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Secret Chopsticks, Chef Robin Li's Modern Chinese "Served in the Western Style" in Rosslyn - Closed After Three Months

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Can't find a thread on this, but I thought I remember SeanMike posting something. We went here for Valentine's Day. Bless their hearts. This could be a really cool restaurant, but it is just trying to hard. Genuinely, nicely trying too hard, which breaks your heart because it just needs some changes.

First off the space- it was really cute, but it got really cold inside the restaurant that night. The service was over the top, but also sloppy in a way. They way over utilized rose petals for Vday (especially as it was mostly friends and families there). They got us water then didn't ask us about other drinks the whole evening. We had two glasses of champagne with the menu, but after we drank that no mention of do we want something else. But they did bring out food frequently, check on how it was and refilled our water after a couple sips had been taken. They had a Valentine's tasting menu, then their normal tasting menu. But one was 6 courses and the other 11. They didn't have a vegetarian or dim sum option. We were kind of struggling to figure out what to order. Hubby wanted the 11 course, we wanted the 6, they said we could do that.

Well then the timing was kind of all over the place, which is why we hesitated in the first place on doing that, but we had my cousin who is 17 and from a rural area and just trying new stuff. There was an egg drop soup that was forgettable and just bland (do you have to put dyed rose petals in the food, I don't want to eat a dyed rose petal), the soup dumplings were placed on top of some sort of paper, but it wasn't non-stick enough, so two of mine fell apart with me just trying to not eat the paper attached to the bottom, I think part of this may have been they had congealed a bit. They served mine and my cousins dishes on a shared middle plate, and then we had to ask for small plates, and those weren't always cleared and replaced. I would have prefered just two separate plates as the plate in the middle made it hard to eat. The XO scallops were good, but their XO sauce wasn't quite as addictively good as other versions I have had and the scallops were so big and slippery even I found them really hard to eat with chopsticks, they brought spoons after they saw us struggling. I thought the lamb chops were great, but my cousin found them a bit too spicy and gamey. These came out with foil on the top, we only had chopsticks so we ate these with our fingers, but it would have been nice for them to indicate they were intended to be eaten with fingers, but would bring forks and knives if preferred. The dessert was durian ice cream, which was interesting, but the dish could have been more complex or had some other elements. There must have been another dish, but I can't remember what it was. MK's menu had a few more dumplings, and he really liked some of the items, but others he also thought were bland.

I feel like if this restaurant would 1) offer a few more options on the tasting menus so you could tailor it a bit more to one's tastes and dietary restrictions that would be great 2) do more small plates a la carte 3) just taste and tweak some of the items 4) work on service that this place felt like it had so much potential, but was just failing to reach that potential. That is always what I really hate when I go to some restaurants, you can feel that it could be really good, but it isn't there. This is one of those places that needs to hire a consultant just to tweak things.

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Ate here on Friday night with my friend and her mom.  I tried to make a 6:30 rez but was pushed to 7 by OpenTable - and the place was empty when we arrived.  Really, I think only two tables were occupied.  Was a bit annoyed by that.

Started with drinks - I had orange-y margarita and friend had something with vodka and Chambord that was tastier than mine.  Though the menu didn't say it, the margarita had sour mix in it, a pet peeve for me.

We ordered a bunch dishes to share - spring rolls, lamb buns, crispy tofu, shiitake mushrooms, shrimp & fengo dumplings, beef potstickers and something else that I cannot recall.  Everything was made with great care.  The best of the lot were the dumplings, potstickers and the lamb buns, obviously freshly made and really delicious.  I liked the mushrooms as well but was alone in thinking they were really good.

The space is kind of odd and it was pretty dead for a Friday night - I'm guessing they do their best business at lunch.  But we all agreed we would be back, if only for the fengo dumplings, which were delicious.

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Thank you - we've been meaning to try them and it's good to know what's recommended.

Is fengo the name of the dumplings, or an ingredient?

Online, I see Gong Bao Abalone Mushrooms, but not shiitake, so their menu may be different in the restaurant.  As a mushroom fan, I'll look for those.

