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Pacifica Cafe, Kentlands in Gaithersburg


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Has anyone else been here before?

Parents were visiting from China recently and we checked this place out based on a recommendation from my aunt who works nearby. She and her co-workers come here often but tend to stick with the main menu, which can't possibly be a good thing given its breadth (moo goo gai pan, roti cani, and yaki udon on the same page?!) of options.

My aunt assured us, however, that they serve great Chinese food from a separate, unlisted menu. Why it isn't offered to diners, I have no idea. Our family has lived in the area for nearly 30 years and this was one of the top 5 Chinese restaurant meals we've ever had. The highlight of the meal was a duck cooked in lotus leaves and stuffed with ba bao fan (a.k.a. Eight Treasure rice which contains glutinous rice, Chinese sausage, shiitake mushroom, water chestnuts, and other goodies for those who don't know). You have to call in an order for this item 24 hours in advance. It cost thirty-something dollars but fed six of us easily. We also ordered some great lion's head meatballs (with more sugar than I'm used to, but that only made it taste better) with rice noodles and the best Shanghai soup dumplings I've had on the East Coast.

Seriously, I have no idea how a place with such a pedestrian regular menu manages to crank out such great food! The restaurant seems to do a brisk take-out business as well, and these customers have no idea what they're missing.

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Hello! This calls for recon. Is that menu printed in English, by any chance?

My family had lunch here yesterday. The weekend dim sum menu is in Chinese with English translation, and includes the soup dumplings. They are 4 for $3.60, which is not cheap, but totally worth it. There is a ton of soupy goodness in the decent-sized dumpling. Another great item is the fried scallion pancake. I've also had this dish tons of times and the ones here are among the best (if not the best) that I've ever had. Thick, very crispy, and full of oniony flavor.

Other dishes we ordered included the salty soy milk (not as good as A&J's), drunk chicken, leek pancake (also stuffed with egg, and rice noodles), and a seafood noodle dish much like the one at Bob's 66.

I also got to see the menu with the special lotus/eight-treasure duck, which is in Chinese only. The owner is a really nice guy, and I suspect he would be more than happy to translate for those who can't read it. There were already two finished ducks sitting in the kitchen, presumably for those who had ordered them the day before. The soup dumplings, as I mentioned during my previous post, can be ordered during dinner as well.

We will probably return for the duck soon.

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they serve great Chinese food from a separate, unlisted menu. Why it isn't offered to diners, I have no idea. Our family has lived in the area for nearly 30 years and this was one of the top 5 Chinese restaurant meals we've ever had. The highlight of the meal was a duck cooked in lotus leaves and stuffed with ba bao fan (a.k.a. Eight Treasure rice which contains glutinous rice, Chinese sausage, shiitake mushroom, water chestnuts, and other goodies for those who don't know). You have to call in an order for this item 24 hours in advance. It cost thirty-something dollars but fed six of us easily. We also ordered some great lion's head meatballs (with more sugar than I'm used to, but that only made it taste better) with rice noodles and the best Shanghai soup dumplings I've had on the East Coast.

I dropped by to ask about the separate menu and was given a verbal tour. I've prepared the attached file from scribbled notes. Revisions, no doubt, to follow...

Pacifica_Cafe_Menu_Aug2007.pdf

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I dropped by to ask about the separate menu and was given a verbal tour. I've prepared the attached file from scribbled notes. Revisions, no doubt, to follow...

Thank you, Lydia for the investigative groundwork - small endeavors such as this have the potential to snowball into full-fledged Peter Chang-like idoltry.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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A few hungry souls gathered at Pacifica Cafe on Sunday to test out the menu. The intrepid LydiaR, having scouted out the menu ahead of time and consulted the restaurant staff, had pre-ordered an untranslated duck dish. We added a few more intriguing selections and here are the results:

Appetizer: Shanghai soup dumplings

PCsoupdumpling.jpg

Pacifica Cafe's version of xiao long bao was a success. The wrappers are thin enough to bite through easily, yet thick enough to hold in a rich bit of broth.

Entree #1: Stir-fried pork with hot peppers (listed under Traditional Chinese Dishes)

PCporkpepper.jpg

We were expecting a spicy, porky dish. We were disappointed. It was chunks of leek stir-fried with tender but bland pork and shreds of firm tofu. I'm not entirely sure we got the right dish, really.

Entree #2: Chinese meatball stew (C13 on the menu)

PCmeatball.jpg

This was their version of lion's head - big pork meatballs in a rich broth, with bits of Chinese cabbage and bean thread noodles. Did I mention the rich broth? Someone, and we won't name names (porcupine), requested a bowl and soup spoon so she could savor that broth. Someone had a darned good idea. The proprietor claimed his version was better than the version at Bob's Noodle 66.

There are no photos of entree #3, which was a simple dish of sauteed string beans from the regular menu (string beans Szechuan style). Nothing memorable, but vegetables are part of a well-balanced diet.

