Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mark's Duck House

6184 Arlington Blvd
Falls Church, VA  22044
www.marksduckhouse.com
Mark's Duck House on Urbanspoon

Ever since the gentrification of Chinatown/Penn Quarter in DC, (I lived in NYC for 6 years, Penn Quarter is still new to me!  Shush) you've had to go to the suburbs to find good Dim Sum.  My favorite Dim Sum is a joint in a strip mall in Falls Church right near Seven Corners.  You'll find a million good things online about their Dim Sum and I had planned to go about a month ago but those plans fell through.  But, I found myself in the general area this night (my computer is on the fritz so the shop I took it to was just a few miles away) and decided to try out their regular menu.  My plan was to order a ton of dishes and then take them home with me for the rest of the week and the weekend.  After all, there's nothing better than Chinese leftovers for breakfast.


I think the first time I visited Mark's was about 12 years ago (probably more but my memory is only good for the past 12 years) and not much has changed since then.  It's still located in the same strip mall with the same sign and the same bland decor.  When I was growing up in Toronto, we used to go to a lot of authentic Chinese restaurants downtown and Mark's reminds me of all those places.  While, they probably could use a change in appearance to spruce it up a bit, their food, on the other hand, hasn't changed much in all those years and that's a something that shouldn't be tampered with.  I felt the need to explain my plan about the leftovers to the waitress who's English wasn't great so I think she either thought I was feeding a small army or pregnant and eating for two.

When I order Chinese food, I like to keep it simple.  I mean, who is this General Tso anyway and why is he in every single Chinese food restaurant I've ever been to?  So, I had to dry some Dim Sum with an order of Pork and Shrimp Dumplings.  My absolute favorite Dim Sum dish are these long and very wide sort of thick rice noodles with beef stuffed in them.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what it's official name is so I tried to explain it to the waitress and she kept responding back that "Oh, that's breakfast" which I think means, you will not be allowed to order them now.  Drat.  For the mains, I ordered Crab Meat Fried Rice, Pan Fried Seafood Noodles and some Roast Duck on Rice.  This is one of those places with the Roast Meat hanging in the window, you can't not order some.

The Dim Sum arrived steaming hot so I had to wait for it to cool a bit before I tried it.  Pork and Shrimp Dumplings are pretty standard fare but also pretty delicious.  The mixture of the sweet shrimp and savory pork always hits the spot and while I'm not a hundred percent sure if they make their own Dim Sum (I'm about 97% sure), you can really tell the difference from expertly crafted Dim Sum from a place like Mark's versus the Shu Mai frozen crap that lots of other Chinese restaurants try to pass off as authentic Dim Sum.  The menu selections are limited though (especially if you don't know the name of a dish) so if you're going to try out Mark's for Dim Sum, you must go on Sundays.  You get it all, the carts, the crowd, weird dishes you've never seen and amazing small Dim Sum plates.

They brought out the crab meat fried rice next and I'm usually used to what I think is thai style crab meat fried rice where the crab meat is like picked blue crab meat similar to what you would find in a crab cake or crab salad.  At Mark's, however, the crab meat was big honking chunks of crab legs.  They weren't shy about how much they included and it was definitely different take.  The rice had a beautiful yellow color which also included peas and egg.  While fried rice isn't necessarily difficult to make, it is difficult to not have it be oily and heavy.  This rice was neither of those.  It had a surprisingly light taste all around and the crab gave it an added dimension of chewy texture and flavor.  The waitress tried to convince me to order the seafood fried rice since it would give me a bigger variety of ingredients (either that or it would greatly enhance my fertility, you choose) but I was glad I wasn't swayed so that I could sample the crab as the star of the dish.

