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TemptAsian Cafe, Szechuan in Landmark just West of I-395 on Route 236 in West Alexandria - Closed

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A new star appears to have entered the Chinese restaurant firmament. TemptAsian, a rather non-descript place on Little River Turnpike, is the new home of Peter Chang, previously the chef at China Star, arguably the best local Sichuan restaurant at least until he left it several weeks ago. The menu follows the old China Star fairly closely--the Sichuan menu has 88 items in English and Chinese (there is also a Chinese-only first page with another 10 or so and a chalkboard on the wall with 7-8 more, also Chinese only). Be sure to get that menu, as there is also the usual American menu. Two visits, one with a group of 8, confirm that the quality is there, including the baby wontons, diced rabbit, ma po bean curd, Lake Windless prawns, fish with bean curd (or was it wheat gluten), etc. No weekly specials yet, and I'm not clear if these will be part of the new regime--remains to be seen. Apparently PC left CS because they were trying to have him do too many things he didn't wish to do--he has a freer hand in his new digs.

The place is at 6259 Little River Turnpike. It is immediately west of 395, in the same strip center as Grand Mart and Hee Been. It is in a little building close to LRT, across the parking lot from GM and facing it. FWIW, Washingtonian gives it a favorable review in the new (July) issue which also has some useful information.

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It's nice to see a talented Chinese chef get the recognition he deserves, being publicized for "leaving restaurant X and going to restaurant Y." Can you guys name five other Chinese chefs in the Washington area? I cannot. Time to start a trend...

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The Washingtonian review of Tempt Asian in Alexandria alludes to the fact that the chef formerly worked for the Chinese ambassador - which I think I read somewhere about China Star's chef. Anyway, several of the dishes mentioned sounded like what they used to have at China Star - particularly those amazing scallion pancake-balloons.

Guess I'll have to make a trip to Alexandria soon.

Edited to add that I should have looked further down at johnb's post :lol:

Edited by Basilgirl

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If you had to pick two or three dishes that really stand out for a first time try, what would you choose?

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Three coworkers and I went to TemptAsian yesterday for lunch. One of the coworkers doesn't enjoy spicy food, so everything we ordered was mild. We ordered the scallion pancakes and mini-wontons with chicken flavor to start, and split orders of the duck with sweet peas and pork with ferny vegetables for the entree. Having never been to China Star, we were not aware that the scallion pancakes were huge deep fried puffs of heavenly goodness. We only knew that they were being brought out to another table, and that we were getting an order of whatever they were. The dumplings in broth were fantastic, with little chunks of preserved turnip and dried shrimp floating in the broth. The bowl came with 12 dumplings, easy to share for a group and a bargain at $3 somethng. The duck with sweet peas was chunks of duck with sugar snap peas and carrots in a light sauce. The duck seemed like it might have been brined, according to my friend, before being poached. The meat was so flavorful and melt in your mouth tender. The pork with ferny vegetables was slivers of tender pork and dark brown shoots that look like what you get with bibimbap. It had the most amazing earthy flavor.

We're all good eaters and this was a substantial amount of food for the four of us. It was also a total bargain with the bill being about $30 with tax. They have American-Chinese lunch specials in case you go with people would would rather have that.

Two women sitting at a table nearby got up at the end of the meal to introduce themselves to the chef and gush over how much they loved his food at China Star and how happy they are that he's surfaced again. It looked like about half the folks in there were eating from the traditional menu, while the other half were eating from the American-Chinese menu. Food looked good all around.

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Three coworkers and I went to TemptAsian yesterday for lunch. One of the coworkers doesn't enjoy spicy food, so everything we ordered was mild.  We ordered the scallion pancakes and mini-wontons with chicken flavor to start, and split orders of the duck with sweet peas and pork with ferny vegetables for the entree.  Having never been to China Star, we were not aware that the scallion pancakes were huge deep fried puffs of heavenly goodness.  We only knew that they were being brought out to another table, and that we were getting an order of whatever they were.  The dumplings in broth were fantastic, with little chunks of preserved turnip and dried shrimp floating in the broth.  The bowl came with 12 dumplings, easy to share for a group and a bargain at $3 somethng.  The duck with sweet peas was chunks of duck with sugar snap peas and carrots in a light sauce.  The duck seemed like it might have been brined, according to my friend, before being poached.  The meat was so flavorful and melt in your mouth tender.  The pork with ferny vegetables was slivers of tender pork and dark brown shoots that look like what you get with bibimbap.  It had the most amazing earthy flavor.

