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Where's Chang?

Has anyone in/near Charlottesville a reaction to the current article in The New Yorker by Calvin Trillin and the search for chef Peter Chang? And more importantly, eaten at Taste of China since chef Chang arrived?

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  1. Is this the place? We;re talking Asian Inn Taste of China, Charlottesville VA?

    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid...

    It's possible for me to go through there as I drive from Asheville to Trenton. Great Chinese is hard to find, and I'm an export from the SF area so ache for it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Lotuspetal

      That's the right place. We're very happy to have Mr. Chang around for as long as he would like to stay. It's a welcome change from all the gross, gloppy buffets that inhabit the area.

      1. re: lagniappe

        I'm curious to know whether he has the Chen Cang beef (dry-cooked diced beef served in little steamed buns). Anyone see it on his menu?

        1. re: James G

          I'm looking at the take-out menu and am having trouble finding something that matches that description. Nothing has dried beef in it, per se. Nothing named Chen Cang. Is it an appetizer or main? Closest I've found would be the hot & spicy beef rolls (they were out of them last night; haven't had them and cannot attest to what is in them or how they are prepared). I really don't see any other beef items that involve bread or buns or anything similar. Basically, before I went out of my way for that particular dish, I'd call and ask if it's a remote possiblity that he could still make it.

          1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

            Thanks, CEB, but since I'm in Beijing it's highly unlikely that I'll be visiting Chef Chang anytime soon. My inquiry about the dish is because it's one that I really liked but that I have never, ever seen anywhere in China. I've found something similar at a Xinjiang style place behind my apartment, but it uses lamb in place of beef, and thin "mandarin-style" pancakes in place of whatever it was that was used with the Chen Cang beef recipe.

            1. re: James G

              James

              I have often thought that Chang himself invented many of his dishes, which after all is how many well-known dishes came to be and how the state-of-the-art is advanced. You mention that dish, but I wonder whether there are others of his that you have similarly not seen in China, suggesting that he has in fact been pushing out the envelope?

              FWIW, I recall a similar dish served at one of those big showy places in Singapore back in the 70's (the kind of place where there are lots of receptions, a band, a stand-up comedian etc.), but it was made with very salty and smoky ham enrobed with a sweet sauce, although served in a thick bun-like bread. It was very popular, and I recall ordering it on several occasions.

              The comedian was always hilarious BTW, even tho I couldn't understand a word he said.

          2. re: James G

            Hi James. Good to see you finally check in. Hope all is well.

            Chen Cang beef is not on this menu, and in general this one is fairly light. The menu in Knoxville was quite a bit more diverse, with at least 50% more of dishes that I would qualify as authentic Chang or at least serious, tho it did not have Chen Cang either. AFAIK Chen Cang last appeared on the menu in Atlanta.

      2. Another, eerily similar, article appeared in The Oxford American magazine's food issue published on the same day, March 1st:

        http://www.oxfordamerican.org/article...

        “I don’t think the world can have too much Chang.” —David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, on learning that both his magazine and The Oxford American were publishing features on Chef Peter Chang in their respective March 1 issues.

        1 Reply
        1. re: guyacrossthehall

          Thanks -- at least the Oxford American lets you read the whole article w/o signing up.

          I almost feel like a winner of one of those games where you have to collect all the squares, but they only print a few of one of the squares -- I made it to Szechuan Boy before Chang bolted -- only to find out about these other stops in Atlanta and Knoxville. And now I'm jealous of a good friend -- a real trencherman -- who lives in Charlottesville and can eat Chang's food whenever he wants.

        2. Well, he WAS here. After that article, he might have already left or be leaving very soon. I'd eaten there twice before the New Yorker issue came out and was exceedingly pleased. We tried to go this past Sunday around 7pm and were turned away at the door. There was a line of people, some of whom had been waiting for an hour. A woman came out and said they were "out of food" and to try and come back tomorrow. Then she made a plea for us to continue to come even if he leaves, since he is training all her staff on his recipes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mojoeater

            Yes -- this has been the experience at the other places he's graced. After he leaves, they still turn out very good szechuan food. He must sprinkle pixie dust in the kitchen.

            1. re: mojoeater

              Still here as of last night. About a 45 minute wait, but worth every minute. YUM. I'll take it for however long it lasts!

