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Friday, May 16, 2008

Thing 111: Mark's Duck House

Marks Duck House DucksIt's no secret that my love and my life are in the District of Columbia. Still there are some things I miss about growing up in the Bay Area. Fog. The ocean and the Golden Gate and the beaches you have to wear sweatshirts too. Ancient redwood trees. Abundant and cheap avocados. And of course, the Saturday dim sum brunch.

Well, there's still no Golden Gate Bridge on this end of the country, but by God, I can enjoy my Saturday dim sum brunch once again.

For those not lucky enough to grow up in a place where dim sum is common, it is basically all the very best dumplings, noodles, vegetables and fried foods that China has on offer, then placed on steam carts and brought by your table. The cart pushers try to sell you what's on their cart, and if it looks good, you order just as many as you want right then. They keep a tally of dishes at your table and when you can't possibly stuff one more sticky pork bun into your belly, they total your bill.

When it is done well, it is a veritable shellfish and rice wrapper orgy, with sticky rice and Chinese broccoli and BBQ pork clamoring for a turn. It is one hundred and one flavors and ingredients all climbing over each other to get your attention, and it is loud and anarchic and terribly fun.

At Mark's Duck House, hallelujah!, it is done well. It's still not quite as good as my very favorite in San Francisco (shout out: Ton Kang at 25th and Geary!), but it more than satisfies my cravings for sweet sesame balls and turnip cake.

Going to a strip mall in Falls Church may not seem like the most promising start, but just as the Eden Center yielded untold glories, this place is so worth going out of your way to find. When we walked in, we were greeted by a row of hanging ducks, and two whole pigs fried with crispy skin. As the morning wore on and we kept ordering exotic and known dishes, large Asian families filled all the tables, enjoying a leisurely Saturday brunch.

We ate and ate -- shrimp dumplings, scallop dumplings, duck and baby bok choi and Chinese broccoli. I tried bitter melon for the first time (newsflash: it's bitter), and I swear to you, the Boyfriend ordered a plate of chicken feet. Admittedly, he thought he was ordering 'chicken fingers', which is technically what he ended up with. It turns out, chicken feet are one of those dishes where really, it's all about the sauce. There's not much meat there, but they're steeped in a sweet/smokey sauce that is delicious.

And when it was all over? When I pretty much had eaten myself into a delicious and unavoidable food coma? And even then had ordered sesame balls with that thick, gelatinous, sweet sesame paste inside because I always need dessert? Our bill was $15 per person.

Now if only I could find some local avocados...

One year ago: Embassy Open House Day

Join me over at the Cork & Knife! This week, garlic-y pea shoots...


Sam said...

picture looks kind of like giant skinned rats, no?