At Chungee's Drink & Eat, Simple Flavors Translate Even For Vegetarians"/>
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The Eats: Chungee's Drink & Eat, 1830 12th Ave., 323-1673. Traditional home-style Cantonese cuisine.
Stupid Pig? Or Pro-Pig Propaganda Flag?
The Deets: While there's Thai, Vietnamese, and Asian joints aplenty, few Capitol Hill restaurants serve traditional Chinese food. This cozy restaurant, with it's red-tinged lighting, low ceilings, tiny dining area, and adjacent bar feels like a vintage Chinese lounge and does brisk business with neighborhood regulars and single diners. When I was in last night, folks were a buzz discussing the day's news and the demonstrations downtown.
In such close confines, unless you're a recently uprooted Norwegian, you can't help but to strike up conversation with those nearby. My dinner conversation involved the rather grisly details of a fellow patron's ski accident (she was in on crutches, and will never ski again). But her spirits were high and she glimpsed the silver lining when her fortune cookie arrived. It read: Give a hug to someone who needs it. "See?" she said brightly. "There are people out there far worse off than me."
At Chungee's, there's lots of friendly chit-chat and local color to go around, so expect a helping of that free of charge. Adding to the atmosphere is a soundtrack of classic rock and oddly enough last night, a large tranny entered just as Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" started up. If you're looking for a quiet meal as an anonymous diner, move along.
The Beets: The menu at Chungee's favors simple flavors and classic dishes, but vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu. By my count, there were a total of 25 combined appetizers and entrees available for Beet Street eaters--definitely not something to shake a stick at, especially for authentic Chinese food, packed as it often is with pork (oh yeah, Chungee literally means: stupid pig).
The home made onion pancake with house curry sauce was a simple and rustic combination, a fried wheel of flour and green onion sliced into 8 wedges. The sauce was a true runny sauce and flavorful but not overly zesty, and the cake itself was hearty.
Tofu is the featured meat substitute on dishes like chow mein, chow phun, and the house specialties, but I opted to skip those for the garlic green beans with rice, which came recommended. Served with a side of steamed brown rice, the beans were firm with a satisfying crunch. Sauteed with garlic and oil and flecked with chili flake, they were fresh tasting, light, and not over seasoned. With the pancake appetizer and a glass of vino verde, I had a veggie meal in spades--and dining companions to boot.
The Decree: Chungee's gets the (first ever!) Beet Street Squeal of Approval.