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Oct 7, 2009 09:02 PM

Hello CVille Hounders! [moved from Southeast]

Thought I'd stop by and say hi. I'm originally from and am an active participant of the Baltimore board, but after a few years of working in Baltimore city, I decided to go back and get my MD, so I'm here at UVA for (at minimum) the next four years. Been here for almost two months now and have had a small sampling of food and hope to increase that as I get acclimated to the new town and to my pretty intense program. Unfortunately, the immense shift in income (I'm now paying an organization to work for them instead of getting paid to work ... how is that fair?) means less overall dining out, but I'm hoping that more planning and forethought into my food schedule/budget will still allow me the opportunity to try some of CVille's best every now and then.

I have managed to get out and try a few popular staples including: bodos, christian's, crozet's pizza, continental divide, blue grass grill, and rev soup. First 'pricier' places on the to-do list are Zocalo and Savour. Love the sat. morning farmer's market (I'm there most weeks).

Sad to see the Charlottesville activity on chowhound is a bit slow, but I'd imagine that has a lot to do with CVille being relatively small and not really being a touristy location (nor is it really too heavily along the way of one either in terms of driving), but I hope to get to talk to people about food and get to know and meet up with some of you over the next few years.

My one request for help in this post: I'm looking for decent Chinese. Many online posts (and even uva alumns in my program) state that there is "no good/authentic chinese. period." Can this be true? In a place where so many of the faculty (especially in the sciences/research departments) are asian (I've seen them around) there has to be a place to congregate. Maybe a place that usually is just a takeout place but has a special menu? Anyone? While I love to cook Chinese food, it's a hassle a lot of the time (plus I'm not exactly swimming in free hours these days). So I'd love any insights, even if it's just "I like this delivery place, maybe if you got to know the chefs I'd imagine they could make some decent authentic dishes".

That's my rant. Hope to see some of you around.

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  1. I hate to say it, but there isn't any really great Chinese. I do miss it so after living in LA. Some discriminating folks recommend Asian Express, a takeout place on Main Street right near the hospital. We've tried a few things there and they have been better than other places in town:

    We went to Maya's Local Food and Spirit Night on Monday and it was truly excellent. 5 courses of all local foods paired with Barboursville wines for $50/person. More than we can afford on a regular basis, but worth the treat. They are doing another one in November. And every Tuesday they offer $12 meals. Things like chicken fried chicken and flat iron steak with two sides.

    1. There have been periodic threads that talk about how Charlottesville is something of a "sahara" of decent chow offerings of any description. So, I think it's great that you will be checking out the scene there for awhile. I wish I could offer some info of substance about restaurants there, but I haven't frequented C'ville much since the early '90's when my daughter was at The University.

      1. This is a bit of an aside, and it's not Chinese food, but there is a really excellent Thai restaurant, Thai Siam, between C'Ville and Amherst. I checked on Google Maps, and it's about 30 miles away. So, could be a fun outing sometime. I'd definitely call first to check on their hours.

        I highly recommend it - after Sri in Queens, the best Thai food I've had in the U.S.
        Thai Siam Take-out 4137 Tye Brook Hwy (Colleen) Arrington, VA 22922
        (434) 263-8577

        1 Reply
        1. re: MMRuth

          I've actually heard great things about Thai Siam, and have already planned an outing coming up (either next weekend or the weekend before thanksgiving). I'm extremely excited about this, and if it turns out to be a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to try and possibly set up a chowhound outing to Thai Siam.

        2. I'm afraid that the sad truth is that C-ville doesn't really have a decent Chinese place.

          1. A new place opened this week - Taste of China. It's in Albemarle Square, Rio and 29.

            I am not the arbiter of what constitutes "authentic" Chinese food, however I would like to encourage those of you who are to give this place a try and report.

            From the medals, certificates and photos on the wall it appears that the chef has earned some accolades - I'm not sure, it's all in Chinese, maybe it's for perfect attendance.

            The majority of the clientele was Asian. I took this to be a good sign.

            They don't focus on a particular region or cuisine but cover the spectrum. That said, the menu was interesting in that there were lots of things not seen on menus in Charlottesville. Pickled cabbage with red oil, home style smoked fish, tripe, hot & spicy corned beef with cilantro...and on.

            We had chicken & eggplant with ginger and scallion in casserole, and stir fried beef & vegetable with scallion in hot pot. Very good, we thought.

            Most notable is what is not on the menu, well sort of. Sweet and sour, General Tso's, Moo Shu - are all there BUT on a separate menu entitled "American Chinese Food"

            I took that to be a good sign, too.

            8 Replies
            1. re: ncmike276

              That does sound like a place to try. Where in Albemarle Square? Near the ABC store or on the other end?

