By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano
Alexandria | Chinese | $$$$
Despite its location in a nondescript Alexandria strip mall, this tiny dining room is unabashedly formal in an era when fine dining is becoming increasingly casual. Female servers wear golden headpieces dangling to their ears, floor-length formal gowns, high heels and white gloves.
Photo by Rey Lopez
Each table setting consists of multiple pieces of gorgeous yellow dishware decorated with delicate flowers and golden edges, including the dome removed as diners settle in. Its removal reveals the first course, poetically titled Pine Tree Assorted Sampler, and it turns out to be an edible tableau of a garden scene composed of shrimp, broccoli, wonderful slices of dried beef sausage that tasted like Chinese salami.
At least, that’s how the meal starts when enjoying the $98 Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot menu, the least expensive of the three prix fixe options found at Chef Guo. (We’ll have to get back to you about the $158 Banquet of Peace and Prosperity menu and the $278 Banquet Filled with Precious Gem and Jade dinner.)
The 12-course hot pot experience ranges from a simple half of an orange presented on a miniature swing to the elaborate hot pot of flavor-packed chicken broth teeming with 20 or so ingredients like abalone, meatballs, sea cucumber and mushrooms. Other favorites include flounder with mustard greens sauce, a ground pork patty filled with water chestnuts and noodles with a vegetarian black bean sauce that truly tasted meaty.
Throughout the meal, there’s an effort to delight. It makes dinner here feel very special. // 6259 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria