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China Star, Fair City Mall in Fairfax - Strip-Mall Szechuan Monument to the Shadow of Peter Chang

Fairfax Chinese Szechuan Ho Fun

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#1 DonRocks

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 10:27 AM

[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

This outstanding find is in the same shopping center as the Fair City Cinemas, one of the best houses for independent film in all of Virginia (Little River Turnpike and Pickett Road, sort of).

China Star is right up there near the top of all Szechuan restaurants in the DC area, the key word being Szechuan, incorrectly dissed as China's Tar, hence the name.

The Scallion Pancake is hors classe, served in a globular puff and just an unbelievable combination with the pickled cabbage and broccoli that are served as a small amuse-gueule (along with spicy peanuts which are equally irresistible).

Fish with Sour Mustard is a must, the filets of white fish simmering in a quasi-hot-pot of burbling hoodoo spices and chiles. You might not think it necessary or even desirable to order Marinated Duck Feet with such a dish, but it's beautiful combination when the two dishes are worked together: the duck feet served with root vegetables (carrots, turnip-like things), in a cold vinaigrette sauce, and presented in a locked-lid apothecary jar. You need the sweetness and coolness of this dish to neutralize the fires of the first, and they work wonderfully in tandem.

Crystal Shrimp is a fine, glossy plate of good shrimp, and Shredded Pork with Dried Tofu is another dish that manages to be soulful without excessive spicing.

On another visit, this restaurant proved useful for people I know ranging in age from 7 to 80, and even their Americanized fare such as Beef with Broccoli and Lemon Chicken are a strong cut above what you would normally find in a local restaurant. I've found "authentic" Chinese restaurants that do a great Chinese menu, but completely drop the ball on the Americanized stuff; not here. By my experience, you can order the entire menu with confidence.

Shredded Pork with Green Pepper is a completely different dish than the Shredded Pork with Dried Tofu, hotter, deeply sauced and homestyle.

Man, there's so much left I haven't explored on this menu. Look at this stuff: Five Flavored Smoke Shredded Tofu, Ma La Diced Rabbit, Pork Scallion Pie, Triple Stuffed Bean Curd Skin, Spicy Peppercorn Pig Feet in Hot Pot, Beef Triple and Pig Blood with Bean Sprouts, Braised Fish, Spicy and Sour Squid Roll, the list goes on.

Tsing Taos, $3.25, and you'll need them, too.

I was there today with a Chinese woman who asked the waiter why they weren't that crowded for lunch. The reply? "Because people are in a hurry for lunch, and it's difficult to eat Szechuan food in ten minutes and then rush out. When people do come, it's often in large groups, and we're busy for dinner every night of the week."

China Star is a huge addition to the Northern Virginia chinese scene - many Chinese people feel that for spicy food, it's the best Chinese restaurant around, and I've seen no reason not to defer to their wisdom and experience.

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#2 DonRocks

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 10:29 AM

[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

It has been a long day, with a lot of exercise, no breakfast and no lunch. Starving and despondent after staring down an empty refrigerator, it was time for China Star carryout.

The Spicy Emperor Duck was in one of those clear-plastic quart containers. I opened it and I think there was an eye and a beak staring back at me, but I'm not quite sure as it's offered in a dark brown sauce.

I dumped the whole thing into a mixing bowl and had at it, with the same gusto and elegance as a hungry gorilla eating a full rack of ribs. Wielding a fork in my right hand and picking up bony chunks with my left, feeling the same desperation as Lucy and Ethel trying to pluck chocolates off the conveyor belt, I scarfed it like a hyena, finishing the entire meal in about ten minutes.

And now I sit here, looking at a plate full of bones, and an empty bowl of broth, and I realize that I might have just eaten duck testicles.

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#3 DonRocks

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 11:39 AM

The heretofore confounding menus at China Star have been consolidated, going from 25 appetizers to 11, eliminating the "dim sum" category entirely, and now listing the "entrees," the "home style entrees" and "house specials" on the same sheet of paper.

