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Vince

Hong Kong Palace, Seven Corners Center - New Owners Go from Cantonese to Szechuan

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Hong Kong Palace has been a wonderful source of Hong Kong-style Chinese food for the last couple of years. But the restaurant of last week is no more.

In its place is Hong Kong Palace, a place of the same name but with some major changes. The kitchen is now staffed with a pair of Chengdu-trained Szechuan chefs (part owners!) who seem to know what they are doing. Yes, the restaurant has some rough spots that might be expected in any place that has just changed hands in the past week, but it appears to be very promising.

We stopped by last night expecting typical HK fare, but were surprised by all the new faces for the staff. The real change came we asked for the Chinese Menu, and we were handed a total different menu from the one we had seen in the past. It was brimming with all manner of Szechuan-style dishes. Speaking with our waiter then made things clear. The previous owners had sold the restaurant and the new owners were heading in a different direction, cuisine-wise.

As we continued to speak with the waiter we considered that this new place might have promise. We decided to share the Chengdu Spicy Cold Noodles for appetizer and ordered the Ma Po To Fu and Sliced Pork with Dried Bean Curd for dinner.

What we received were very fine renditions of classic Szechuan fare! If there were any complaints they centered around our inability to convince the waiter (and chef?) that we wanted the food spiced authentically. While there was some heat and numbing character in the entrees, it was just a little short of what we had come to expect from the best of the local Szechuan restuarants, such as Joe's Noodle House (in Rockville).

We will be definitely be going back, and I suspect that with a little effort we will be able to get the kitchen to pull out all the stops and make the dishes with the bold flavors that is the hallmark of classic Szechuan food.

I would be interested to hear reports from others.

Vince

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Barbara (Biscuit Girl) and I had lunch here yesterday. The food was good, and we'll be investigating the menu more closely in the coming months.

When we sat down, the manager (I think, maybe an owner too) asked us if we wanted the 'typical' menu, printed like a takeout menu, or the 'traditional' menu in binders. Not knowing which was which, I told him I had heard they made good Szechuan Chinese, so whichever of the menus had that. "Ah, you want the traditional!" he said happily and gave us the binders.

The manager also asked us if we had seen the pictures on e-mail. I told him we hadn't. Apparently there was a large group of non-Chinese in recently ordering a lot of stuff and taking pictures of it. They told him they were going to e-mail it to their friends. If anyone knows where those are, I'd appreciate a link.

While we were waiting for our food to come out, the manager brought over a small dish with boiled peanuts with five flavors and a little pickled vegetable. The peanuts were good, nothing at all like southern boiled peanuts, still firm but infused with five spice flavors. The pickled veggie was thin strips of something (either radish or stems of cabbage or some other veg) in a sauce that reminded me of kimchee. Both were tasty treats.

Wontons with spicy tasty sauce were very good, not as much broth as the Peter Cheng variety, but more concentrated. Make sure you stir them around in the sauce. Scallion pancake was your typical scallion pancake, good for soaking up the sauce. We asked about the fish filet and vegetable in spicy broth, and the manager(?) suggested we get the fish and tofu flower in spicy broth, same sauce but tastier if you like tofu. It was good but I prefer firm to soft tofu. Next time I'll just get the fish and veg instead. It wasn't as spicy as H20 at Joe's, but was the same type of preparation. (Note - this is what Fuchsia Dunlop describes as beef boiled in fiery broth in "Land of Plenty".) We also asked about twice-cooked pork with green beans, and the manager explained that it was with fatty pork (I assume pork belly) and if we liked fatty pork, we'd like this. We talked about it and decided on another dish with thin slices of pork belly that were cooked a little longer in the wok to render more of the fat out, with red bell peppers, what appeared to be green finger hot peppers, and onions stir-fried together. I think the menu described it as sliced pork with chiles. This was a highlight of the meal. The pork belly was sliced thin, and the fat was crisp on the edges.

As the meal was coming to the end, and we were getting our leftovers boxed up for taking home, we were already planning our next trip. I'll be bringing our camera too. It deserves more attention.

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The manager also asked us if we had seen the pictures on e-mail. I told him we hadn't. Apparently there was a large group of non-Chinese in recently ordering a lot of stuff and taking pictures of it. They told him they were going to e-mail it to their friends. If anyone knows where those are, I'd appreciate a link....<snip>...I'll be bringing our camera too. It deserves more attention.
I was in the Friday lunch group "Tom" described to you. It was a great meal - field report. At lunch, we discussed if it was appropriate to post about the restaurant because it would be more easily overrun than China Gourmet/Sichuan Boy.