              1. re: mojoeater

                The other end in the space that used to be a Japanese place, right next to Lil Dino's.

              2. re: ncmike276

                Thanks for the info ncmike! I'm really excited for this.

                Took a look at the place today (just popped in early and took a menu). While I agree that their dishes have a wider spectrum than a really focused menu you might see in some really authentic places, I'd have to say that it's pretty clear that they are szechuan-based. I mean, it's there in the name (the chinese one, not the english 'Taste of China'). Plus a couple of what look like ma-la dishes and I think that's (hopefully) where their strengths will lie. The other regional foods are often added to make the menu more rounded and accessible (which by no means automatically makes them bad choices to order).

                One of the workers (owner?) immediately struck up a conversation with me in chinese and I found out that they've had places in both Maryland and Northern VA. Love to get to know more about them when I go back.

                Overall though, much like ncmike says, all signs are good.

                MAYBE I'll get to try it this weekend, but with the hecticness that is my Thai Siam trip, this place might have to hold out for a few more days. Regardless, it will be sampled soon, and I'll post back. Love to hear more about other people's experiences if you guys and gals get a chance to go.

                1. re: Wangus

                  I've read many of the above posts and have to agree that there really aren't many *authentic* Chinese food options in the Charlottesville area, having come from the DC metro/NOVA regions. However, just this October 2009 the Taste of China opened up in the Albemarle Shopping Center (where ACAC, Outback Steakhouse, and Chandler's Bakery are).

                  My mom actually dined there the very day that the health inspectors had checked the place and given the thumbs up for opening. She reported back that the dishes she had sampled were probably the most authentic "Northern" Szechuan options she had seen in the C'ville area. She also conversed with the wait staff in Mandarin as she went through several menu options with them and their recommendations. I trust her palate as she is first generation American-born Chinese who grew up in San Francisco Chinatown.

                  My family and friends dined there twice last week and sampled many different dishes. They were all very flavorful - some a tad more generous with spice and oils, but that was fine with us. The restaurant is still working on becoming fully functional - as when we came for dinner they had run out of certain regular soda cans, and some basic vegetables (shitake mushrooms and scallions) for their very popular dry-fried mushroom dish and tasty scallion bubble pancake (similar to an Indian Puri pancake).

                  Their staff are also becoming more rehearsed with running a smooth operation - at lunch hour when they were less crowded, we had immediate service. When we returned for dinner with a party of 7, our waitress was often missing for up to 30 minutes after food had been served. However, we also had to point out in the beginning they had forgotten to give us eating utensils, serving plates, or rice when the dishes had been served.

                  Overall, aside from minor glitches of starting a restaurant, the food quality was excellent. Unlike all the other Chinese restaurants in C'ville, this is NOT a buffet and offers more authentic options, including menus strictly in Chinese. The three times I have now been there, I have seen an abundance of Chinese cliental which should speak volumes to the restaurant's appeal. And yes, they do have a page in their menu titled, "American Chinese Food," for those looking for more Americanized flavors. You'll love their picture wall of some 30 pictures of each dish as you walk in the restaurant...

                  I recommend you all try this place and get the word out! I've tried to enter it on TripAdvisor, but it's still too new ;)

                  Taste of China
                  610 Albemarle Square Court
                  Charlottesville, VA 22901

                  Sun - Thurs 11 AM - 10 PM
                  Fri and Sat 11 AM - 10:30 PM

                  Taste of China
                  2402 S Horner Blvd, Sanford, NC 27330

                  1. re: giselle816

                    To fill in some info on this place, it has as its chef Peter Chang, who formerly cooked in the DC area, then Atlanta, then briefly in Knoxville. He is perhaps the finest Chinese chef in America today. Many threads have appeared about him and his cooking on Chowhound, Rockwell (the major food board in DC) and Atlanta Cuisine. If you want more information, try searching him by name those boards. The accolades and so forth posted on the wall, noted above, are medals he won in China before coming to the US. While in China he was the personal cook to the president of China for a time (the picture is probably on the wall), and he came to the US to cook in the Chinese embassy. He is well known to appear in various places then disappear again (I have personally followed him through 5 restaurants in 3 cities in 5 years--this is restaurant #6). You are very fortunate to have him in your midst. Take advantage while you can.

                    Note--I just discovered that Atlanta Cuisine has changed its software and the old threads won't be available for a week or two.

                    1. re: johnb

                      Awesome info, johnb.

                      Great report, Giselle! I managed to go over this weekend for some birthday noodles and small plate pickings. Overall, I was pretty happy with the food and very happy with the fact that a place like this decided to come to Charlottesville as I moved in.

