I tasted the Chinese food of dreams, the quality of which is hard to come by even in New York, at a pan-Asian sushi joint in Port Chester.
The occasion was a tasting menu to introduce the press to a new chef, Eric Gao, a protoge of the famous and elusive Peter Chang. The restaurant, where the Gao is currently cooking still, is Euro Asian Bistro.
Chang, as I wrote when I visited his China Grill in Charlottesville, Va., has a reputation for being an accomplished yet elusive cook who takes his talent to a kitchen in say, Fairfax, Va., or Knoxville, Tenn., sets up shop long enough for people to discover him and flock, and then leaves without a word.
As you can imagine this has frustrated many a fan, and there are posts and posts about it on food message boards tracking the whereabouts of Peter Chang, and extolling the virtues of his cooking once it’s been re-discovered. The chase got so out of hand that Calvin Trillin chronicled it (and the people doing the chasing) in a New York article in 2010: Where’s Chang? The chef who can’t shake his followers.
Gao, on the other hand, has been working quietly behind the scenes, including at a top restaurant in Shanghai and a sushi spot in Boston.
His next posting will be in Westchester, at a restaurant opening this fall near H-Mart on Central Avenue in Hartsdale, O Mandarin. When it opens, I predict it will be the talk of the food scene.
The owners of the O Mandarin, Gen and Mary Lee, are business partners with Peter Chang (ever since the Charlottesville restaurant), but Chang will not be involved in the Westchester location.
If the food we tasted at this meal is any indication, Chang won’t be missed.
These beautiful plates are just the start, hors d’oeuvres for the meal to come. There are lettuce shoots, cucumbers, bamboo shoots, chive cakes and more. All beautifully seasoned, not overly anything, just clean, tasty and real.
Flavors of chili oil, sesame, vinegar, each in the right ratio. Textures ranging from al dente to gelatinous to crunchy to smooth.
Lettuce shoots, braised!
Here is Euro Asian Bistro owner Peter Liu, with chef Eric Gao on the right. Peter introduced us to the dishes, and Peter’s wife paired some lovely wines with them all.
Gao’s menu was divided into three movements. The beginning was Shanghai cuisine, where he came up as a cook and did his apprenticeship. Then, Szechuan, an “homage,” he said. Then, “breaking away,” he focused on Mandarin cuisine.
Lion’s Head meatballs, a Shanghai specialty.
Whole Fish with Pine Nuts:
Baby New Zealand Lamb Chops with Pan-Fried Scallion, Cumin and Szechuan Chili Oil.
Dry-fried Eggplant Sticks.
Braised pork shank.
Pork Belly Buns.
Crispy Pineapple Duck.
Braised Beef Rib in Curry Sauce.
First, a palate cleanser, a delicate, sweetish, cold soup.
Unfortunately, it’s been way too long between the time I ate these wonderful dishes and am getting them down on this blog for posterity. So I can’t offer nuanced descriptions, much less critiques. But I will say this: for now, head to Euro Asian Bistro and order whatever Gao’s got on special that night. And soon, when O Mandarin opens, make a reservation for a feast. You wont’ regret it.