I went back today (third visit, also with three co-workers one of whom is so-so about spicy). We had the baby noodles both in chicken broth and hot & sour, and both were excellent in their own ways. Love those little dried shrimp. We also tried the fish rolls with cilantro, which I've often read good things about from the China Star days but had never tried. FANTASTIC, probably the best dish of the meal. For main courses we had the fish in bamboo basket which had been a special at CS, which everyone loved -- really great. We also happened to have the pork with ferny vegetables and General Somebody-or-others beef, both of which were good. All in all, a really good meal and even our not-too-hot co-worker was suitably impressed, I certain plan to go back and continue working through the menu.

BTW, Tom mentioned the place in his chat today. I would not be surprised to see both him and Todd doing reviews in the not-too-distant future.

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If anybody is interested in trying TemptAsian with a convivial group, I have sent the e-mail below to a list of known food crazies, mostly chowhounds. If you'd like to join, please do so.

All:

I think it would be a good idea, and a noble chowhound pursuit, to work our way through TemptAsian's menu in some depth. This will require several visits--I've already made some, but there are 88 items on the Chinese menu, plus the wall board, plus the Chinese language page, so it's about 100 possibilities even without ever ordering from the Chinese-American menu which, who knows, may have a few gems too. And of course this is tough to try alone.

So here's my idea. Having consulted with some of you about the best day, I will plan to be at TemptAsian every Tuesday at 12:30 from now until, let's say, Labor Day. Anyone who has the time and interest is welcome to come. No need for e-mails etc., just show up. How ever many appear, we will order enough dishes for the group and will try whatever that turns out to be. If you come you can be sure there will be at least one other person there.

As far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier. So you are welcome to bring anyone else along you want so long as they are "chowish" and are prepared to join in adventurous Chinese eating. No General Tsao's Chicken please.

The only rule is that each time we should focus on things we haven't tried previously, although an occasional second evaluation of certain dishes may be necessary (wink wink).

This idea should in no way be allowed to impede us from our normal get togethers to try other places and things, which should continue as before.

John Binkley :wub::P

Edited by johnb

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I have but one word to say about TemptAsian's Roasted Fish With Green Onion:

BLOODY AWESOME!

Oops, sorry - that was two.

Rocks.

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I have but one word to say about TemptAsian's Roasted Fish With Green Onion:

BLOODY AWESOME!

Oops, sorry - that was two.

Rocks.

It may be their best dish, main dish anyway (those first course mini dumplings in spicy oil are awfully good). But if there's something better we will find it in a Tuesday lunch soon.

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I have but one word to say about TemptAsian's Roasted Fish With Green Onion:

BLOODY AWESOME!

Oops, sorry - that was two.

Rocks.

I should have ordered it!! I ordered the flounder with peppers last night and it was good but not bloody awesome. Next time~

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I have but one word to say about TemptAsian's Roasted Fish With Green Onion:

BLOODY AWESOME!

Oops, sorry - that was two.

Rocks.

OK, supposing a total ignoramus goes to eat at TemptAsian.

Can I (oh, I mean he/she) sit down and say "I would like the Roasted Fish with Green Onion," and get it? Is this a weekly/monthly special that has to be ordered now, or is it on their permanent menu? And do I have to ask for a special Chinese menu to see this fish listed (hopefully an English version)?

I freely admit that I need to be educated on this subject, and I'm sure there'll be others visiting this forum down the road who should know what the routine is.

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OK, supposing a total ignoramus goes to eat at TemptAsian.

