Full Key

Marnay’s Mom was staying with us, so we took her to Full Key in Wheaton on a cold, rainy Monday night. The restaurant is in a busy strip mall on University Boulevard with a number of other popular restaurants.

The place looks dated but inviting, and the staff is busy but friendly. We started out with an egg roll, just to tide us over. The roll was nice and crispy but otherwise unremarkable. We came, however, for Full Key’s iconic shrimp dumpling soup. Both Marnay and her Mom ordered it, while I got to try to try some of Marnay’s. (Don’t think I was going to go to Full Key and not at least get a taste of the shrimp dumpling soup.)

The dish seems simple: Egg noodles in chicken broth with bobbing shrimp, pork and mushroom (and probably some other things) filled dumplings. The dumplings would taste incredible on their own, but they get an added burst of flavor and richness from the chicken broth. The egg noodles, which are snipped by scissors tableside, are thin and allow the dumplings to be the star of the show.

I got the Sichuan (the restaurant’s spelling) Shredded Pork. It came at least 10 minutes after Marnay and her Mom got her food, so the pacing wasn’t great. I think you have to go in with the mentality that things are going to come from the kitchen when they come. There was also only one person servicing the entire restaurant, which was quite busy even on a dreary Monday night. When my food did arrive, it was very hot, so it clearly did come right from the kitchen to our table.

The dish consisted of thin pieces of pork sautéed with bell peppers, carrots, onions and possibly other vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised with how many vegetables were included. I feel like many Chinese restaurants skimp out on vegetables. Here, they felt like they were on equal footing with the pork. The pork was spicy but not mouth numbingly spicy. There was a healthy amount of sauce, although it wasn’t excessive. I would get this dish again.

We also got Sichuan green beans for the table. They were spicy, which I was not expecting. But they had a nice crunch to them, as well.

The part of Full Key that I found the most interesting and unique was the case of freshly roasted pork, duck and chicken displayed by the front of the kitchen. Judging by the amount of times the chef visited the case, I could tell that it was a big deal. When we come back to Full Key, we are definitely going to get some!

Address
Full Key: 2227 University Blvd W, Wheaton, MD 20902
Closest Metro: Wheaton

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Peter Chang

We made a game-time decision on a Thursday night to go to Peter Chang in Rockville Town Center. Peter Chang is the former chef at the Chinese Embassy and has a history of opening a restaurant in the South and then disappearing. More about that here

The restaurant was crowded when we arrived, but we got a table right away. We started out with two of his signature dishes: scallion bubble pancakes and dry fried eggplant. The dry fried eggplant looks like thick French fries dusted with Szechuan peppercorns and herbs, along with a sprinkle of salt. The peppercorns are more than just spicy, they truly give off a numbing sensation.

The scallion bubble pancake is one of the craziest things we have ever eaten, a work of art. I’m just glad that we have visual proof of the thing, because it’s hard to do it justice through words alone. It tasted a little like fried wontons, but more doughy and more like fresh bread. Very addicting and very difficult to stop eating, especially when dipped in a warm curry sauce.

These were just our appetizers. We knew we were ordering more food than we could eat, but the food makes for great leftovers. Marnay got Golden Mountain Chicken, which is similar to a classic Sesame Chicken but much fresher. This is what Sesame Chicken wishes it could be.

I got the Szechuan Double Cooked Pork Belly, which was stir-fried with leeks, cabbage and Szechuan black bean paste. This was a very rich dish. It’s was not particularly spicy, although I don’t think it was intended to be. The leeks were the most prominent non-pork belly part of the dish. The white parts of the leeks felt more incorporated in the dish than the green parts. The black bean sauce was subtle and didn’t overpower the dish, it just added a little saltiness. Not too much, though, because the dish already had plenty of salt from the pork belly.

Overall, it was a fantastic Szechuan dinner. I am sure that we will be back to Peter Chang, and soon!

Address
Peter Chang: 20A Maryland Ave, Rockville, MD 20850
Closest Metro: Rockville