May 14, 2009

Occidental Finally Finds Flavorful Oriental

I know, oh how I know – “Oriental” is a term that has gone out of favor, and the equally generic “Asian” is the more preferred term. I think that’s too bad. I’ve always thought “Oriental” was a lovely, poetic term, and I never knew anyone to use it in any sort of pejorative manner. No matter that no one uses it anymore, it balances the equally Victorian term “Occidental” so beautifully that I just had to use them together.

What’s this mean to you, dear reader? It means I’ve-found-good-Chinese-food-in-North-Texas!!
Yes my dears, and I think enough of you to share my secret.
Now, sadly, this divine little pleasure palace is not in Denton, but in Plano.

I know my dears, I know. You don’t want to do it. You can spend days, even weeks avoiding it. But sometimes, occasionally, you must leave Denton. Be it for a pesky job, pesky friends, or pesky events, none of which are clever enough \ lucky enough to be located in Denton.

Well, if your travels take you to deepest, darkest (shallowest, brightest?) Plano, your time will be well spent if you swing by Yao Fuzi and scarf down some ambrosial, authentic Chinese food.

You know, I grew up eating Chinese food. Though it probably wasn’t the best Chinese food available (I was quite fond of chicken chow mein and egg foo yung), it was tasty enough and easily enough available to engender a life-long love of it and an about weekly intake of it. Let me break it down this way, Chinese food is to NYers what Tex-Mex is to Texans.

Sadly, good Chinese is not something we have in Denton (or even in any sort of abundance in N. Texas) and I have been in years long withdrawal. We do have plenty of good Thai, plenty of good sushi rolls, but no good Chinese.

So, imagine my delight when I read this review in the Dallas Morning News.

What can I say that the DMN didn’t?

Well, after I first raced over there, I practically swooned with delight to find that they serve “Twice Cooked Pork with Wheat Buns”. I know it’s a common dish in China (thanks to my friend HH), but I had never eaten it, until I went to Central Asia. And then, my dears, I could not-get-enough.

A sort of sliced, barbecued fatty pork and cabbage dish, it’s served with steamed buns that look like chubby white tacos. Trust me; roll the bones and try this dish. I think you cannot be disappointed.

Now, on my initial visits, I eye-witnessed two types of menus circulating the dining room – one in Chinese and one for round eyes, and I wondered: what rare offerings was I missing?!
Now, they have added an additional menu insert, to the English menus, at least for dinner.
And I’m glad/sad.
You know there are all sorts of delicious delicacies the chef just thinks are too weird for non-Sino sensibilities, and that’s too bad. I mean, I freely admit I won’t be eating any organ meats (from any cuisine) any time soon, and I’ve had all the tendons and cartilage I need to eat, but bring on more whole fish, sea food, mushrooms, and tofu. (Though, the restaurant manager, and son of the Chef, tells me I can call ahead and request dishes they don't have on the menu, and if the Chef can make them, he will... I was just asking about the simple scallion pancakes and cucumber salads I ate all the time, again in Central Asia, but you might have a more exotic fave?)

NOW, all that said, if all you’re going to order is fried rice or sweet and sour chicken, don’t waste your time (or the Chef’s) coming here. Though both are available (and probably as delicious as they can possibly be), such a meal would be a total waste of your dining experience.

What does your friendly neighborhood Dentonista recommend as a perfect meal? I’m so glad you asked, darling.

Naturally, you’ll want to dip your bill in either a Tsing Tao beer (pronounced Ching Dow – trust me) or a martini – the largest martini I’ve ever been served, I believe - and perfectly delicious.
Then, you definitely want to start with:

  • Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). If you’ve never had these before, be prepared for a ridiculous taste explosion that may transform your life. And, if you don’t know how to eat them – you can ask one of the stylish wait staff, or you can read this.
  • Obviously, I’m going to recommend the twice-cooked pork – of course.
  • Some sea food – Maybe the Soft-shelled crabs or whole fish...
Now seriously, that is enough food for two people to eat and have leftovers. Or, as is more often the case with YFND, enough for two people to happily and eagerly stuff their faces… until they can see their reflections in the crockery. This is why I’m going to suggest you bring a few more friends.
Not only will you be a hero (or heroine) for suggesting this place, each additional member of your dinner party means an additional dish! (And maybe another appetizer.. just saying, m’dears.)

Don’t bother with dessert. Obviously the East has given us many, many amazing cuisines, but I think they have nothing to add to the dessert pantheon. Now I know some Thai person (or lover) will pop-up with, “What about sticky rice and coconut milk?!”
That’s just the exception that proves the rule. As I told a girlfriend, P., “Dessert made of carrots is a lie. That was just your Mom trying to get you to eat your vegetables. Now, finish your brownie.” Although she tells me that whenever she makes halwa for a party, she never has any leftovers. Whatever - we'll have to agree to disagree.
And, seriously my dears, when you want dessert – you want chocolate, sugar, and maybe some flour or cream, right? Well, I know I do. Anyway, if you've followed my advice and done your job, you shouldn't have any room left for dessert!

Go on; see that I'm right.

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