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Who Needs Mark's Duck House?

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Another great meal at XO taste across the street.

Restaurant was nice, cool, and clean. Mostly asian families.

Ordered the XO Shrimp Rolls, Kingdom Porkchops, Salt/Pepper Shrimp, stir fry snow pea leaves, shredded pork noodles, and brisket casserole.

Everything was good, no MSG thirst afterwards, great service, free sweet soup dessert, and food was fairly priced.

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  1. I had a pretty nice meal at XO Taste. I enjoyed their soft rolls with XO sauce and their BBQ dishes (really enjoyed the curry sauce brisket, though it was fattier than my cardiovascular-ly challenged husband could eat). But - I still need my dim sum. And, increasingly, Marks is the one of the few places to get dim sum. I went to Fortune the other day and see that it isn't really Fortune anymore - seems to be a Vietnamese seafood place.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MarietteB

      You're right...Mark's has dim sum but XO Taste doesn't.

      I spoke to the boss and he said XO Taste will probably not go the dim sum route, but may be looking into something more sophisticated like chinese tapas like dishes.

      For dim sum, I generally stick to Montgomery Cty.

    2. I just walked past Mark's today right around noon and there was a crowd of people standing outside. Is it really that popular? Maybe by default if it's the only dim sum in the neighborhood, where people go for dim sum on Sunday.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MikeR

        Fortune is right across the street; it fills up before noon on Sundays. Maybe Mark's gets their spillover. Fortune isn't the best dim sum either, but it's better than Mark's has been lately.

        1. re: MikeR

          Mark's is definitely popular for dim sum on weekends...mainly because it's really the only decent dim sum in NoVA.

          1. re: MikeR

            The line at MDH is like that every Sunday. Always.

            Same with Fortune.

          2. I'd say Marks duck house is the best Dim Sum around the area. Far better then fortune. If anyone is getting any spillover its fortune. Marks duck house is ALWAYS full on the weekends for Dim sum, i got there during the week also and its also full. Its a great spot.

            6 Replies
            1. re: prldecivic

              I've been to Mark's and Fortune. My family regularly goes to Fortune even though it is much further than Mark's. I went to Mark's once, and it sucked. I vow to never go there ever again! At least I get reliable service and dishes at Fortune. I think China Garden is better for some dishes though (p/bor lao bao). (Though I love Fortune's char siu bao)

              1. re: discojing

                Are you talking about the same Fortune? There's a Fortune directly across from Mark's. It's right next to the HD.

                1. re: Chownut

                  yes. There are only two Fortunes, one in Seven Corners and one in Reston.
                  The Reston one is smaller, not as good, and actually reminds me of Mark's Duck House

                  1. re: discojing

                    Isn't there a Fortune in Gaithersburg? Seems like I've eaten there a time or two.

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      That is New Fortune, not related

                      1. re: deangold

                        New Fortune, but not really that new...actually pretty old inside.

            2. I boycotted Mark's after a couple awful meals there last year. When I first went there about three years ago I thought it was great, particularly the roasted duck, pork and chicken, but it seemed to go downhill. I believe there is another post on here that suggests that there were new owners. I'm willing to go back but I'd like to hear more. BTW isn't there some great dim sum in Rossyln? And up in Wheaton dosen't Hollywood East have good dim sum offerings as well?

              14 Replies
              1. re: ClevelandDave

                Hollywood east is closed until August when they wil reopen in Wheaton Town Center wr whatever its called.

                1. re: ClevelandDave

                  We've been going to MDH since we moved to Falls Church in early 1998.

                  The last few times we've been there for dim sum it has been extremely heavy on the shrimp/prawn offerings and very thin on just about everything else.

                  Disappointing and it'll be a good while before we go again.

                  This new XO sounds great. I can still remember the old green Hunan Garden delivery menu sitting in a kitchen drawer!

                  1. re: Geeyore

                    The few times I've been to Mark's for lunch during the week and they bring around the dim sum carts, it's always been heavy on the shrimp. Since I'm allergic to shrimp (though not shellfish in general) I think all I ever tried was a pork bun, which was OK. But I certainly couldn't make a Sunday brunch out of it. For that, I'm sticking with my Aunt Jemima buckwheat pancakes as long as my supply of mix holds out.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      For the most part, dim sum, and chinese food in general, is heavy in shrimp and pork.

                      1. re: Chownut

                        Yes, and on my last visit for Sunday dim sum I saw roughly 5 plates of bok choi and a few plates of roast pork (Vietnamese heo quay) over the course of 45 minutes. That's it. Almost everything else was was shrimp-based.

                        Yes, I know I could have asked for the items I wanted.

                        That's not the point.