            2. Apparently he's flown the coop again. No reason to make a four hour trip to wahooville now.

              2 Replies
              1. re: vafarmwife

                Yup. It's all over Twitter that he's gone. I may have gotten one of the last of the Chang cooked meals. Takeout last Friday. Allowed by one of the waiters, but I got the disapproving stare at the register, since they technically suspended takeout orders. Man am I going to miss that guy. Hope that, true to form, the touch of Chang will stay with Taste of China. His restaurants are always left much improved for his having been there.

                1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                  I managed to luck out last thursday as I was visiting from Boston and hadmy host take me there. The roast fish with green onions and fried eggplant were as good as anything I've had. Sorry he's gone.

                1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                  Chang is back at Tasty China in Marietta. I saw him today. He is opening his own restaurant in nearby Sandy Springs in October.

                  http://www.tastychina.net/wordpress/

                2. And, it's possible he'll be back in Charlottesville, VA. I know those of us around here would love to see the building he's stalking occupied; it's been vacant for ages. But more to the point, we'd love to have Chef Chang back!
                  http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                    Husband & I dined at "Taste of China" in Charlottesville, VA, a couple of weeks ago, based on reviews from all over the place that claimed the restaurant had retained Chang's recipes & cooking style even though he's been long gone. We weren't impressed, although we do plan to revisit to try other dishes. Here's a link to my "Yelp" review:

                    http://www.yelp.com/biz/taste-of-chin...

                  2. Well, the venue has changed, but Chang is still slated to open a new restaurant in Charlottesville, VA in time for Chinese New Year, Feb. 3. There appears to be a reasonable amount of confirmation included in this story, but with Chang you really don't know until the place actually opens. http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index...

                    1. Chang's new place in C-ville still slated to open February 2011: http://www.c-ville.com/index.php?cat=...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Breezychow

                        This was a reply to a now-deleted post

                          1. re: GeoNit

                            So where is he - Atlanta or Charlottesville? Or is he jetting back & forth between the 2 on a daily basis?

                            1. re: Breezychow

                              Right now, he's in Charlottesville. The "invitation only" opening of the restaurant is tonight. Tomorrow, it opens to the great, unwashed public. After that, he will be a part-time overseer. That was always the plan, from what I've heard. He'll spend enough time here to make sure that the day-to-day staff is properly trained, dropping by often enough to keep them on their toes. So he won't be jetting back and forth on a daily basis, but he won't be in either place all the time.

                              1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                                How sublime.

                                Anyone want to take bets as to how long it will take before these two poor restaurant sites implode?

                                I still like Chang's Charlottesville discard - "Taste of China", & will continue to patronize it. Don't need all the media hoopla from his new place in order to enjoy a meal. Will wait for it to die down, although by then he'll most likely be gone & the place will be closed if he's going to follow his normal pattern.

                                1. re: Breezychow

                                  I, for one, hope it is a rousing success! There is always room for another truly good restaurant. I look forward to eating there, once the crowds die down. Love Chang's food.

                                  1. re: Breezychow

                                    OK. Tell us, what's your bet exactly?

                                    1. re: johnb

                                      Went to the "Unwashed masses" opening today as was listed here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid... and was turned away. There was open tables but the kitchen was backed up and I was told to come back in an hour. Instead, I ate lunch at "Taste of China" and enjoyed myself.

                                      I did grab a takeout menu and scanned it quickly however. Linked at http://deprogrammer.com/PC_ChinaGrill...

                                      1. re: ulver

                                        Thanks Ulver -- one of my friends went to the invitational opening (he's a C'ville restaurateur himself) and said that for the most part the food was great.

                                        Someone needs to try menu item #1 under Snacks -- Peter Rolls.

                                        Q: What does Peter do after spending a few months in one spot?
                                        A.: Peter rolls.

                            1. re: meatn3

                              Twenty lashes with a wet noodle to me!!! Needing to be in Charlottesville for other business, hubby & I dined at Mr. Chang's new Charlottesville location this past Thursday for lunch. The decor is lovely, & we were blown away by the food, although service is a tiny bit dicey.

                              One of the special appetizers, "Fried Assorted Mushrooms" was wonderful (although not an "assortment" - just one type of long-stemmed small-capped funghi). Light, greaseless, crispy, with wonderful mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns in abundance. Husband was swooning over it. Some sort of dipping sauce would have been appreciated, but of what type I know not (certainly nothing soy or duck saucey - something creamy). Also had the Bang Bang Shrimp - again, very nicely spicey with the very rarest hint of cinnamon.