One of my go-to dishes for Chinese has always been pan fried noodles.  But, it has to be the really thin egg noodles not the spaghetti like noodles they use for lo mein or any other type.  I grew up on pan fried noodles in Toronto and they are easy enough to find in NYC but for some reason, it's not an easy dish to get in DC  area Chinese restaurants (at least the ones I've been to).  They either don't have it or they use the wrong noodles.  Mark's does neither of those.  Their version of seafood pan fried noodles had the correct noodles which were placed on the plate as a bed for the seafood.  The other mistake some Chinese restaurants do is add fish to their seafood pan fried noodles.  This gives you chunks of fish meat that tend to break apart and really just dissolve into the dish changing all the flavors.  Not at Mark's.  They had solid chunks of a wide range of seafood that included squid, octopus, shrimp, scallops, some other white thing that could be scallops, crab, and a medley of vegetables.  The noodles were fried to a crisp with some even having burnt ends which is always a good sign.  What brought this dish together was the sauce which was slightly creamy and rich and really brought out the flavor of each piece of seafood and there was enough sauce as you mixed it all together, the majority of the noodles hydrated but you could still have the contrast of crispy and cooked noodles.

The last thing they brought out was the roasted duck over rice which was what I was really craving.  It's really a very simple presentation.  It's chopped up roasted duck with crispy skin on top of a bed of white rice.  They serve it with cabbage and I have no idea why.  The cabbage doesn't even get a second glance when you see the glistening goodness of the duck in front of you.  I know I ordered fried rice already but I think duck is best with just the white rice as the duck fat oozes into the rice and flavors it.  The duck skin was crispy and rich while the meat had a good consistent fatty flavor.  I took bites of rice and duck together and duck flavor permeated every bite.

I didn't eat a good portion of each dish and the waitress was extremely efficient in having takeaway cartons ready and packed them up before I could say thank you.  Mark's Duck House isn't a different spin on Dim Sum or Chinese Food like RedFarm or Chinatown Brasserie.  It is a good old fashioned authentic Chinese Restaurant.  I like saying authentic because it sounds authoritative but I've never been to China to eat their food there so I guess its better to say, "what I presume is authentic" Chinese food.  It doesn't mute flavors for the American palette like so many Chinese places do and it definitely doesn't shy away from the more 'exotic' ingredients.  I've always recommend Mark's for Dim Sum probably over some of the places I've tried in NYC.  But now, I can recommend that you visit Mark's just to try out their rather extensive menu.  If you're used to just the run-of-the-mill local Chinese restaurants that offer over MSG'ed food and Americanized dishes then Mark's will open your eyes to the possibilities of 'authentic' Chinese cuisine.
 

10 comments:

  1. I tried the dumplings in a pan asian restaurant london and I couldn't be happier knowing that they're on top of my favorite food list now.

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  2. When it comes to picking out a place to eat, the number one on my list are this kind of Chinese restaurant. Although recently, a friend of mine invited me to go along with him in an indian restaurant perth. Just like the all the food being offered in the Chinese restaurant, Indian cuisine also is very delicious.

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  3. I never knew about this Mark’s Duck House before, good thing there’s seo for restaurants. Finding it over the net is just a one click away.

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  4. Dim Sum is my favorite Chinese dish too. I agree with you that no one can beat an authentic Dim Sum because we can probably know the difference by its taste.

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  5. I would love to try this out. I usually enjoy eating Dim Sum, a couple of hours after spa. It's usually the time I crave for Chinese food - not sure why, but that always happens.

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  6. I heard they serve great foods in Mark’s Duck House. Of course I wouldn’t miss the chance to try this resto myself this coming weekend!

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  7. This entry is definitely something that would go to my restaurant diary. I can't wait to taste the dishes they have there and see for myself. Thanks for the review!

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  8. Aside from the foods that they offer in this resto, what catches more my attention is their dining area. I like how the place was being arranged, the chairs look comfy and a perfect one to enjoy your meal.

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  9. I guess it helps that the place is pretty big, to accommodate table sets like those. I always find chairs in chinese restaurants to be pretty bulky (the ones I visited, anyway), but I guess that's ignorable once you get down to eating your sumptuous dinner.

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  10. Grilled foods are my favorite dish it spice up my appetite more often specially when my dish is a grilled tender loin.

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