Last summer, there was a blogger explosion about Grace Garden's Chinese food in Odenton. I thought it was spectacular, and there was confirmation -- and some specific recommendations -- from a local who has served for several years as a guardian for Chinese students at a local high school:
Grace Garden was a breath of fresh air. I suspect most Americans who think of themselves as sophisticated restaurant-goers would be put off by the physical surroundings and the lackadaisical service by our standards. I think your frame of mind has to be that you've been invited to dinner in a Chinese home where the cook is harried and doesn't have much support, but he sure can cook!
We had a big group for our dinner including four Chinese students so we tried at least ten dishes. The most notable for me was the Szechuan braised beef. I also especially liked the seasonal vegetable (that night, pea shoots), spicy eggplant and several of the tofu dishes. I wasn't blown away by the fish noodles but they were certainly good. For comparison, the Chinese students had previously identified Bob's Noodle 66 in Rockville as a favorite, but they said that GG was better.
Last week, I posted a translated copy of the Chinese menu at Hunan Legend. A reader Wai translated the menu after I posted about my disappointment eating there. I knew it had a huge following, and I knew people must know the best things to order. In the comments beneath Wai's menu, an anonymous poster talks about Hunan Legend and shares his/her recommendations. Now, I need to go back!
We're regulars at Hunan Legend and after chatting with the owners (who impressively knew us by name on our third visit and how they remember what we ate previously, we still can't figure out), and the reason these authentic dishes were off-the-menu was primarily because many times, food got sent back because some customers weren't aware of what they were actually ordering and wanted the americanized version.
But if you're into authentic, definitely try the Chilean Sea Bass in the spicy sauce, snow peas leaves (I know lots of people are now aware of this vegetable since it's usually the first recommendation by the waiter) with scallions and garlic, "dried tofu" with pork as Wai mentioned, and this final one may not appeal to a lot of people, but it's the pork blood and intestines in a spciy, hot sauce (it's the 14th item listed on the menu to be exact). Another we've heard that good is "ma pao" tofu but we were told to ask to have diced shrimp and pork added to it to make it even better.
On Friday, I wrote about cool food along the U.S. 1 corridor, and HowICook wrote about Sysco retail restaurant supply store on U.S. 1. I'm going to check it out.
The store carries a variety of frozen food, fresh food, pantry items and kitchen supplies. Some of the prices are outstanding but others are downright steep. The quantities tend to be large. You never know what you’re going to find there. I've gotten a variety of things like frozen fried mac & cheese appetizers, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce from the Philippines), and little portion cups with lids for lunches.
Thanks again for all the comments. I appreciate them all, and it's great if you create a name -- even a fake name. You can stay anonymous, and I can follow your comments if you place a few.