Please note: our group of seven was a tight squeeze at their largest table (it had a Lazy Susan) and there were only about 6 other tables (mainly 4 tops) in the restaurant. Hong Kong Palace may be too small to accommodate one of our standard DR group meals. This restaurant deserves good business, but not the "smother it in the cradle" kind.

The kitchen is now staffed with a pair of Chengdu-trained Szechuan chefs (part owners!) who seem to know what they are doing. Yes, the restaurant has some rough spots that might be expected in any place that has just changed hands in the past week, but it appears to be very promising.
Thanks for your information and crosspost. Are there other Chinese restaurants you can recommend?

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Thanks for your information and crosspost. Are there other Chinese restaurants you can recommend?

I keep looking...

Oriental Gourmet's (N. Harrison St, just North of Lee Hwy) Chinese menu has some good Szechuan dishes, but I have found it very difficult to get the staff to translate to the chef my desire for the authentic bold spicing that is the heart Szechuan cooking. As I work my way through Fushia Dunlop's great cookbook, I find myself becoming much more critical of many local restaurants.

HKP is not perfect, but is is one of the best locally (Arlington/Falls Church). I still prefer Joe's Noodle House, but that is a long trip for most everyday meals.

Vince

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Some people have been high on Sichuan Village in Chantilly. I work a few blocks from there, but no one wants to go try it (and I'd like to go with a Mandarin speaker/someone more confident than I in ordering).

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The manager also asked us if we had seen the pictures on e-mail. I told him we hadn't. Apparently there was a large group of non-Chinese in recently ordering a lot of stuff and taking pictures of it. They told him they were going to e-mail it to their friends. If anyone knows where those are, I'd appreciate a link.

The pictures are linked in the Chowhound thread started by Steve which Lydia linked earlier. If that is too complicated, here is a direct link:

http://picasaweb.google.com/knazna/HKPCopy...570716745731170

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Thanks for the links. I hope they don't get burned out or overcrowded there as well.

So, who's going to be the first one to try and report back on the Ox Penis?

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Could someone please post the address of this restaurant. Thanks very much!
It was in both Tyler Cowan's guide and had its own website before the change in ownership (website doesn't look updated): 6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 703-532-0940 - off Route 7 past Seven Corners headed towards Alexandria and in the Shoppers Food Warehouse shopping center.

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Great find! We had lunch there the Saturday before Xmas. It was almost empty when we arrived about noon, but there not a free table when we left at 1. We were asked how spicy we wanted our food, and asked for it to be spicy. I think that our request was heeded. I remember eating at a Szechuan restaurant in Beijing where the food was so hot and I was sweating so much my hair was matted - and the other patrons were giggling at us. It wasn't quite that spicy, but did come close.

The meal started with complimentary 5-spice soybeans, a nice touch.

We officially started with the Spicy Szechuan Beef Tendon, a nice cold dish that appeared to be very popular - we saw it going to a lot of other tables. Spicy hot, but not unbearably so.

For our mains, we split three dishes between the two of us. That's standard practice for us at authentic Chinese restuaurants when we're hungry, but here it was just too much. The portions were quite large, and we had too much food on the table.

For me, the highlight of the meal was Fried Chicken with Dry Chili Peppers. This was fried boneless chicken chunks, dipped in tons of ground Szechuan peppercorns, stir fried with dried red peppers and sliced, unseeded jalapenos. This dish came the closest to making my head sweat - and clearly made my mouth tingle, so much that I finally had to stop, even though I would have liked to eat more. I suspect that I'm grateful for the use of jalapenos rather than something hotter.

We also had the Twice Cooked Pork with Dry Long Bean. I was ready for the belly pork, which a prevous poster reported - and it was delicious. I was also expecting the long beans to be dry fried - basically, stir fried until they were wrinkled. I was surprised to get some kind of long bean that clearly had been dried and then reconstituted. They were very dark in color, and a little sweet - very unusual and very good. The dish had a nice flavor of hot bean sauce but wasn't too spicy at all, a very refined flavor. It was quite oily, however.

Finally, we had the Stir-Fried Pumpkin, which was a huge plate of shredded squash of some kind, in a very mild, light sauce. Very simple, but very cooling after the other dishes.