                        Many people on CH have commented on the recent decline in quality at Mark's Duck House. They seem to be running a cash cow on the momentum of the past decade.

                        1. re: Geeyore

                          That's the new ownership/management trying to recoup the money used to buy the joint.

                          For example, they sell roast pig. They jacked up the rpice to about $11/lb right after taking over. Now, they charge $13/lb if you request certain parts of the pig, such as the more desirable pork belly vice the uber dry pork chop.

                          Also, they are the only chinese joint I know that doesn't give free sweet soup or oranges after a meal, no matter how much you spend.

                          The old management used to suggest to asian customers that they would wave the tax if you paid in cash. The new management tried that too.

                          1. re: Chownut

                            """The old management used to suggest to asian customers that they would wave the tax if you paid in cash. The new management tried that too.""""

                            oh, that's nice -- either they are discriminating against non-asian customers for a "cash" discount or cheating virginia of tax revenues.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              I'd say the latter. Scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

                              1. re: Chownut

                                Joe's Noodle House gives you a punchcard that allows you $20 off your meal with every $200 you spend. Cash only, of course. In the restaurant world, cash is King.

                  2. re: ClevelandDave

                    Let me suggest that anyone who has a Jones for roast pork, roast chicken, roast duck, or xa xiu (Vietnamese for BBQ pork - roughly pronounced "sa see-oo") can head right over to Eden Market (3 minutes drive from MDH) to the main grocery store under the clock tower. Walk in the front door, hang a sharp right, and order what you want.

                    Prices are posted on a cardboard sign, cash only.

                    What can I say. My wife's been buying there for 10+ years as do many, many hundreds of Vietnamese Americans every single weekend. By Sunday afternoon the pickings get pretty thin, so Friday PM to Sunday AM is the best time to go. Or any weekday evening.

                    1. re: Geeyore

                      Actually, they do accept charge cards.

                      They are decent, and cheaper, but with all shops that have low volume, compared to MDH, you have to hit it when it's fresh from the ovens.

                      1. re: Chownut

                        And another nitpick; it's not the same store that has been there all along; it closed and reopened under new management/ownership a couple of years ago.

                        I wish the new management still sold containers of daikon/carrrot salad like the old store did; but that's probably a matter for a new thread.

                        1. re: Lori D

                          The heo quay stand is run by the same guys who ran it in 1998.

                        2. re: Chownut

                          Yes, you're correct. Wifey says that it had been cash only (it was written on the cardboard sign), but in recent years they will accept CC for orders over $10.00. It's a preference, not a rule.

                          However, it's simply incorrect that the Eden Supermarket stand is a "shop that has low volume. compared to MDH." Anyone visiting there on any weekend will see that from the traffic and the line.

                          And in any case the meats are superior to MDH, as well as less expensive.

                    2. I have to try that XO taste place. I've been out of the loop with regular chinese restaurant. I've been going to HKpalace and TempTasian lately . Regarding Dim Sum, I normally go to Canton Cafe in Springfield because it's closer to my house. I think Mark's, Canton and Fortune's Dim Sum went downhill from what it used to be. I go to China Garden for a little bit better Dim sum. They have more choices to offer and taste a little bit lighter and fresher. I normally go to New York once a month and eat over there for Dim Sum.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: flipeatery

                        I reserve my dim sum orgies for places like Yank Sing in San Fran or Tropical Chinese in Miami. There doesn't seem to be any place in metro DC devoted exclusively to dim sum like those above.

                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                          While I like Yank SIng myself, I generally enjoy Holywood East in its own way just as much. Uank Sing's dim sum is very light and refined, sometimes toomuch so for my taste. HECOTB has incredible desserts like I have ever had anywhere else,killer roast pig and some very complex, multipart steam items that were incredible.

                          1. re: deangold

                            Saw one of those Food network shows the other night in which a guy was waxing poetic over the barbecue pork buns at Yank Sing. I thought they were weirdly sweet and probably the only item there I wouldn't order again. The sui mai and steamed dumplings, on the other hand, are exquisite. My brother and I put away about $70 worth the last time we were there.

                      2. Folks, I'm going to stick my neck out here because I know how heated Dim Sum discussions can get, but the best dim sum I've had in the area this year (and isn't that all that matters?) is at Canton Cafe in the Springfield Plaza shopping center on Old Keene Mill Road just off 95. I went this spring and havent been back but that one time was excellent. No complaints about a single thing we ordered in any way. I haven't been back since but that's more due to the weather and that I'm not around on weekends. I must state that the first time I went there for dim sum in the fall was without a doubt the worst dim sum I've ever had. Can't believe i even went back to try it again. But I did and will again.

