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Rumors of authentic Chinese in Carrboro

  • s

So according to good friends of mine who visited this mysterious place on the recommendation of a Chinese friend of hers, there is a "god awful looking Chinese restaurant" (right across from the Arts Center and Amante/Visart etc.) which has both an American and a Chinese menu. They ordered from the Chinese menu and they "HIGHLY recommend the whole fish with bean chile sauce!! Absolutely outstanding." The Chinese menu is still all in Chinese, but they are supposedly getting it translated. My friends say the guy was very nice and described things.
Has anyone been to this place?

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  1. Yes I know this place (if it is Gourmet Kingdom). Never eaten there. I think if you don't have any food restrictions ordering off a menu without the English could be an adventure. It's not a secret place though the menu maybe. The question is do all the Chinese menu items do really well or was it just that one dish. Thanks for letting us know. It is rather dumpy looking.

    -----
    Gourmet Kingdom
    301 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510

    3 Replies
    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

      I'm going to guess that it's more than just the fish based on the Chinese woman who recommended this place to my friends. She is super hyper picky when it comes to Chinese food.

      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

        It really is dumpy looking, and (even worse) dumpy smelling. But I did notice a sign on the front the other day that said "under new management." My husband claims this sign has been there for at least 2 years though, so who knows. I'm fascinated that it may actually have something worth eating. Anyone else out there have more info?

        1. re: LulusMom

          Being in Carrboro I wish I did but I go by it on my way from work and so if I start to see more traffic (foot or otherwise), I'll let this board know. If someone else, has more info on the Chinese menu or cares to take a photo let us know.

      2. This is-- or at least it was-- a buffet joint. I walked in there once soon after it opened, took a look at the inside and the food, and walked out. It did not look nearly as appetizing-- as buffets go-- as 35 in Chapel Hill. I'm deeply skeptical that a buffet joint can turn out good, authentic Chinese food. If otherwise give it a try and report back a good experience then I'm there.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bbqme

          I could be wrong about this being the place, but it fits the OP description sketchy looking (my words) and across from ArtsCentre/Amanti's.

          1. re: bbqme

            I don't know anything about this specific restaurant, but don't prejudge based on the buffet. I wouldn't go near the buffet at Fortune Palace in Raleigh, but their traditional menu is pretty good. WIth any luck, this place will be the same.

            1. re: bbqme

              Again, for me the smell of the place (old oil) is off-putting. I'd love to hear a first hand review.

            2. This is such a funny little thread. It's like we're all scared to be the first to go! It's Homecoming weekend, so I'm not going anywhere near Chapel Hill, but I may just have to volunteer to go sometime soon.

              13 Replies
              1. re: suse

                That is really funny. Maybe we should all chip in for your meal ...

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Maybe we should all do a meet up, but some posters (not speaking for myself necessarily) may feel safer with some anonymity.

                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    That would actually be a good excuse to meet up. I'm sure we would be a motley crew. That way we could have the proper Chinese food experience and order lots of different things. I rarely get excited about eating a whole fish by myself. I don't worry about anonymity. Not sure how to go about setting it up. Could we shoot for post-Thanksgiving sometime? First week of December perhaps?

                    1. re: suse

                      I'll have to double check my schedule.

                      1. re: suse

                        Not the least bit scared of anonymity, but somewhat scared of the food, having walked by it. I get your whole fish thing, I feel the same. Sort of insane sched. in Dec. but January?

                        1. re: suse

                          This area could use a meet-up. The reports from San Francisco and Tampa Bay hounds always sounds like they had a great time! My work schedule varies, but with a few weeks notice I may be able to swing it.

                          1. re: suse

                            I think I can do first December or first week Jan as it stands right now.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              hey I'd love to meet up too. I pass by this place a lot, coming from Carrburitos - it is dead empty....

                              -----
                              Carrburitos
                              711 W Rosemary St, Carrboro, NC 27510

                              1. re: Rory

                                Hey, welcome back Rory, long time.

                                I read today (in Chapel Hill Magazine) that they offer 100 different dishes. That sort of scares me. How many dishes can one place do well?

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  hey LulusM; I missed you all too.
                                  I'm busy, baking, want to reapply for a farmers market stall here. So my test kitchen is working away.
                                  do you we to meet at Miel Bon Bon for coffee and dessert ?, Butternut Squash is having a bigger menu, I'm game to go or give a suggestion.

