Lung Gong: Amazingly Good Chinese in Miami
Lung Gong is a vastly underrated gem serving up some of the best-tasting Chinese food in Miami (for that matter, probably some of the best-tasting Chinese food in all of Florida). Considering that the restaurant has been in business for a number of years, I am somewhat surprised that it hasn't received much more attention on this board.
The menu, in English, Chinese, and Spanish, includes the standard Chinese-American dishes such as egg rolls, egg foo young ("tortillas" for the hispanohablantes), beef with broccoli, moo shoo pork, various lo mein dishes, and (like many South Florida Chinese restaurants) even crab rangoon, which seems to have disappeared from many of the Chinese restaurants in other parts of the country, such as NYC. Of these standard dishes, I've only had their pepper steak, which was very good, and their steamed pork dumplings, which, the one time I had them, were good but not as good as I would have expected from the quality of their other dishes.
Where Lung Gong's kitchen really shines, though, is with the offerings on the "authentic Chinese menu," on which most of the main dishes run $12 - $16. I have only had a chance to try a few of the dishes from this fairly extensive menu, which includes items such as the classic spicy eggplant with minced pork in chili oil sauce, stewed hen with black mushrooms and chestnuts, stir-fried lily root slices with vegetables, ma po tofu, and jellyfish salad with scallion sauce, none of which I have yet had a chance to try.
For the more adventurous, there are also a number of dishes that you simply will not find in any run-of-the-mill Chinese-American restaurants, just a few examples being: beef heart, tongue, and stomach in Sichuan chili sauce; shredded pork ear in special soy sauce or spicy sauce; stir-fried rabbit; stewed frog legs with black mushrooms in casserole; and marinated pork feet in special soy sauce.
Almost everything of theirs that I have had thus far has been delicious. Their tender "barbecued whole eel in sweet flavor" calls to mind the eel with eel sauce that is served at many Japanese restaurants, but the quantity of eel is a lot more than I've ever had in a Japanese restaurant for the price. The pork belly dishes, such as sauteed pork belly slices with napa in spicy sauce, are addicting. One of my favorites of their dishes has to be the lamb stir-fried with caraway seed and spicy sauce (which for some reason I had thought I would not like, despite the fact that I love both lamb and caraway) - I could go for some right now!
So why isn't Lung Gong getting as much love from the chowhound community as I think they deserve? Location is probably the key factor. Lung Gong lies in the far west outskirts of Miami in Sweetwater, near Florida International University, pretty much off the culinary radar of many chowhounds, whose interests tend to focus much further toward the coast. Making matters worse, the restaurant is tucked away at the back of nondescript strip mall off Tamiami Trail (SW 8th St), just west of the Florida Toll Road (821). The strip mall is so small that you could easily miss the entrance to the mall off of SW 8th St even if you have been there before and know where you are going. In fact, the GPS device in my car has misrouted me to erroneous locations when I have tried to use it to find the correctly-entered address for the restaurant in the past.
Then there's the fact that there is nothing even remotely glamorous about the restaurant's design. You won't find a wall full of attractively illuminated bottles of wine at Lung Gong, the way you will at Tropical Chinese restaurant, even though the food is, in my opinion, much tastier at Lung Gong. Along those lines, the restaurant could really use a sprucing up - a nice paint job, new rugs, polished floors, etc. It's a place to head for fantastic food, not for seeing and being seen.
And don't expect coddling or pampering from the staff at Lung Gong. They have never seemed particularly warm the few times I have visited, more world-weary if anything, though I am sure they are very nice people and are probably quite friendly once they get to know you.
I hope more chowhounds will visit Lung Gong and spread the word. The restaurant has always been almost empty (maybe one table occupied) when I've visited. It would be an epic loss if they were to close for lack of business. I can't help thinking how much more attention this same restaurant would be getting if it were located in Manhattan instead of on the outskirts of Miami.
Lung Gong Restaurant
11920 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33184
Lung Gong's been open more than a couple years and not afraid to serve up highly untraditional fare. One of the first times I went they served me a sort of pork "ceviche", made with a fatty cut and cured with lots of citrus, garlic and scallions. Their flavors are great, but for the unitiated, it can be difficult. I think that is part of why it is not popular. Item quality (not cooking) can be hit or miss, with items like lamb chops varying between terrific, anemic and chewy/fatty. I tend to be unsuccessful recommending it to non-Asians (even though items like their pan-fried noodles and authentic sweet and sour are delicious), but it's a stunning success when recommended to Chinese and Koreans, including a delegation of 10 or so who were here a year ago.
It's the only Szechuan restaurant in Miami and authentically so.