Entree #4: Spinach with fried bean curd (listed under Traditional Chinese Dishes)

PCtofuspinach.jpg

This was the sleeper hit of the evening. We expected something like thin slices of tofu stir-fried with spinach. What we got were pillowy chunks of battered and fried firm tofu, a bit creamy on the inside and a bit crispy on the outside, atop a bed of sauteed spinach. Even the dedicated carnivores among us called this a Must Order Dish.

Entree #5: A large oblong wrapped in lotus leaves...

PCduck1.jpg

... which was revealed to be a steamed boneless duck stuffed with, according to LydiaR's translation, sticky rice, two kinds of sausages, three kinds of peanuts, and black mushrooms. This was one of the order-ahead special dishes on the (so far) Chinese-only menu.

PCduck2.jpg

It wasn't a terribly attractive dish on the plate...

PCduck3.jpg

... but hey, it was delicious! We couldn't quite identify the "peanuts" - pine nuts were among the mix, but there was some other kind of nut or seed or something that was very pale beige (lighter than the pine nuts) and about the size of a garlic clove. The boneless duck was huge and very rich, possibly more suited for a party of ten than our party of six.

We were all intrigued (and downright covetous) of a dish ordered by a neighboring table. It turned out to be C22, Giant Hot Pot. It was indeed giant, a large stone casserole which held chicken, duck, pork meatballs, various vegetables, and bean thread noodles. I figure four hungry people could share this dish plus maybe a stir-fried vegetable, and leave quite full.

Others could perhaps go into better detail about the dishes we tried? I'm too out of practice at this. :angry:

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Pictures are speaking a thousand words here ... these dishes look good, but not that good. Does anyone know the name of the chef so we can give him or her proper billing in the thread title? For whatever reason, it's often difficult to pry the chef's name from a Chinese restaurant. As long as we're on the subject, who is running the kitchen at Joe's Noodle House, China Star ... hell, can anyone name any Chinese chef in the area? Yes, yes, I know, it's not the European model, but still...

Cheers,

Rocks.

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... but hey, it was delicious! We couldn't quite identify the "peanuts" - pine nuts were among the mix, but there was some other kind of nut or seed or something that was very pale beige (lighter than the pine nuts) and about the size of a garlic clove.

Sounds like lotus seeds to me. Look anything like this?

lotus_seeds.JPG

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Sounds like lotus seeds to me. Look anything like this?

Not really. Whatever it was didn't have much flavor, either.

Perri, thanks for a great write-up. Pacifica will go on the frequent rotation (lunch) list, just because of the soup dumplings and that tofu and spinach dish.

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Thank you, Lydia for the investigative groundwork

Indeed. Much appreciated. I was way too lazy to attempt a translation or to ask my relatives for help.

Forgot to mention before that C10, the "Chef's Famous Fish" flounder dish, is also very good. IMO, it is a close third behind the duck and lion's head meatballs.

Are water chestnuts the unidentified pale beige item in the duck?

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Entree #2: Chinese meatball stew (C13 on the menu)

PCmeatball.jpg

This was their version of lion's head - big pork meatballs in a rich broth, with bits of Chinese cabbage and bean thread noodles. Did I mention the rich broth? Someone, and we won't name names (porcupine), requested a bowl and soup spoon so she could savor that broth. Someone had a darned good idea. The proprietor claimed his version was better than the version at Bob's Noodle 66.

Entree #4: Spinach with fried bean curd (listed under Traditional Chinese Dishes)

PCtofuspinach.jpg

This was the sleeper hit of the evening. We expected something like thin slices of tofu stir-fried with spinach. What we got were pillowy chunks of battered and fried firm tofu, a bit creamy on the inside and a bit crispy on the outside, atop a bed of sauteed spinach. Even the dedicated carnivores among us called this a Must Order Dish.

I tried the meatball stew about a week ago and loved it. I'll definitely be ordering that as takeout this winter.

"Spinach with Fried Bean Curd"-- great example of why I always feel utterly perplexed in Chinese restuarants. I have no idea what I'm going to get. Will the bean curd be firm? Mushy soft? Is there a sauce? It's a little like going to a Palena and seeing "Ground Beef with Bread" on the cafe menu. What the fuck am I getting? :angry:

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Much appreciated. I was way too lazy to attempt a translation or to ask my relatives for help.

You're welcome. This is when I miss JamesG/Pandahugga most.

If anyone can help evolve this menu from its current state of initial shabbiness, please PM me.

Of particular interest are the “names” of the order-ahead dishes [the third page of the PDF file upthread - the menu items are outlined in a scroll border]. I was given a description of the dishes with information regarding their preparation, but don't know how to correctly identify them on the phone.

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Of particular interest are the “names” of the order-ahead dishes. I was given a description of the dishes with information regarding their preparation, but don't know how to correctly identify them on the phone.

First thanks for the great write up all. I wish I could have joined you. Although it all sounds good, the sleeper dish is really the kind of thing I go in for big time.

And I second the call for any help with translations. If you don't know how to order it on the phone it can be damn near impossible to get decent take out from a place that you know is producing good food.

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I will try to stop in mid-afternoon one day this week to see if I can get additional info/translation/names of dishes.