                                  -----
                                  Butternut Squash Restaurant
                                  Chapel Hill, NC, Chapel Hill, NC

                                  1. re: Rory

                                    I'm semi-crazy for the next few weeks, but after that would love to.
                                    Good to have you back, and good luck with the test kitchen.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      thanks LM;
                                      baking day today but I have a very flexible schedule. so I'm looking forward to it..

                            2. re: suse

                              Bumpity Bump :-) Was a concensus made about a general timeline to meet?

                      2. The restaurant is Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro across from the arts center. It's under new ownership as of two months ago and I can report the food is amazing. We ordered off the chinese menu, but saw many of the same dishes on the english take-out menu (boiled fish in hot sauce, ba shu tofu, and salt & pepper shrimp).

                        My in-laws chatted with the owner for a while, and it sounds like he was at 35 Chinese Restaurant in Cary before buying Gourmet Kingdom (another restaurant with a good reputation for good authentic chinese food). If I understood correctly, they're not doing a buffet anymore. The menu is heavy on the Sizchuan dishes.

                        Note: 35 in Cary and 35 in Chapel Hill are not related to the best of my knowledge...

                        80 Replies
                        1. re: jacksonfox

                          Thanks a bunch! Though I can do spicy it should be a treat. If this place gets very popular, the only condition that would be of issue would be parking (even across the street). Maybe I should go here on Christmas :-p

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            Up north Chinese restaurants are packed on Christmas day! But somehow I doubt that would be the case down here. I'm definitely interested, especially given jacksonfox's info.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              I was joking about Christmas day. I'll have family in town and Szechuan may not be their thing. Definitely excited to go as a meetup though and didn't know with everyone's schedule what worked best. I pass by it each day.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                Don't laugh. LulusMom is right. Many Northerners (read: Jews) consider Chinese food and a movie to be a traditional December 25 activity. After all, what else is open on X-mas day?

                                1. re: rockycat

                                  How well I know which is why I made the comment. THough thankfully there are other (albeit higher end) options open in the Triangle area according to the N&O.

                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                    Heh, that's just what I did in Manhattan;-) down to Mott St or to the old 2nd ave deli for Christmas.
                                    So I'm definitely up for Gourmet Kingdom for Christmas:)

                                    1. re: Rory

                                      i could go for some chinese that day. im new here and don't yet know a soul. would you like to meet me there that day?

                                      1. re: lil magill

                                        I'd definately be up for a get together with fellow 'hounds. I picked up a carry out menu from this place on Saturday. I've always wanted to try hot pot, but I usually don't have a large enough group for it.

                                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                          I would love to go with a group but can not go around Christmas as I'll be involved with family. Unless another group would like to go before or after this time period.

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            Same here. Would love to meet up but can't do it on Christmas.

                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              I should restate this.. It may be hard for me to do it between the 24th and 27th.

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                How many people could do dinner on the 29th?

                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                    We probably could if it is for 6:30 or later. I get off work that day at 5:30 and would be coming from Raleigh.

                                                    Does anyone know if the place accepts plastic?

                                                    My e-mail is in the profile if needed in coordinating.

                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      Yes to plastic see my last post on here.

                                                    2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                      So I may be totally confused is there a consensus that wants to meet to do a dinner here? Are we now looking more towards after NYE?

                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        Since that is tomorrow and there have not been finalized plans, perhaps a specific date in Jan. would have better attendance.

                                                        I generally need a week notice to coordinate....

                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                          Does Jan 14 (Thurs) work for you and anyone else who'd like to participate?

                                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                            I'm still awaiting my Jan. work schedule - but usually they schedule me til 8:30 on Thursdays. Should know in a day or so!

                                                            Thank you for organizing!

                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                              I've got Lulu solo for dinner, so it *might* work, but only if everyone is planning on eating on a 3 year old's schedule (which I fully expect they're not - and understand, believe me!). Let me know what the plan turns out to be, would love to join if possible.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                I just figured I'd toss a date out there and meatn3 said to give a week's notice. I can go another week or a different day, but may be heading elsewhere over the MLK Jr. weekend (and that Monday) depending on the weather.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  we've got a meeting in north durham at 7 that night, so i'm not sure if we'd be able to come! :(

                                                                  1. re: cervisiam

                                                                    Okay so a new day is in store. If anyoen else wants to throw out a date.

                                                                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                      for us personally, next two weeks are bad, but hopefully that doesn't stop anyone else. i'll throw out 1/27 (wed) and 1/28 (thurs), and even 1/25 (mon) for possible dates in case something doesn't happen next week....

                                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                        I'm still awaiting my schedule. But Mondays I always start early at work, so I know I could be there by 7ish for sure. So 1/25 might work - need to check with my SO.

