Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Entering the Pie Hole—& Moving On Up(Town)!

Oh Lordy it’s a fact. I moved to Denver from Boston to be with the Director almost exactly 6 years ago; from day 1, we planned to abandon his abode in Platt Park & find ourselves a centrally located love nest. As of yesterday, we finally got our piece of the pie, a stone’s (or pie’s, for that matter) throw from Steuben’s & Ace.

That means a whole new neighborhood to explore inch by inch—or, as is sometimes the case with me in deadline mode, delivery option by delivery option. But first, a word about one of the by-now legion pizzerias lining Broadway south of Speer: Pie Hole.

You bet the name says it all: if the language of pizza is sing-song southern Italian as articulated—at least in the immediate vicinity—by Pizzeria Locale, this is in-your-face American slang. And since, as I’ve noted before, I’m not a Neapolitan purist—loaded baked dough is pretty universal—I dig the sound of both.

Though the menu is strict in 1 sense—you got your à la carte slices & your café-tabletop-sized 19-inchers, & nothing in between—it otherwise plays fast & loose with the genre. Besides marinara, bases range from hummus to Alfredo sauce to, er, “vegan roux”; besides the classics, toppings include pulled pork, cilantro, scallions & mango. The latter appears on a wacky little (well, huge) number called the Munchy Mango, which also features peanut sauce & brown sugar-roasted jalapeños as well as mozzarella.

The Director, miffed at the description, was having none of it—until he grudgingly had some of it. A couple slices in, he caved: “This is actually pretty good.” And it was. Look, nuts, fruit & cheese are a classic combination. Here, the gently sweet, creamy sauce; salty cheese; & slightly underripe, hence tart & meaty, cubes of mango made for vibrant interplay, intensified by the heat of the chiles. Equally important, the crust was decent: relatively thin, crunchy & brown-bubbled along the edges.

That sleeper hit earned me enough goodwill to go for the Hot Wing Pie: housemade hot sauce, pepper jack cheese, chicken & more jalapeños, adding up to an almost Tex-Mex savor. Think flat nachos.

In fact, the only pie that didn’t do much for me was the most traditional (by American standards): the Combo with pepperoni, sausage, black olives, onions, peppers & mushrooms.

On any given day, that’s a sodium bomb, but this was intensely, unexpectedly, inexplicably salty—maybe the marinara was overseasoned?

Still, 2 out of 3 are fine odds for a tiny, nondescript counter joint hemmed in on all sides by bigger, better-known names in pizza. I’ll be back for a hummus slice yet.

Pie Hole on Urbanspoon

Noshes for the New Year: Going Cheeseless at Pizzeria Locale Denver

At this point we’re closer to the next New Year’s than the last one, but some of us (ahem) are still staggering along in half-assed (or full-assed, as the case may be) resolution mode. Now, you might assume that just as the quick-casual Baker District outpost of Boulder’s celebrated Pizzeria Locale (you know, the Frasca folks’ full-service nod to Napoli’s most legendary creation) caters—unlike the original—to non-Italophiles (read: red-blooded, flag-waving, stubbornly unadventurous eaters) with American-style pies, it’s catering to calorie counters (read: blue-blooded, yoga-mat-carrying, stubbornly unadventurous eaters) with cheeseless pies. But you’d be wrong. After all, Italians sport their own stubborn streak when it comes to culinary traditions, such as the rule that frutti di mare & formaggio don’t go together. Though I happen to disagree with that assessment in general, I’m a big believer in doing as the Romans (or whoevers) do—& I have vivid & fond memories of the pizzas topped with red sauce, chunk tuna, red onions, corn, & capers, but decidedly no cheese, that I spent 1 summer eating in the seaside cafés of Otranto. So I appreciate the fact that Locale holds the dairy while applying the anchovies to its Campagnola pie—as well it should. The combination of those salty little fishies with equally salty chopped green olives & capers, atop a tomato base as intensely tangy-sweet as its color suggests, is pungent enough by far to pique & sustain the palate. (The crusts here, which the state-of-the-art oven finishes in a flash, are rather more uniform & therefore less interesting to me personally than those at the original, but as Mia Farrow says in The Purple Rose of Cairo: “I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.”)

