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Lunch at China Star

zora | Mar 23, 2004 05:01 PM

Hub had an errand to do in Fairfax, so I went along and we timed it so that we could have lunch at China Star.

The first thing I did was quiz the waiter about the specials on the Chinese-only menu, the existence of which was only revealed at the very end of the 'hounds' gathering last month. Beef with tomato, duck-big piece on bone, pig blood with tofu, chicken wing appetizer and soup.

We were still studying the menu and deciding what to order, when in walks Tyler Cowan. He told us he'd eaten there yesterday, too. He was hosting a visiting Chinese lecturer at GMU for lunch and some colleagues, and wanted to order before they arrived. (He did most of the ordering at the 'hounds' lunch). I told him what the dishes were on the specials menu, which he didn't know about. He called the host over and ordered beef with tomato and pig blood. The host asked him: "How did you know about those dishes?" Tyler pointed at me: "She told me."

Hub and I ordered the beef with tomato, dry fried string beans, baby wontons in spicy sour sauce and crystal shrimp--planning to take home leftovers.

While we waited, the host brought us a little dish of cold spiced boiled peanuts as an amuse. They were addictive.

The beef with tomato turned out to be a bubbling chafing dish filled with chunks of long-braised beef in a rich, thick tomato and wine sauce, flavored with chunks of lemongrass and leek greens. Wedges of fresh, rather tasteless tomatoes were added just prior to serving, so that they retained a fresh texture even though they added little to the flavor. The sauce was slightly sweet and very concentrated and savory. Each tender chunk of meat was striped with connective tissue, as tender as the meat, but with a different texture that had a bit more tooth to it while still being soft and easy to chew. Really delicious.

The dry fried beans were my favorite dish at the chow lunch, and they didn't disappoint. Lots of ginger, toothy and tender.

Baby wontons in a spicy sour sauce that was a totally unique flavor. I'm guessing some kind of plum vinegar was in it, because of a background hint of fruity sweetness, but it was a delicious flavor we had never tasted the like of before.

Crystal shrimp was tender and mild. Just cooked and was a little mild break from the aggressive flavors of the other dishes.

This place has great food.

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