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China Canteen, Rockville Pike & Hungerford Drive


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This place has been there for a long while, but seems to have been flying under the radar. It changed hands a few years ago and added a number of Sichuan dishes to the menu, which I picked up a few days ago and found it looks very promising. Based on the number of ChongQing style dishes, it appears the owners/chefs hail from that city, which is Sichuan's "second city" and known for its culinary innovations. Pandahugga stopped by today to try a few small dishes and was impressed with its authenticity. Many of the dishes seem to be similar to some of our favorites from Joe's Noodle House and the gone-but-lamented Peter Chang.

Has anybody tried this place? I'm going next week sometime, and would be interested to know of any dishes anyone might recommend.

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Is this the place on Rockville Pike up near Montgomery College? If it is, it's been several years since we tried it.

Yes, it's at 808 Hungerford Dr., and is pretty much the last business before reaching the college. It's about 300 yards North of Mama's Dumplings, on the other side, across from the Flagship Car Wash.

I used to go there too, but haven't been since the change in ownership and the introduction of the Sichuan items, so all impressions from that era are out-of-date.

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I got Mrs. b to go along for a tryout of China Canteen this evening. One the whole, based on this visit, the place is a worthy competitor with Bob's and Joe's, maybe just a shade below overall but with an occasional superior dish. Certainly worthy of the custom of any Sichuan food freak.

In order to do a decent test we ordered quite a lot, and now have a fridge full. We ordered:

X00 Scallion Pancake. Fairly ordinary. Not bad, but nothing special C+

X06 Sichuan wonton with red hot sauce. Very good, less sauce than other versions. The meat filling of the dumplings was more flavorful than usual however. B+

C03 Chicken in chef's special hot sauce (cold) Very good, thin slices of chicken with bone and hot sauce with peanut, scallions, cilantro A

C10 Sliced beef tendon with red hot sauce. This was the best beef tendon I ever had. Slightly sweet. Addictive A+

H11 Tea smoked duck. A Sichuan classic. Served not with crepes as stated on menu but with those little fat turned-over buns like Peter Chang used for his Gen. Tsao's pork I think it was. Very smokey duck. A-

H18 Cumin lamb Chongqing style. Loaded with cumin, and more sprinkled on the top. Easy on the sauce. Excellent version of this dish, as long as you don't mind it being served with minimum sauce A

V01 Stir fried snow pea leaves. They were out of snow pea leaves so we asked for spinach. It was OK, nothing exceptional C

Overall, the cooking is fairly dry, i.e. they don't overly sauce things. There were a number of Chinese people in there with us. Several orders of the duck appeared. The hot dishes were hot but not overpowering.

The check all in was about $55. It would have easily fed 4 or even 5.

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I used to love this place when I worked in downtown Rockville in the late 1990s. I haven't been back recently.

Any interest in a Twenty Dollar Tuesday or some other such menu exploration?

Sure! New job for me - no more travel. Just about any weeknight is good for me, and my weekends are even clear for a while. Name a date!

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The RPLC had its meeting here today joined by some very special guest stars.

We were also aided by a cheat sheet provided by another Rockwellian.

IMO, not the best I've ever had, but more than satisfactory with a couple stand-out dishes.

The wonton dumplings were very good, but not mind blowing.

The ma po tofu was spicy, but nothing compared to the version at Joe's down the road. Pretty good though with an odd hint of sweetness.

The stand-outs were the tea roasted duck and the cumin crusted lamb. I'd put the lamb up as one of the top 20 or so Szechuan dishes in the area.

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It was good to see everyone today. I enjoyed the lamb, dan dan noodles, and the sichuan string beans. The kids really liked the duck.

This place was a welcome surprise - I last tried it 6-7 years ago and it was completely forgettable Chinese-American. We'll be back here for dinner soon.

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I'm with JPW - I thought several of the dishes we had were not as good as their counterparts at Joe's Noodle a mile down the road, though they were still good. However, the menu was more kid-friendly - I have a difficult time finding things my kids will eat at Joe's Noodle.

I like the star system at Joe's better, though - more gradiation in heat level, and they separate "hot" from "numbing".

I will definitely be back.

ETA: Service was less than attentive. Water glasses were filled quickly, but we had to get someone's attention to order, get more tea, get the check, etc.

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Given that many have the day off tomorrow (Monday), a group of like-minded folks is going to have lunch at China Canteen, 12:30. If anyone is interested in joining you are more than welcome. Please let me know if you can by PM, just so I can have a feel for the number who might be there. But if you don't, that's OK, just show up! The more the merrier.

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I had a stir-fried liver dish at China Canteen today, and saw something in there I was unfamiliar with. It was black, had the vascular appearance of a (partial) stem structure inside a leaf (imagine tearing off all the green parts of a leaf and being left only with some of the branching stems), and had a rubbery, almost jellyfish-like texture which might have been seaweed, but also might have been some type of fungus. Any ideas what this was?

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I had a stir-fried liver dish at China Canteen today, and saw something in there I was unfamiliar with. It was black, had the vascular appearance of a (partial) stem structure inside a leaf (imagine tearing off all the green parts of a leaf and being left only with some of the branching stems), and had a rubbery, almost jellyfish-like texture which might have been seaweed, but also might have been some type of fungus. Any ideas what this was?

I think of woodear, but can't imagine that you haven't had it before? [um, where was the phone pic?]

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I had a stir-fried liver dish at China Canteen today, and saw something in there I was unfamiliar with. It was black, had the vascular appearance of a (partial) stem structure inside a leaf (imagine tearing off all the green parts of a leaf and being left only with some of the branching stems), and had a rubbery, almost jellyfish-like texture which might have been seaweed, but also might have been some type of fungus. Any ideas what this was?

Maybe fat choy (aka black moss)? Though, like wood ear it's fairly common.

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I think of woodear, but can't imagine that you haven't had it before? [um, where was the phone pic?]

Maybe fat choy (aka black moss)? Though, like wood ear it's fairly common.

I've certainly had woodear many times; fat choy, on the other hand, is a new term to me. I've Googled both images, and neither seem correct. It was the thickness of a leather shoelace, and branched out in a two-dimensional plane, i.e., not much curling, perhaps even with some cilia on the exterior. Maybe dried woodear that got sort of fat and hairy in the rehydration process?

It had the blackness and thickness of the soaked woodear here, but had an almost pressed aspect to it. I'm probably making too much of a cheap dried fungus, but I thought I'd at least ask. B)

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I've certainly had woodear many times; fat choy, on the other hand, is a new term to me. I've Googled both images, and neither seem correct. It was the thickness of a leather shoelace, and branched out in a two-dimensional plane, i.e., not much curling, perhaps even with some cilia on the exterior. Maybe dried woodear that got sort of fat and hairy in the rehydration process?

It had the blackness and thickness of the soaked woodear here, but had an almost pressed aspect to it. I'm probably making too much of a cheap dried fungus, but I thought I'd at least ask.

Fresh woodear is super slimy and less pleasing than rehydrated wood ear. It's fan-shaped and wavey-pressed. Have you googled cloud fungus? I don't think that is what you had, but it is a relative and equally slimy when fresh. I am missing fungus now - who the heck has a fungus fix/craving?!

Another thought is sea cucumber, which is slimy with cilia on the exterior but falls in the fat process, especially when is cut. Fat choy is not thick and is like eating kelp/seaweed salad.

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