You say temptation, I say "Tempt-Asian"
There's this little restaurant near one of the Asian markets we frequently shop at. It's called Tempt-Asian Cafe and we hadn't given it much thought.......until yesterday. Biscuit Boy was reading on Don Rockwell that the chef at Tempt-Asian was the former chef at China Star. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the DC area, China Star in Fairfax is (or was) one of the best places to go for authentic Szechuan cuisine. The other biggie for Szechuan is Joe's Noodle House in Rockville, which I've blogged about back a month or two ago. I always preferred Joe's over China Star. In my opinion, I liked the way Joe's food tasted and their staff is always much friendlier. Now that's not to say that I didn't like China Star, I just like Joe's better.
But back to the story. A few months ago, rumors were running wild about the service and the chef at China Star. Something wasn't right. First the service went down the tubes. The story goes that the staff went on vacation to China and the temporary staff just weren't up to snuff for the regular customers. Then the old staff re-appeared but certain items from the menu were suddenly gone. Now what!? The story was that the chef left and the new guy wasn't making some of the old items anymore. The China Star die-hards were distressed.....no more wontons in chili oil, no more scallion pancakes! Well, being a Joe's fan, I didn't think much of it.
That's when Biscuit Boy read that the old China Star Chef had resurfaced.......at Tempt-Asian. Postings started popping up on Chowhound with joyful cries about seeing the old China Star favs' on the "new" menu. Hmmm....maybe we should investigate for no other reason than to see if the stories were true. It also didn't hurt that Tempt-Asian was a far cry closer to our home than either China Star or Joe's. And when you need a Szechuan fix, a five minute drive beats the heck out of a 30-45 minute one.
So off we went. We walked in and inhaled deeply. mmmmmm So far so good. We opened our menus and noticed there were several newly inserted pages and many of the items on them looked remarkably like the ones once served at China Star. We decided to try the baby wontons in chili oil and the scallion pancakes as our appetizers and the Mapo Tofu and Crystal Shrimp with Asparagus as entrees. The waitress told us they didn't have any asparagus but offered to substitute another vegetable instead. We said sure.
The pancakes were first to arrive. Big fluffy pillows of goodness. I poked them with a chopstick and a whoosh of steam billowed out. They were a little on the greasy side but yummy anyway.
Next to arrive were the baby wontons in chili oil. Slippery little wontons floating in a bowl of warm sauce with chili oil and spices floating about. Now I'm pretty good with chopsticks, but these little boogers were too slick for me to maneuver. I scooped a few into a little bowl then used a chopstick to push a wonton onto the spoon. Hey, it wasn't pretty, but it was darn tasty.
We were please so far and anxiously awaited the entrees. The Crystal Shrimp came out and the substitute veggie was sugar snap peas. I could have eaten a plate of just those by themselves. The shrimp were great too. A mild dish but full of flavor.
And finally the Mapo Tofu came out. It looked darker with a thicker sauce than we've had before. The flavor was also a bit richer. The heat didn't hit you right away but after a few minutes, you noticed a little bit of perspiration along your forehead. Ah.......
We couldn't finish either entree so we had them boxed up. They're going to be dinner tonight. Overall the meal was very good. I still prefer Joe's but if a trek to Rockville seems like too much effort, I know I can get my fix at Tempt-Asian.
6259 Little River Turnpike
Alexandria, VA 22313