                      First the food (you’ll have to excuse me for not remembering dish names correctly, I ordered in mandarin by talking to the waitress about what they had, but these names should be good enough to find it on the menu):

                      Beef noodle soup (Sichuan style): Huge bowl. Noodles are the thinner, more standard kind that you’ll find in beef noodle soups. The broth is pretty flavorful and goes great with some spare rice. I would assume the beef was cooked in some ma la sauces, but I didn’t really get those flavors out of the dish. They were a little stingy on the about of beef you get.

                      Fish and cilantro roll: Heavy amounts of cilantro and ‘ground’ fish inside a thin wrapping. These shells were expertly fried to a light crisp. Delicious, especially dipped with some soy and fresh spicy peppers. You need to really love the taste of cilantro.

                      Beef and beef tendon in ma la oils (cold dish): A very traditional dish whose translation into English I’ve never even considered before. They’re version was very traditional to the samplings I’ve had before from many different locales (and home). I really enjoyed the flavor (against lots of cilantro). I did notice, however, that they use a bit of a poorer quality of beef than I'd like (not big a significant notice)

                      Onto a few things I noticed: They are very VERY busy on the weekends. Like crazy busy. Be prepared to wait if you're unlucky either because they don't get the order into the cook, or the food gets forgotten. Also, please note that communicating with the servers if you aren't comfortable with this cuisine (or can't speak mandarin) can be difficult. I noticed a middle-aged caucasian couple that were getting very frustrated and angry with the wait staff.


                      1. re: Wangus

                        Okay, Wangus seems to have found what they were looking for, but I just have to report my personal experience with Taste of China.

                        For a bit of background, I live in Toronto. My town has wicked Chinese food, from dim sum to soup dumplings and everything in between. I came home (to Harrisonburg) for the holidays, and took my mom out today. The only mission was to go out and do something different, and we decided to take a day trip to C'ville (UVa alum here). SO glad I read this thread before we left town.

                        Mom is always up for trying new things, but her experience with Chinese food is of the typical North-Americanized-Cantonese/60's-exotic-home-cooking variety. So she pretty much let me order whatever sounded interesting, and just picked out one thing that sounded good to her.

                        First of all, while we didn't order them, their lunch specials sounded fantastic. For $6.75 or something, you get soup, a choice of roll, a choice of noodle dish, an entree, and dessert. The only problem was that all of the entrees were from the "American" portion of the menu. So we scrapped that option.

                        We ordered: cold Sichuan noodles, smoked tofu in 5 flavors, fish and cilantro rolls, and spicy crispy fried duck.

                        I loved the noodles. Simply dressed in chili, sesame, and vinegar. I specifically avoided eating too many because they would be too awesome leftover for breakfast.

                        We both loved the rolls. So brilliantly simple and well done. Yes, you have to like cilantro, but I didn't find it at all overwhelming - I like cilantro, but do appreciate a gentle hand with it and this wasn't even close to overkill for me.

                        The tofu was very nice. I have yet to find a tofu preparation that I wouldn't prefer on either meat or vegetables (sorry, but bean curd just doesn't excite me), but the seasonings were basically Chinese 5-spice but in whole form rather than ground. A very warm and comforting dish.

                        The duck was just fantastic. Chopped into manageable pieces with a cleaver, lightly dredged and fried, perfectly crispy exterior and tender, moist meat. The seasonings of chili flakes, garlic, and Sichuan peppercorn were perfect. Just really, really delicious. This was Mom's pick, and she made me proud.

                        It was a genuinely exciting lunch, and the sort of thing I never would have expected to find in C'ville. I wished we had had more people there so we could try more things - as it is, we brought home leftovers of everything for Dad to try. Please keep this place in business, and order the things that aren't on the "American" page! :)

                        BTW, I really wanted that tendon dish, but the only thing I found on the cold dish menu was beef and tripe - is this a typo, or did they take the tendon off the menu? Inquiring minds need to know. :)

                    2. re: giselle816

                      Taste of China -very, very good. We had takeout last weekend and it was by far the best Chinese food we've had in Virginia. Started with a couple of the more conservative dishes. All were well prepared.

                      Singapore Noodles - Not sure how "authentic" this is but it was so good I went back late night and ate more cold (and with my fingers). Interesting curry sauce and the shrimp and chicken were cooked perfectly. Every other Chinese restaurant in town overcooks their meat.

                      Kung Pao Chicken - spicy yet all the flavors came through. Not an overabundance of soy sauce and the chicken was very tender. More veggies than what you get elsewhere, which I very much enjoyed.

                      Orange Peel Chicken - the only thing we tried from the "American Chinese Food" menu. Made with real orange zest as opposed to the marmalade you'll get elsewhere, so the flavor is not as sweet and very orangey.

                      Taste of China
                      2402 S Horner Blvd, Sanford, NC 27330

                      Orange Peel Cafe
                      106 Lee St E, Saint Albans, WV 25177