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Chownut | May 9, 200907:41 PM     123

Went to Mark's Duck House for a pre Mother's day dinner and we couldn't get a good table even though the joint was half empty. Instead of taking a bad table, we elected to give XO Taste a try for dinner, which is direclty across the street next to BB&T bank. Previously, I had only ordered take out BBQ items.

It was a great decision. I didn't really want to patronize Mark's Duck House anyway since they jacked up prices while the quality has suffered with the new management/ownership in place.

At XO taste, the place was cleaner, roomier, and more vibrant. Bathrooms were clean, not scary like at Mark's, and the dinnerware was modern, not dated like Mark's. They also take charge cards now. They was a wait when we left, so there are people who know about this place. A good mix of asians and whites and hispanics.

I ordered many dishes. They include marinated jelly fish, Crab Claws with XO sauce, Roast Duck, Sliced Conch with Yellow leeks, Walnut Shrimp, Kingdom Porkchops, Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic, and finally, Steamed Jumbo Oysters with Black Bean Sauce.

Every single dish was great, and the dishes came out quick. Service was attentive, even though I had tea spilled on my shorts.

The flavor of the XO sauce on the crab claws was great. Even better was the sauce for the Conch. It had a slight tint of rice wine and came with shrimp paste dipping sauce. The Walnut Shrimp were huge, and plentiful. Kingdom porkchops had a great sweet/sour taste with crunch. Snow pea leaves with garlic had great flavor.

Be forewarned though. If you order the steamed oysters, get ready for a meal. They are HUGE. Oysters are about the size of a large whole chicken breast. You have to eat it with a knife and fork. They are sold ala carte, or cheaper by the 1/2 dozen.

Meal was topped off with complimentary sweat tapioca soup. Mark's Duck House doesn't give you any dessert no matter how much you spend.

All in all, a great alternative to Mark's. They also have noodle/dumpling soups on the menu. Hope they will consider offering dim sum soon.

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