the protein for the price. the best part of that dish was the roast pork strips. the shrimp were non-descript. the noodles were dry, too. boring!

                                              they can't all be winners, right? i should've gone with my instincts and ordered the vegetarian chow foon that looked so tasty as it passed by in the waiter's hand to a nearby table. (this is how i think of dishes for the next visit).

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                FWIW, I've seen that shrimp w/walnuts dish dressed with mayo in plenty of "authentic" restaurants. I think that's just how it's supposed to be.

                                                1. re: DanielK

                                                  Not only mayonnaise, but sweeted mayonnaise. I've had shrimp with honey walnuts w/chili peppers, which was a signature dish at Hunan Lion years ago and pretty tasty. I ordered shrimp with honey walnuts at Mark's Duck House a few years ago and it came with this mayonnaise treatment, which I thought was weird. Same thing again at XO Taste. These are the only occasions I have ever been served mayonnaise at a Chinese restaurant. In most respects, Mark's and XO appear to cater mostly to the Chinese community and are not particularly " Americanized" in their cooking. Is this mayonnaise thing being embraced in China, or what?

                                                  Mark's Duck House
                                                  6184 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044

                                                  Hunan Lion
                                                  2070 Chain Bridge Rd Ste G6, Vienna, VA 22182

                                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                    It's a Cantonese thing, probably influenced by Hong Kong culinary developments. HK cooking incorporates a lot of western influence.

                                                    1. re: dpan

                                                      Having traveled for a few months in China on two occasions, I can safely say that Chinese food can be fairly odd to a western palate. The things they do with snails alone...

                                                      1. re: Ziv

                                                        Perhaps it would be more accurate if you said "to an AMERICAN palate." The French (who are western) have similar abilities.

                                                        1. re: dpan

                                                          Garlic, butter and puff pastry make anything delicious.

                                                          1. re: dpan

                                                            dpan, what we had in China was just odd. The snails were the oddest, they felt like they were hooked up to an electric wire, I asked our host and he said that it was an example of opposites in taste. What is opposite to an electric snail I don't know, though. There were odd preparations of fish in both Beijing and Guilin where the fish had a bizarre almost slimey consistency, and these were specials in the favorite cafes of locals in both places.
                                                            I don't think it is akin to any western preparation, French or not. I didn't eat at Michelin places, I ate with the locals and some of it was just odd. I have never seen anything like it and I have spent years in Thailand and months in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. I have also spent more than a year wandering around eastern Europe and again, there is nothing like the more offbeat dishes in China. The only one that comes close is a very spicey fermented version of Assam Laksa in the Highlands of Malaysia, but that is about it.

                                                        2. re: dpan

                                                          Must be from their trips to Hawaii, where mayonnaise is king.

                                                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                            Probably from the Japanese, who LOVE mayo and put it on anything they can. And Hawaii, of course, is heavily influenced by the Japanese and Chinese.

                                                  2. 2 People we had dinner around 6:30pm

                                                    Ordered Steamed Dumplings (just because) nothing special about them very doughy won't order the next time.

                                                    Sizzling Black Pepper Sauce Beef (as Alkapal mentioned very tender) I wish it was a touch saltier, and the sauce is too much for me, I know the corn starch etc, the beef itself was great, for $16 good portion for 2 people, not spicy at all.

                                                    Roasted Pork on Rice (i ordered the one that comes with the skin), I love pork, and I love chinese Roasted pork (with the red spices etc), so it was delish, I think it has a bean sauce on the side kind of sweet it gave a nice touch to the rice but just the pork and what I believe was steamed bok choy was great by themselves.

                                                    at the end they offered a sweet black bean & corn soup, give it a try! it takes a while to get used to it but it goes great in contrast with the meal you usually order.. I didn't finish it but had half of it... it was a different taste.

                                                    I will definitively go again!

                                                    1. I went on friday and ordered:
                                                      -BBQ plate (duck and char siu)
                                                      - sweet and sour ribs

                                                      When we were greeted, the service was nice. I took the advice of some reviews I read and asked to be moved after being seated at the table behind the door (climate control issues). After that, the service went downhill.