In fact, I liked it so much that I decided to experiment with my own version 2 nights later: behold the Ruthless with tuna, grilled eggplant, red onion & a drizzle of olive oil (that latter actually the creative contribution of the guy behind the counter—one of 7 or 8 adorable sweethearts who are surely reason #2 if not 1 that the neighborhood’s gaggles of young hotties appear to be congregating here).

Yeah! I nailed it—good stuff. And while shaving off a few hundred calories in the form of fermented-milk product wasn’t even my primary intention, it didn’t suck as a bonus.

Still, if you’re not watching your figure, by all means do as the Director did & go for a white (that is, all-cheese-all-the-time) pizza like the aptly named Bianca—its blanket of fine mozzarella scattered with the most delicately rendered of sausage crumbles & bright, slightly bitter bits of broccolini as well as red-pepper flakes.

Or, what the hell—do as my pal A did & stick with the Supreme: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, red & green peppers, red onions, you know the Americano drill.

As for the “caponata” salad in the forefront, it’s flavorful enough, though it’s really just a sprinkling over arugula of random ingredients used in Sicily’s namesake specialty (eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, red onions, green olives) rather than the full-fledged stuff, which I’d just as soon hoover by itself (my favorite version also contains tomatoes, capers, pinenuts, & raisins). Those hunks of pizza crust on top, though? Perfetto, just as at the Locale flagship.

Pizzeria Locale on Urbanspoon

Crosstown Culinary Crazy Quilt: sweet recent eats (& 1 clunker) from all over the map

So much busy. It’s high time I take stock of all I’ve shoved down my gullet in recent weeks.

Come NBA playoffs season, there are few places I’d rather be than Rackhouse Pub (for a full review click here), which has the screen coverage of a sports bar but the thoughtfully designed & prepared menu—not to mention the smartly curated booze program—of a gastropub. The Ocean Deep—strewn with lobster, shrimp, artichoke hearts, tomatoes & chunks of cream cheese atop a fontina & pesto base—goes all creamy & delicate amid intermittent bursts of garlic & salt, & the crust stirs reveries of ye olde New England bar pizza (yes, that’s a thing).

Plus, they now bring Goldfish gratis to start you off. Pure class, of a sort.

An attempt to behave during brunch at Lou’s Food Bar (full review here) with the help of a Caesar & lovely French onion soup—when you’ve got a hankering, it’s as good as any—

was derailed by the compulsion of a companion to order plate after plate of housecured pork belly for the table. Damn, it’s luscious.

Likewise, I was forced, forced I tell you, to supplement my Mediterranean salad at Elway’s Cherry Creek flagship—a delight with chickpeas, fried capers, warm pita wedges, & that most underappreciated of 1980s food fads, sundried tomatoes (as well as plenty of yogurt vinaigrette; many a rabbit eater bemoans overdressed salads, but I shudder at dry greens)—

with the huge, slide-right-down beer-battered onion rings that the Director got to round out his adorable, bacon-&-chile-flecked chicken-corn chowder.

A drink at Boulder’s Radda Trattoria led to 2 drinks accompanied by a fine fritto misto with rock shrimp, squid, zucchini & onion with thick, tangy lemon aioli.

And Oceanaire, the only national chain I can muster any enthusiasm for, did a bangup job of smoked trout with balsamic vinaigrette, watercress pesto, & fresh potato chips; snappy parmesan-crusted asparagus in blue cheese-tomato butter;

& Front Range frites supposedly smothered in pork green chile, but actually smothered in major chunks of green chile-marinated pork, along with avocado & queso fresco. (The Director’s filet mignon sliders with horseradish sauce & fried shallots went too fast for me to nab a bite.)

Now that I can order from Viet’s Restaurant via GrubHub, I’m a happy homebound camper. Canh ga don thit—pork-stuffed chicken wings—are an A1 example of mon nhau (Vietnamese drinking food—RIP Red Claw),

& classic goi dac biet is nicely done as well—if, that is, you can handle the jellyfish, 1 of the few ingredients in this big blue world I’m still feeling my way around.

But a word of dark warning about BeauJo’s, in case you haven’t heeded any others. With our Platte Park half-duplex on the market (interested? hit me up), the Director & I have been sporadically hanging out in a hotel on S. Colorado, to which this self-styled institution delivers. We gave them 2 chances—1st with the Cajun (pepperoni, Andouille sausage, cheddar, jalapeño, red onion, provolone),

2nd with your more typical meat-&-veg combo.

