Monday, April 25, 2011

Pigging Out at Peter Chang's

When out of the blue the person sitting on your couch suggests dinner at Peter Chang's, there's only one question that needs to be asked.

Is Peter Chang cooking tonight?

A quick phone call (no, of course not by me) revealed that he was and that was all the motivation we needed to hop in the car and go to Charlottesville on a beautiful late Easter afternoon.

And although the parade of food is all kind of a blur now, it's the very best kind of blur.

So many great dishes and not nearly big enough a stomach to consume it all.

But you don't drive an hour for dinner if you're not going to taste everything that hits the table and, for two people, we did a damn fine job if I do say so myself.

Our server was sweet but warned us when we ordered the High Desert Sparkling Malbec that he routinely has a tough time opening these bottles.

We assured him that he could just bring the bottle to the table and we could take it from there.

After watching the process, he said, "Oh, so you screw and turn? I get it." 

Yes, Grasshopper, learn these lessons and use them as you go forward.

I also discovered he's in a reggae rock band and that their CD release show is coming up in Richmond, to which he offered up an invitation.

Music, it's always there just under the surface.

Because of the extensive menu, we ordered a few things just to buy some time.

The dry-fried eggplant with chiles in the breading was exquisitely light without any sort of wetness or greasiness; it was definitely the best-tasting eggplant I have ever eaten.

And the Dan-Dan noodles with pork had a deep rich flavor tasting of Sichuan peppercorns.

The crispy pork belly wasn't at all what we expected, fried up crispy with no trace of the soft fattiness that usually defines pork belly;as a result, it was our least favorite.

We want fat!

The large group at the next table was quieting the kid contingent with what looked like bread balloons, so we ordered what turned out to be scallion bubble pancakes.

I actually burned my knuckles punching the heat out of a pancake, but it was well worth it.

With the accompanying Chinese curry dipping sauce, they were downright addictive.

My knuckles will heal.

Next came the boneless whole fish with pine nuts, which we figured was a Chang thing despite it being tilapia.

The scored and fried head-on fish sat on a delicate orange sauce that didn't have the cloying sweetness we expected given the color.

The sauteed baby lamb with red peppers was our half-hearted nod to today's holiday, but way more interesting.

The medallions of lamb were succulent without an overbearing heat.

The Jing Jiang shredded duck with onions, water chestnuts and carrots was served with pancakes for the best roll ups imaginable.

The crispy freshness of the onions worked beautifully with the richness of the duck

Four appetizers, three entrees, two people.

You do the math.

We had boxes and boxes to take with us when we finally called it quits.

Eight hours later, I'm back on my couch and wondering, what just happened?

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