                                                                        Are SO's ok, or are we just sticking with CH's (who post)? Either way, I'm game! It will be fun to have some faces to go with the names - probably a few surprises there!

                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                          I can't do Mondays, but would love to participate in one of these. Hope another one can be planned soon.

                                                                          1. re: TerryG

                                                                            Finally got my work schedule. Wed, 1/27, 7ish or later is workable. Thurs. 1/28 is not.

                                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                                              ok 1/27, burgeoningfoodie, Lulusmom? i was planning to bring SO, hopefully that's ok ! i will try to stop by tomorrow evening and see if they have a takeout menu (szechuan) ...

                                            2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              Yeah I'm cool with SOs. Umm the 27th feels like I've got something going on, but let me double check first.

                                        2. re: jacksonfox

                                          Quick question: do I need to ask for (and be able to read) the szechuan menu to order from it?

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            I'm not sure if anyone answered your question, but from what I've heard you do not need to ask for the menu. Anyone want to give a definite on that?

                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              Thanks bf (if I may call you that). I'm really itching to get to this place. Husband very sceptical.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                If you don't get it ask for it and the good news is it now has English translation.

                                                1. re: bbqme

                                                  I'm a tentative "Yes" at this point on the 27th pending business travel.

                                                  1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                                    Checked with my SO, and we both are free the 27th. It would be interesting to see how this stacks up to Super Wok!

                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      I've not been to Super Wok but see many people like it on here. Are they just consistently good or is it also a american menus vs. chinese menu type thing? I'm currently a tentative yes for the 27th as well. I had some chinese menu items from Chapel Hill's Red Lotus and one I thought was good and th other could have been better but tasted too salty. I don't know if that was due to it just being that way naturally or trying to appeal to american palettes.

                                                      I'm actually interested in trying the place in Durham on the corner of University and Garrett.

                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        Which thing did you have that you really liked at Red Lotus? I'm going to give the place another shot (and do the chinese menu) so I want to try the best stuff.

                                                        When you go to Gourmet Kingdom, can you see if maybe my husband got incorrect info re: bringing your own and paying a corkage fee?

                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                          Yeah and if I don't someone else will. I don't know how these things usually go and not being a big wine drinker doesn't help. So I've only ordered off theri menu once and was in a hurry last week when it was freezing... Wait.. that was every day last week. I enjoyed their small cold salted duck (yes it is fatty but that is duck). The other dish I had was a cuttlefish/potherb mustard dish but though it didn't taste bad, I felt it was too salty or maybe it was wine (if they used it in their cooking). I would be incorrect if I didn't say that I went in with expectations of it being different. I'll definitely try something else like the 5 Layer Pork or Tilapia or maybe the Beef Ofal hich is also a cold dish(and maybe something from the 24 hour order ahead menu like the pig knuckle). It was fun to try something different. I had to make sure that potherb mustard wasn't something super spicy.

                                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                            Thanks bf. I love duck, will defnitely try that. Merlion has a nice cold wrapped duck appetizer in their salads section. Kind of a cheap-ish and cheerful way of getting peking duck flavors without having to find someone else who wants PD and waiting 45 minutes.

                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                              Have you ever trekked over to Grand Asia Market in Cary? They have whole (or 1/2) roast duck you can buy to take home. It might be a fun outing with Lulu sometime. You need cash for the cafeteria/bakery/roast pork & duck part of the store.

                                                              1. re: suse

                                                                I've been a few times and always am tempted to get some dessert bun or something of the like. Never actually eaten a meal there though. Speaking of which does anyone know about Lan's (I think) chinese cooking school in Durham behind Super Target near Saladelia?

                                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                  I took lessons from Lan over 16 years ago. Loved them. Had a great time.and learned a lot. I lived in China several years, but never actually cooked there. She teaches you how to cook nice, basic authentic Chinese food. I still use several of her recipes. She seems kind of serious and cool, but she's great.

                                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                    I'm not that big on Chinese sweets and pastries, but I love the custard bun, the one with the sugar swirl on top. The spicy dou hua (soft tofu soup-like stuff) available on Friday and Saturday is so delicious and their rice & three is a real deal, oh and then there are the steamed buns. I love eating there.

                                                                  2. re: suse

                                                                    Excellent idea. And she has two days off from school next week. She loves going to the "asian store" (silver wok on 15/501) with me and looking at all the different stuff.

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      Grand Asia is just plain fun. Make sure you and Lulu check out the assorted live seafood in the back. My kid always get a big kick out of that. Last year around Chinese New Year they had a man making dragon whiskers candy in the back near the freezer cases. That's fun to watch and he loves playing to the kids.