                              For entrees, hubby had Kung Pao Shrimp - very nicely done, & above & beyond the usual; while I had the "Spicy Fragrant Duck" - which was fabulous. Boneless duck greaseless & dry-fried with lots of chili, Szechuan peppercorns, & a nice hint of Five-Spice Powder.

                              While ice water was frequently refilled, we were never offered any other beverage, & except for one table's pot of tea, everyone else was just drinking water as well. I'm guessing that perhaps they don't have a liquor license yet? But surely they must have soft drinks? Regardless, we were never asked or offered. In addition, it was a long LONG wait for boxes for our leftovers as well as the check.

                              But that said, the meal was excellent enough that hubby commented as we left that he'd make the hour drive solely to dine there again - truly a major thumbs up - lol!!

                              1. re: Breezychow

                                We've had beer and wine there, so they definitely have a license. We just asked for the list. And yes, that Spicy Fragrant Duck is excellent!

                                1. re: Breezychow

                                  Dined there again yesterday after an opera matinee at the downtown Paramount Theatre. What a wonderful ending to a perfect afternoon! Thanks to Mojoeater's advice that they do have a liquor license (although there's no bar that we saw), I started with a large Sapporo (I know, I know - should have ordered a Tsing Tao - lol).

                                  We followed that with the "Fried Assorted Mushrooms" that we enjoyed so much the last time, & they were exactly the same - delicious. (I will say that I did discover the mushrooms they use at our local Martins supermarket. They call them "Pom-Pom" mushrooms, & they look like Japanese Enoki mushrooms with larger dime-sized caps.) We also opted for the "Dry-Fried Eggplant", which has received several positive reviews in many different review venues. I have to say that it was swoon-worthy, & we both understood why some reviewers stated that even folks who claimed to absolutely hate eggplant were disappointed when the platter was empty. This is definitely something we'll be ordering every time from now on.

                                  For entrees, husband ordered the "Shrimp with Asparagus", which consisted of large shrimp, cooked to delicate perfection, along with red bell pepper & diagonal-cut asparagus, in a light garlicy sauce. Lovely.

                                  I opted for the "Braised Fish in Szechuan Chili Sauce", & it was FABULOUS!!!! Almost, but not quite, blow-the-top-of-your-head-off spicy, but with a depth of flavor that made it addictive. Perfectly cooked pieces of white fish filet, chopped garlic, & a few submerged vegetables in a fiery broth/sauce containing chilis & Szechuan peppercorns. It was incendiary & wonderful. The white rice accompaniment was definitely a neccesity - lol!! And the portion was enough to easily feed 3-4 people. In fact, it took 2 containers to pack up my "doggy bag" (although the dog ain't getting any of this - lol!).

                                  Service was wonderful. Friendly & prompt, with ice water refilled discreetly without interruption.

                                  We already can't wait to go back!!

                                  1. re: Breezychow

                                    And for those of you who are hard-core Chang fans, the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville is hosting a Food/Wine/Film day with Chef Chang on Sept. 26th. They'll be showing a subtitled Chinese film involving food (I've seen the film, but the name escapes me at the moment) + 2 different ticket-priced events involving Mr. Chang. One, for $65 each, is for the film + a special Dim Sum lunch at Peter Chang's Chinese Grill restaurant. The second, for $12, is the film plus an onstage discussion re: food with Mr. Chang & another local chef. I think there's a wine tasting involved as well.

                                    Just a heads up for Chang fans.

                                    1. re: Breezychow

                                      The movie is "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman." I've seen it too, but I'm at least doing the dim sum lunch (even if I don't make it to the movie). Should be a great time! As for the wine tasting, I imagine they'll set up at The Paramount the same way they did for the most recent food/movie event, their showing of "Food, Inc." with a locally-sourced dinner at Brookville following. In the main lobby of the theater, local vineyards set up tables with teeny plastic cups of their wines to taste. There were at least half a dozen of them serving up tastings of 2 or 3 of their wines each. So there was plenty to taste!

