Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: China Road, Syracuse

What can you expect from such an unassuming store front as this? Well, for one thing, whole, fried Cornish game hen:

China Road in Syracuse is the best Chinese food I've ever had. However, that was not always the case. China Road is also the only restaurant I've had a gestalt shift for.

Though I adore it now, my first trip to China Road was an utter disappointment. I went with a lover of fake meats who wouldn't shut up about their gluten. Since the "meat" dishes were about three dollars more than the tofu, I foolishly went with the latter. There I sat, eating mediocre bean curd and string beans, in what would later become one of my most sought after food temples. It was as though I was in Aladdin's cave, surrounded by riches, but pocketing a piece of jackal poop.

My most recent trip to China Road started with a lingering Chinese New Year Special: crispy shrimp balls.

True to their name, they were crunchy, shrimpy, and spherical. Also, they were delicious. Next came the soup dumplings.

The chef and owner of China Road boasts that his are the only Shanghai soup dumplings outside of New York City. While I imagine that there must be some in San Francisco's Chinatown, or in Shanghai, these might just be the best anywhere.

For those who have never experienced the soup dumpling before, be warned that you must carefully -- carefully! -- use a deep spoon to lift them from their bed of cabbage lest they break, spilling their precious cargo. If you can get one to your lips intact, you're then rewarded with all of the porky flavor of a whole bowl of soup somehow condensed and injected into one, soft, doughy wonder. If you find the meatiness overwhelming, the black vinegar with ginger which accompanies them will perfectly cut it.

A guest blogger on Bitten writes that they're "supposed to be so hot they burn your mouth a little bit." Perhaps, or perhaps this myth is circulated to excuse the gluttonous haste with which people like me eat them.

After these excellent appetizers, the "crunchy Cornish hen" featured at top was a perfect climax. The skin was so crisp, the sauce so savory, that my companion and I were positively moved to abandon our silverware and eat the bird like our earliest ancestors must have: with our hands, and a side of steamed, delicately sauced Chinese broccoli.

This is what our table looked like when we were done:

On our way out the hostess said "You boys have big lunch." We certainly have.

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seth said...

I eventually did shut up about their gluten.

Jay said...

oh, I thought was Zach.

PS. How can shrimp, which are small, have such enormous balls?

Anonymous said...

glad that u enjoy eating chinese dumpling ^_^ if u got the chance, give this restaurant a try: they hv the best soup dumpling out of china/taiwan! each dumpling skin is as thin as paper & it doesnt break as easily like other who made it. the soup inside the dumpling is generous & the flavour is heavenly. mind u, it's really hot & if u pop 1 into ur mouth once they serve u.

Aaron Kagan said...

Hopefully Dave will make it out there this summer. If I could, I would.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! Too Shy to Stop writer Cindy Chu thinks all the Chinese food in Syracuse sucks. You can read her rant here.

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