                                                                      Steamed buns, meat sauce noodles, cream-filled buns, and bubble tea go over big with the Offspring but all the prepared food is good.

                                                                      1. re: rockycat

                                                                        Hadn't you been looking for kumquats a while ago? I saw them at Grand Asia last night - that might be your best bet next year if you use them for your holiday meal again (if I'm remembering the request correctly).

                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                          You are remembering quite correctly. I did manage to find them at HT and Whole Paychex but I'd rather shop at Grand Asia any day. In fact, I don't know that I've ever used the word "cute" to refer to a vegetable before, but they had the cutest little baby bok choy this morning. I'll be cooking that up with some smoked tofu and fresh noodles tonight.

                                                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Silver wok is great. I used to go there with my son when he was small, but Grand Asia will keep her fascinated all day.

                                                                        1. re: suse

                                                                          Thanks everyone - this is a PERFECT outing for us next week.

                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                            Took Lulu to Grand Asia yesterday and she had a blast. She was mesmerized (sp?) by the live fish. I was a little disappointed that I couldnt' find salted chiles, but aside from that, this was a great way to spend her morning off. Thanks again for the suggestion.

                                                                  3. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                    potherb mustard, if i am correct, is pickled mustard greens and very salty by nature. (my parents pickle their own - boy, is it SMELLY when it comes out of the pot! -- and use it in a tripe/bamboo shoot/potherb mustard soup.) probably paired with the cuttlefish, it was a major salt overload.

                                                                    OT, red lotus has a great dish off their chinese menu: Stir-Fried Tofu Skin with Potherb Mustard & Green Soy Bean

                                                                    1. re: cervisiam

                                                                      I'll have to sample more from their menu. At first, I thought potherb mustard was like a spicy mustard that was to be used as a sauce. I then unleashed the power of the internet and saw that it was a mustard green though no indication was given as to being heavily salted or pickled. It was a tad much though. Again the cold duck was good and I'm wondering about pork knuckles and such as my experience has only be via Central Europe.

                                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                        I made a soup with pickled mustard greens (from one of the Fuschia Dunlop books) - not sure if this is the same thing or not. My husband found it too salty too. I think it is probably an aquired taste (for most).

                                                  2. re: jacksonfox

                                                    I went by there yesterday and talked to the lady working at the cash register. The new owner is not the same as the owner of 35 Chinese in Cary, rather the Master chef was hired away from 35. The Chinese menu does not have English translation but the waiters seems proficient in English and will be happy to recommend dishes if you tell them what sorts of dishes you are looking for (e.g., beef, veg, etc.). When I was there they had a lunch buffet going at it looked absolutely horrible. But there were several Chinese families there and the items they had ordered off the Chinese menu looked delicious. I had planned to return in the evening with the family for dinner but didn't get done with my errands in time. Will definitely go there for dinner soon.

                                                      1. re: bbqme

                                                        I was in there Saturday at lunch time checking out the buffet.

                                                        It was half dried out mexican items and half dried out pseudo-Chinese items.

                                                        The place was almost empty.

                                                        If you want to try this place, I'd suggest doing it soon because based on the quality of the buffet and lack of customers, they may not be open much longer.

                                                        It seems strange that they can make high quality Chinese dishes on a secret menu but the rest of the food they serve is so poor.

                                                        It doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

                                                        1. re: castaway

                                                          Oh no, that is horrible. We need a good chinese place in the CH/Carrboro area so much. But I have to say, this place has always struck me as iffy, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear the good things about it. I really have to try to get in there and order off the chinese menu soon, I guess.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            I think the thing with Asian cookery as it goes around Ch/Carrboro is knowing what to order or knowing to ask for the authentic chinese menu. Unfortunately, there is no place that does dim sum well (to my knowledge) and not the kind of places you'd find with giant lazy susan tables.

                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                              If their chalkboard specials or items off of their Chinese menu are ordered I think Red Lotus is a good Chinese place in Chapel Hill.

                                                              1. re: bbqme

                                                                Unfortunately the only time I've been there I was with Lulu, and wanted to play it a little safe (not sure why ... she's fairly game foodwise). So I ordered off the regular menu and was disappointed. I'll have to give it another shot.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  Red Lotus is great like bbqme says,
                                                                  Jenny at Red Lotus also tells me what specials the Chinese students are havingtoo. I really second Red Lotus.

                                                                  1. re: Rory

                                                                    I've been to Red Lotus and I thought it was good. Another option is to go to Super Wok in Cary. We certainly won't be disappointed and having a large group there is a real benefit.