I did pick up carry out from there tonight and couldn't resist dipping into the lionshead meatballs as soon as I got home. Damn those are tasty. Resisted the tofu/spinach on the theory they wouldn't travel well.

Also ordered more traditional american-chinese--chow fun and steamed dumplings. That report will have to until after bath and bedtime!!!

I was pondering which friends I could drag back for the duck again. I have been thinking about it since Sunday night!

Jennifer

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Just came back from having lunch there. We were short on time so we ordered off their lunch menu (aka boring everyday Chinese/Thai food) but I did get an order of the soup dumplings. Those were the main attraction for me.

The soup dumplings we got had precious little soup, if any, in them. ONE dumpling was full of nice rich broth but the other three were dry as a witch's....well...you get the idea.

FWIW, the lunch specials were what you would expect. The drunken noodles with chicken were cloyingly sweet and oilier than necessary. And WTF?? Served with rice? It was all accompanied by a slightly greasy spring roll. Again, it was no worse than many other places where I've had Chinese/Thai food. Very middle of the road. All would have been forgiven, of course, with a good batch of xlb dumplings. Alas, not on this trip.

I'll give them a few more shots. They've got an interesting menu and there's plenty to explore. But definitely "strike one".

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The soup dumplings we got had precious little soup, if any, in them. ONE dumpling was full of nice rich broth but the other three were dry as a witch's....well...you get the idea.

I hope that's the exception, and certainly that hasn't been my experience. Five of us met up for dim sum here two weeks ago -- we each had one order and loved them. Plenty of soup in my dumplings, and for once I did not get any on my shirt.

In addition to the usual scallion pancakes and yo tiao (fried dough), we also tried some of the noodle soup dishes (okay, not great) and the beef hefen (rice pappardelle). I love hefen and the version here satisfies.

This place is beginning to rival A&J as my favorite in the area.

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Any hints for getting them to actually serve me the soup dumplings???? The first time they declined to do them as carryout saying the soup would evaporate. Okay, valid point that I hadn't thought of.

Saturday night, they said they never do them in the evenings in spite of my protests that I had indeed eaten them in the evening, not two weeks earlier.

Since the whole reason I made Mr. BLB sit down instead of doing carryout was the soup dumplings, he was a little peeved with me.

Sigh...

The rest of the dinner was pretty good. We had regular dumplings instead of the soup dumplings (thumbs up), the lionshead meatballs (thumbs up) , the spinach with tofu (not as tasty as I remembered) and the worst pad thai I've had in my life. Blech!

It is the best Chinese food we've had since moving to the burbs so we'll be back. Hopefully on a less crowded evening and with the secret password/handshake so I can get the damn soup dumplings again.

I did see a table near us with the deep fried lobster balls. They looked amazing!

Jennifer

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We took our grandmother here for lunch on Saturday. Our order was standard (soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, fried gluten) but the food itself was anything but. Tons of great broth in the dumplings, an ideal mixture of crispy and chewy in the pancakes.

And I don't recall having seen it on the menu before, but fried radish cakes are available as well now. The version here is much more brown and crispy on the outside than the ones we've had at dim sum joints, giving it an earthy flavor before the soft and creamy goodness.

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Does anyone know the name of the chef so we can give him or her proper billing in the thread title?

According to Tom Sietsema's two star review this week, the owner is David Wang. Tom's description of David is very similar to my experience last August when the owner gave me a verbal tour/translation of the Chinese language menu. Looking back on this thread I'm reminded it's been too long since I've been back.

The name Pacifica allows Wang to offer "all Asian food": edamame and miso soup from Japan, summer rolls from Vietnam, curry and pad Thai from Thailand. While my focus was on finding as much good Chinese as I could here, good Chinese being elusive around Washington, my excursions into other cuisines delivered some happy surprises. Pacifica's green curry, for instance, would blend in well at the area's better Thai restaurants. Fashioned from your choice of protein (pearly shrimp get my vote) and crisp bell pepper strips in orange, red and green, the main course is a class act of color and nuance. Wang, who managed the late Hunan Chinatown in the District for two decades, employs three chefs, one from China and two from Hong Kong, to execute Pacifica's long menu. The restaurateur, who more recently toiled at multiple locations of Tapei Tokyo in Rockville, makes the sauces for the Thai dishes he serves.

Good Chinese food elusive? Not in central Montgomery County.

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Bump. Two years since Eric asked and that was two years after ol_ironstomach. Can anyone comment from the past year? Had never seen this thread before. Shanghai soup dumplings are amazing but I've never had great ones in this country. Very intrigued by the above but maybe it's no longer what it was?

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Bump. Two years since Eric asked and that was two years after ol_ironstomach. Can anyone comment from the past year? Had never seen this thread before. Shanghai soup dumplings are amazing but I've never had great ones in this country. Very intrigued by the above but maybe it's no longer what it was?

I will dispatch Mom. Although it's particularly telling that she's been to Grace Gardens at least twice since the last time I think we took her to Pacifica. (And GG is a haul from her house.)

No - I will take her myself. ("AHA!") With grandchildren. Now that's using the old noggin. Might take a week. I'll report back.

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