Hey ya'll, just came back from an awesome Thanksgiving meal at this Chinese restaurant in New Jersey, in Dunnellen, or North Plainfield. This was the best Chinese meal I've ever had in a long time. Dinner for eight included:
1. Peking Duck
We ordered two ducks, really great, generous serving, crisp skin, nice pieces of duck, very pliable and fresh pancake. A great deal.
2. Beef with Bamboo Shoots
This was sort of like a typical stir-fry, but much more refined, with an interesting variation on the typical oyster sauce, like a nice XO sauce. Beef was tender . . bamboo fresh. No onions, peppers, etc., just shreds of beef and bamboo in a rich brown sauce.
3. Mapo Tofu (spicy)
We ordered the typical ma-po tofu but extra spicy. A real deep fire to the dish, looks can be deceiving. Had not just a chili oil but tasted like sichuan peppers as well, not a long lasting heat, but dry.
4. Marinated Crab
As an appetizer, we ordered drunken crab, which is basically raw crab marinated in chinese rice wine and salt. Really different, extremely fresh and definitely worth it.
5. Jellyfish appetizer
Jellyfish, the typical, with shredded turnip. If you haven't had this dish before, this is an excellent execution. Strips of marinated jellyfish are married with shredded turnip, seasoned and slightly salty. Really good.
6. Smoked fish appetizer
This was like a dry smoked fish but then sauced and re-marinated in a sweet sauce. Hard to describe, but very good.
7. Soup dumplings
Not that you would expect soup dumplings (shanghai style) in this restaurant, but really excellent. We had two orders, crab and pork, and just pork. Extremely thin, pliable skin, a rich and tasty broth and perfectly seasoned vinegar and ginger sauce. Each spoonful was a pleasure.
8. Braised Pork Belly with Sesame Sau-bing
This was an extremely rich, but excellent dish. Braised pork belly, a large square, cooked down in a sweet and rich sauce, surrounded by vegetables. Imagine a char-siu flavor slightly sweet, as well as anise and 5-spice. The pork belly was served as a square and then sliced into small cubes, each of which you then stuffed into these sau-bing halves. If you are not familiar, these are the pastries served with "chinese crullers" the long fried pastries served for chinese breakfast. This particular rendition was thick, rich and a perfect counterpoint to the pork filling. Be careful when eating it though, they tend to explode from the bottom. But anyway, get this dish.
9. "Buffalo" or wan-yu . . fish
Not sure of the English name but this was a huge piece of fish, oblong, sauced and I dunno, just perfectly steamed. Not much more to say, cannot describe it except as extremely tender . . really amazing. If you ask for it . . . just ask for "red-cooked wan-yu" or "hong-sau wan-yu." You can ask for the tail portion or the belly portion; we had the belly portion; really great.
10. Duck-bone soup
A final soup served with the bones left over from the peking duck. For $4 extra, enough soup for the entire table comprised of trimmed duck bones, cellophane noodles, napa cabbage. Quite simple, an excellent broth, rich but light . . not too salty. And . . chunks of duck! Now that's a soup.
Can't remember what else we had, but excellent; prices were good. Hard to describe everything since we just ate about 1/2 an hour ago, so satisfied and full . . in a good way! If you are in the neighborhood, or willing to drive into New Jersey (we live in Queens), this is totally worth it. From Manhattan, should be about a 1/2 hour drive. Off of Route 22, so take anything from NY to NJ (lincoln, holland, etc, to I-9, to Route 22.) Or, mapquest:
Chef Ha's Duck House
372 North Avenue
Dunellen, NJ 08812
A word to the wise. This restaurant is situated on an anonymous suburban "main street" drag and from the outside, seems quite ordinary. But Chef Ha is really doing something special here. Surely they make a brisk business in the typical Chinese-American fare (refer to the takeout and delivery menu) but if you ask for Mike, our waiter tonight, and ask for some of the aforementioned dishes, you will be in for a very pleasant surprise. Any questions, please post and Soopling and I will be happy to provide additional advice.
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