I’ve had several fine pies of late—Bonnano Bros. & Udi’s Pizza Café Bar come to mind—& neither of these ranked in the top, oh, 30—though they both cost over that number. That’s right: they charge more than $30 for nondescript toppings on that “famous Colorado-style crust.” I guess you get the stale, overbaked whitebread you pay for. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, still shame on you, because we were just trying to go back & figure out how you fooled us the first time. What the hell?

 

Bombay Bowl: Take this with a grain of insanity spice

I’m as impatient as I am sloppy, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the so-called quick-casual genre, mainly because it’s synonymous with franchises, or would-be franchises. I mean, many a fine indie sub shop/pizzeria/taqueria manages to be both quick & casual without tacking on that tacky echo of corporate-speak, code for “1 step up from fast food.”

Though it’s presently a single-unit operation, Bombay Bowl is clearly built for growth as well as speed—which necessarily means it aims to be as many things to as many people as possible. That includes people who put fullness before flavor, convenience before ambiance, familiarity before discovery. Hey, those folks gotta live too—really!—but I don’t generally wanna eat where they’re eating.

Yet on a recent lazy whim, I went ahead & did just that (or close—ordered delivery). And then I did it again. Because guess what? Most of the food tasted good. Was it an uncompromising foray into regional-Indian culinary tradition? Of course not. But were the flavors fresh & distinct, the ingredients well handled? By & large, yes.

Especially the saag bowl, which I got with surprisingly tender cubed beef, extra sauteed veggies, chili-lime chutney & insanity spice. Served over basmati rice, the classic spinach dish brimmed with brightness & nuanced aromatics—except where that chutney spread like wildfire. Man, it’s hot. And I eat phall, so I’m not fooling around. As for the insanity spice, which comes its own little container—as near as I can tell it’s just ground chilies, nothing more. Insane indeed.

Yes, the samosa chaat looks a bit of a mess, but the mixture of chickpea-tomato curry, potato-stuffed samosas, cilantro chutney & raita worked for me, swirlingly robust & more properly textured than you’d guess. Think of it as the savory Indian answer to chopping up your birthday cake into melted ice cream.

I blacked out those backgrounds because my kitchen was a mess, & didn’t even bother to snap a shot of the daal I’d reserved for lunch the next day (here’s one thing you should know about ordering from D-Dish: Bombay Bowl’s prices are so low that a normal order for 2 won’t meet the $20 minimum). The lentils didn’t show quite the same flair (perhaps the extra time in the fridge caused the muddying of their flavors, though I don’t see why it should have), & neither did the tikka masala I got on a later delivery, which unfortunately proved rather watery & bland—but the beef was still done right.

Finally, the so-called naan isn’t anything like the real deal—I’m guessing there’s no tandoori oven on site, eh? Rather, it’s a small, flat oval of something more like pita. It’s fine if not exactly as advertised.

Ultimately, if it’s the total Indian-food package you want, Bombay Bowl isn’t your place. If it’s comfort on the fly, you’ll find it here, at least in spots. That’s enough for me, occasionally.

Imperial Chinese Restaurant: Define “imperial”?

To get all my usual disclaimers out of the way: a delivery order is not the same thing as a restaurant meal. You’re missing the ambiance & the service, which of course factor into a typical review—& by a majority of accounts to which I’ve got to give the benefit of the doubt, Imperial Chinese is lovely & smoothly run. You’re also risking the possibility that the increased time & space between the kitchen & your mouth will be detrimental to food quality—although if the restaurant in question is willing to deliver in the first place, it stands implicitly behind the results, which may not look quite as comely or be as piping hot as they would in house, but you’ll get the idea (especially if you avoid fried calamari or, um, soufflé or something that’s really best served immediately).

Taking all that into consideration, & recognizing that this place is something of a South Broadway institution, I nevertheless wouldn’t call anything we ordered on 2 occasions last weekend “imperial”—as in “royal,” “extravagant,” “magnificent,” etc. It was all pretty disappointingly commonplace, in fact.