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Can't find a thread on this, but I thought I remember SeanMike posting something.  We went here for Valentine's Day.  Bless their hearts.  This could be a really cool restaurant, but it is just trying to hard.  Genuinely, nicely trying too hard, which breaks your heart because it just needs some changes.

First off the space- it was really cute, but it got really cold inside the restaurant that night.  The service was over the top, but also sloppy in a way.  They way over utilized rose petals for Vday (especially as it was mostly friends and families there).  They got us water then didn't ask us about other drinks the whole evening.  We had two glasses of champagne with the menu, but after we drank that no mention of do we want something else.  But they did bring out food frequently, check on how it was and refilled our water after a couple sips had been taken.  They had a Valentine's tasting menu, then their normal tasting menu.  But one was 6 courses and the other 11.  They didn't have a vegetarian or dim sum option.  We were kind of struggling to figure out  what to order.  Hubby wanted the 11 course, we wanted the 6, they said we could do that.

Well then the timing was kind of all over the place, which is why we hesitated in the first place on doing that, but we had my cousin who is 17 and from a rural area and just trying new stuff.  There was an egg drop soup that was forgettable and just bland (do you have to put dyed rose petals in the food, I don't want to eat a dyed rose petal), the soup dumplings were placed on top of some sort of paper, but it wasn't non-stick enough, so two of mine fell apart with me just trying to not eat the paper attached to the bottom, I think part of this may have been they had congealed a bit.  They served mine and my cousins dishes on a shared middle plate, and then we had to ask for small plates, and those weren't always cleared and replaced.  I would have prefered just two separate plates as the plate in the middle made it hard to eat.  The XO scallops were good, but their XO sauce wasn't quite as addictively good as other versions I have had and the scallops were so big and slippery even I found them really hard to eat with chopsticks, they brought spoons after they saw us struggling.  I thought the lamb chops were great, but my cousin found them a bit too spicy and gamey.  These came out with foil on the top, we only had chopsticks so we ate these with our fingers, but it would have been nice for them to indicate they were intended to be eaten with fingers, but would bring forks and knives if preferred.  The dessert was durian ice cream, which was interesting, but the dish could have been more complex or had some other elements.  There must have been another dish, but I can't remember what it was.  MK's menu had a few more dumplings, and he really liked some of the items, but others he also thought were bland.

I feel like if this restaurant would 1) offer a few more options on the tasting menus so you could tailor it a bit more to one's tastes and dietary restrictions that would be great 2) do more small plates a la carte 3) just taste and tweak some of the items 4) work on service that this place felt like it had so much potential, but was just failing to reach that potential.  That is always what I really hate when I go to some restaurants, you can feel that it could be really good, but it isn't there.  This is one of those places that needs to hire a consultant just to tweak things.

I meant to add on this, I also got annoyed because the Valentine's menu wasn't posted online or through Opentable.  I feel like there should be some sort of warning that a restaurant is diverging from their normal menus when booking, but this is a general pet peeve, and certainly Secret Chopsticks isn't the only one for which this applies.

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And it is gone.  

"Secret Chopsticks Appears To Have Closed After Just Three Months" by Rebecca Cooper on bizjournals.com

Not surprising in the least. After I read the thread, I looked for the place on Yelp. Seemed to be a spicy melange of poor location + overly ambitious concept + average food + high prices + lack of press = sure death. Someone took a bath on this place.

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Thank you - we've been meaning to try them and it's good to know what's recommended.

Is fengo the name of the dumplings, or an ingredient?

Online, I see Gong Bao Abalone Mushrooms, but not shiitake, so their menu may be different in the restaurant.  As a mushroom fan, I'll look for those.

It is the ingredient, a green of some sort.  And, now that they're closed, never to be tasted.  Too bad.

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Thanks for the explanation - the dish had two types of dumplings and, if I recall correctly, listed them as shrimp and fengo - one type was shrimp and the other had greens.  The waiter said that the green ones were the fengo - I guess he meant the dumpling wrapper but that wasn't clear.

fen guo is actually a type of dim sum dumpling with translucent skin.

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