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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dong Ting Chun: I Don't Think So

I'm not a Hunan food expert by any stretch but I can say with confidence that Dong Ting Chun doesn't serve good Hunan food. Ok, at least the four dishes we ordered. There's a chance we could have ordered the wrong things after communicating with our waitress using hand gestures galore and asking for her recommendations, but still, the ingredients spoke for themselves.

The pork soup with mushroom didn't have much flavor although it came in a cute little clay pot.
The very thinly sliced lamb stir-fried with Chinese celery (left) was interesting and extremely spicy with tons of chilies, but the quality of the lamb wasn't good, so it tasted very gamey or lamby and not in a good way. The lamb was also very fatty. One thing I liked, though, was the discovery of the Chinese celery. I'm sure I've had it before but I feel like I developed a newfound appreciation for it. It's thinner and I think more complementary to heavy meats than regular celery.

The shrimp chowmien was different in that the noodles were extra thin and the stir-fry hadn't been smothered in too much sodium. I also found the addition of bean sprouts unusual. It's something I see more in Korean food so it was educational to see that Hunan cuisine seems to feature this healthy item too. Only thing was that the addition of the bean sprouts didn't do a whole lot for the flavor of the noodles. They were ok but nothing great.

The dish I was most excited about was a chicken dish that our waitress explained as dusted with cumin and then stir-fried with dry chili, garlic and some cilantro. That's definitely different, we told ourselves. Alas, different it was, but not in a good way. First of all, the chicken pieces that were diced were all bone in! I like bone-in chicken as much as the next chix-lover, but this was ridiculous. I couldn't bite into each chicken morsel without running into yet another piece of bone. Not good...
The cumin flavor was interesting but the kicker was that the whole pieces of garlic it was stir-fried in didn't go with the flavors of the cumin at all. The flavors just didn't meld in for me. It was such a promising dish but we left sorely disappointed.

I know what you're thinking. So why didn't you do your homework and find out what you should have ordered based on message boards? Well, one was time. But the little I did manage to read of Yelpers was all over the map. Some raved about the frog legs, something I'm not keen on. Others recommended "Chairman Mao's Braised Pork with Garlic," which to me sounded like "Gimmicky Pork Dish Watered Down for Non-Chinese Peeps." So we avoided this one too.

One thing we did gain from this visit was the discovery of a massive mall this restaurant is situated in. We had to pay a visit to my candystore in the same mall, 99 Ranch Market. Wow. What a treat. I picked up some lychee wine (not sure if you're supposed to cook with it or drink it but I love lychee so just swiped one) and had a ball perusing the meat and amazing seafood section (think giant live lobsters and fish). And how could we forget the prepared food section? OMG. We splurged on green onion turnovers, taro pastries and barbecued pork baked buns, to name a few. Yum. Glad we at least got to take away something out of this otherwise downer eating experience.

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