I guess the best of the bunch were the Imperial noodles (pictured above right)—described on the website menu as containing chicken & shiitakes, but the round egg noodles were tossed instead with pork, scallions & peppers. Odd, but okay by me, though observers of various dietary strictures might object more strenuously. Simple but flavorful, nice & toothy, though I liked them even better when I splashed them with a little of the duck & mushroom soup (unpictured) that, by itself, was a bummer—starchy in texture, indifferently seasoned, highly suggestive of a packaged soup base—but that added a little moisture in lieu of sauce. Above left, the Director’s yue shang lamb—a variant spelling, I assume, of the more common yu hsiang, a term that usually indicates the presence of a fairly spicy, garlicky, salty-sweet sauce—wasn’t notably pungent, but at least the lamb & shiitake pieces were tender, the broccoli bright & crisp.

The “dim sum sampler” sure looked pretty by any measure, but proved a mixed bag. Pork shumai (right) were just fine, no better or worse than 100 other examples—unlike the gluey, drab har gow (shrimp dumplings, bottom). As for the green ones (left), the vegetarian filling was a pleasant surprise—cabbage, scallions, sweet winter squash, & what seemed to be couscous?! any ideas?—but the skins were doughy & chewy, not delicate & silky.

Which brings us to “Johnny’s seafood gumbo,” a supposed house specialty. Though brimming with perfectly firm-tender mussels, whitefish, scallops, shrimp & squid, the soup itself tasted exactly like equal parts gazpacho & sweet-and-sour dipping sauce—gloppy, cloying & just weird.

So I dunno. Imperial won’t be on my regular delivery rotation, that’s for sure. I may head there sometime to see if dining in yields a vastly different experience, but I won’t hold my breath in the meantime.

Imperial Chinese on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Lettuce with Pickled Tofu Sauce (& more!) at Hong Kong Barbecue

You’d think, after a matinee of Django Unchained, the Director & I would have been feeling particularly bloodthirsty upon stopping by the real-dealio Hong Kong Barbecue for takeout on Xmas Day, where the delightful family in charge was tending to 2 other couples of (I’m guessing) my tribal ilk as they dug into heaping platters of roast duck, whole fried fish, & garlicky pea shoots.

But of the quartet of dishes whose every last bite we adored, it was the titular vegetable (pictured on the right) that proved for me the ultimate revelation.

I’d initially ordered water spinach with pickled tofu sauce & jalapeños, but they were out of that, so I got the variation sauteed with romaine instead. Either way, if I’d thought about it too much beforehand, I might have gotten cold feet; after all, it should’ve occurred to me that “pickled” is synonymous with “fermented”—& one of my greatest gastronomic shames is that fermented soy beans, known to the Japanese as natto, absolutely turn me green with revulsion, try as I might to undo the damage done by Steve, Don’t Eat It!’s now-classic diatribe against the stuff.

But as it happens, fermented bean curd is a whole different (non-)animal, not unlike a soft cheese; this source nails the description as “reminiscent of Camembert, with a hint of anchovy flavor.” Turned into a thin sauce, it becomes a sort of Asian Alfredo—creamy & gently funky & spiked with the fresh green zing of sliced jalapeños—to highlight the distinct vegetal heartiness of the romaine, which is so much more obvious when it’s cooked than when it’s raw.

Pictured left is fish-ball curry, also a winner. Likewise relatively thin—the gloppiness one tends to associate with bad Chinese-American fare is nowhere to be found here—the curry was sprightly, dominated by the tang of ginger & onions, & the fish balls addictive, with the texture of scallops but the clear flavor of whitefish & whitefish alone (if they use any filler, it’s minimal). Chunks of red & green bell pepper & celery added a touch of contrasting crunch.

Satisfied as I was, I couldn’t keep my paws off either the Director’s ultra-treyf house-special fried rice with both shrimp & barbecued pork as well as scrambled egg (oy vey, kids) or his minced pork with sweet-potato glass noodles.

You can see for yourself how beautifully 2-toned the gristle-free pork on the left is, & the plump, firm shrimp were no slouches either, but the rice itself really brought it all together—only lightly fried to offer a little toastiness rather than soaked through with cooking oil. As for the dish on the right, it too was all about the slight sweetness of the actual, crisp-fried noodles & their thorough integration with the bits of tender pork & loads of bright carrot & celery—robust to be sure, but surprisingly variegated in effect.

The menu goes on & on, yet the number of concessions to whitebread expectation are refreshingly few compared to the myriad hot pots, congee bowls, & specialties rife with duck’s tongue & jellyfish, gingko nuts & lotus leaf. I won’t be waiting until next holiday season to explore it further.

