Trouble With Toast

I wish they delivered to my neighborhood | September 26, 2008

It is no secret that I love Chinese food.  REAL Chinese food, particularly that of the Szechuan variety.  Sadly, in the various places I’ve lived, I haven’t ever been able to secure that part of my local culinary pantheon.  The closest I came was in Bethesda, when I ordered frequently from Foong Lin–it was Americanized Chinese food, but it was damn good, and no matter how long they told you it would take to deliver, the goods were always there in 15 minutes.

While I was living in DC, I heard about the magical chef Peter Chang, who had cooked for powerful Chinese officials and did a stint at a well-known Beijing hotel.  He came to DC to serve the Chinese ambassador, but then branched out on his own and developed a cult following at his restaurant out in Fairfax.  By the time I learned of his Szechuan mastery, he had moved…

…to Atlanta!  Marietta to be exact, in an unassuming strip mall where Chinese and Americans alike were flocking in droves.  Seriously, the more I read about Chef Chang, the more fascinated I became.  You can imagine my excitement when my fiance and I decided to move to Atlanta.  Finally, I would be able to experience true Szechaun cuisine!  Or not.  Chef Chang left Atlanta and vanished from the radar for a while, much to all of his fans’ dismay.  When he did reappear, it was in the global food capital of…

…Knoxville, Tennessee?  Eeeeeenteresting.

Well, Knoxville might not be a dining destination (picture chain restaurants as far as the eye can see), but I journeyed there last weekend for what turned out to be a miserable football game and some quality time with a dear friend.  Also on my to-do list for the trip: eat at Hong Kong House, where Chef Chang is said to be hanging his tocque.

The good news is, I did go to Hong Kong House.  The bad news is, I didn’t get to sit down and eat, but rather had to order take-out and drive it three-and-a-half hours back to Atlanta.  The good news is, when reheated properly, the food starts out so awesome that the journey down I-75 doesn’t kill it.  I have NO idea if Chef Chang is still working at Hong Kong House (there are no indications to the contrary), or if he was in the kitchen when I ordered.  However, this was the best Szechuan food I’ve had in a LONG time.  I ordered exclusively from the “Chef’s Specialties” or “Favorites” side of the menu (in other words, I avoided the Americanized items), and I was incredibly impressed.  Fish and cilantro rolls, which I reheated in the oven, were intensely flavorful, crunchy, and not at all greasy.  The order came with 6, and I ate 5 before my fiance even knew they were there.  I could have eaten twice as many, they were that delicious.  Crispy shrimp with scallions was incredibly spicy, but also tinged with a glorious sweetness.  Fried, but not oily at all.  Shredded pork with eggplant probably traveled the worst, turning into a bit of a mushy mess.  Still very tasty, but definitely not as spicy or interesting as the other dishes.

Too bad Hong Kong House is so far away…I would KILL for decent Szechuan food a little closer to home.

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4 Comments »

  1. I cannot believe that fish heated well. It sounds great…

    A new Chinese place just opened in Glover Park–supposed to be authentic. Maybe we will finaly have a place in DC.

    Comment by Lemmonex — September 27, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Yeah, those rolls were the best part of the meal. Want more now!

    Too bad the new Chinese place is in Glover Park, as it is not particularly accessible. Though, I suppose it all depends on their delivery radius. Hope it includes your house!

    Comment by bettyjoan — September 29, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  3. Here’s a story about Chang and Hong Kong House http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/nov/30/hong-kong-house-offers-authentic-szechwan-food/.

    Comment by beinred — November 30, 2008 @ 2:05 am

  4. Beinred: Thanks! I heard about some low health inspection scores recently at HKH, but I hope they straightened everything out and the bad press doesn’t hurt business too much. Although, if it means Chef Chang comes back to Atlanta…

    Comment by bettyjoan — December 1, 2008 @ 7:44 pm


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