Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yuan Fu--fast, fresh, and friendly...

sign outside Yuan Fu restaurantHadn't been this way down Rockville Pike in a while (as it's a little ways straight from the Rockville station), but was in the area the other day, and hungry, so I stopped in Yuan Fu Restaurant for the first time in a while. The outside is nothing to brag about, but at least the signage is prominent. (Have been here a few times before.)
interior of Yuan FuNow, I was there for lunch, a rather late one, in fact. But no worries--the lunch special is served until 4:30 pm, and I was there at around 3. So far so good. The prices are still reasonable, as the special offers a choice of four appetizers (I chose the tasty curry dumplings, which are turnovers), and an entree, which range in price from $6.95 to $9.95; most of them are $6.95 or $7.50. You have to specifically ask for the lunch specials menu, as you're first offered the regular menu; however, the server is quick to provide it once requested.

There were a couple of other tables also being served, but service was quick, and friendly. Of course, being that the day was a scorcher, I had a glass of watermelon juice to start (and go along with my meal). Then, I saw the another table get hot tea, so I got hot green tea, too (just so I'd have something else to drink, and wouldn't slurp up the juice in five seconds flat, as I'm liable to do).
green tea and watermelon juiceIn a matter of minutes, after I finished the stuffed curry dumplings, my order of crispy eggplants arrived, with a side of brown rice (it offers a choice of white or brown rice).
dish of crispy eggplant with broccoliYum, crispy batter-fried slices of eggplant with a slightly sweet, slightly hot (OK, I didn't crunch into the chile peppers) sauce. And broccoli, too. I've tried the faux meats in the past, and enjoyed most of them (e.g., Chinese-style sausage, tuna steak), but there were a couple of misses, probably because I didn't like the recipe (the yu-shiang recipes have seaweed, which isn't to my liking unless it's in sushi; the soft shell crab was made of potato). Even for dishes I wasn't fond of, it was the combination of foods that turned me off, not the quality of the food.

In fact, I got confirmation of why so many people rave about the quality of its food, as I witnessed this scene while eating the eggplant; in between serving, the servers sat down at a table in the dining room to
servers picking through fresh snow peaspick through fresh snowpeas (presumably for the dinner service meals). Now, I'd been there a number of times and had not seen this happen before.

Anyway, I was feeling adventurous, and decided to order dessert. As the few desserts are (mostly) authentically Chinese, maybe they're not for Western tastes, as pretty as they may be. I chose the small Eight Treasure steamed taro roots paste pudding, to find out what the deal is with taro. Perhaps it should have remained a mystery.

plate of hot Eight Treasures taro root paste puddingThe pudding paste is hot (a hot mess?) with a gelatinous-seeming glaze. What appear to be nuts near the front are gingko nuts, which I can live without. Also didn't realize that taro paste would appear pinkish, which was offputting. (Maybe this will teach me to stick with eating taro in the form of chips.) The pudding also contains various fruits, like dates and berries, which had odd flavors (wolfberries, maybe). Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Most of the lunch was a win, however, so I wouldn't hold this odd dessert against the place.

Fact is, except for dessert, lunch at Yuan Fu was tasty, nutritious, and reasonable in price, as usual. (Which means it's cheaper than The Vegetable Garden, down the pike, which has its own merits, like better desserts [e.g., vegan key lime pie].) Yuan Fu's obviously doing something right, as it's holding its own during these tough times, which is more than I can say for many of the former businesses along the same stretch of Rockville Pike.

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