                                                      I found black stuff in my water and had to ask for a new one. I also hate when the staff give non-asian looking people forks in restaurants. Little do they know that my dad is cantonese and his family owned a restaurant!

                                                      The tea tasted metallic and like straight tap water.
                                                      The food came out fast, almost too fast.
                                                      The duck and char siu plate was too oily and greasy, the char siu being the better of the bunch, yet still having a lot of gristly bits. The duck wasn't crispy and was cut poorly, with bone shards all over the place. I personally would rather cook my own duck at home or get it at another Cantonese place in the area.
                                                      The ribs were cross-cut and had good flavor, but the little bones in them were often unwelcome surprises after chewing the meat for a minute.
                                                      It was 11.95 for each of the things we ordered. We did get a lot of food, but I still wouldn't call it "dirt cheap" like some people did. We received a tapioca pudding/soup for dessert. This was alright, but the more I ate, the more grainy it tasted and then I saw some "mysterious black" flakes, the same as from my water cup, floating and pushed the bowl away.

                                                      One plus: they take credit card. They had interesting lights, but the decor is weird because it is very open, with no walls, or carpeting, almost like a chinese place you'd find in the mall.

                                                      I was really disappointed, especially since they're in the Full Kee family and they got a good write up in the Post.

                                                      Full Kee Restaurant
                                                      509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: discojing

                                                        This may begin the XO Taste downhill slide watch.

                                                        1. re: dpan

                                                          dpan, that is the most ridiculous statement i have seen on chowhound in a VERY long time! you say that based on discojing's review? really!?!?!?

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            Wow. You really take that personal. I was half joking, though on my last couple of visits I noticed a decline in the quality of the food preparation. It's not something I say lightly given my initial positive impression of the place. I hope they get their act together and keep the quality up.

                                                        2. re: discojing

                                                          this review i find very poor.

                                                          whoever said things were "dirt cheap"?

                                                          what did they do when you complaned about the black things?

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            Many people i've talked to said that this place was VERY cheap, and it has only 1 "$" on Washington Post & "$$" on Yelp. Yes, there were some dishes, and I do consider $7 to be really cheap for dinner, but the options were limited to just one section.

                                                            They didn't do anything when I complained about the black things, they just took the cup away. No words.

                                                            Maybe my mistake was reading and trusting Yelp & Washington Post?

                                                            1. re: discojing

                                                              I was also there over the weekend. I found the roast duck on rice ($7) with a nice crisp skin. I wasn't as fond of the chow fun - good but not great- but it was huge portion for $10

                                                        3. I honestly don't get why this place is so enormously popular. To me, it's just another cantonese style restaurant no different than maxim palace, fortune, full kee, etc etc etc. Is it the novelty factor? Because when I ordered dishes that supposedly was made with XO sauce, I found that it made a negligible difference. If I closed my eyes, I honestly wouldn't be able to the difference if I was eating at Mark's duck house right across the street

                                                          20 Replies
                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                            OK, since you seem to be an expert, just what is XO sauce? What were you expecting?

                                                            Mark's Duck House used to be a favorite around here, but it (as Chowhounds reports go) went downhill with new management but was still very busy and often involved a wait to eat there. The proximity of X.O. Taste, fresh and pretty room, less busy, and interesting menu made it popular with this group. J

                                                            Just because a lot of people around here like a restaurant doesn't mean it's the best of its breed. It only means (at least to me) that if I like the kind of food they serve, it's worth a try. I eat lunch there a few times a month because it's within walking distance and I can get different things there than I get at Hong Kong Palace. I hardly get full Cantonese experience (I have a shrimp intolerance which takes a chunk out of the menu for me) but I really enjoy the simple roast meats over rice, and their kung pao chicken has a nice light and not gooey sauce.

                                                            Yes, close your eyes, and maybe put in some ear plugs, and it's not too far off from Mark's (though I don't think XO has dim sum carts). But at XO, you don't have to close your eyes. ;)

                                                            1. re: MikeR

                                                              the beef is very good at xo. quality.

