After a bit of a hiatus, we have reinstated New Restaurant Tuesday (NRT). Our most recent restaurant was Happy China in Durham. After several wonderful experiences of Szechuan food in Carrboro we decided to try another local place which is getting rave reviews for Szechuan food.
Happy China is a bright red building just off of 15-501 which can’t be missed. The restaurant itself is quite large and is separated into a few different rooms. The décor is nice and simple with grey walls and nice red accents in the decorations. There are several intimate booths which are nicely lit with hanging lights. The menu includes several typical Chinese restaurant dishes such as General Tao’s Chicken and Beef and Broccoli. The menu also includes a section with Szechuan specialties which is where we focused our choices. They list several daily special on a white board in the foyer as you enter. Our extremely friendly waitress had noticed me looking over the list of specials and helpfully answered all of my questions on the menu.
We started with the Szechuan Wontons in Chili Soup. It isn’t quite a soup as much as chili oil. They were simply fantastic and my favorite dish of the evening! The dumpling skin was light and delicate. The filling was slightly sweet from the pork and perfectly seasoned with green onion. The chili oil itself wasn’t spicy but rather aromatic. We also started with the Steamed Pork Dumplings which were a half moon shaped dumpling with a more common pork filling and served with a nice soy, ginger, sesame sauce.
For our entrées we tried the Crispy Duck with House Garlic Sauce. The garlic sauce was incredibly delicious! The sauce had a nice subtle spicy and was infused with garlic throughout. The duck itself was nice and tender with a perfectly crispy skin. The second dish we tried was the Szechuan Double Cooked Pork. The fatty pieces of pork, almost a cross between pork belly and bacon, were sautéed and served in a chili sauce with scallions and jalapeños. The spice in this dish was nice but not as delicate and complex as the garlic sauce in the duck dish. While the flavor was good this dish was not my favorite as the pork was just too fatty for me to enjoy as a central part of the meal.
Overall, the dishes we tried were delicious and had the trademark spiciness of Szechuan cooking. In comparison to the dishes we tried at Gourmet Kingdom, the dishes were not as tongue numbingly spicy. Rather, the dishes we tried at Happy China brought a slight numbness to the lips. Honestly, I can’t believe how lucky we are to have two wonderful options for Szechuan cuisine in this area!
2505 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd
Durham, NC 27707