                                      1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                                        You'll have to report back here as to how it went. We won't be doing the Chang thing because we have HD opera tickets & then tickets to Anthony Bourdain on other nights. Since Charlottesville is a good hour away, we can't visit as often as we'd like. But both our future visits will involve meals at Chang's. Can't resist.

                                        1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                                          So how was the Chang-fest, "CogitoErgoBibo"?

                                          1. re: Breezychow

                                            It was really good! Lots of dumplings. One of my faves, the spicy cold noodles, made an appearance. But it was the first time I'd ever had a soup bun. They were really fun! When you bite or cut into them, there is a broth which comes out. These were pork soup buns with a meatball of spicy pork inside the soup and wrapped in handmade pasta wrapper. There were also veggie dumplings and lots of other dumplings. There were a few stand-out items for me. The fried lotus root was a huge hit at my table. According to the server, they take 3 days to make (so don't look for them on the menu; they won't be there). I have a feeling there must be a marinade of some sort involved, but the sliced lotus root is stuffed with sticky rice. The root naturally has holes in it when sliced, so the holes are stuffed. The little stuffed discs are then lightly battered, fried and served with a spicy sauce. The whole table basically asked, if we all ordered a batch 3 days ahead of time, could we come in and have them? They were that good. The server just laughed, but we were semi-serious. Another interesting item was the mixed vegetable pot. It had your standard carrot, celery, mushroom and other veggies, but it was served in a a really good, somewhat thickened broth. It was ladeled into bowls to retain the broth. It was quite good. Plus, there were stuffed cornish hens. One per table. They were larger than my memory of cornish hens. By that time, we were all stuffed. Each bird was sliced table-side. Much fanfare. The meat was incredibly tender. The date stuffing with mushrooms was very good. The meal ended with moon cakes. Imagine a really fancy fig newton. The outer cake tasted very similar, while the inner red bean paste seemed similar to a fig paste. It was a really fun meal! But I want to know how to get to eat the stuffed lotus root again.

                                            BTW, for everyone who loves the dan dan noodles Chang makes, pick up a copy of the October Bon Appetite and flip to the portion in the front where people ask for recipes from their favorite restaurants. Or just click here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/201... A customer from the Marietta, GA location asked for the dan dan noodle recipe; Chang provided it. Home project!

                                            1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                                              Thanks so much for the wonderful detailed review! Even though we won't be able to enjoy what you did, we will be dining there in a couple of weeks, & this just whets our whistle!

                                              Also thanks for the link to the noodle recipe. I actually have all the ingredients on hand except for the udon noodles. Will have to pick some up & give it a try.

                                2. Just went back to Peter Chang's in Charlottesville -- the last time we were there was May 2011, and in the meantime my wife visited the Atlanta location. We also ate at the old C'ville Taste of China location on 29N a few times, so we're pretty familiar with what he does. This time, while the food was definitely still tasty, we noticed that the spice level seemed to have been turned WAY down. Usually the dry-fried eggplant / bamboo fish is delicious, but just about as hot as I can take; this time, it barely registered as hot. Has anybody noticed this change? I did have a big group of conspicuously white people with me this time, but dang, it never stopped 'em before.

                                  Also, I've got a new favorite, which was on the specials menu this time: cold shredded chicken and cucumbers in spicy mustard sauce. OMG.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: kagi

                                    I had the dry-fried eggplant as takeout a couple of weeks ago. Definitely as spicy as ever! I'm not shy about spice, either. Particularly with szechuan pepper. It might have been a simple error in the kitchen. They happen. I probably would have asked about it at the time. Restaurants are pretty open to polite, nicely-stated inquiries about the food. Maybe next time let them know that they don't have to skimp on the spice. I realize that you shouldn't have to do that, but if you explain what happened before, I'm sure they'll take good care of you. I'll have to watch for that shredded chicken dish! Sounds really good.

                                    1. re: kagi

                                      I think it definitely depends on who happens to be working in the kitchen when you're dining there. We've been there twice since I last posted, & always order the "Dry Fried Eggplant", but it's always slightly different as far as heat level. Always very good, but the heat level varies. Remember that they most likely don't have the same chefs/line cooks working 7 days a week.

                                      Regardless - one of the very few, if any, restaurants where I've yet to have something I'd never order again. Fantastic place!!!!

                                      Thanks for the heads up re: the shredded chicken and cucumbers in spicy mustard sauce. Will have to try that next time we're down that way.