The Americanized menu remains unchanged, as does the ferocity of the Szechuan dishes. I have written the producers of Fear Factor, suggesting that contestants eat an entire order of Fish With Sour Mustard for dinner, and then attempt to drive the entire periphery of the beltway the next morning in heavy rush-hour traffic while drinking a hot cup of coffee.

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#4 Jason

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Posted 22 June 2005 - 02:11 PM

It has been reported on chowhound that China Star lost their chef, which explains the consolidated menu & the disappearance of most of the labor intensive dishes.

#5 PandaHugga

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Posted 03 August 2005 - 08:29 PM

I recently read an article in the Chinese-language "New Times" that the #2 chef at China Star, Chef Liu, is busily developing his own specialized menu, which should be rolled out in the coming weeks. I go to China Star pretty regularly, and will happily post as soon as I have encountered it.

#6 PandaHugga

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 09:30 PM

People have been posting here and "elsewhere" about the perceived decline of quality at China Star ever since Chef Zhang moved on to TemptAsian. Having dined there tonight I can proclaim that rumors of China Star's death have been greatly exaggerated. While Chef Liu has yet to come up with a large number of "signature" dishes, there are a few unusual dishes that are worth trying out. Also, the more standard dishes continue to be made very well.

Our dinner tonight consisted of the General Kwan beef, a dish of "crispy duck Sichuan style from the (Chinese language) specials menu, and the old bamboo tower roasted fish (though it is called something like roast fish with scallions and has no bamboo tower anymore. All of it was excellent, though the duck's flavor was rather subtle (I am hoping that the flavors will develop in the fridge, since we brought a lot of leftovers home).

So, bottom line is that no one should feel that China Star is now a no-go because Zhang has left. Certainly the fact that the place was packed--mostly with Chinese--when we got there at 6pm, implies that the local Chinese population is not staying away.

#7 B.A.R.

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 03:48 PM

My wife ordered food from here last not because she "heard it was good". I stopped and picked it up on my way home and liked what I saw, a barren rectangular room with none of seemingly mandatory fish tanks beads obscuring the doorway. In fact there were a couple cases of beer and a lone, aged refrigerator filled with, MORE BEER. Most importantly, it smelled like good food.

I had never heard of this place prior to last night, and I had never read this thread. My wife called me on my cellphone as I was furiously changing lanes at 6mph on 395, attempting to read me the selections. I wasn't paying attention and heard something about pork and lemongrass and panfried noodles. I told her, fine, whatever, I gotta go.

I picked up the food and jumped back into my commuter cell for the rest of my journey. Within seconds the car REEKED of spice. My eyes were watering the last five miles.

I got home and unpacked the bag. My wife's container contained some kind of orange chicken dish. Fare for humans. I opened my container. I don't see any noodles....."Honey, where's my noodle thing"

The Americanized menu remains unchanged, as does the ferocity of the Szechuan dishes. I have written the producers of Fear Factor, suggesting that contestants eat an entire order of Fish With Sour Mustard for dinner, and then attempt to drive the entire periphery of the beltway the next morning in heavy rush-hour traffic while drinking a hot cup of coffee.

"I got you some wierd beef thing, they said it was hot. I know you like hot," she said. Nice.

I ate the last half of my meal with a wet towel draped over my head it was so freaking hot. But it was a good kind of heat, the kind that doesn't burn your tongue, but subtly roasts you from the inside, like you inadvertantly consumed a small fission reactor. I slept uncomfortably.

This morning, I jumped back in the commuter cell and got a 20 oz coffee for the journey. Somewhere around the 15th mile or fortieth minute, I lost track, things got a little touch and go. I was desperate for a large stand of bushes to sprout up in the poorly named "fast lane" of 395. I made it to work with seconds to spare and had an experience similar to THIS

In a couple of weeks I'll take the Rockwellian challenge and try the Fish with Sour Mustard. But I'll do it on some kind of commuter holiday, maybe Columbus Day.

*Edited to fix link*

Edited by B.A.R., 30 September 2005 - 05:57 PM.

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#8 Banco

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 04:31 PM

II made it to work with seconds to spare and had an experience similar to this

I laughed my ass off reading that story.

#9 B.A.R.