Can I (oh, I mean he/she) sit down and say "I would like the Roasted Fish with Green Onion," and get it? Is this a weekly/monthly special that has to be ordered now, or is it on their permanent menu? And do I have to ask for a special Chinese menu to see this fish listed (hopefully an English version)?

I freely admit that I need to be educated on this subject, and I'm sure there'll be others visiting this forum down the road who should know what the routine is.

It is item # 65 on the Chinese menu, just above Lake Windless prawns (squid, or fish). It's a regular menu item at Temptasian, tho it was a special at China Star. The Chinese menu is mostly in both English and Chinese.

In general, ask for the Chinese menu and go to work. Your best bet as always is to look at what the Chinese people around you are eating and ask for that.

Better yet, join us next Tuesday at lunch and sample several things with a like-minded group.

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Upon request, I am posting here the summaries that circulated after the first two "TemptAsian Tuesdays", the lunches that several of us are having every Tuesday at this place to try as much of the menu as we can. 10 showed up the first week and 17 yesterday, and all are welcome.

July 26

All:

We had our first Tuesday get-together at TemptAsian today, attended by a total of 10 hard-core chowhound types. We ordered three appetizers, the fish rolls with cilantro, five spice sliced beef (served room temp.), and baby wontons with chili oil (2 orders of each). All were delightful; the first two contained lots of cilantro, which appears to be one of chef Chang's core ingredients. We then moved on to eight main courses, seven from the regular Chinese menu and the eighth ordered by JamesG from the Chinese only page (Jump in water chicken, which turned out to be a tangy poached chicken served room temp.) They were all good; most were classic dishes which were excellent examples of their preparation. The highlights for me were the Tong Po roast pork with pine nuts which many Chinese groups have been spotted eating(you don't want to be on a diet for this one) and roasted fish with green onion ( a China Star special but on the regular menu at TA). We had one of the best dried string beans I've had, also fragrant beef stew in hot pot, Tong Po duck, great Ma Po bean curd, and shredded pork with garlic (again, one of the best of this dish ever). The dishes were spicy but none was overwhelmingly so--we'll have to have the heat turned up for a dish or two next week.

The check came to $12 each plus tip.

Chef Chang came out for applause from all and Chinese conversation with JamesG, which I think led to his promising to do some "special things" for us next week.

If you weren't there, we hope you'll make it to one of these soon. 12:30 every Tuesday through August at least

August 2

All:

We had our second Temptasian Tuesday yesterday. 17 attended.

This time James G helped work out the menu and gave a lot of leeway to the restaurant in the selections.

Here's what Chef Zhang ordered for us:

Coral Mandarin Fish

Chen Cang Beef with Steamed Buns

Loquat Shrimp

Sweet Pea Duck Strips

Mountain Town Chicken Strips

Salt-Pepper Eggplant

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

Then we (James mostly) added the following appetizers:

Dumplings with Hot-Sour Sauce

Pumpkin Cakes

Cold Wheat Gluten

Scallion Pancakes

Spicy Diced Rabbit

On the whole, it was another great meal. The biggest hit IMO was the Chen Cang Beef which was sort of a Chinese sloppy joe, and showed once again Chef Chang's mastery of cumin. Also very good was the mountain town chicken--spicy and even "fruity" in flavor. By far the biggest visual hit of all time was the coral fish. Tho in flavor it was similar to normal sweet and sour fish, it was spectacular to look at. You'll see it in the pictures. The loquat shrimp were also unique, sort of a pork? stuffed shrimp with loquat sauce. The dumplings and rabbit were the standouts in the appetizers, but all the apps were good. Overall, this meal was nowhere near as spicy as the first one (perhaps because the restaurant folks just can't believe we really want the hot stuff??), so we will be careful next week to get back to spicy and numbing dishes, and I expect some of these will be hot pots which Chef Chang does so well but were missing yesterday.

The total check was $14.50 plus tip, and everybody left full.

Here is a link to some photos James took.

photos: http://shuanglong.smugmug.com/gallery/704189

Hope to see you all again next week, when the theme will be "some like it hot!"

