I rarely eat Chinese food because it’s so hit and miss. I hate to go to some non-descript restaurant and get General Tso’s chicken that tastes like a Healthy Choice entree. Spicy? Not. Two or three hot peppers, nothing but breading and a tiny bit of chicken? No thanks.
So I went to a real Chinese restaurant to try and resurrect my affection for this cuisine — that being Oriental House in St. Matthews. Sadly, I drive by it all the time and never stop. Yes, August Moon is good, and I’m a fan of Tea Station Chinese Bistro in Norton Commons, but Oriental House is the real deal, and I knew my drought had to end.
Seriously, how many places do you know with chicken feet on the menu? Or pig ear as an appetizer? Sure, you can get the standards, like sweet and sour shrimp or moo goo gai pan, but check out the “Authentic Chinese” Oriental House menu, and you’ll find a world of options you can’t always get at the cookie-cutter Chinese places, like hot pots (there’s even lamb), maw soup, roasted duck Hong Kong or Beijing style, seafood congee, and whole fish dishes, not to mention more egg noodles than you can shake a stick at.
Oriental House looks like a Chinese palace inside, and on the outside it looks like something you’d see in a 1950s movie. My understanding is that it was the first Chinese restaurant in Louisville, opening in the 1970s, so to last that long, it must be doing something right.
Anyway, I got my order of Hunan Duck to go despite the inviting atmosphere, and it came to me packed in one of those classic cardboard containers with metal handles, along with a side of steamed white rice in a separate container. I ate straight from the containers like I was in an episode of “Seinfeld” or “The Big Bang Theory,” and soon remembered that there’s a lot more food in those things than meets the eye.
In addition to the duck, the dish also featured baby corn, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots and bamboo shoots. And much to my delight, it was plain that all of the vegetables were fresh and hand cut.
Seriously, right on top there was a hunk of green pepper the size of my knuckles, and it actually tasted like green pepper. Like, really fresh green pepper. I’ve had Chinese food in which the sauce takes over and the vegetables taste virtually the same as the meat. What’s the point in that? Well, there was no such worry with this Hunan Duck. And the vegetables weren’t cooked to the point of being soggy, either, which is another pet peeve.
The tender morsels of roast duck are breaded and re-cooked with the veggies, and Oriental House did not skimp on the meat, which is good for a carnivore like me. Still, I have to admit the onions and mushrooms in particular were winning me over from bite one. Heck there were slices of onion so thick I can’t even get my plastic fork to pierce them. And after just a few bites, I dug around looking for more of that green pepper.
All in all, it was a quite satisfying meal, and I had plenty left for lunch the next day. Heck, I even got a fortune cookie that made me chuckle: “He who eats alone has more dumplings.” My only complaint? The Hunan Duck wasn’t quite spicy enough. So, maybe that issue is just mine since it seems to follow me everywhere. Regardless, next time I’ll be sure to order it extra spicy.
I paid about 10 bucks for more than enough food, but there are 26 daily lunch specials for $6.25 that come with rice and an eggroll. And if the General Tso’s is even close to as good as the Hunan Duck, then maybe it’s the stuff I’ve been looking for. I’ll find out soon.