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Ericandblueboy

Mama Chang - Chinese on Old Lee Highway in Fairfax, near Fairfax Circle

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Mama Chang is supposedly a celebration of the culinary contribution of the Chang's female relatives.  I think that's all PR b.s.  Nevertheless, it's a bright and airy restaurant with the currently popular cement floors.  The staff is bilingual and generally young.  So how is it they can completely botch a menu description?  

Cumin duck wings and legs turns out to be wings and feet.  Duck feet that's fried is very difficult to eat - the skin is tethered to the bone and hard to gnaw off.  If you like chicken feet and you like to work hard for tiny morsels, this might be worth a try.  I think the flavor is good but you'll have to eat with your hands and don't mind ending up with a plate of gnawed bones in front you.  The Chinese description simply said "parts" so no way to know that you're getting some webby fried feet.  Even the wings are scrawny - not much meat at all (certainly not as much as chicken wings).

The pan fried fluffy vegetable bao is fine - note there're lots of sesame seeds on the bottom.  The filling is mostly leeks and shitake mushroom.  You can buy shen jian bao of equal quality in the freezer section of Chinese markets.

The pan-fried noodles with vegetables was a let-down for me.  They don't use egg noodles like at Cantonese restaurants.  The veggies consist of mostly snap peas - something not really used in traditional Chinese cooking and which I don't particularly like.  The thick noodles were okay, the saucing nothing special.

This restaurant could be good.  I just need to order differently next time.

If anyone's interested in going as a group - post here or shoot me a message.

 

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Ugh! Didn’t want to hear this, had planned on meeting my daughter for a bday lunch on Friday.  Surely there’s some things that are good-what would you try next time?

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I enjoyed the dry fried cauliflower, the lotus root pork "sandwich" (which we received instead of the HK pork belly and lotus root dish we'd ordered), and the suanla rice noodles.  The scallion bubble pancake is the same as at Chang's other restaurants, and my spouse said that his black bone chicken soup was too much of a challenge to eat to be an item he'd order again, though it was tasty.   The chicken was on the bone and in a pretty small bowl.  He happily eats other soups that have meat on the bone.  

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I'd be up for a group trip.  We had dinner there on Friday and although I did not enjoy every dish, I would like to go back.  The restaurant is spacious and was packed when we arrived; there was a 30 minute wait at the time (we got there around 7:15or 7:30).  We had the crispy duck spring rolls (really enjoyed these; each spring roll had duck meat and skin and they were crispy and very juicy); steamed shrimp dumplings; a scallion pancake; sesame shaobing (very flaky and tasty; I have not had them before and cannot compare to other restaurants); pan fried noodles; caramel rice with pork belly (this was a miss for each of us; but for anyone considering ordering, the rice had a consistency closer to sticky rice than plain rice); and the whole fried fish.  The fish was expertly fried, but also included some of the fish skin in every piece and that made it too "fishy" for me.  There were a lot of other dishes I would have liked to try but we held back.

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17 hours ago, thistle said:

Surely there’s some things that are good-what would you try next time?

Any of the family style fish entrees sound good.

smoked pork belly w. Chinese leeks and smoked tofu

hot & numbing beef stone pot.

Good luck!

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Mama Chang now serves dim sum for brunch.  We opted to order off the regular menu, except for the Sichuan Cold noodles.  And these turn out to be the peanut buttery stuff that some other restaurants call Dan Dan Noodles.  I would avoid them.

From the Small Plates section, we ordered (i) dried fried cauliflower, (ii) red pepper fried chicken, and (iii) braised pork belly & lotus root.  These were very good, especially the cauliflower and braised pork belly.  If you've been to a Chang joint, you know he can dry fry pretty much anything. 

From the Family Style section, we ordered smoked pork belly and Chinese leeks & smoked tofu.  This dish was a bit of a let down.  The pork belly was cured and shaved thin.  It provided the only source of seasoning, it seems, in the dish.  The tofu was widely sliced, maybe an inch wide and bland.

Lastly, from the Winter Special, we ordered half a Peking duck, which was decent.

Overall, it's a good restaurant with some interesting and less common dishes.  

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8 hours ago, Marty L. said:

Those are some pretty steep prices--$22 for snow pea tips?

Yes, upon receiving the bill at $47 pp (split btwn 3 and before tip), I commented to Steve whether this is the most expensive Chinese meal we had.  The answer is no, we've been to Hong Kong and spent over $300 pp at a Michelin 3 star joint (not worth the money).   As for the DC area, I'm not sure what the answer is (think we spent more at Q).  But we share your thought that at a home-style restaurant, the prices are quite high, possibly reflecting the fact that Tom has recently been pimping this place.