We're definitely going back - I'm even willing to try the "Ox P" and will also try to get some translation help for the specials on the wall.

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I have missed all of the previous attempts at authentic Sichuan around the area. This was mostly because my wife is a wimp when it comes to hot foods. With a large dose of pouting, I convinced her to give it a try. The deal was that for every hot dish we ordered that we would order one that was not.

As we approached the restaurant, I quickly noticed that we would be the only non-Asians in the restaurant, always a good sign. We were greeted by the affable owner who excitedly asked "traditional menu?". He was very happy that we said yes. He brought the menus and immediately apologized for any misspellings. Yes, there were some, but I doubt I would have even noticed if he had not mentioned it. I tried to convince my wife to get the bull frog, but to no avail, so we decided on the scallion pancake and the tangy wontons (one of the misspelled items). Alas, they were out of the pancake, so we asked what he recommended, he suggested the tea smoked duck. The wontons were as good as described above, and I would definitely order these again, but they need the oil and/or the pepper to complete the dish. The tea smoked duck was fabulous, not only was the skin nicely seasoned with he smoke, but deeper into the meat other spices showed themselves.

For our entrees we decided on the Chicken with Pickled Vegetables and the Twice Cooked Pork. The owner was happy that we ordered the pork, and explained that it was fatty, and made just like in China. The Chicken was not marked as being hot, but it was. Oh was it hot, it made the pork seem like a bowl of ice cream. The flavor was fabulous, and the texture of the chicken was sublime. But damn was it hot. The twice cooked pork with long beans was fantastic. The meat was good and fatty (as advertised) and as Chavas wrote, the beans were quite unusual. These were the favorite part of the meal for my wife. Personally, I liked the pork better than the beans, but then again, I am far more of a carnivore than she is.

I want to go back again tomorrow night and explore more of the menu, but I doubt that I am going to be able to convince my wife to make a return trip for another few weeks.

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A small group of us met for lunch at Hong Kong Palace, and I have to report that the Cumin Beef was the tastiest dish I've had at a Chinese restaurant in a long, long time. The beef itself was still juicy*, and the balance of cumin and Szechuan peppercorn was just right: hot and numbing enough to make your mouth water without killing your tastebuds, teasing you to keep tasting just one more bite to figure out what those other flavors are. Also outstanding was the snow pea leaves with garlic. I would brave the onerous trip through Seven Corners at any time to eat these two dishes again.

*I know that beef is cooked all the way through in Chinese cuisines, but I usually find it too tough and dry to stomach

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I take it nobody's tried the "Ox P" yet? Oh well, neither have I. But I finally got back there last night. mainly because Barb and I were too tired to cook and I had just looked at Tyler Cowen's page and saw the pictures of the food he had.

Tyler Cowen's page on Hong Kong Palace

So, we had the cumin lamb, Chengdu style kung pao chicken, szechuan dried beef, and scallion pancake. All were as good as everyone else has said. The hottest one was the dried beef, which had us sweating before diving into the relative comfort of the kung pao chicken and cumin lamb.

I've got to make this a regular stop, the food is just too good to be ignored.

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The Chengdu style kung pao chicken was one of the best Chinese dishes I have ever had. Every bite made my happy. One thing that I have not seen mentioned on this thread was the quality of the rice that is served with the entrees is a step above that at other Chinese restaurants in the area. But this all makes their choice of soy sauce all the more perplexing, nowhere on the ingredient list do you find soy mentioned.

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I had lunch here with a couple of friends today and tried a few of the spicy dishes. I don't have a lot of time to spend on this post, but had to make two comments:

1. the spicy noodle soup with intestine is terrific, and a terrific bargain at $7.

2. the cumin lamb there is the best cumin lamb I've ever had.

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Goldenticket and I had lunch there earlier this week and were very impressed with the quality of the food. We started with the tangy spicy wonton. We had ordered this dish at Temptasian where it was tiny wontons in a large bowl of tangy spicy broth. At Hong Kong Palace, the wontons are bigger, less delicate, but absolutely delicious when swiped in the slick of spicy oil and sauce that cover the bottom of the plate. From there, we moved onto the Twice Cooked Pork with Dry Long Bean and the Old Buddha's Braised pork. The Twice Cooked Pork was very good but the braised pork was a stunner. It was small chunks of very fatty pork braised with peppers and dried shitakes in a fragrant brown stew. The five spice flavors complemented it without being overpowering and every bite was luscious with all that good fatty porkness. I think you could stew shoelaces in this sauce and they would be amazing.

