Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Tony Lin's Restaurant
12015 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Md.

Some good friends invited us to a celebration of Chinese New Year this weekend, welcoming the Year of the Tiger. We met at Tony Lin's Restaurant in Rockville.

Here is my favorite of the nine courses: lobster with ginger and scallion. It was a little heavy on the ginger, but that didn't stop my from eating my share (and then some).

I'd never seen this type of seafood soup before. At first, we thought we were getting cups of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows! It was a clear, slightly thickened broth, with diced carrot, peas and seafood bits under a fluffy layer of cooked egg whites.

This plate of "cold appetizers" (room temperature, really) included beef that tasted of five-spice powder, various vegetables, and something that may have been spiced tendon. (Even our hosts weren't sure.)

Platters of black pepper steak, steamed whole fish, and Peking duck were in nearly constant motion from the moment they landed on the center turntable. The duck had plenty of properly crispy, burnished skin. The beef had an interesting sweetish charcoal flavor, which one diner compared to the tasty char on the outside of a campfire-toasted marshmallow.

"Chef's bean curd" wasn't the most photogenic dish, but it was satisfying. The tofu was delicately fried, light inside and not too spongy. It went well with the Chinese broccoli underneath and the rich chunks of crabmeat in white sauce.

Two more dishes, meaty Young Chow fried rice and an assortment of stir-fried vegetables, completed the savory courses.

With a fresh fruit platter came baked sesame buns filled with red bean paste and this "eight treasure rice," a traditional New Year's dish. It is made from glutinous rice steamed and mixed with lard, sugar, and eight kinds of fruits or nuts. To this Western-oriented palate, it was only slightly sweet.

Tony Lin's has two menus, one of which is labeled "authentic Chinese." I spotted dishes described as "smelt with peanuts," "pork tripe in red hot sauce," "spicy sliced conch," and "preserved turnip with egg." There's certainly plenty to explore here.

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