I should probably stop right there. Once word gets out about this place I may never be able to just stroll in again like I did tonight with a posse of Charmcity chowhounds. Grace Garden, with Chef Chun manning the woks is one of those places you want to keep to yourself, and yet you know you just can’t.
Thanks to a tip off here on chowhound, I put out a call to fellow hounds and four of them graciously indulged my whim and drove to Odenton to join me tonight. The five of us sat down to some of the best Chinese food I have ever had around Baltimore.
It’s hard to fault a hole in the wall place (though not without some nice touches such as very pretty artwork on the walls), with a skilled chef – round tables with lazy susans, byo with a package store next door, plenty of free parking, credit cards welcome, gracious and helpful service and the food. The food!
For our first meal here (though certainly not the last) we chose five dishes – one off-menu offered by our waitress, and four from the Chinese menu. We started with the special – bright green chive blossoms sautéed in ginger and speckled with bits of salted dried fish. A real winner! Next up – fish noodles. Not like any I had had before. Long (very long) fat strands of soft noodle, with bits of ham, minced fish and scallons. Incredible. Then came a plate of gently braised minced shrimp stuffed tofu on a mild sauce with mushrooms – soft comforting goodness. Cantonese braised chicken was small bone-in chunks of dark meat chicken, and loads of soft garlic cloves in a garlic and scallion oyster sauce. It was mild and fun to nibble around the bones, though it didn’t pack the flavor punch of some of the other dishes. Finally, we were brought an amazing platter of sliced pork belly stir fried with leeks, bell peppers and Szechwan bean paste. A-mazing.
We were delighted to meet a fellow chowhound there – and got some good tips for future ordering. In particular, for you fans of ma la, there are several dishes, such as the Szechwan [their spelling, not mine] braised beef and Szechwan fish filets that I probably will go back for before the week is out. Chef Chun also has more ambitious items on the menu that he will do with three or four days’ advance requests, and even other off-menu dishes that, with a week’s notice he will assemble the ingredients for.
We were so happy to meet the chef and the staff - he's been there three years and I hope stays a long, long time.
Don’t tell anybody, ok?
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