                                                                    1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                                                      Super Wok would be great for a group! We would be very interested in joining. Your posts about it have put it on my must try list.

                                                                      A group of CH's in the Tampa Bay area did a taste-off recently between Chinese restaurants and wrote it up. Seemed like a good time for a good cause!

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/649445

                                                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                                                    When we went we found there were no noodle dished on the traditional menu we we ordered off the regualr menu for the Offspring. The "American" chef never prepared her order so Spouse and I were eating while the kid sat watching us. When we prompted the waiter and her order finally came, it was pretty awful. Definitely not worth the haul out to CH for us.

                                                                    1. re: rockycat

                                                                      I went with Lo Mein for Lulu and it was bland and kind of gummy. The dumplings were also gummy (made me long for Jujube or Lantern's dumplings). Chairman Tao's (sp??) chicken was chewy way beyond normal cooking, although the flavors were fine. I feel sort of bad about not having given the other menu a try, and really think I should before writing the place off. But just based on what we ate that night, I'm not rushing to get back there without a child. Since I live in CH I really wanted to love it. As much as I want to try Super Wok, hauling a 3 year old to Cary for dinner (or having to rush there and back on babysitter night) doesn't appeal so much.

                                                                2. re: LulusMom

                                                                  This may need to be a separate topic BUT.. we are planning to order Chinese for a group of 10 to be eaten at someone's abode. What are the recommendations of places to get said take out instead of dine-in. Does that change the recs? What are recommended dishes (preferably non spicy albeit maybe one or two out of a possible 5 dishes). This is for Chapel Hill/Carrboro but don't mind driving to the little Chinese place on Garret/University to get the food either..

                                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                    I don't have a car so I can't get to Cary, blast!, well maybe if I take 3 buses...
                                                                    LM
                                                                    Red Lotus has 2 chefs, one for the gross chinese-american food, one for the real thing. In all the times I've eaten there I always stick to the Shanghai menu & the servers' advice. They will make special things for you

                                                                    1. re: Rory

                                                                      I had hoped to get Lulu and me to Gourmet Kingdom tonight, but am being a weather wimp and staying in. Maybe if the babysitter cancels tomorrow night ...

                                                                      Still no first hand reports?

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        nope, I was wondering, KIldare's a supposed authentic Irish pub is opening in Chapel HIl, I spent enough time in Ireland to know. Hmm I wonder if they have boxty's anyway....interested?

                                                                        1. re: Rory

                                                                          Is this a chain pub? Where is it opening? If it is the real thing, definitely interested. I believe you have my email.

                                                                          I saw that the irish pub back behind Vespa and that stuff on Franklin closed. I had a beer there once, and that was fine, but I wouldnt' have wanted to eat there.

                                                                          BTW, the babysitter didn't cancel (since the weather is ridiculously fine, given weather reports) so I took myself to Elaines for what was a really nice dinner.

                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                            Kildare's is most definitely a chain as in there is more than one location. They are mostly around PA/NJ. See link.

                                                                            http://www.kildarespub.com/

                                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                              OK, not so interested in the irish pub chain experience. Done that before. Thanks for the info.

                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                ugh, chains, no thanks.

                                                                                How about Red Lotus for Chinese New Year?

                                                                                1. re: Rory

                                                                                  Last year we did Merlion for Chinese New Year (totally by accident ... luckily we're regulars and when without Lulu sit at the bar because the place was packed). It was a lot of fun. they had a dragon dance and that sort of thing. Do you know the date of CNY this year? Makes a lot of difference in if I can join an outting - have to work out babysitters, husbands (oops, make that singular - husband), etc.

                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                    Chinese New Year 2010: 02/14/2010

                                                                                    1. re: jadec

                                                                                      Normally I'd say stay away from any and all restaurants on Valentines day (which is 2/14) but this place *looks* like such a dump that I can't much imagine it would be busy because of romance. Red Lotus, however, might get more business that night.

                                                          2. Quick question, which I'm guessing no one will be able to answer since so few have been to this place: are they licensed for beer/wine?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                              Answering my own question here. While I had the job of accompanying my daughter to a 4 year old's birthday party, my husband was asked to call the place and ask about the license. He was told they do not sell wine or beer, and do not allow outside wine or beer. He said I should take this second bit with a grain of salt (tequila anyone?) because the woman on the phone barely spoke english.

                                                              Anyway, a big drats because I was hoping to get him there with me tonight, but for me, no booze on a night without the child in tow is pretty much a no-go.