                        But, rather than take my word for it, I would love to hear from others who have been or who go there for dim sum in the near future. Restaurants shift in quality over time and I have had other good and mediocre meals at the same place but generally still like more at Canton Cafe than I don't. But if you're now having trouble finding decent dim sum in NoVa because Fortune and Marks are dreck, then this place may be worth a try.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Ellen

                          Does Canton Cafe also serve authentic cantonese dishes for lunch and dinner?

                          1. re: Ellen

                            Been to Canton Cafe twice this year, first time very good, second time not so good. I also went to Sampan, which was decent. Neither place has a great selection though. I judge dim sum by chicken feet, spare ribs, shark-fin dumpling, daikon or turnip cake, and sticky rice in lotus leaves.

                            1. re: Ericandblueboy

                              Easily the best judge of a dim sum joint is how the ha gows and shrimp crepes are.

                              1. re: Chownut

                                Shrimp crepes (I've never heard them called that but those are the shrimp in the foon wrappers?) were mushy, overly steamed.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Yes....hah cheung.

                                  The hah gow's were tough in texture.

                                  1. re: Chownut

                                    That's what I found, too, with the har gow (I hate these phonetic translations). The char su was also tough, although we didn't have it on a dimsum day. But the lo bak go was very good. The place was way too empty for them to have much variety. FWIW, they're much friendlier now than they were when they had better food a few years ago.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      My only issue with their lo bak go is that it's not freshly sizzled from a portable grill. Also, they don't give you hoisin sauce with it unless you ask. It is good though, even though served cold.

                                      Yes, they are more friendly now. I think the owners consist of one grandma, parents, and two kids. When you're probably making money hand over fist, you got to be happy.

                                      We ordered roast pig belly to go after dim sum. It was a bit bland, and definitely not worth the $1.50/lb premium over what is charged at XO taste.

                                      FYI, the service and ownership at XO Taste is even friendlier.

                            2. re: Ellen

                              One of the hardest and most important qualities for any restaurant to achieve is consistency. It's the difference between an amateur and a professional. Better to be mediocre- consistently- then good some days and bad others. At least as a customer you've got some idea of the experience you'll get!

                              1. re: ClevelandDave

                                This place can swing so much its schitzophrenic. That said, when it is good it is very very good but when it is bad it is horrid The problem is that in Springfield it is either this place for Cantonese or nothing, so I will try the Dim Sum again since no one else who posts here seems to have and getting up to Oriental East is not easily done. CC hot pots and roast pork are always good, shrimp dumpling soup almost always so. But much else does vary by chef apparently.

                                And as to the har gow and shrimp crepes, the first time I went they were terrible. The second time excellent as was everything else. It is bizarre and I have no idea what I'll get the next time around. But hope springs eternal.

                                1. re: Ellen

                                  Did you go each time at the same time slot?

                              2. re: Ellen

                                I've been a few times to the Canton Cafe for dim sum and wasn't impressed. There were high points, like the lo bak go which were nice and soft w/ a crispy exterior--very fresh, but any of the dumpling types, har gao, shu mai, etc. weren't good. Some with tough skin, some overly cooked. And, I found it very expensive and leave hungry. Their jook is pretty good. Limited selection and we went on a Sunday around noon which should be prime time. No sticky rice, no wrapped rice or anything like that. The char sui has been hit or miss, sometimes good but often dry.

                                But, it's clean and convenient so a good place to bring American friend who don't know the difference and are impressed with it. I wouldn't bring my parents or in laws. There was a time, when it first opened (about 5-6 years ago maybe more?), that it had good food, authentic but I don't remember there being dimsum then. It quickly went downhill.

                              3. Dim Sum was SUPERB today (Sunday) at Mark's. Fresh, hot, plentiful and great variety. Soft shell crab, bok choy, baby pig, duck feet, crusted whole shrimp, beef chow foon, fantastic shu mai stuffed with scallops, lobster, shrimp, pork etc. All delicious. MDH was packed with chow downers and service was great.

                                Don't know why our experience today was so different from naysayers on this thread (perhaps Sunday is the best day to go?). But...today served to reconfirm this is the best dim sum in NoVa. And I have tried 'em all repeatedly.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wristband

                                  Dim Sum was average today (Sunday) at Mark's.

                                  Got there around 11am and it was 2/3 full. By the time we left, there was a small line by the cashier.

                                  The one thing about Mark's Duck House is that they serve nothing that's really piping hot from the cart. They don't have carts that can cook/heat stuff up. Even the steam carts aren't that steamy.

                                  The noodle dish that we ordered was good though. As I said, I judge by the basics, and the har gows, siu mais, shrimp cremes, duck feet, and radish cakes were all average/ok, but by no means stellar. Definitely did not order bok choy as bok choy is not dim sum.

