Vienna - Old Court House Road near Rt. 123
Paya Thai was on our regular rotation of Vienna restaurants, but it closed a few months back. China Castle moved into the space and we thought it's been open long enough to give it a try last night. We were pretty disappointed.
At 6:30 on Sunday evening, the place was about half full, lots of Asians, which should have been a good sign. Seemed like they were a bit overloaded because it took an unusually long time to get a waitress even for tea and water. Menu looked kind of average, a little this, a little that, but what was suspicious was the back page menu with little English. I'm not a lunguist, but the characters looked like Korean rather than Chinese. We asked the waitress about it and she (Asian, probably Vietnamese) said she didn't know what was on there because she wasn't Korean and couldn't read it.
So it's really a Korean-run but nominally Chinese restaurant. Unsure of what to order, we tried things that Chinese restaurants should do pretty well. I had House Pork which had a description very close to their twice-cooked pork description. It turned out to be roast pork (not twice-cooked) with peppers, onions, and garlic, in a somewhat gloppy light colored sauce. It wasn't bad, but nothing special. The meat was in fairly large slices about 1/4" thick, manageable with chopsticks, but each piece was two or three bites.
Our beef eater, who usually orders crispy shredded beef (Szechuan Beef Proper at Peking Gourmet Inn). ordered Crispy Beef with Orange Sauce here. China Castle's version was chunks of quite overdone beef about 3 inches square and 1/4" thick. It was served with a knife and needed it. Sauce was too sweet, barely citrus, and very gloppy. Nothing crispy here. Might be something found in the Sunset Chinese Food Cookbook.
The chicken eater had the most successful dish, Chicken With Red Ginger. It was pretty zippy and the chicken pieces were of manageable size and pretty well trimmed, though cooked pretty dry. The sauce, like the others, congealed pretty quickly. Too much cornstarch, I think.
We ordered steamed dumplings and fried wontons as apetizers. The dumpling wrappers were good, but the pork filling had practically no flavor. The food came just a minute or two after the dumplings came out. The fried wontons came later. They weren't the conventional shape, and when I bit into one, there was a cream cheese filling which tasted just like cream cheese. I asked the waitress if those were really fried wontons or maybe Crab Rangoon. She didn't know, but brought over someone else who confirmed that it was indeed the crab. None of us were interested (I'm sure it wasn't real crab if there was any in there at all, but one of us was allergic to shellfish) so he took it back and was going to bring us the fried wontons, but we declined since we had a table full of food by then.
So I wouldn't really call it a Chinese restaurant. I'm not sure if it's a decent Korean restaurant, but if I want Korean, I'll head for the reliable Annandale. At this level of performance, it certainly can't be better than my Korean go-to places.
Food - Blah
Service - More Blah, but they bowed profusely and thanked graciously us when we left.
It's really a bummer when a favorite restaurant closes and it's replaced by one to which we see no good reason to return.