Hong Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Manaeesh at Amira Bakery

The name for these Eastern Mediterranean quasi-pizzas can be spelled about 1001 ways—but it all adds up to deliciousness, any way you slice it. The easygoing Lebanese counter joint near DU that turns them out from its traditional ovens with such aplomb, Amira Bakery, offers a full range of Levantine staples, including shawarma, hummus, baba ghanoush & more, much of which comes with terrific, puffy, toothy, fresh-from-the-oven pita—I had to snap a pic on my car seat before it deflated.

And the falafel’s damn fine too. Though they need to update the posted menu to reflect price changes—everything’s a couple bucks more than listed—they also give you a little extra, so it all evens out in the end. These puppies are moist, crunchy-fluffy rather than flour-dense, with lots of parsley as well as chickpeas—so they’ve got an herbaceous zing that barely needs dressing (that said, a side of tahini sauce beyond the meager dribbling on top would’ve been a plus).

Still, the pies are Amira’s ace in the hole. Of 14 different kinds, I’ve tried 3 & adored them all: the lahmbajeen (from the Armenian lahmajoon), topped with a robust, juicy mixture of ground lamb & beef, bits of pepper & pinenuts;

the za’atar, named for its strongly aromatic, earthy-tart spice blend of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac & more, enhanced by a drizzle of olive oil;

& the chef’s special, which combines lebni, kashkawan (aka kashkaval) & a goodly pour of honey for the sticky-gooey, sweet-salty win.

The lebni they use is so thick & smooth it’s almost like cream cheese; the cheese is a cousin to mozzarella. For all I know you could replace both with Kraft’s finest & get the same results. What a guilty, finger-licking pleasure all the same.

Amira Bakery on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Ikan Bilis at Makan Malaysian Café (full review)

Two-visit verdict: while I’m rooting hard for the small, sweet staff of Makan Malaysian Café on the one hand, I’m not about to defect from Team Jaya on the other; the latter still proffers a more appealingly varied & to date better-executed bill of Southeast Asian fare.** (Before you point to the take-out containers in the photos & cry foul for my comparing dine-in oranges to at-home apples, I’ll note that I’ve eaten both in & out at Jaya. For the unsightly nature of said photos, however, you should by all means point & cry.)

What Jaya Asian Grill doesn’t have, however, is ikan bilis, a senseless mess I’ve nonetheless missed mightily since moving here (until now!). It consists of tiny whole anchovies fried with shallots in sambal—a Malaysian staple for sauces that’s simultaneously sweet, spicy, & intensely funky (thanks to salty shrimp paste)—& that’s it, which is why Makan serves it as a side dish, though I’ve plowed through heftier portions in my day.

It wears the Dish of the Week mantle well for being so exuberantly wacky, though this almost-jammy rendition didn’t quite set me to swooning the way it had at my former go-to in Boston; perhaps the latter’s use of tamarind added a lusher, more complex tartness (there are, after all, many variations on the sambal theme)?

Could be, but Makan’s sharper, smokier sambal—with a curious molasses tang to it—had the last laugh by perfectly offsetting a stirfry of velvety eggplant, firm, pristine shrimp & bright scallions (left), to which it lent heft & depth.

As for the chicken-potato curry on the right, it was plenty likeable as an entree—smooth, soothing, brightly tinged with ginger—

but not so much as a dipping sauce for the flatbread known as roti; though typically much thinner, this was simply watery, largely flavorless—& the 1st time we had it, the bread itself was no compensation, with a tough, overworked quality.

Even staler & duller was the popiah, whose wrapper was oddly crackerlike, its egg-&-sausage filling dry, its advertised jicama absent.

Good thing subsequent orders showed vast improvement; though the dipping curry (this time with lentils) was still drippy & bland, the bread itself was much flakier & more tender-chewy,

as was the potato-curry-filled crust of these crisp fried puffs—

which, however, happen to be tiny (about finger-length); a single order may not suffice as a shareable appetizer.

On that note, take-out junkies like me beware—portions aren’t generous by American standards; even containers of rice (plain or coconut-scented, though the latter’s so subtle you have to do a bite-for-bite comparison to detect it) aren’t filled to the top. So be it; only so much dough & stew in various forms you can eat in one sitting anyway.