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Posted 03 October 2005 - 08:41 AM

It turns out this is the meal that keeps on giving. My wife decided to try some of the leftovers for lunch yesterday. Although she doesn't particularly relish spicy food, she does tolerate it well. But the spice wasn't the issue.

About four bites into her lunch she began to get upset, extending a piece of beef on a fork towards me to review. "What the hell is this!?", she shrieked. I glanced at the piece of meat and it did appear odd. It certainly did not look like muscle. My wife jumped up and ran to the sink, thoroughly washing the piece of meat. I am far more of a physical sciences guy, but my wife is a bological sciences girl and she had to know what the meat was.

After a thorough washing and dissection, she came to the conclusion that it was a section of heart right below the valve. There were a couple veins/arteries about 1-2mm in diameter extending up from the muscle, which was very dense ansd sinewy. She's 99.9% sure it was heart.

Now, neither of us has an aversion to eating organs and/or other "less desirable" cuts of meat. My wife was pissed that she wasn't expecting it. She said it was supposed to be beef, and cow heart was not beef! I tried to calm her down, telling her that it goes to show how authentic the cuisine was. My wife wants no part of it, and now swears that she'll never eat Chinese food again.

My gut feeling is we might not have gotten the "American" version. Has anyone ever had a similar experience? As a final note, the food still tasted great, whatever the hell it was!

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#10 ScotteeM

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Posted 03 October 2005 - 09:45 AM

After a thorough washing and dissection, she came to the conclusion that it was a section of heart right below the valve. There were a couple veins/arteries about 1-2mm in diameter extending up from the muscle, which was very dense ansd sinewy. She's 99.9% sure it was heart.

Now, neither of us has an aversion to eating organs and/or other "less desirable" cuts of meat. My wife was pissed that she wasn't expecting it. She said it was supposed to be beef, and cow heart was not beef! I tried to calm her down, telling her that it goes to show how authentic the cuisine was. My wife wants no part of it, and now swears that she'll never eat Chinese food again.

My gut feeling is we might not have gotten the "American" version. Has anyone ever had a similar experience? As a final note, the food still tasted great, whatever the hell it was!

What was the name of this dish? Was it from the "American" menu or the "Chinese" menu?

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#11 B.A.R.

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Posted 03 October 2005 - 10:02 AM

Just checked with the Misses. She sqaid she ordered from the Chef's special's section of the carryout menu. It was called Beef in a Hot Pot. And she said there was no Chinese writing on the menu that she remembers.

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#12 PandaHugga

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 08:00 PM

As a last minute thing before taking off tomorrow for China my partner and I headed for dinner to China Star. We had not been there since Chef Zhang arrived at China Gourmet, and we were shocked at how empty the place was, but fortunately the food has not lost its edge. We had several old standbys--the 'roasted' fish with the bamboo tower, the chicken with chilis, and the dry-braised string beans. The fish was as good as ever, and the chicken was probably the best we have had there. The beans were good, but not great, but this is a dish that seems to vary a lot from one time to the next in all restaurants.

So, with China Gourmet packed--and slow--on weekends, China Star remains a very good alternative.

#13 JimCo

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 11:32 AM

Stopped by China Star on a recent Sunday afternoon, hoping it could serve as an adequate substitute now that Chef Zhang seems to have disappeared from the area. While it couldn't match the meal I experienced a month earlier at China Gourmet, it did do nicely on its own.

We started with the Five Spiced Sliced Beef and the Nan Shan Rice Gluten. It was interesting to note that all of their appetizers are served cold. The beef was refreshing at first bite, cool and with strong notes of cilantro. Two bites in, and the heat really began to takeover - and quickly. But the flavor contrast was there, and the dish was enjoyed in its entirety. The Nan Shan Rice Gluten consisted of small cubes of rice gluten (think rice jello) served in a spicy dark sauce, dusted with peanuts and the tiniest of shrimp. It was good, but really only worked when it was covered in the spicy sauce -- and the extra spiciness wasn't needed on the heels of the sliced beef.

