"Thanks to the recommendation of a friend and a most talented chef herself, we had lunch with another couple on a nice spring Saturday at Taste of China for the first time.
My guests were excited immediately upon seeing the menu, taking charge of ordering, relieving me of the responsibility.
The NanJing Style Salted Duck was their first pick as a cold dish appetizer. It has a clean presentation with the duck chopped into precise pieces by a skilled person. The taste is subtle, with a mild saltiness. The meat is tender and the skin is softened.
My favorite is probably the Dried Bamboo Shoot with Roasted Pork Belly. The dried bamboo shoots are imported from China; fragrant and slightly salty. They infuse the soy sauce that's used to roast the pork belly, resulting in the lean part of the protein being super flavorful and the fatty part of the belly satisfyingly melting in your mouth.
We were going to skip a dish that turns out to be a crowd favorite, thanks to the insistence of our waitress. The Diced Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper easily is a must-order dish, with fatty and tenderized beef cubes, prepared in an umami sauce with the right amount of pepperiness, resting on a generous bed of vegetables.
I personally could not pass on the Xiao Long Bao, which we all like, and these may belong to the top-tier level in Houston. Seeing my elderly Chinese guests skillfully scoop up and devour those tiny dumplings filled with soup is a sight to behold; showing how they are accustomed to this dish.
The only dish that packs some heat is the Stir-fried Preserved Chinese Bacon with Bamboo Shoots and Dried Tofu. The spiciness comes on two fronts, the initial spike from the chili oil and then a slow burn that builds up after.
Our guests, who went through the Cultural Revolution back in China shared with us life experiences of dire hardship and threat of survival. They worked so hard to finally immigrate to the US because of their academic achievements and hard work at the University. We felt fortunate to listen to them, sharing their special life stories.
Taste of China is a hidden gem right in Sterling Plaza, the heart of Bellaire Chinatown. My Chinese clients assured me that the food is on par with what they had in China with the bonus of safer and cleaner ingredients. I will come back for this authentic Chinese restaurant that serves delicious and unique regional Chinese dishes. When you want to take a break from American-Chinese food and sample similar dishes that are served in China, this is a place you should consider."
John Nechman writes: " The quality of Asian food in this city continues to stagger, and near the top of the list is a spot in Bellaire's Asian District called Taste Of China (9888 Bellaire). Of course, Mr. Bellaire himself Michael Shum first reported on this spot, and today, my brother Scott and our friend Jay P. Francis enjoyed a fabulous lunch feast, ordering most of Michael's recommendations.
Here's the blueprint for a stellar meal:
1. Bamboo shoots with roast pork. The dish arrives looking almost like a dessert, resembling a mound of German-style red cabbage studded with blocks of shiny caramel. The base is actually seasoned steamed bamboo shoots with an almost smoky, slightly sweetened and salty flavor, and the candy-lookalikes are actually braised pork belly chunks, about 2/3 lucious pork and 1/3 glorious fat. We all fell in love with this dish.
2. Diced beef tenderloin in black pepper sauce. The beef chunks ae juicy and expertly-cooked in a dazzling black pepper sauce with an assortment of different colored peppers, onions, celery, outragesouly-flavorful and chewy mushrooms, and garlic. Pretty much every other dish you've ever seen on other Chinese menus that sounds like this one will pale in comparison.
3. "Spicy chicken." Ok, no style points for names here. But this was one of my favorites--expertly-fried and surprisingly tiny chunks of chicken cooked in a glistening oil with tons of sliced fiery red chili peppers and peanuts--the chicken had a flavor that hinted cumin and Sichuan peppercorns though I didn't see any in the dish. I could not stop eating the chicken and the peanuts.
4. Xiao long bao--spectacular Shanghai soup dumplings. Michael places them near the top of his Houston list of these soup-packed delights. 'Nuff said.
5. Stir-fried baby bok choy with yuba (tofu skin)--a vegetarian stunner. The yuba pulls a flavor from the sauce that makes it almost taste like morel mushrooms.
Our server Cammi took wonderful care of us, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we experienced some unforgettable flavors and dishes today. We look forward to many returns.