Because my 4 yr old was with us, we also ordered the bbq pork with snow peas off of the americanized menu for her. Unlike many places, the bbq pork here was juicy and tender, showing that the restaurant's attention to quality does not lie solely within its traditional menu. The only downside to this place is the service. They have a small staff and probably only one or two people back in the kitchen. This quality food does not come out quickly so you should plan for that if you're eating with kids or a large group.

I went back there today to get some takeout and talked to the hostess about the tank of live tilapia in the back. She pointed out that the fish were prepared whole on the menu in three different ways, including a whole fried fish served with a spicy black bean sauce. I had already placed my order for the chengdu kung pao chicken (spicy! awesome! not like other places!) but now I know what to get the next time I'm there.

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Mapo Tofu travels well, and tonights may be the best we've ever had. Also, the beef with pickled vegetable (mostly cabbage) is an unsung hero, one that cools and soothes before you get another spoonful of the spicy stuff. With BiscuitGirl having a pinched nerve in her neck and us not going out for dinner, we'll be getting takeout from here weekly at least.

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Had lunch at Hong Kong Palace today and I am already planning to go back. The dry beef appetizer was amazing. Served cold in a dark, spicy sauce topped with sesame seeds the delightfully chewy meat had a haunting taste of cinnamon (5 spice?) that was not overpowered by the hot spices. Ma po tofu was exemplary, cumin lamb was the best rendition I have ever had. The ish with vegetable in spicy broth was quite good. The spicy wontons good but not up to Peter Cheng's or some wonderful ones we had in London. To top it off the service was absolutely delightful, the waitress spoke English and was very accommodating. We ordered our food prepared with the traditional spiciness and the result was perfect, hot but not overwhelming.

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We ordered so much food at Hong Kong Palace last night they let us have one of the big tables. Really good, better than China Star, better than Temptasian. Cumin lamb lives up to the recommendations.

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i really want to like this place as it is much closer than JNH but after my first visit, ithink i'll pass. I have been craving chili, chili, chili and wanted some schezuan crispy beef. Ordered some here, specified that I didn't want it to be sweet and that I wanted it as hot as they could make it. Unfortunately it was still sweet, no dried chilis, no schezuan pepper; the saving grace was that it was very, very crispy, which I loved. The dumplings with chili oil were flat, wet and flavorless. I wish my experience mirrored others here, and I'll probably try again if in the area, but for great schezuan, I'll probably stick to JNH. On the plus side, the service was great and the Lo Mein my wife ordered was as good a rendition as I've ever had.

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i really want to like this place as it is much closer than JNH but after my first visit, ithink i'll pass. I have been craving chili, chili, chili and wanted some schezuan crispy beef. Ordered some here, specified that I didn't want it to be sweet and that I wanted it as hot as they could make it. Unfortunately it was still sweet, no dried chilis, no schezuan pepper; the saving grace was that it was very, very crispy, which I loved. The dumplings with chili oil were flat, wet and flavorless. I wish my experience mirrored others here, and I'll probably try again if in the area, but for great schezuan, I'll probably stick to JNH. On the plus side, the service was great and the Lo Mein my wife ordered was as good a rendition as I've ever had.

Antonio, Melony says the next time you're there you should speak with her when you order.

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i really want to like this place as it is much closer than JNH but after my first visit, ithink i'll pass. I have been craving chili, chili, chili and wanted some schezuan crispy beef. Ordered some here, specified that I didn't want it to be sweet and that I wanted it as hot as they could make it. Unfortunately it was still sweet, no dried chilis, no schezuan pepper; the saving grace was that it was very, very crispy, which I loved. The dumplings with chili oil were flat, wet and flavorless. I wish my experience mirrored others here, and I'll probably try again if in the area, but for great schezuan, I'll probably stick to JNH. On the plus side, the service was great and the Lo Mein my wife ordered was as good a rendition as I've ever had.

You want hot? Try the tiger skin peppers. Make sure you have a bottle of beer handy.

In my experience crispy beef is not what I'd order if I wanted a spicy dish. Please give it another try and let the server (I don't know Melony personally but might as well seek her advice) offer some suggestions.

For a few cell-phone photos of a meal my brother and I shared at HKP, go to his entertaining blog, EatWells LiveWells, http://www.eatwellslivewells.com/2007/08/h...-church-va.html

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