For entrees, we went with the scallion fried fish and the spicy capsicum diced chicken. Both were very good. The scallion fried fish was almost as good as the version enjoyed at China Gourmet prior to Zhang's departure. It had good flavor, was tender and well battered (but not over battered). It was missing some of the subtlety of Zhang's version, and didn't seem to have any cilantro. However, it was better than a version of the dish I had at TemptAsian (when Zhang was there) which was too salty.

The spicy capsicum diced chicken was tiny flecks of chicken (about the size of pencil erasers) mixed with a spicy brown sauce and diced peppers. It was savory without being salty, and is something I'd order again.

We asked about scallion pancakes and were told they didn't have any. Has anyone seen a version of this dish lately? It is missed. While China Star's menu is relatively small compared to other Chinese restaurants, there are still plenty of options -- and it continues to serve as a very good source of szechuan cooking for Northern Virginia.

#14 jparrott

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 12:15 PM

Anyone been to Szechuan Village recently?

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#15 PollyG

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 07:15 PM

We asked about scallion pancakes and were told they didn't have any.  Has anyone seen a version of this dish lately?  It is missed.

A&J has a fairly traditional rendition. If you go to the Annandale location, the Chinese supermarket in the same plaza has several versions available in the refrigerator case for home heating. The puffy Zhang version were, according to PandaHugga, not traditional at all.

#16 JimCo

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 05:26 AM

Thanks. I'm anxious to try A&J.

I haven't heard of Szechuan Village. Where is that?

#17 johnb

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Posted 13 May 2006 - 06:08 AM

Thanks.  I'm anxious to try A&J. 

I haven't heard of Szechuan Village.  Where is that?

Szechuan Village is the reincarnation of the old Formosa Cafe which was once located near the foot of the 23rd St. restaurant row in Crystal City. A good place it was. Anyway, SV is located near Dulles Airport, on the south side of Rt. 50 in the last shopping strip before it crosses Rt. 28.

#18 Basilgirl

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 10:38 AM

I got carryout from China Star on Friday night. The Basilman said he didn't want any "ox anus" so I went with hot & sour soup, fried dumplings, spring rolls and the outstanding salt & pepper eggplant. Thank God that is still on the menu.

I really, really miss those puffy scallion pancakes. I didn't make it to China Gourmet before the chef split, damn it. :)

#19 RaisaB

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 09:48 PM

I have been to China Star twice in the last week, once for take-out, once eat-in. The food is good. Both times I had the fuzzy beef appetizer, okay they call it something like Spced Beef with Cilantro. It is almost the exact same thing as Peter Changs. We also had the Spicy Rabbit app, it is delicious, but not worth the trouble of spitting out all those little bones. We had the calamari and lychee which is written in Chinese on the front of the menu, that was tasty, spicy and sweet. We have also had Salt and Pepper Shrimp (OK), Roasted Fish (Good but scary looking) and a few aother things that were good but have excaped my memory. Granted, it is not equal to Chef Changs' cooking, but it is mighty tasty for Schezwan Chinese.

#20 mdt

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Posted 26 February 2007 - 08:40 AM

I had lunch at China Star on Saturday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with the food. There was just two of us so we did not get a chance to sample the entire menu, but we enjoyed what we had. We ordered an appetizer of Five Spiced Sliced Beef and two mains, Fish with Sour Mustard and Scallion Fried Fish. The scallion fish is their version of Peter Chang's cumin fish that we were all raving about at TemptAsian.

Based on this one visit I think this would be a great place for a $20-Tuesday to explore the menu more.

#21 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 07:25 PM

I got carryout from China Star on Friday night. The Basilman said he didn't want any "ox anus" so I went with hot & sour soup, fried dumplings, spring rolls and the outstanding salt & pepper eggplant. Thank God that is still on the menu.

How is the salt and pepper eggplant prepared? I really like the garlic eggplant hot pot. It's cooked with meat (chicken?) accents and scallions in a dark garlic sauce, greasy with chili oil. Yum.

#22 The Hersch

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 07:35 PM

How is the salt and pepper eggplant prepared?

If it's like the salt and pepper egglpant at China Star in the Chang era, as I recall it's a very lightly battered, thin-sliced eggplant deep fried and dressed with plenty of salt and chili peppers and some cilantro. Crisp, salty, chili-hot, cilantro-y. It was one of the best dishes I ever had at a Chinese restaurant.