                                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                                XO sauce is an overpriced gimmick consisting of mainly conpoy, but I suppose it works as a decent marketing strategy. Take every expensive "umami" type ingredient and shove it all into a bottle, take a random label associated with prestige and slap it on, and charge 20 bucks a pop

                                                                I've never tried XO sauce before, so I assumed that, for the price and the hype surrounding it, that the items made with this particular sauce would introduce me to new flavors. Assuming they use the real thing, XO taste probably uses a miniscule amount to make even the slightest taste difference since it so insanely expensive. But I don't think it would make any difference if it was a oyster sauce or XO if you're just gonna drown everything in soy sauce and/or oil anyways.

                                                                Don't get me wrong, XO taste isn't bad at all. In fact it's pretty darn good. But I don't get the preferences people make over certain restaurants when they are pretty much clones of one another. My community is make a huge fuss about how XO taste is mindblowing and everyone should choose it overwhelmingly over any other restaurant especially mark's duck house because you will somehow be missing out on life if you don't. However, I'd rather not wait 30 minutes for a table and be jammed into a packed restaurant if I know I'm gonna get the same thing elsewhere


                                                                I just read that you believe XO taste is less crowded. The last two times I've been there around that area, XO taste was jammed packed with people and mark's duck house was virtually empty

                                                                1. re: takadi

                                                                  Sounds like XO sauce isn't such a big deal, but it's not so bad as a name for a restaurant as names go.

                                                                  "My community is make a huge fuss about how XO taste is mindblowing and everyone should choose it overwhelmingly over any other restaurant especially mark's duck house because you will somehow be missing out on life if you don't."

                                                                  Oh, I suppose there's one or two who have written reviews like that, but in general it's just a pleasant restaurant with some things that you don't get everywhere. That doesn't mean they don't make a good roast duck (I don't think it's exactly the trademark Peking Duck style) or roast pork over Rice. It does seem to be the kind of place where you could talk to the chef and get something special that would turn out to be either what you wanted or at least the genuine version of something you've never had before and isn't on the regular menu.

                                                                  1. re: takadi

                                                                    mark's duck house has been off of our list of places to go for several years. it is really run down (as mike said, close your eyes), the staff are unfriendly, and the food is really quite mediocre. i mentioned that the last time i went was probably four years ago on my birthday, and got the "specialty meats" (or the like --basically, everything in the freakin animal) lo mein. well, i won't comment on the pig's hearrt component, but the noodles were all broken up.. i said to the server, "hey, it's my birthday, and all of these broken noodles are bad luck." and....wait for the "customer service response."

                                                                    hmmm, you still waiting? yeah, me too!

                                                                    i'd rather go to jerry's sub shop than mark's duck house. i think jerry's cares more.

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      That really sucks that you got bad customer service. Last time I went there was a month or two ago, and they were practically trying to cater to my every whim. I think they were really trying to get back the customers they lost to XO taste. Granted their quality has gone down since the very first time I tried them, when they were still in 7 corners, but I still enjoy it. But I've never had bad experience there in terms of customer service though.

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Yea I should have been more specific. They used to be in Eden center back in the 90's

                                                                        2. re: takadi

                                                                          Was Mark's ever in 7 Corners? It's in Willston, across Arlington Boulevard from 7 Corners and as far back as I can remember, probably 20 years, that's where it's always been.

                                                                          The original Fortune was at 7 Corners, then moved to Bailey's Crossroads, which became Lucky 3, and is now in the process of becoming Hokkaido Seafood Buffet.

                                                                          1. re: MikeR

                                                                            i consider the willston plaza as "7 corners" *neighborhood.*

                                                                            as far as i know, mark's is still operating where it has always operated.

                                                                            mike, what's the progress on hokkaido, if you know? we drove by the other day and the paper was still up in the windows.

                                                                            by the way, have you ever had the kabobs at the "mirage" place which is (i think) in that same strip mall as hokkaido? they were pretty good. now i see a sign in their window that there is a combination mid-east and "peruvian" (?) buffet in there (at mirage). i haven't been there since that feature began.

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              Yes, "7 Corners neighborhood" but if you don't know how, you can't get from one shopping center to the other (including Eden Center and whatever the one across Wilson Boulevard from Eden Center is called).

