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Canton Cafe, Springfield Plaza in Springfield - Cantonese with Lunchtime Dim Sum - Closed


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The Vietnamese people I know, like my barbers, always tell me to eat at Canton Cafe when I'm in that shopping plaza. They tell me that Vietnamese food between here (Springfield) and Seven Corners is slim pickings, and they think that Canton Cafe is the best Chinese in the area.

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Would love to hear more about Sampan. It was a landmark for years, then disappeared for a while, replaced by a non-descript Vietnamese place. Now it's back again. What happened and what's different or the same about this incarnation?

It's in the same little plaza as Mediterranean Gourmet Market, which is the best Middle Eastern fare this side of Lebanese Butcher.

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Would love to hear more about Sampan. It was a landmark for years, then disappeared for a while, replaced by a non-descript Vietnamese place. Now it's back again. What happened and what's different or the same about this incarnation?

It's in the same little plaza as Mediterranean Gourmet Market, which is the best Middle Eastern fare this side of Lebanese Butcher.

Do they sell halal meat there?

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Return trip to Canton Cafe last night -- with the added benefit of a $100 stroll through Trader Joe's next door.

Had the fried soft-shell crab, which was a little on the "fishy" side, but still quite flavorful and nicely crunchy. Can't say it was the best dish I've tried there. Next time it's going to be the anchovies with spicy salt, or one of the delectable ducks hanging in the back. Girlfriend had the seafood combo, with a generous pile of shrimp and scallops and Chinese broccoli in a slightly spicy white sauce. Not bad at all.

I always order off the 2-page Chef's Recommendation menu. You won't find any of the traditional suburban 'Chinese' dishes on that menu. But as a sop to the locals, you can get General Tso on the rest of the menu....

For Chinese in Springfield, this is the place.

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Return trip again tonight, and this place is growing on me. The clientele demographic is clearly tilted towards Chinese-Americans, which is a good sign, but on a Saturday night I expected the place to be more than about a third full. Maybe it's the economy.

The food continues to impress. Girlfriend and I had the chrysanthemum tea to start, along with seafood and bean curd soup for 2. For about $6, the soup easily filled four bowls, and was loaded with seafood, tofu and egg white. I asked the waitress up front to make sure I got Chinese spicy, not American spicy food, and she brought me a small bowl of mixed chilis in oil. These were quite hot, but a sparing half teaspoon into the soup was just perfect.

For the main course, Girlfriend had the Combination Seafood with Chinese Broccoli, which was loaded with squid, shrimp, large scallops and probably giant clam, and the broccoli was cooked perfectly. That dish clocked in at about $13.50 and was worth every penny. My main course was phenomenal -- Beef Tenderloin with Black Pepper was it's name, but it was genuine Peking man-food. About 7-8 quarter inch slices of cooked to perfection beef tenderloin, slightly crunchy on the outside and drop-dead tender on the inside, swimming in a deliciously spicy brown sauce and smothered in sauteed onions. To die for may be the best description of this dish. For about $16, it literally clobbers any $40 steak I've had at Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Bobby Van's or Capital Grille. Not even close. And you can't dab that hot chili oil on it at those places like you can here.

Looking around the menu, there are over a hundred dishes and ingredients such as duck tongue, duck webs, conch, frog, sea cucumber, duck blood, dry squid, pig skin and a whole section of congee dishes. That's one heck of an ambitious kitchen.

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I forgot to post that I went to Canton Cafe recently. While there I had what might just be the best dish I've ever had at a Chinese restaurant. It was c21 on the Recommended, I think, Marinated Pork and (adjective) Vegetables in Casserole. So, so, so, so good. The pork was fatty belly that was cooked to perfection aka melt-in-your-mouth. Heck, one piece was just fat...I liked that. I have been having dreams of this dish...

Of course, I'm of the feeling that anything in Casserole is what you order if at a Chinese restaurant.

(BTW, the other great dish? A braised grass carp I had back in Colorado. Does anyone one know if you can get good grass carp here in DC/MD/VA?)

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This place has some serious Chinese food. I've been twice so far and I've been impressed. One standout was described on the Chef's Specials as "tofu shrimp stuff with white crab sauce". These are minced shrimp and soft tofu balls, deep-fried to a golden brown, served with chinese broccoli and the light sauce with shredded crab meat and egg white in it. It's awesome stuff. We've also had the beef chow foon, served dry (without the black bean sauce), which was spot-on as well.

Having this next to Trader Joe's is a good thing, so we don't go to Trader's while hungry.

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I like this place a lot, and it has become my go-to Chinese restaurant in the Springfield area. However, down Franconia Road is Sampan, as I noted above, which compares favorably in its reincarnation. My problem with Sampan is that it's in the same plaza as Mediterranean Gourmet Market, and if my moniker is any indication, I'm not likely to pass up the best Middle Eastern food in northern Virginia when I'm in the vicinity.

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After eating airport food all day yesterday, I was ready to chow down today. The plan was to go to Canton Cafe, order a couple of dim dishes off the menu, get a plate of stir-fried veggies and maybe a meat dish. The plan didn't work because Canton Cafe had dim sum carts (3 to be exact, 2 steamed and 1 not).

The first cart that came by had: (1) pork spareribs, (2) beef spareribs, (3) pork shu mai, (4) shrimp shu mai, (5) har gow (shrimp dumpling), (6) tripe, (7) steamed chives dumpling, (8) bean curd wrapped roll, (9) shark fin dumpling, (10) sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves stuffed with chicken, sausage, etc., and (11) chicken feet. There may be more stuff on that cart.

I never saw the content of the second steamed cart probably becuase I had already ordered 4 items off the first cart, and they brought me a plate of pan fried turnip cakes.