                                  The good thing this time also was that the carts were coming, so it wasn't like we had a long wait for the dishes. And, the servers were attentive, or maybe they just wanted to rush people out.

                                  Overall, an average dim sum outing with room for improvement. NoVa is just waiting for a stellar dim sum joint to come in and take over all the business.

                                2. I go to Mark's (and Full Kee on Route 7) when I want pan-fried noodles. As long as they keep that up to speed, and it was when I went in July, the rest doesn't matter to me. I do Dim Sum either in Gaithersburg at New Fortune or a la carte at Tysons Buffet in Rockville.

                                  1. I'm more than convinced about Mark's. But the real interest of Chownut's original post for me was the recommendation to go to XO Taste. I went and this place definitely deserves more discussion. It was filled mostly with large Asian families and it was abundantly clear that seafood was thing to get. We had the double lobster special for $24.99, with ginger and scallion, and it was a treat, really very well prepared. The seafood with XO sauce was interesting and tasty, with little crispy bites that gave it texture, very good but not great (not approaching the level of, say, the dishes at Grace Garden in Odenton). The one thing that I found really quite disappointing were both the steamed and fried dumplings , both of which came encased in a thick and yeomanlike, almost stale wrapping that evoked standard fare at hundreds of mediocre take-out places. By contrast, the chow fun beef noodles were probably the best dish we ordered: the noodles were extraordinarily flavorful and fresh. I will definitely be back and hope to try the clams with black bean sauce that everyone was eating!

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: mdavidf

                                      Personally I would not have ordered steamed or fried dumplings as it's somewhat americanized.

                                      Next time, order their steamed oysters with black bean sauce and scallions, sliced conch with yellow leeks, shrimp rolls with XO sauce, and maybe a noodle dish like their pan fried shredded pork noodle. Their roast duck and roast pig are cheaper and just as good or better than Mark's.

                                      1. re: Chownut

                                        True on the dumplings, but I have two young boys in two with some chowhound tendencies to their credit who are dumpling addicts (and more often just plain hounds). It's the price I have to pay to go on these outings. But have you tried the dumplings off the 'American menu' at Grace Garden? Beyond delicate. So it does, perhaps, say something about the place.

                                        1. re: mdavidf

                                          I'd venture to say that if a chinese restaurant doesn't sell much of it, then it's probably not fresh.

                                          Based on my experience, XO Taste is packed mostly with Asians, who probably don't order pot stickers. I don't know what kind of clientele Grace Garden caters to though.

                                      2. re: mdavidf

                                        chow fun beef noodles? done with broccoli or onions?

                                        double lobster special?

                                        ok, now i've *got* to get inside and order -- as i do *look* inside as i drive by.

                                        and chownut, is the pan fried shredded rice noodle done with "fun" rice noodles, like thai pad kee mao?

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          It's pan fried thin egg noodles with shredded pork/leeks/sprouts. Goes well with a little bit of red wine vinegar.

                                          Beef chow fun noodles are usually served two ways...dry stir fry, or with gravy.

                                          1. re: Chownut

                                            thanks! next time i'm thinking of HKP, i'll go to XO instead!

                                            is there a default position for the chow fun? do i tell them when i order, or will they ask? and if i forget, how will they prepare it? is the dry stir fry done with oyster sauce, by any chance?

                                            is it offensive to ask them to reduce the oil or get char on the noodles?

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              Default is really the dry version.

                                              It is stir fry done with a bit of soy and oyster sauce.

                                              If you reduce oil, you will get some char. Doesn't hurt to ask for less oil.

                                      3. Maybe I'm blind, but I can't seem to find XO Taste. It isn't in the same shopping plaza as MDH, it isn't in the one next door, and it isn't right across the street where Fortune is...

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                                          it's across the "street" from mark's -- namely ON patrick henry drive (not across the highway). it's in the same center as the safeway -- across from mark's (NOT across rte. 50). it faces the cvs. i explained it above.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Also, they have a permanent sign now, so it's easier to see from across Patrick Henry Drive. And if that doesn't help, find the Safeway, walk out the door, turn right, and keep following the row of stores around the corner until you see roast ducks.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              sorry, cleveland dave, i was thinking of the other XO thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/618635

                                          2. http://www.healthspace.ca/Clients/VDH...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Chownut

                                              chownut, thanks! that is a great resource!
                                              and...
                                              ...step it up, folks at mark's. and clean the darn floor!

                                              ....hong kong palace, WASH YOUR HANDS!!! http://www.healthspace.ca/Clients/VDH...
                                              and keep the raw chicken away from the other meat, alright? or the noodles!

                                              xo taste -- wash your hands with soap! http://www.healthspace.ca/Clients/VDH...