                                                                              I have no idea about the progress getting the Hokkaido Buffet open. I guess when it happens it'll happen. It's not even mentioned on the company web site yet. I'm sure it's a big overhaul though. That building was a Sea Galley (a Seattle chain which still seems to be alive in the Northwest), and each turnover has been a long time in-progress job, even the last switch from Fortune to Lucky 3, which were pretty similar.

                                                                              Mirage (and its previous name Samadi Sweets) used to be one of my go-to $5 lunch places. They had a really juicy chicken kabob with rice and salad $5 lunch special, but it wasn't as good since they started the Peruvian buffet (which costs more than $5) so I haven't been in recently. And then there's Al Jazera Garden that's been festering where Rosa's, another good $5 lunch, used to be. And a few blocks up Columbia Pike and around the corner, My Bakery (good saltenas) has been gone for several months and I see there's a Chinese place going into the space.

                                                                              The neighborhood is going to pot, or at least going to more expensive lunches. Even Hong Kong Express has raised their $5 lunch specials by a buck. <g>

                                                                              Hong Kong Express
                                                                              988 Swan Creek Rd E, Fort Washington, MD 20744

                                                                            2. re: MikeR

                                                                              Mark's actually used to be in Eden Center.

                                                                              That was a long time ago, though.

                                                                              Eden Center
                                                                              Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

                                                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                                                Just to keep the history straight, the original Fortunes, what was often in the Washingtonian top 100, was in Bailey's Crossroads, near the old Thiesmans. One of the owners opened the newer Fortunes at 7 Corners; hence other owners sold their shares of the original Fortunes which then quickly went down hill, or was probably on a downward trend before anyway. It was then sold and became Lucky 3. I miss the original Bailey's Crossroads Fortunes of the mid 90's.

                                                                                Do you know what kind of seafood buffet Hakkaido's will be? Japanese?

                                                                                Lucky 3
                                                                                5900 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  All the Fortunes get lost in my head, but I remember that the one that now has the Hokkaido sign was indeed a Fortune. Maybe that's what it was after Sea Galley. I remember that when dim sum carts was a weekends-only thing at that restaurant in Rosslyn, Fortune was had them every day.

                                                                                  Assuming that the coming Hokkaido will have the same layout and menu as the ones in California, here's the buffet menu:


                                                                                  1. re: MikeR

                                                                                    It looks a little Todai-like. Interesting assortment of food. I'll be interested in seeing how it works in that location. I can imagine it being pretty pricey.

                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                      Hokkaido is likely to be more expensive than I'd want to pay for lunch, but then so is Todai. At Fair Oaks Mall (if the web site is up to date) it's $17 for lunch, $27 for dinner, a couple bucks more on weekends.

                                                                                      Hokkaido is a stone's throw from Raaga (Indian) which has a lunch buffet for, I think, $14, and there are a few other buffets (Bamboo, and the Latino buffets down the strip) within a mile or so that are cheaper. I know it's comparing sushi with stew, but still there's a range beyond which they're no longer competitive.

                                                                                      By the way, when I drove past yesterday, I noticed that most of the paper was off the windows and the door was open (with a ladder in the doorway, clearly not open to the public yet) so I guess work is actually in progress.

                                                                                      1. re: MikeR

                                                                                        raaga has weekday buffet lunch for @$12, weekend lunch buffet is $14, if i recall correctly. there is lamb and salmon on saturday and sunday, respectively -- in addition to the other regular offerings of the weekday (tandoori chicken or chicken tikka, basmati rice, palak of some sort, naan, dal of some sort, two other veggie dishes, salads, and a dessert).

                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                            just got one of each -- lunch and dinner. asked mr. alka to join groupon to get his, too. we go there quite often! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/687881

                                                                                            their tandoori lamb chops are a favorite.

                                                                                2. re: MikeR

                                                                                  Think you have that backwards. Fortune used to be in the place now occupied by Hokkaido, then moved to Seven Corners Center next to Home Depot about 5 or more years ago.

                                                                      1. I was kinda excited when I heard they had roast duck and other things, but I've been hearing that you just get a re-heated bird that's overcooked in some places and cold in others. Anyone try it lately?