                                    2. Visiting in-laws in Fairfax for Thanksgiving, we had the opportunity to trek out to Charlottesville to eat at Peter Chang's China Grill. As we are fans of Szechuan cuisine (usually eating at standbys like Spicy and Tasty or Little Pepper in Queens), we were excited to compare Chang's food to the Szechuan we were used to.

                                      We made sure to order the dry-fried eggplant, which was unlike anything I'd had at a Szechuan place before--super-crispy sticks with a melty eggplant inside, covered with spices (including generous usage of Szechuan peppercorn). The double-cooked pork was even better than the slightly drier version of the dish I've had many times before, though I do like when it includes more leeks. The scallion bubble pancake was weird (it was almost exactly like a poori, and even came with a coriander-curry dipping sauce) but really good. We also had spicy braised fish, which was very nice, although I think I may prefer getting he whole fish nowadays. Oh, and we also got a plate of dry-cooked green beans, which is one of our favorite things at the Queens Szechuan places; it was still great here, although not QUITE as good, and not QUITE as dry. I'd still order it again in a heartbeat.

                                      The spice level was satisfyingly high when we went--maybe not quite up to Little Pepper levels, but then again it sometimes depends on the dishes you get. There were more Szechuan peppercorns scattered around than I ever remember, though.

                                      For more photos and whatnot of the meal, see my food blog: http://didactickatydid.blogspot.com/ )

                                       
                                      1. Latest update on Chang: http://www.readthehook.com/102813/cha...

                                        Cooked at the James Beard House, recently. A Fox Searchlight movie to be made based on Calvin Trillin's "Where's Peter Chang?" article (or I can only presume it's based upon the article, given its title). New restaurant recently opened in Short Pump, VA (the west edges of Richmond, VA).

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: CogitoErgoBibo

                                          I have eaten at his new place twice already and plan to dine there again soon :) In fact I had Peter Chang leftovers (yes there is such a thing) for lunch today.

                                          I would have been excited to have just another non-corporate chain cookie cutter in the far west end of Richmond, and just another good Chinese restaurant in Richmond, a town that doesn't have many.

                                          But I am ecstatic that we have an artist like Chang in our midst.

                                          1. re: PenskeFan

                                            I'm hoping to visit in a week or two.

                                            What menu items have you liked best?

                                            1. re: meatn3

                                              So far I have loved the apps the most, especially the fish coriander rolls, the crispy pork belly, and the dry fried eggplant.

                                              1. re: PenskeFan

                                                I ate there tonight!

                                                The fish coriander rolls were nicely flavored crispy morsels. The dry fried eggplant rates as one of the best flavor combinations around. I could eat this daily. It was even good hours later slightly chilled from my cooler!

                                                I arrived slightly after 6 and was seated after perhaps a 5 min. wait. There was a pork belly dish as one of the evening specials. My waiter felt it was one of the best dishes they make. I ordered it and several minutes later, with profuse appologies he told me they had sold out already.

                                                I went with another special, cumin lamb. Very good and beautifully plated.I had ordered a 2nd entre but was relieved when it had been forgotten in all the discussion about the pork belly and lack of. I knew I would have leftovers, but this was a tremendous amount of food!

                                                Service was great - enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The waiter offered to have Mr. Chang come out to say hello since I had relayed how long I had been trying to get to one of his spots. I declined - the place was slammed and I'm not much good with small talk. Instead asked the waiter to relay that it was well worth the wait!

                                                Food came out fast yet allowed enough time to enjoy the dshes. The pace is brisk enough that the table turn fairly quickly.

                                                On the topic of solo dining - they really aren't set up to make it easy. There is not a bar to sit at and the large space is composed of booths (seating 4-6) a few 4 tops, lots of 6 tops and a number of larger tables (8 tops iirc). There is one table for 1. It is small and in an awkward spot. I declined the solo table and let them know I was happy to wait. They were fine with that. Had I arrived a little later it might have been problematic.

                                                By the time I left there were 5-6 parties waiting and many more approaching from the parking lot.

                                                Chatting with my waiter about a return trip he mentioned that Peter Chang would be there for sure for the next few months. With a laugh I asked if he was already planning to move on. The waiter said that a Las Vegas restaurant was in the works.

                                                Hope I can get back while he is still there. Definately worth the journey!