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Thank you John, your information was very helpful. You may not always realize it, but these posts are invaluable in terms of saving me hours and $$ in research. I'm looking forward to asking for the special menu!! (still not sure why they'd regularly not show half the menu to some of their customers, but what the hey, I'll play by their rules.)

Edited by The Doctor

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Hi there everone. I'm the "James G" to whom John B referred above; since I have been called a Panda Hugger (and worse) because of my Chinese affinities, I figured this would be a good nickname for me here.

In any event, the staff at this restaurant are very helpful, I find, and extremely eager to please their clientele. I think it may be necessary to express to them your intention to have authentic dishes in order to steer clear of the more Americanized dishes, but I hasten to remind people that not all authentic Sichuan dishes are meant to be incendiary or numbing. In my many visits to Sichuan I rarely experienced dishes (other than hotpot; that's another story) that was really too hot to eat, and I am confident that the dishes were not "dumbed down" for the foreigner.

If anyone needs any Chinese restaurant/menu help, I'm happy to oblige.

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Thanks for posting the descriptions and pictures! I walked in this past Tuesday just as your group was getting started but unfortunately had to take my lunch back to the office for a lunch meeting.

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Thanks for posting the descriptions and pictures!  I walked in this past Tuesday just as your group was getting started but unfortunately had to take my lunch back to the office for a lunch meeting.

Kliman has a mouth-watering review of TemptAsian in this week's City Paper.

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Two visits, one with a group of 8, confirm that the quality is there, including the baby wontons, diced rabbit, ma po bean curd, Lake Windless prawns, fish with bean curd (or was it wheat gluten), etc. 

My mom snooped around and found my porn, so as retribution, I was less than candid when she asked if my Ma Po[rn] Bean Curd was spicy.

"A little."

"Do you think I'd like it?"

"Probably not."

"Do you think it would kill me to try one piece?"

I put a tiny piece of tofu on her plate (alongside her beef with broccoli and lemon chicken). She ate it.

"Oh God."

<several more seconds pass>

"Oh my Lord."

<several more seconds pass>

"Oh my Lord!"

I'm not sure where Peter Chang was before he cooked at China Star, but may I safely assume that he's not the same P. Chang who came up with this dish?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I'm not sure where Peter Chang was before he cooked at China Star, but may I safely assume that he's not the same P. Chang who came up with this dish?

Cheers,

Rocks.

This gives me an idea for a new Food Network series entitled "Fugitive Chef."

edited to add: and that would make a pretty nifty screen name as well.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux

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the meatballs were enormous and fell apart as our table reached for them. the children found the steamed dumplings more reassuring, but they are just about the last reason for finding this place. i haven't seen so much chaos in a long time and am still savoring new flavors in the many containers we carried home. the chili oil washed out of our clothing without a trace. by the way, i am wondering if there is anyplace left in chinatown that still knows what do do with duck blood, how to stuff chittlins with shrimp paste, stir fry tofu with black beans into a custard or line up frog legs like the limbs of graceful ballerinas in degas? i gave up looking some time ago.

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I have but one word to say about TemptAsian's Roasted Fish With Green Onion:

BLOODY AWESOME!

Oops, sorry - that was two.

Rocks.

Finally managed to drag my husband to TemptAsian, after having dragged him several times to China Star (60 mile roundtrip from our house in northern Silver Spring). I ordered the baby wontons in spicy & sour sauce (not as spicy as the CS version was, darn it), sliced pork in garlic sauce (this is called fish-fragrant flavor, right?), spinach sauteed in garlic, and that roasted fish with green onion.

My husband is not terribly interested in food, nor is his palate particularly sophisticated. Given the choice, he would live on Hot Pockets and crackers with aerosol cheese. Even he raved about the fish. It was, indeed, bloody awesome.

Alas, the Chen Cang Beef (my husband's former favorite) is not on the TA menu, and I don't recall it being on the specials. Can we beg Chef Cheng to bring it back? (I asked the waitress and she had no idea what I was talking about)

Hopefully I'll be able to make it to the next Tuesday luncheon... because by then the leftovers from tonight will be all gone.