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                          Noticed today a sign in Germantown MD for an XO Taste waiting to open. Is this attached to the one discussed here?

                                                                          1. re: Trip Klaus

                                                                            Yes, I was at the shopping center opposite Fox Commons at Middlebrook and 355 Thursday evening and noticed the sign in front of what used to be a so-so Vietnamese restaurant. The permit posted reference a Chinese-American firm that I hadn't heard of in VA. As a Germantown resident, I'd love to add a "sister" to the VA XO Taste to go along with Sabai Sabai Simply Thai and Peking Palace.

                                                                            Also regarding Germantown dining, I've noticed that Elevation Burger is opening next to the New Chipotle (which I have very mixed opinions of BTW) and Yogi Castle (which I haven't tried yet, but I probably could go for a tart mango yog with mochi sometime soon), and I'm really hoping that the 2012 Wegman's that will be walking distance from where I live will have a restaurant/cafe like many. Keep 'em coming I say...

                                                                            Peking Palace
                                                                            12937 Wisteria Dr, Germantown, MD 20874

                                                                            14925 Shady Grove Rd Unit L, Rockville, MD 20850

                                                                          2. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                            they bring the cooked ducks out and hang them in/adjacent to the heat lamp/warming area, just like i've seem done at other places. they sell a LOT of take-out pork & duck, from what we have observed.

                                                                            the "roast duck" can be the roast or smoked duck (they have 3 varieties by the way), which is carved or taken from that hanging zone. i've never ordered it, but presume that duck like peking duck is made to order.

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              Alkapal, thanks for clarifying! Think I'll have to drop by.

                                                                          3. I went to XO taste last weekend and had a really disappointing experience. The shrimp and mayo with walnuts and the eggplant were delicious, but the chow fun with chinese broccoli and the lobster were not good. The chow fun was edible, but was really lacking in seasoning and they skimped on the sauce. Noodles were a little overcooked too. The lobster was just horrible though. I've never had lobster that smelled so horrible in my life. The odor was of chlorine, but not like a swimming pool but more like a public bathroom. I thought it was just me, but every piece just reeked. I usually dive into the head of the lobster for the brains when I order it (mmm dioxins), but this time the head had a very rotten fish odor that almost made me hurl.

                                                                            Not saying I won't come back here again, but it definitely will not be for the lobster ever again, as it has scarred me for life

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: takadi

                                                                              Did you tell the waiter how the lobster tasted, and ask for another one? Did anyone on staff try to explain the preparation or sauce to you? I won't question your displeasure with the taste, but maybe it's supposed to be that way. Or maybe that was just a bad animal in the bunch.

                                                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                                                Definitely not supposed to be that way. I've eaten the lobster once before and it never tasted like that. I was complaining to my family members who were at the table with me, but they didn't taste anything, so I didn't tell the waiter. I suspect the odor came from the water the lobster was in because it was as if the lobster had been living in a public restroom toilet.

                                                                                1. re: takadi

                                                                                  we had lobster there one time and it was delicious.

                                                                                  takadi, you were the only one tasting a "reeking" lobster in your family? did they eat the lobster?

                                                                                  and...you know...sometimes certain medications can make you taste bad or odd things that taste fine to others. i have had that happen to me...... (and this includes antibiotics).

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    No I'm not taking any medication, but I've always had a really sensitive sense of smell. Some of my family members said they did smell something but they associated it with that funky smell that you get from eating any crustacean and they didn't care. But it was definitely different from that usual "fishy" or strong crustacean smell, the smell was almost chemical in nature. I didn't really want a make a huge deal out of it because I thought it would be rude, so we just went ahead and consumed the lobster as if nothing had occurred.

                                                                                    This might be a fluke since I've had lobster here before and it was quite good. I'm not sure what happened, but there is a definite aversion that has developed and I will be quite reluctant to order lobster here again

                                                                                    1. re: takadi

                                                                                      being rude is not an issue when the food is "off." seafood can be very "iffy" as you know, unless very fresh. sorry you got a bum deal, but you should definitely have addressed it with management. i'm sure that they'd have preferred you be happy (and learn what might be wrong in their inventory management) than you going away with a bad taste in your mouth.