On the non-heated cart were various desserts (I didn't pay much attention), and flakey taro dumpling.

Of the items I ordered, the pork shu mai was too dense and meaty. I expected the same with the shark fin dumpling but it was much lighter. The turnip cakes were wonderful, as were the chicken feet (they're the best I've had recently, with lots of black beans, garlic, pepper, etc.). The sticky rice was good too. The seasoning in every dish was how I would expect them. Generally there is no need to use soy sauce.

I arrived shortly after 11. There was another Chinese family there and shortly before I left, another Chinese family arrived. This place can be an alternative to schlepping to MD (although it's a schlep for me from Tysons) but they need to have more dim sum customers first. Presumably with more people, they will have more variety.

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After eating airport food all day yesterday, I was ready to chow down today. The plan was to go to Canton Cafe, order a couple of dim sum dishes off the menu, get a plate of stir-fried veggies and maybe a meat dish. The plan didn't work because Canton Cafe had dim sum carts (3 to be exact, 2 steamed and 1 not).

The first cart that came by had: (1) pork spareribs, (2) beef spareribs, (3) pork shu mai, (4) shrimp shu mai, (5) har gow (shrimp dumpling), (6) tripe, (7) steamed chives dumpling, (8) bean curd wrapped roll, (9) shark fin dumpling, (10) sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves stuffed with chicken, sausage, etc., and (11) chicken feet. There may be more stuff on that cart.

I never saw the content of the second steamed cart probably because I had already ordered 4 items off the first cart, and they brought me a plate of pan fried turnip cakes.

On the non-heated cart were various desserts (I didn't pay much attention), and flakey taro dumpling.

Of the items I ordered, the pork shu mai was too dense and meaty. I expected the same with the shark fin dumpling but it was much lighter. The turnip cakes were wonderful, as were the chicken feet (they're the best I've had recently, with lots of black beans, garlic, pepper, etc.). The sticky rice was good too. The seasoning in every dish was how I would expect them. Generally there is no need to use soy sauce.

I arrived shortly after 11. There was another Chinese family there and shortly before I left, another Chinese family arrived. This place can be an alternative to schlepping to MD (although it's a schlep for me from Tysons) but they need to have more dim sum customers first. Presumably with more people, they will have more variety.

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Much busier today but the dim sum was not better. The selection was pretty good, but I only ordered a few of my favorites: chicken feet, spare ribs, tripe, and steamed chives dumpling (all tasted dry, like they were oversteamed). I also ordered a plate of pan-fried noodles topped with beef and Chinese broccoli (a big tasty plate for $12). I'm lukewarm about this restaurant but there aren't that many good Cantonese joints in VA right now

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I got some takeouts for the first time last night and I am happy that I don't have to drive all the way to Miu Kee when I crave for Cantonese. Miu Kee is still better, but Canton cafe is so much closer. I ordered combination bbq dish (soy sauce chicken and crispy skin pork), beef with black pepper sauce, and chicken and salted fish fried rice.

I liked the crispy crackling on the top and price was good too, at $10 per pound. The soy sauce chicken was on the dry side since they only gave me white meat. I needed a drumstick to properly rate the tenderness of the bird. The bbq dish came with two containers of sauce, a very light soy marinate and a hoisin sauce. The beef with black pepper sauce was tender, but the sauce needs more black pepper for a spicer kick. The fried rice was not good, almost nonexistent amount of salted fish and the chicken was dry. There were also some chunks of white rice in there indicated the rice didn't get a good wok fry.

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For example, I used to think Canton Cafe had decent food, but the last time I went, the food was disgusting (chunks of fat in shrimp wonton, soggy vegetable, skimpy seafood). Is it not within my right to give them a negative review and start going to other Chinese places for my Cantonese fix? Maybe it was a glitch on their part, but I don't really feel like experience that a second time when there are so many other choices and new places to try.

Not to hijack this thread, which is an interesting read (to say the least) but Canton Cafe is in my Cantonese rotation. Your words actually waved me off a potential visit this week, and I will instead hit Sampan Cafe. Thanks for the heads-up.

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A few places in my Springfield rotation have slipped a notch or two lately, and Canton Cafe is certainly one of them. Dinner on Saturday night began with a quarter of a duck, which was tasty enough and was swimming in a nice broth of mostly soy sauce, but the skin was a bit disappointing. Much too soggy. We followed with Szechuan green beans, seafood combination, lo mein combination and crispy shrimp in spicy salt. These dishes were average at best, but I did like the full head-on shrimp complete with shell. Nice crunch and nice flavor. But I could easily have made the green beans and the lo mein at home, and they would have been much better and without as much oiliness.

Adding -- or I should say, detracting -- from the experience was the apparent requirement for every member of the staff to stop by our table and ask how was everything, on an irritatingly frequent basis. Also, we ordered a bottle of wine, and the waitress brought it to the table, opened it, and poured about half a glass out of it and set the glass aside. I asked what she was doing and she said there was some cork floating in it. When I paid the bill I noticed the full price for a bottle on the bill, even though half a glass was set aside.

I suppose I'll be heading to Sampan more often for my Cantonese fix in the future.

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Went to Buy Buy Baby today and needed lunch so we got some carryout. My son was under the weather so I just got some safe picks. Roast Pork fried rice (something I use, fairly or not to judge chinese places) and some of the dumplings off the dim sum carts. The fried rice rated a solid 8 out of 10 and there were no leftovers. My wife liked the shrimp dumplings so much that I only got one. The pork ones were only so so. Had I more time I would have ordered a little better but I needed to run i and run out before the boy blew up. All in all I would return, just to try some more of the BBQ meat.

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