**To be fair, the kitchen is pretty much a one-woman operation; her repertoire is bound to be limited to what she can conceivably manage with her own 2 hands. And I don’t expect a place that bills itself as a Malaysian joint to serve Indonesian & Singaporean specialties as well, any more than I expect Chinese joints to offer Thai food or sushi (despite the weird Denver norm). That said, since Jaya does cover the whole Southeast Asian map & does it well, it simply has more to offer.

Makan on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Red Curry at Thai Monkey Club

Though I like Phat Thai rather more than does the Westword’s outgoing Laura Shunk (while taking to heart her point that key spicing is handled in too desultory a fashion by the kitchen, which thereby forces you to do the dirty work via tableside condiments), I definitely agree with her that Thai Monkey Club has a much more natural & confident handle on the balance between flavor elements that is the hallmark of Southeast Asian & particularly Thai cuisine.

This newish Baker District hole in the wall rates the heat of its dishes on a scale of 1 to 6; the Director & I, having relatively combustion-proof palates, went (via delivery) for 4s and 5s—which a) seemed pretty much the same & b) provided fair warning as to the permanent damage that might be done to tongue & stomach by 6.

So yes, this stuff is packing heat, in the form of little chili-pistols that spray your insides with pockmarks of pain & pleasure. But if mere cheap thrills were all it had to offer, I wouldn’t have been half so impressed; rather, homestyle savvy gave each dish its clear, bright due (& hue). That much was true of classic green papaya salad (pictured bottom, heat level 5), a refreshingly precise blend (once mixed together on the spot) of crunchy raw cabbage & salted peanuts; slivers of surprisingly ripe tomato & carrot; & julienned strands of the namesake ingredient that, neither woody nor slimy, evoked tart vegetable spaghetti. In this case, traditional fish-sauce-based dressing delivered the heat as well as the soothing sweet (typically palm sugar) & citrus sour (i.e. lime juice) to highlight the papaya.

The Director’s green curry with bamboo, basil, globe eggplant, snow peas, broccoli & pork (top left), though supposedly spicier than mine at heat level 5, was certainly a bit sweeter and creamier—but not thick or clunky; the medium is the message, after all, & what the curry transmitted rather than garbled was the integrity of the humble ingredients within—their nice, nearly uniform bite size; their crisp bite, period; their clean green freshness.

Still, it was my seafood red curry (top right) with more bamboo, basil & globe eggplant plus carrots, baby corn. shrimp, scallop & squid (&, okay, maybe krab?) that, while thoroughly & lastingly spicy in its medium-thick soupiness, was the edible equivalent of looking at the ocean in sunlight & seeing each wave glint in turn—the intense purity of flavor washed over you in intervals.

Given, then, how adept Thai Monkey Club is at exhilarating curries, I’m chomping at the bit to try their noodles next. But by the same token, I’m also tearing a bit at the missed opportunities of the straightforward menu: a lesser-known regional specialty or two would be a dreamy bone to throw at the likes of us chowhounds.

Thai Monkey Club on Urbanspoon

 

Awesome Names for Iffy Stuff: Ants on a Tree & Creaky Chicken

I wish I could say they lived up to their monikers. Much as I adore East Asia Garden when it comes to most Northeastern Chinese eats, a delivered order of Ants on a Tree was bland in the extreme, assuming blandness can be extreme. Of all the possible flavoring ingredients listed in the aforelinked Wikipedia entry, this dish contained, as near as I could tell, naught but neutral oil to moisten the ground pork that supposedly clings to the bean-thread noodles like ants on bark, hence the name (can’t say I see the resemblance). Ah well—plenty else on the menu to keep me happy.

As for the Creaky Chicken I ordered from Sunny Gardens, that moniker proves even more of a mystery; a request for info on Chowhound yielded zero responses, & Google only a few unrevealing links—the 1st of which leads to an 8-year-old review of a now-closed restaurant in New Jersey, called, of all things, Sunny Garden. Huh.

 

Anyway, it was indistinguishable from your average orange chicken—bummer.

However, the Director fared much better, despite appearances to the contrary, with a half-Peking duck.

 

Even for $12 bucks, we were a little taken aback that most of the meat was pre-rolled into into mu-shu wrappers, & suspected the worst of their contents. But wrong we were: they were stuffed silly with rich, moist shredded duck, along with bright slivered scallions & cucumber—no sauce added or required. If you thought of them as wraps, & we did, then you could give 3 cheers for hitting the sloppy cheap-eats jackpot. Whether that was just a lucky fluke remains to be seen.