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I don't mind paying money for really good Chinese food: see my post about China Garden Han Gong. But my experience at Peter Chiang's empire it that I am paying a lot for really pretty food, that is of a quality that other surpass. I have not been to Q or Mama Cs because I feel I have not got my money's worth many times at his other restaurants. 

My last meal at East Dumpling House was better than any meals at PC's since he started in Rockville. Prior to that, his meals were transcendent and a bargain.

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14 minutes ago, deangold said:

Prior to that, his meals were transcendent and a bargain.

That's the thing: *His* meals are transcendent and a bargain, but who knows where he is? I've had some truly bad meals at his restaurants.

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the bf and i had dinner at mama chang on christmas, and happily, all three dishes were excellent.  (we, too, have experienced disappointingly inconsistent meals at his restaurants, although i've never had one that i'd call truly bad.)  green beans with pickled cabbage did not have the discernible chunks of cabbage that i'd expected, but the whole dish was wonderfully garlicky, very umami, well seasoned, and the beans maintained a good crisp texture.  as noted above, the dry fried cauliflower was very good.  similar to the dry fried eggplant that we routinely get at his restaurants, it was well fried and studded with chilies.  the cauliflower was chopped into reasonably small florets, which avoided bland centers.  the farmer's stir fry (tofu skin/egg/chinese leek/green pepper) was a big bowl of lots of vegetables, studded with extra-savory bits of delicate tofu skin and scrambled egg.  one of those dishes that has so much green that you can kid yourself that it's healthy.  (pay no attention to all that oil that is making it so tasty!)  our total before tip was under $40, and we had leftovers to take home.  

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Met up with 5 friends for lunch at Mama Chang today and we got a fairly wide variety of dishes.  steamed pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings x2, bubble scallion pancake x2, chow mein, pepper pickled mustard pork (family style = enough for 3-4 to share), dry fried cauliflower, cumin duck legs & feet, with a couple of pots of jasmine tea.  Lots of sczechuan peppercorn in most of the dishes, and I've found that for me, after several bites of any dish with Szechuan peppercorns, all I end up tasting is salt. 

That said, the dry fried cauliflower was very nicely done, I thought the bubble pancakes were interesting but too greasy for more than a couple of bites, good pork  dumplings with nice hot chili sauce for dipping (I didn't try the shrimp, I would say they were average b/c one went uneaten), didn't get a chance at the duck ....there was nothing left but some webbed feet...and the pork dish I couldn't tell you b/c the peppercorns had kicked in by that point, but there was none left in the pot by the end.   Service was nice but seldom to be seen when not specifically carrying food to the table.   For the 6 of us, everyone kicked in a $20 and that covered it all with a generous tip.  We got there about 1:30 and it was busy but not quite full, a handful of 2-tops and a couple of banquettes still open.  I'd like to go back and explore more of the menu and pick a few more dishes without the sz. peppercorns so I could get a fuller understanding of the flavors.

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1 hour ago, weezy said:

Met up with 5 friends for lunch at Mama Chang today and we got a fairly wide variety of dishes.  steamed pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings x2, bubble scallion pancake x2, chow mein, pepper pickled mustard pork (family style = enough for 3-4 to share), dry fried cauliflower, cumin duck legs & feet, with a couple of pots of jasmine tea.  Lots of sczechuan peppercorn in most of the dishes, and I've found that for me, after several bites of any dish with Szechuan peppercorns, all I end up tasting is salt. 

That said, the dry fried cauliflower was very nicely done, I thought the bubble pancakes were interesting but too greasy for more than a couple of bites, good pork  dumplings with nice hot chili sauce for dipping (I didn't try the shrimp, I would say they were average b/c one went uneaten), didn't get a chance at the duck ....there was nothing left but some webbed feet...and the pork dish I couldn't tell you b/c the peppercorns had kicked in by that point, but there was none left in the pot by the end.   Service was nice but seldom to be seen when not specifically carrying food to the table.   For the 6 of us, everyone kicked in a $20 and that covered it all with a generous tip.  We got there about 1:30 and it was busy but not quite full, a handful of 2-tops and a couple of banquettes still open.  I'd like to go back and explore more of the menu and pick a few more dishes without the sz. peppercorns so I could get a fuller understanding of the flavors.

[This is a perfect example of a post that I "Liked" without necessarily "liking" - I'm grateful for the information and informed opinion.]

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We were there just after Christmas and had a nice lunch. It is good to note that they DO take reservations of parties as long as they can take up one of their circular 8-top tables. Good to know for the future.

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We went with friends to try a few things on Saturday night.  There was a small wait (about 20 minutes).  I liked how modern and clean the space was.  They have a drink menu, but we got hot tea.

We had:

BBQ pig feet- I really liked these and they weren't as spicy as other items, so I would come back to them to fend off a little heat of other items.

