Archive for October, 2008

Grace Garden

1690 Annapolis Rd
Odenton, MD 21113
410-672-3581

http://www.gracegardenchinese.com/

Pros: Unique selection of Chinese dishes, warm atmosphere

Cons: A little pricey

We can’t thank the people over at the Chow Hound boards enough for leading us to this place. Grace Garden is a small mom and pop restaurant that seems to have become a cult favorite, and it has a well-deserved reputation.

Although the decor is relatively sparse, the atmosphere created by the staff is a very family-like atmosphere. Like Cheers, this is the place “you wanna go because everybody knows your name. ” Well, kind of. When we visited, we seemed to be surrounded by regulars whom the staff greeted as if they were family. We were told that the chef will often take a break to come out to speak with customers to get a better idea of what they like and how he might improve upon dishes. This did not happen to us on our visit, but we also came in the front entrance (coming in through the back entrance allows more interaction with the chef).

And let’s not forget the food. Although you can find a good selection of more familiar Westernized Chinese dishes, the real gems are the dishes that might intimidate the typical Westerner. According to Chow Hound, the two must-try dishes are the Fish Noodles and the Braised Pork Belly. So far, we’ve only gotten around to trying the Fish Noodles, and so far, we’ve been more than pleased. We also tried some fried squid which was prepared perfectly. Very often, we might find squid that has been over-cooked and becomes rubbery. This squid instead just melted in our mouths. If you order any vegetables, be sure to get whatever is their seasonal vegetable, as these are cooked perfectly with just the right amount of spice to get your pallet rolling.

The prices for some of the more obscure (and sometimes more popular) dishes were a little pricey, but we view this as encouragement to budget well to prepare for your meal. If you ever feel like you need a little reward, this is the perfect place to come to. Come to think about it, I think I had a pretty good week at work, so I think I’m due for my reward.

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Lucky’s China Inn

5865 Robert Oliver Pl #D
Columbia, MD 21045
410-997-5454

Pros: Great prices, excellent Americanized-Chinese food

Cons: Not exactly the most authentic cuisine, could use more variety in vegetable dishes

Please give us a moment to let us stand up on our high horses. Given that we are foodies, we have a preference for the more authentic cuisines. And given that we are both Chinese, we sometimes scoff at what most Americans think of as Chinese food. These are dishes that have grown in popularity due to presence at many smaller take-out restaurants as well as the likes of places like P.F. Chang’s and Panda Express – dishes such as Orange Chicken, Moo Shoo Pork, Chinese Beef and Broccoli, and General Tso’s Chicken.

Having said that, we will acknowledge, however, that we sometimes have cravings for “fake” Chinese food. If you are ever in such a mood and want to avoid the big chains, Lucky’s China Inn hits the spot ever so perfectly. This looks to be a family-owned restaurant that works both on the dine-in and take-out end, and we’ve tried both. You can walk into this restaurant, and you won’t be intimidated by Chinese characters on the walls detailing off-menu items, because there honestly aren’t any real off-menu items to choose from. However, the menu items are quite good. We’ve been able to try a variety of different dishes, including Szechuan String Beans, Orange Chicken, Chow Fun, and Moo Shoo Chicken, and each were prepared excellently. Many dishes, particularly the ones labeled as Szechuan have a relatively subtle spicy kick, which adds to the flavor. The only mild disappointment was that their vegetable menu left a little to be desired. The Szechuan String Beans were excellent, but we were hoping to find a little more variety and not so many that use tofu as their focal ingredient (personally, we think tofu deserves its own section on the menu, much like how they divide the menu between poultry, beef, chicken, and seafood dishes.

So yes, we are Chinese, and we are prideful of our culture to say that Lucky’s China Inn has excellent (fake) Chinese food!