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#23 catharine

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 10:21 AM

Based on this one visit I think this would be a great place for a $20-Tuesday to explore the menu more.

You know I'm in. Have I mentioned my addiction to the Szechuan Chili Chicken?

#24 Basilgirl

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 10:51 AM

If it's like the salt and pepper egglpant at China Star in the Chang era, as I recall it's a very lightly battered, thin-sliced eggplant deep fried and dressed with plenty of salt and chili peppers and some cilantro. Crisp, salty, chili-hot, cilantro-y. It was one of the best dishes I ever had at a Chinese restaurant.

Excellent description!

#25 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 04:34 PM

If it's like the salt and pepper egglpant at China Star in the Chang era, as I recall it's a very lightly battered, thin-sliced eggplant deep fried and dressed with plenty of salt and chili peppers and some cilantro. Crisp, salty, chili-hot, cilantro-y. It was one of the best dishes I ever had at a Chinese restaurant.

Wow, that sounds like something I should be trying verrrrrry soon, like dinner tonight? Or prominently featured in an upcoming $20 Tuesday dinner?

#26 StephenB

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 01:16 PM

Does anyone have a current e-mail for james g (pandahugga) in Beijing? I'm looking into this for a friend who's moving there from Shanghai.
--What say you to a piece of beef and mustard?
--Why then the beef, and let the mustard rest.
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Or else you get no beef of Grumio.
--Why then the mustard without the beef.
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#27 DonRocks

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 10:55 PM

Has anyone been here recently? I have not, but some of the things on this menu look interesting.

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#28 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 07:55 PM

Has anyone been here recently? I have not, but some of the things on this menu look interesting.

My usual order is the spicy garlic eggplant hotpot and the diced fish with pine nuts. The hot pot is packed with asian eggplants, chicken?/pork? strips, garlic chunks, black fungus, and scallions, all swimming in chili oil (this is a good thing). The fish is extremely mild, almost boring, with random white fish and cucumber chunks in white sauce, sprinkled with some pine nuts. I'm not sure I would recommend these dishes separately (or more accurately, by themselves, as they both need tempering, which is, after all, the whole point of Chinese food); however, I LOVE them paired together, as they complement each other very well. I last had this combination a couple of weeks ago, and based on these dishes there was no reason to think that the kitchen's cooking has changed in the past few months.

#29 Sthitch

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 09:39 PM

I love the name Princess Pig Feet, not only because I am a fan of trotters.

#30 MsDiPesto

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 10:49 PM

A reliable source of decent MaPo Tofu, especially with this darn cold going around that hangs on for weeks. I lalso like the Hot and Sour soup when only the lightest touch of cornstarch is used, which is most of the time.

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#31 Toby

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 03:48 PM

Has anyone been here recently? I have not, but some of the things on this menu look interesting.

The dish that calls to me from across the river is the szechwan chili fish. It is similar to Peter Chang's bamboo basket preparation, fried mild white fish (tilapia?) is finished with scallions and what Fuchsia Dunlop calls a small rice bowl of dried chilies. The fish absorbs the flavor of the chili as well as the heat. I like to eat it with a chili in each bite, the combination of sweet and salty crispy fish, hot peppers and scallions is truly addictive. The ma po tofu is very good. Other dishes I have tried have not been as memorable.

#32 Ilaine

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 12:38 PM

Went there a couple of times in August with my father and his fourth (Chinese) wife. She did all the ordering and I have no idea what we got, for the most part, but it was good.

I'm just here for the chow.


#33 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 04:52 PM

The dish that calls to me from across the river is the szechwan chili fish. It is similar to Peter Chang's bamboo basket preparation, fried mild white fish (tilapia?) is finished with scallions and what Fuchsia Dunlop calls a small rice bowl of dried chilies. The fish absorbs the flavor of the chili as well as the heat. I like to eat it with a chili in each bite, the combination of sweet and salty crispy fish, hot peppers and scallions is truly addictive. The ma po tofu is very good. Other dishes I have tried have not been as memorable.

