Sadly, that was the only exceptional part of Chow, Baby’s visit to Pho Hung (2216 New York Ave., Arlington), an emergency stop made in obeisance to the Don’t Grocery-Shop on an Empty Stomach rule. Unfortunately, Hung’s pho ($4.45) was definitely not the six hours a-simmer kind, and the vermicelli with grilled pork and shrimp ($6.25) was cold in all the wrong places. We snatched our shakes (very filling, thankfully) and zipped to Hong Kong Market Place next door for the weekly pantry replenishment of cheap and curious foodstuffs, pausing only to add soursops to the grocery list.
The topic of conversation for the rest of the night was an all-too-familiar one: where we should have gone. Top of the list: Bat Dat, a nearby Chinese seafood spot that was highly recommended by TCU Joe, Chow, Baby’s ultra-reliable Asian-eateries correspondent. Sugarpie had a different idea, raving about a place in the area called Ocean. But Chow, Baby had never heard of Ocean, and TCU Joe had rhapsodized about Bat Dat … Oh, honey, of course we’ll try your favorite restaurant first.
Everybody’s favorite restaurant, as we discovered the next night: The sign in front of the restaurant at 1510 New York Avenue reads Bat Dat Ocean. And everybody’s right: This is seriously great Chinese seafood. After the relief that Chow, Baby didn’t have to choose between two of its favorite foodies came the relief of the crabmeat and asparagus soup ($3.95 for two, though four would be satisfied): Chow, Baby has gotten unsatisfying c&a soup in several places over the past year, and was starting to wonder if maybe it simply doesn’t like the stuff. No, turns out Chow, Baby just likes c&a soup done right, the way Bat Dat does it: creamy, flavorful, fresh, chock full of real crabmeat. Yum.
Yum to the pork chow fun ($6.95), with roast pork, crisp broccoli flowerets, and extra-wide noodles sopping up the rich sauce. Yum to the abalone with black mushroom (“market price,” currently $14.95), both snail and ‘shroom with a firm but tender texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Best of all – in fact, a candidate for greatest dish ever in the history of the world-was the Vietnamese-style shrimp fire pot (“small,” by which they must mean “small family,” $16). The sweet-and-sour broth got its marvelous depth from jalapeños and pineapple, plus tomatoes, sprouts, celery, and lots of huge, beautiful shrimp. Yum, yum, yum.
The wide menu covers hot pots, sizzling plates, Chinese standards, and specialties like braised sea cucumber, mushroom with duck web, and butter-fried frog leg. The space is pre-Soviet-Russia-ish: a stark, musty, low-ceilinged yet cavernous space, brightly lit, with the loud Casiotones of “Born Free” and the like exacerbating the already formidable communication challenges. Service was extremely solicitous, and the prices were low considering the size of the portions. We’ll have leftovers for a week, and that’s a big yum.
Contact Chow, Baby at email@example.com.