                                                                                      <sorry, couldn't resist>.

                                                                                      1. re: takadi

                                                                                        Well, you've made a huge deal out of it here, so you probably should have at least mentioned it to the waiter and asked if he'd bring you a different lobster to try.

                                                                              2. live within a mile of XO Taste, and always have great food. Last order was soft noodle roll w/ XO sauce, beef congee, veg. chow fun and spicy shrimp and scallops. Everything was great... but if you are doing take out and have to drive any further than 5 mins, don't order the fried dishes as they will suffer for the travelling and become soggy.

                                                                                1. 5:30-ish on friday afternoon/evening….sizzling beef with pepper sauce and shrimp dumpling soup with noodles.

                                                                                  noodles in soup -- not freshly made, barely reheated in soup. shrimp dumplings still excellent -- though broth was much stronger-- perhaps more shrimp or lobster shells in stock --- not a bad thing.

                                                                                  sizzling beef steak in black pepper sauce, different cut, not as tender…and very salty. after i asked, the waiter said used it used to be flank steak, now is tenderloin. meh, not thinking that is the case.

                                                                                  my request for some sesame oil was easily granted, and it did help the steak dish.

                                                                                  no "dessert" soup even offered…nor anything else.

                                                                                  lots of staff hanging around (granted, it was mid-tiime between lunch and dinner…but….we are WORRIED about "downhill" issues. we sure hope not.)

                                                                                  1. have visited once or twice since last post. now dessert is honeydew chunks. more welcome than that soup they used to serve.

                                                                                    this trip: beef and golden mushroom casserole -- mr. alka loved it. surprising, but cantonese, touch with pineapple. tons of mushrooms. good broth. xo always has good beef, sometimes really outstandingly tender and flavorful.

                                                                                    snow pea shoots are "in season" and xo does them better than hk palace.

                                                                                    i think i like their hk wonton soup (big bowl -- $6.50) even better than their shrimp dumpling or shrimp dumpling noodles soups. their dumplings/wontons are excellent.

                                                                                    next time for main course, will get one of the eggplant + _______ casseroles.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      i found this link instructive on cantonese cuisine, and i found it while i was searching for that casserole recipe. i was intrigued by the use of pineapple, as i mentioned, so i wanted to see if i could learn more about the use of pineapple in cantonese cuisine. http://www.chinahighlights.com/travel...

                                                                                      in addition to the pineapple, sliced ginger was a strong component; and it also had green onions & red and green bell peppers. there was a great savory undertone from perhaps oyster sauce or a little hint of sesame oil -- and most assuredly some soy. if anyone else tries it, i wish you'd give us your analysis of the flavors. here is a recipe that looks similar to what we had. http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/626975

                                                                                    2. we went last night very late after the steely dan concert, so it was around midnight. we were the only people in there, and i ordered beef chow foon with xo sauce and mr. alka his regular singapore noodles.

                                                                                      i never like singapore noodles, so i won't comment on them, but my chow foon was definitely not made with fresh rice noodles. THAT is a big NAY for me. maybe they had run out, but i am ready to give up on XO TASTE and return to hong kong pearl seafood (where i stopped going because of the smarmy manager guy). (Maybe he is gone and i can return without feeling annoyed with his manner). the chow foon was also skimpy on the beef for $14.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                        Did you go on a Saturday night?

                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                            I find that with most cantonese restaurants that their best food is during dinner time on a Saturday night.

                                                                                      2. Went to XO Taste for lunch today. We wanted a lobster with scallion/ginger but not at $35 per lobster (told it was a 2 lb lobster). And they didn't have any dungeoness crabs.

                                                                                        We started with a combo platter of roast pig (not char siu, which they called roast pork) and roast duck. They were both pretty tasty, and plentiful at around $13.

                                                                                        Unfortunately the salt/pepper fried shrimp was greasy, maybe a little overcooked, and generally not very flavorful. We didn't finish the shrimp.

                                                                                        The last dish was beef with bitter melons. I feel like they dumped too much black bean sauce into the dish and the beef just tasted like black beans and no other flavor. The bitter melons though were bitter enough to cut therough the black beans - which is good if you like your bitter melons bitter.