We've been eating the chili fish a lot lately, in addition to our standby eggplant hot pot and diced fish with pine nuts. It makes for a flavor- and heat-packed meal. I was getting takeout quite regularly but recently, we dropped by for an in-person meal. Wow! Quite a difference in attention to spicing (the eggplant had been getting greasy and bland-ish [hot without depth of flavor]) and cooking times (no more overcooked fish). Now we are strict dine-in people.

#34 DanCole42

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 02:13 PM

I wish I had taken some time to read the Wikipedia entry on Szechuan cuisine, because the truth is I know nothing about it.

I do know that I can always trust an Asian restaurant that's full of Asians speaking Asian languages and ordering from an Asian-only menu to provide the Asian authentic experience. And that's what I wanted. No wonton soup, no pork lo mein: I wanted the real thing.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd had some Szechuan friends who could explain things to me.

I ordered Salty Duck ($6.50) for my app. The waitress, sensing that I was a white devil, asked me if it was okay that it was cold. "Well of course it's cold. Don't you know that I'm an expert on szechuan cooking?" Sigh. I wish I were better at communicating with servers. The duck came out - it was clearly geared for a non-Western palate. It was like cold cured duck breast. Would have been good as a cold cut on a sandwich (great, actually), but plain it just didn't do it for me.

Next was the Spicy Beef Shank ($11.95) - also from the "Westerners Need Not Apply" menu. I don't know what part of the cow it was from, but the bowl was full of these gooey slimy things that were almost but not quite entirely unlike beef. Was it cartilage? Arteries? Long-stewed bone? Did they give me the wrong thing? I have no idea.

Mostly I was just confused, but I think if I can find my groove I can really come to appreciate this stuff.

Next time I'm going in armed with a better understanding of the cuisine. As it is, with my Western-tuned palate, I really can't comment on whether this food was good or not. There was a lot of it, and the bill for two people (including more than enough for a few lunchtime leftovers) was less than $40 w/ tip.
-Dan

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MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#35 zoramargolis

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:51 PM

I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd had some Szechuan friends who could explain things to me.

Next was the Spicy Beef Shank ($11.95) - also from the "Westerners Need Not Apply" menu. I don't know what part of the cow it was from, but the bowl was full of these gooey slimy things that were almost but not quite entirely unlike beef. Was it cartilage? Arteries? Long-stewed bone? Did they give me the wrong thing? I have no idea.

Too bad you weren't around in the early days of China Star when our chowhound buddy James G aka pandahugga discovered Peter Chang and translated the Chinese menu for the rest of us. I bumped into Steve S. at the Dupont market on Sunday and he told me that he had taken his young son to Beijing to visit James before James and his partner James move to South Africa. Sounds like a line from an Ionesco play.

"Gooey, slimy things" were probably beef tendon. If you intend to get into truly authentic eating, textures are important--with or without intrinsic flavor.

#36 Soup

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 09:01 AM

Sorry to hear that you hadn't had as good of an experience. Although the food has slightly changed it is still a really good chinese place. Our "go to" dishes are
- crystal shrimp
- Fried tofu (can't remember the exact name) but it a a large plate of fried tofu covered in a spicy power. It use to be painfully hot but in the recent visits, it was tone down, unfortunately.
- Fish with mustard green (hot and sour: excellent dish)
- salt and pepper egg plant (batter coated egg plant, deep fried)
- cold rabbit
- smoked duck

The fish is my favorite dish.

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#37 DanCole42

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 10:43 AM

Sorry to hear that you hadn't had as good of an experience.

