Authentic Chinese Food in the Middle of Villa Crespo
Chinese food has been ruined for me by one evening where the stars aligned and I had Chinese take-out so delicious it made my toes curl. It was just two years ago, sometime between Christmas and New Years and I was visiting a friend at his parents’ house in the Bay Area. I’ve always been a passive fan of Chinese food. I like a bastardized American version of Mongolian Beef and Sesame Chicken (do those even exist in China?) just like the next phat yanqui, but it is never the first thing that comes to mind when going out to eat.
On this faithful evening, no one wanted to cook and we weren’t in the mood for anymore Christmas leftovers so everyone settled on take-out from a neighborhood spot that specialized in Shanghai-style food. I didn’t think much of it. The food arrived and the smell of freshly fried everything filled the room as we passed around those iconic white takeout boxes. It all looked like a pretty normal smattering of chinese food until I bit into my first fried pork bun, and then dipped into the asparagus and beef, and starting shaking my leg in excitement with the cashew nut prawns and had a complete palate explosion with the mu shu pork pancakes. My eyes widened as I sat silently having a full body foodgasm and my brain began to silently strategize moves to get the last of that damn eggplant in garlic sauce without coming off like a greedy bastard and poor house guest. I knew one of the visiting boyfriends was plotting the same move and we waged a silent war while the rest of the family ate ignorant to the battle around them.
I returned to visit my friend last year, and I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t in part to get another piece of Little Shanghai. Admittedly twice in two years is not so bad. But how long am I going to be able to keep this up? Let us analyze the best case variables – the restaurant stays open, my friend continues to celebrate Christmas at his parents house, and no one finds it strange that a grown man and his future family drives a few hours to come to their place every year and insist on ordering Chinese food from a specific restaurant. My best guestimation suggests I will have to relive those tastes through memory for the rest of my (now pointless) lifetime.
Is this my life’s great tragedy?
Whatever the answer to that question may be, this was the pretext before eating at Duo Fu. There were big shoes to fill.
I had walked past Duo Fu dozens of times since moving to Buenos Aires and never thought anything of it. It looked like every other Chinese restaurant in this city. Humble, slightly rundown looking even, sparsely decorated, with the same dishes and silverware everyone else bought from Asia Oriental, and nearly always half empty. The menu taped to the window toted chow mein, egg fried rice and sweet and sour this and kung pao that like every other restaurant with comida china in the city. That was until I walked past and saw a Chinese family sitting around a big table hovering over, wait, what is that, HOT POT!? I summoned the troops and we marched our way over.
The regular menu had no mention of said hot pot, with a lonely wonton option representing the soup selection. We asked the waiter if there was a separate menu for gente china, and without hesitation, he turned around and brought it to us. The menu was written completely in Mandarin (fingers crossed that’s not actually Cantonese), and the owner of the restaurant sat with us to pick out what we’d throw into our soup. The conversation went something like this:
Do you eat vegetables? Yes.
Do you like meat? Yes.
How about seafood? Yes.
And noodles? Yes.
Are you kind of hungry or really hungry? Starving.
And then the food started coming out, until the table was so full we had to set another table up on the side to fit everything. The broth was split in two, on one side a veggie broth and on the other a deep red spicy broth. This was some wipe your brow with your napkin kind of spicy.
Most of what was brought to the table was identifiable: kanikama, shrimp, thin slices of pork and beef, fish balls, fried tofu, and some bizarre looking mushrooms. So much food came out that we began to worry that we were all going to collectively spend a months worth of rent.
We threw everything in and tried to wait patiently.
Then these bad boys came. I had no idea what this was going to be. They were described as pan al vapor con cerdo (steamed pork bread), buns? dumplings? pot stickers? We were ecstatically surprised to find steamed buns with pork that had been cooked in a sesame and ginger sauce. I want to eat these everyday forever.
We ate the buns before one member of the fam arrived and vowed to not speak of it.
And as soon as it began, the dream was over and we saw what a big mess we had made. We began to make bets to see how much this spontaneous feast would cost, and at $200 a person for food and drink, this was a super reasonable price for an authentic meal. Is it enough to get over my Little Shanghai hangover? Not exactly (and for the next time we’ll probably be ordering more meat than seafood), but for a brief moment it was enough to distract me for a delicious minute.
- Angel Gallardo 75, Villa Crespo
- Monday – Saturday from 8:30-11:30pm.