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Mar 28, 2014 07:24 PM

88 China Restaurant Report

As reported by Tyler Cowen (https://tylercowensethnicdiningguide....), the former owners of China Star in Fairfax have opened a new restaurant in Chantilly. I used to go to China Star often and loved it, but stopped going when I had heard that it was under new management and the initial reviews were disappointing.

Upon hearing that the former owners have opened 88 China Restaurant in Chantilly with pretty much the same menu as when they were running China Star, I had to give it a try. We ordered the Scallion Fried Fish and Shredded Chicken with "Leek" (flowering chives). The dishes were excellent, and pretty much tasted like how China Star had made them. I thought the shredded chicken with leeks was actually better than before. The scallion fried fish was less spicy then I remembered, but still excellent. I also thought that they used a touch more MSG than before, but overall the experience was a faithful recreation of their former restaurant, including the complementary soy bean appetizer.

The place was packed on Friday night, and I suspect will give nearby Sichuan Village stiff competition. The only down side was that all the dishes were a couple dollars more expensive than what they had been at China Star (at least as of a couple years ago). Still, we had an excellent meal, and I look forward to returning and trying old favorites like Lion's Head Meatball, Steamed Flounder, Fish with Bean Curd, and other dishes. If you go just remember to order from the authentic Chinese menu and not the Chinese-American section.

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  1. Isn't everything a couple of dollars more than it was a couple of years ago? That's been my experience.

    Isn't China Star the place where Peter Chang built his reputation? He isn't cooking at 88 is he? He moved around quite a bit after China Star (if I'm thinking of the right chef) but seemed to be quite settled in his own restaurant around Charlottesville recently.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MikeR

      You're correct on all counts! Things are more expensive, Peter has his own empire around central Virginia, Charlottesville, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, and Virginia Beach.

      1. re: MikeR

        MikeR, in regards to the increased prices, I don't think I'm describing typical inflationary increases. Instead of seeing a range of different dishes exhibiting various increases, it seems a price point floor has been established with the authentic Chinese menu not having a single entree under $13.95. I'd say it's still worth it though since the food is fantastic and, if living in western Fairfax you don't want to deal with the hassle of driving further east.

        We visited again this last weekend, and ordered the Lion Head in Hot Pot (Meatball), Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic, and Spicy Beef Shank appetizer. All were excellent (especially the Lion Head and beef shank), but as I indicated before had a touch more MSG than really needed.

      2. This has become one of our go-to places for Szechuan food. We had a banquet there last night and the food was excellent. This was our second banquet there but it also is good for take out. The place was packed last night. While the spicier dishes have quite a kick, there is also a different nuanced flavored to each dish--I don't enjoy heat for the sake of heat but I do like spicy foods.

        Since it was a banquet, I can't remember all the dishes and they weren't all off the menu. We did have an excellent lobster dish but you have to call ahead and order. The standouts for me were twice cooked pork belly and tofu, lobster, eggplant w/ garlic sauce in hotpot. There was a tofu and crab meat dish, very mild flavor but nice change from all the heat. Another mixed seafood dish w/ tender calamari and some kind of spicy red pepper but it gave the dish only a mild heat which was a favorite. And, chopped pork chops (bite size) that seemed to have more spicy red chilis than pork but definitely worth getting even though you have to dig for the pork. The kids were given a selection from the american section and while we tried some, definitely worth skipping.