I didn't mean to imply that I had a BAD experience. I'm okay trying new foods. I just wish I had gone in armed with more knowledge so I could have appreciated it more. It's my own fault, not the restaurant's!
-Dan

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MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#38 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 08:47 AM

Family's in town to visit and we went to China Star last night (Sat). The place was crowded but not packed at 7:30ish. We ordered the (i) cold spicy beef and tripe app, (ii) scallion fried fish, (iii) sauteed bok choy, (iv) chives stir fried with shredded chicken (the menu says these are leeks but they're not), and (v) a duck stew/hotpot (must be called the spicy emperor duck). Everyone enjoyed the scallion fried fish, which is very similar to the cumin fish served at HKP, except that HKP accompanies the fish with onions and spicy green chili peppers instead of scallions. The batter is a little thicker here as compared to HKP (we prefer thin vs. thick). The duck stew is surprisingly good - I don't think the entire duck is in there but we got some neck pieces and a kidney (or maybe it was a heart). The duck was brought out simmering on top of canned heat, it was flavorful but not all that spicy (despite its name, the menu). The other dishes were homestyle dishes that are tasty but don't require much talent. It's definitely worth visiting. Of the VA Sichuan restaurants, I'd rank them HKP, China Star, Tempt Asian (with no recent visit to Sichuan Village in Chantilly, which has a massive menu and a good reputation).

#39 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 03:43 PM

Family's in town to visit and we went to China Star last night (Sat). The place was crowded but not packed at 7:30ish. We ordered the (i) cold spicy beef and tripe app, (ii) scallion fried fish, (iii) sauteed bok choy, (iv) chives stir fried with shredded chicken (the menu says these are leeks but they're not), and (v) a duck stew/hotpot (must be called the spicy emperor duck). Everyone enjoyed the scallion fried fish, which is very similar to the cumin fish served at HKP, except that HKP accompanies the fish with onions and spicy green chili peppers instead of scallions. The batter is a little thicker here as compared to HKP (we prefer thin vs. thick). The duck stew is surprisingly good - I don't think the entire duck is in there but we got some neck pieces and a kidney (or maybe it was a heart). The duck was brought out simmering on top of canned heat, it was flavorful but not all that spicy (despite its name, the menu). The other dishes were homestyle dishes that are tasty but don't require much talent. It's definitely worth visiting. Of the VA Sichuan restaurants, I'd rank them HKP, China Star, Tempt Asian (with no recent visit to Sichuan Village in Chantilly, which has a massive menu and a good reputation).

We recently subbed out our usual chili fried fish for the scallion fried fish, and haven't looked back. The cumulative flavor of the cumin and scallions is intense! And awesome. We also tried the sauteed bok choy, which is just like how mom is supposed to make it, and it makes for a very nice balancing dish for all the hot.

#40 dgreen

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 07:39 AM

Went to China Star for the first time Saturday night. Wow, what a let down. As DanCole42 mentioned in his experience, it's possible we just ordered horribly wrong. Whatever the reason, it was not good. We ordered Phoenix and Dragon and Seafood Pan-Fried Noodles. The Phoenix and Dragon was ok. The Seafood Pan-Fried Noodles was full of imitation crab meat and tasteless scallops. Even the fried rice was fairly gross.

#41 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 03:14 AM

Went to China Star for the first time Saturday night. Wow, what a let down. As DanCole42 mentioned in his experience, it's possible we just ordered horribly wrong. Whatever the reason, it was not good. We ordered Phoenix and Dragon and Seafood Pan-Fried Noodles. The Phoenix and Dragon was ok. The Seafood Pan-Fried Noodles was full of imitation crab meat and tasteless scallops. Even the fried rice was fairly gross.

The food from the American menu is genuinely terrible. All the good stuff here is on the Szechuan menu. If you're not with Asians when you order there the first (10) time(s), even the food off the Szechuan menu has a good chance of being dumbed down. It's not a good thing, it's just how it is there. If you ever summon the will to go back and try again, check out some of the recommended dishes from this thread, or order whatever looks good around you, especially if you see it on several tables. Don't expect patient or kind service, because you won't get it, even if you go religiously for months. The food is worth it.

#42 Soup

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 11:02 AM

China star is one of my fav chinese place in the area. The tofu, duck, rabbit off the chinese menu is excellent. However the fish with mustard green and fried eggplant is by far my favorite. You should give the place another try with the chinese menu.

#43 dgreen

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 01:04 PM

Thanks for the advice. Is this Chinese menu literally another menu or is it just a particular part of the menu? Do I say, "I want the Szechuan menu"? We ordered off the Chef's Specialties, so I assumed I was ordering the good stuff. I expected it to be dumbed down, but I didn't expect it to taste bad.