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I managed to persuade Chef Zhang to make the Chen Cang beef for the lunch that we held on August 2 at the restaurant, and I impressed on him that it was a very popular dish among our crowd. Perhaps he will bring it back before long. Also, he said that if you call a day in advance or so and tell him you'd like it, he'll make it for you, so that could be an option for you. (If you do call, make sure to pronounce "cang" as "tsang" and not "kang".)

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For any who may be interested, here is my brief report on today's lunch at TemptAsian, the fourth in our series:

Seventeen of us showed up today, in spite of the questionable weather, to further sample Temptasian's menu. It was great to see some new faces, including some from Don Rockwell's group and from the Washington Wine and Cheese group, along with Tyler Cowen who needs no introduction.

We tried four apps and seven mains, mostly old favorites and suggestions from Todd Kliman's recent column. Among the apps, highlights for me were the old favorite baby wontons and fish-cilantro rolls, and especially the spicy beef roll which was fragrant sliced beef and shredded veggies wrapped up and fried, a bit reminicent of a Vietnamese banh mi. The chicken in cilantro sauce was no slacker either.

The mains included two old favorites: Tong Po pork and roasted fish with green onion. What is left to say? New dishes included three Kliman picks: fish with sour mustard greens (greens were more sweet than sour and excellent), fried sliced beef in dried pot (??) which was beef done similarly to the roasted fish, ie with cumin and green chili and served over a flame (so good), and General Tsao boneless duck, which apparently was very good but I can't say for sure because it never made it to my table so we'll order it again next week thank you very much. We rounded out the menu with Kung pao chicken and shredded pork with ferny vegetable, both nice if not spectacular.

Chef Chang once again sent out a nice dessert, this time a sweet corn "soup" with tiny rice (I think) dumplings and a very subtle spice.

The cost was $14 per person all in. We couldn't eat it all, so Bruce's life was saved since his wife had said "no leftovers, dog house for you big guy."

Before leaving I asked some questions about the untranslated wallboard menu and even about good things on the American Chinese menu, so next week we may be able to branch out just a bit. Hope to see all of you once again. Only two more Tuesdays until Labor Day.

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We tried four apps and seven mains, mostly old favorites and suggestions from Todd Kliman's recent column.  Among the apps, highlights for me were the old favorite baby wontons and fish-cilantro rolls, and especially the spicy beef roll which was fragrant sliced beef and shredded veggies wrapped up and fried, a bit reminicent of a Vietnamese banh mi.  The chicken in cilantro sauce was no slacker either.

The mains included two old favorites:  Tong Po pork and roasted fish with green onion.  What is left to say?  New dishes included three Kliman picks:  fish with sour mustard greens (greens were more sweet than sour and excellent), fried sliced beef in dried pot (??) which was beef done similarly to the roasted fish, ie with cumin and green chili and served over a flame (so good), and General Tsao boneless duck, which apparently was very good but I can't say for sure because it never made it to my table so we'll order it again next week thank you very much.  We rounded out the menu with Kung pao chicken and shredded pork with ferny vegetable, both nice if not spectacular.

Thank you John for your expert ordering. Here are some photos to go along with John's commentary:

fish cilantro rolls:post-46-1124229548_thumb.jpg baby wontons with chili oilpost-46-1124229565_thumb.jpg simple chicken with cilantro sauce:post-46-1124229581_thumb.jpg

Tong Po pork (like pork belly) with steamed buns:post-46-1124229609_thumb.jpg fried sliced beef in dried pot:post-46-1124229628_thumb.jpg

Shredded pork with "ferny" vegetable:post-46-1124229648_thumb.jpg

Edited by crackers

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Thanks goodness I was there! Becaue if I hadn't been, Crackers's evocative pictures would drive me bonkers with longing. John B, with the collaboration of our colleague James and Chef Chang, has put together a series of feasts that would have been unthinkable for smaller groups. And next week we're going to have shrimp in garlic sauce, which is my favorite thing in the world. This has been nothing less than a great series of lunches.

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