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One-man Review - Jasmine Garden

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One-man Review - Jasmine Garden

Wayne Keyset | Jan 29, 2005 10:34 PM

Tyler Cowen said "I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve discovered so many wonderful new Chinese places in the last few years I don’t need another one.” Well, you are wrong. This place looks too yuppy and draws a business crowd for lunch. But many of the dishes on their Chinese menu – which you must ask for separately – are first-rate. Get the chicken with three peppers, and then experiment on the Chinese menu."

He soft-pedaled it, if one visit and dinner for one gave me a good enough idea.

Start with the atmosphere: small but tasteful, attentive service, and the tableware ... well, there are none of those white plates with the blue flower border. Aside from matte black dinner plates, every other plate seems to be a different Japanese shape and size, elegant and - well, I've never been very interested in atmosphere, but it made me feel very special and nice.

You do not have to ask for the Chinese menu now, it's on the back, after the Japanese and Indonesian pages.

I took Cowen's suggestion: Three Pepper Chicken. More like FIVE-pepper chicken, nicely presented in the middle of a large platter, nicely populated (but not OVER populated) with dried hot peppers, plus fresh green and sweet red pepper chunks, something small and very much more cooked (could it be slices of jalapeño?) and that familiar taste of Szechuan Peppercorns - reminded me strongly of China Star without the overwhelming heat (still very assertive). I know they were Szechuan Peppercorns from the whole one that got stuck in my teeth (not crushed to a powder, as I'd been taught to use them long ago) - provided that "my ice water's developed a fizzy taste" sensation mentioned here before. I know I've commented earlier that this wasn't the Peppercorn flavor I was familiar with - I now believe I was using old and inferior ones and THIS is what I should have been experiencing. Add to that patches of an assertively salty flavor (maybe hot bean sauce?) and you have a complexly-flavored dish with strong heat, but heat was not its only value.

You're going to want something mild or sweet to go with this dish.

Mid-meal the owner sort of poked my shoulder (I make a fearful sight after a Saturday of kid party work, with psychedelic clothes and half-wiped-off clown mskeup) and asked if I liked it. My answer was a strong "yes!"

End of meal: no fortune cookie (add points for that, though I love a fortune cookie with hot tea alongside), but chunks of orange served in a hollowed-out orange peel, VERY special.

I am definitely going back!

8106 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, 703-208-9989, actually in a shopping center at Gallows and Rte 50 next to the Giant, across Gallows from Sweetwater (whatever) and the inexcusable "Panda Bowl."

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