When we arrived, there were very few people in there. There was a table of mixed-race folks in their 20s and a table with an older white couple. We are white couple in our 30s. As more and more people arrived, I noticed we were likely receiving different treatment. Every Chinese family who entered was immediately served hot tea. We weren't and I didn't see any of the other non-Chinese tables with tea. It appeared that some tables were brought food without even ordering. It's good to be a regular! It's disappointing to not get what you want, but I definitely wasn't offended by anything. Live and learn.

I'm open to trying again. But, being a shy introvert, I don't enjoy having to request special treatment especially if I'm not likely to get it anyway. Not to hijack this thread in a direction other than China Star...but I will briefly. I've noticed Korean restaurants tend to be very upfront about treating me differently. My wife and I have been warned, "Are you sure? That's really spicy." Or, once, we were flat out told, "No, you don't want that. It's too spicy." I prefer that upfront approach to the approach of just not even making certain things available. It at least presents the options to you instead of hiding the options. Anyway, thanks for the advice and I hope these comments don't derail this thread.

#44 MsDiPesto

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 01:29 PM

I haven't been disappointed with the MaPo Bean Curd from the Chinese Menu (which is separate from the one listing only typical Chinese-American cuisine) at China Star, it's pretty much the only thing I get off that menu. The hot and sour soup from the C/A menu is not bad, and I do indulge in LoMein or ChowFun sometimes.

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#45 goodeats

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 01:33 PM

I seem to recall it's a separate menu, but I have only been there once. As to the latter part of the thought, it depends on the restaurant. Some Chinese restaurants will say "no you don't want that" while others will just pretend you don't exist or try to get you out as soon as possible for one reason or another (language issue, don't think you're adventurous, etc...).

When I was working at my parents' restaurant back in the day, we couldn't assume non-Asian folks want tea. If we automatically served tea, most folks will want a cup of ice + creamer + sugar with it. That always frustrated my parents and staff because 1. it was an extra step that they didn't ask for, but then again, they probably didn't ask for tea, and 2. the way we drink tea should be in its natural state and the rest of us would hear it nonstop for the rest of the evening (tea, how can they add sugar?!).

The thing is, it's hard to be introverted in a Chinese restaurant. Think back to the dim sum episode of this year's Top Chef All Stars--what did the parents do? They stepped up, shoved a few folks out of the way and start grabbing stuff however and whenever it came out. Give it another try or little man and I would be happy to join you all to help boister the courage meter.
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#46 jparrott

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 02:16 PM

Well, since apparently my gringo brethren have just made it too hard, I propose a simple solution for those of us who would like to experience these restaurants fully. If you feel you must have a separate menu with the "difficult stuff," please place a laminated version, with translation, preferably printed on brightly-colored paper, on every table. If you pick it up for more than a moment or two, the restaurant assumes you want the "real deal." If not, you get to ask for your own tea and plenty of duck sauce with your egg rolls.

Yes, I realize I just took four sentences to write, "I want a pony."

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#47 goodeats

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 02:18 PM

If not, you get to ask for your own tea and plenty of duck sauce with your egg rolls.

This prompts me to ask how the name "duck sauce" came to be. As there is no duck in the sauce. I never understood it. (But then again, I have not seeked the great Google-wide-world yet either.)
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#48 sphere777

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 03:06 PM

This prompts me to ask how the name "duck sauce" came to be. As there is no duck in the sauce. I never understood it. (But then again, I have not seeked the great Google-wide-world yet either.)


According to Wikipedia, the proper term for the sauce in Chinese cuisine is "plum sauce."

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Duck_sauce

#49 goodeats

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 03:28 PM

According to Wikipedia, the proper term for the sauce in Chinese cuisine is "plum sauce."

Um, and Wikipedia can be wrong sometimes. Except that I am stick curious on how the naming came about.
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#50 Kibbee Nayee

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 06:43 PM

Um, and Wikipedia can be wrong sometimes. Except that I am stick curious on how the naming came about.

Uh....because it tastes good on duck....?

Do you eat chicken with your fingers?
No, I eat my fingers separately.






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