PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2023

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is a sin in the Cantonese kitchen, which relies heavily on stir-frying and steaming, though it roasts and stews as well ... Over the centuries it has accepted foods and spices from other parts of China and from foreign countries and made them part of its repertoire." The same expansive menu is served at lunch and dinner. Starters include time intensive XLB (Xiao Long Bao) soup dumplings, filled with minced pork and tiny cubes of gelatinized broth that melt as the dumplings are steamed, and served with zingy XLB vinegar and ginger sauce ($20). Delicately pierce each steaming dumpling before you devour it in a single bite. The tender dark-meat Mala spiced chicken lollipops singe your tongue a little before your palate is cooled with minted yogurt sauce ($16). Don't miss the XO turnip cake, a celebration dish enjoyed during Chinese New Year; soft finger-length cakes of daikon and turnip root are lightly fried and served with an XO seafood sauce composed of dried scallops, shrimp, chilis, garlic, and shallots ($16). The rich smoked brisket egg roll is made with neighbor Truth BBQ's smoked brisket and served with a minced Asian slaw, mustard, and Chinese BBQ sauce ($17). Truth BBQ's famed brisket also makes an appearance in the smoked brisket fried rice ($28). Berg and his well-informed waitstaff encourage guests to try the cold sesame noodles, a mildly spicy compilation of udon noodles tossed in a peanut, soy, scallion and chili oil blend with cucumbers and fresh cilantro ($16). Another traditional dish is the vegetarian-friendly Sichuan-style Impossible Mapo Tofu, made with disks of silken tofu in lieu of ground pork; sautéed in a chili-bean sauce, chef Mei uses the Impossible Meat substitute instead ($18). The menu is quite lengthy and includes takes on some of America's most beloved and popular mains, from General Tso's chicken, served here as a tempura-fried half chicken ($38), to cara cara orange- scented crispy orange beef made with marinated flank steak ($38), while the sweet and sour pork ribs are cooked with Berkshire pork ribs, red pepper, and dragon fruit napped with a sweet and sour sauce ($34). The laborious Peking duck takes three days to prepare and is made with Pennsylvania-raised Jurgielewicz duck ($115). The stand-alone dish, with its hallmark lacquered bronzed skin and tender seasoned meat, is served with thin crepe-like Chinese pancakes, julienned fresh scallions, cucumbers, pickled vegetables, and both a traditional hoisin sauce and a cranberry-tinged sauce. It's a substantial portion that easily feeds four, but if you prefer à la carte options, duck-fried rice ($32) and Peking duck noodles ($38) make less imposing choices. Spirits include rarefied Japanese whiskeys and a cocktail menu with eight signature libations created by Berg Hospitality mixologist Jose Lucas. My favorite was The Empire's Wok, a vodka- spiked drink flavored with cantaloupe lemon verbena tea syrup and fresh lime juice ($18). Or treat your table to the splashy Mr. K's Scorpion Bowl, a tiki drink poured from a crystal decanter and garnished with scorpion lollipops ($120). Conclude with a matcha green-tea ice cream sundae ($18) or mango pudding ($12). Of course, like so many Chinese American restaurants, every meal ends with a fortune cookie. Reservations suggested. Benny Chows, 1818 Washington Ave., Shrimp toast The dining room at Benny Chows designed by architect Issac Preminger and designer Gail McCleese Cumin lamb potstickers Executive chef Shirong Mei 106

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