Dry fried cauliflower- this was really good.  A lot of places have dishes like this now (Kung Pao Cauliflower, buffalo cauliflower), but I liked the dish.  Not spicy, and again a bite you could come back to after spicy for a little balance.

Scallion Bubble pancake- this was fun, not the best thing we ate, but I liked the crisp and tender balance.  It seems like a hard bread to make, and I always like seeing interesting bread items.

Chang's favorite beef jerky- this had a little ma-la taste to it, not super spicy, but not mild.  I liked the scallions with it, it had a nice chew but wasn't overly dry.

Grandma's original fish balls- these were so light and tender, not at all the normal rubbery fish ball you may have experienced.  This may have been my favorite order of the night, just because the texture and taste was so well done.

Farmer's chicken chili pot- the chicken in this dish was amazingly tender, and it wasn't as chunky as other "farmer" type dishes.  The bean sprouts underneath had a really nice flavor to them as they soaked up the sauce- not spicy, but well seasoned.

Pickled Chili Flounder fish Pot- this was the spiciest dish of the night.  I coughed after the first bite.  But it had a good sour/spicy flavor to it, and again the fish was really tender, and not rubbery or overdone.  

Glutinous rice with brown sugar- essentially the Chinese churro- in a good way.

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On 1/29/2020 at 11:36 AM, Ericandblueboy said:

We have a reservation at Mama Chang on 2/16 at 6 p.m. for 12 under my name.

1.  Eric

2.  Steve

3. @DanielK +1

5.  @weezy

6.  @ktmoomau 

7.  @Smita Nordwall 

8.  @TheMatt

9.  @deangold +1

11.  @eatruneat + 1

All set!

I’m not gonna talk about the food, but the service was appalling bad.

1.  I made reservation for 12, but the table they led us to was initially only set for 10.

2.  I preset the menu but they forgot about it.

3.  They started delivering food before our table was complete (food that was meant for another table was delivered to us).

4.  They never offered to change plates when we ate 11 courses. 

5.  They forgot a course but kept asking are we sure we didn’t get the food.  They even brought out a picture of the dish to show us.

6.  They didn’t portion out the soup into bowls until I asked, and then they said they’re too busy to portion out our second soup dish.  At any Chinese restaurant I've been to where soup is brought out in a big bowl, it is the server who ladles out the soup.  You may serve yourself any soup that is leftover but they don't just leave you to your own devices.

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1.  Dry-Fried Cauliflower x2
very nice dish if a little stark. Caulifower with a spice coating and the first use of green onion, hot chiles topping. Cumin based spice rub

2.  Wuhan Sesame Noodles x2
Good. The noodles themselves were nothing special. Sesame paste sauce. 

3.  Salt and Pepper Lotus Root Sandwich x2
Never got this

4.  Chang’s Roast Duck x1
Spectacular. Nothing unexpected, but a great roast duck

5.  Chinese BBQ Pigs Feet x2
To me this was the disappointment of the night. Over cooked, dry. Hot but bland

6.  Fresh Chili Flounder Fish x1
another disapointment. Cumin fish, not crispy, soggy, not great fish, boring. I remember his fish under a basket from the old China Boy days and wonder what happened?

7.  Jingzhou-style Fish Cake Stew x1
Nice. Some others liked the broth more than I did, perhaps because it was soothing. I personally did not find the meal that spicy so the soothingness was not a big feature. The fish cake itself was stunning and I would like to have seen it in a stir fry with a more prounounced sauce. A really good dish.

8.  Red Pepper Fried Chicken with Sesame x2
Spicy chicken, over cooked. The same chile & green onion topping as on the trotters and the cauliflower. Three dises very similar: they should have made the dishes differ more. 

9.  Yangtze River Beef x1
This was a soupy dish,excellent with a good mala tang to the soup.

10.  Farmers Stir Fry x1
bean curd skin, bamboo shoots, egg, other stuff. Nice soothing dish.

11.  Garden Duo x1
Cauliflower and eggplant simply stirfried. Good. Some raved.

12.  Smoked Pork Belly with Chinese Leek and Smoked Tofu x1
This one left me cold because if how I like the more traditional smoked, cured Chinese bacon leek and pressed tofu. This dish had a great element: the smoked tofu.

6 good to really good dishes. 5 dishes that were forgettable. Not bad, just forgettable. None of the dishes was elevated like the Peter Chang of old, with the exception of the duck and the beef. Those two really sang. But all in, I'd much rather go to Panda Express, Xian Gourmet, Joe's Noodle house {which really doesn't get the love it deserves,} or retry Sichuan Jin River. There are also a slew of northern and eastern places opening and I'd rather explore them.

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That's a fair assessment. It was a very good meal, but it should have been a great meal.

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1 hour ago, DanielK said:

That's a fair assessment. It was a very good meal, but it should have been a great meal.

Surprisingly one dimensional meal s a whole. 

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