My in-laws were in town a few weeks ago and they really enjoy Chinese food so we went toGourmetKingdomin Carrboro. This was a much anticipated trip for me since I had heard so many wonderful things about the food here. The restaurant itself is quite large with several booths, some larger tables and a large area for a buffet or banquet style events. However, furnishings are worn out and could really use to be updated. Having said that, this is not someplace you come for the atmosphere; it is all about the food.
We tried several dishes since there were four of us and we could share everything. We didn’t bother with appetizers and just went for the main dishes. The dishes came out as they were ready so we started with the ‘Cumin sliced lamb’. The pieces of lamb (not really slices) were tender with rich cumin flavor and some hot spice. The spice wasn’t too hot at first but had a cumulative effect after a few bites. Next we got the ‘Shredded pork in garlic sauce’. This too was delicious with a nice spicy, garlicky sauce that didn’t overpower the sweetness of the pork. This dish also had wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots which added a nice depth of earthy flavor. Next we were served the ‘Chicken with 3 kings of peppers in Szechuan sauce’. This was chunks of fried chicken coated in a spicy pepper sauce. It was a fiery dish! There were half inch pieces of green peppers scattered throughout the dish. Yours truly, bit right into one, thinking the sweet pepper might cut the spice of the chicken only to find out it was a piece of jalapeño! At this point with the heat of the lamb and the chicken my lips and tongue were beginning to go numb. Oddly though, I couldn’t stop eating! Finally, the last dish we were brought was the ‘Dan Dan noodles.’ This too was very tasty, but not as interesting as the other dishes. The noodles were served in a delicious spicy sauce but didn’t have any vegetables or meat to add textures or flavors.
Gourmet Kingdom is known for their Szechuan cooking and it is fantastic! Apparently, the Szechuan dishes are a recent addition with the arrival of a new chef. All the dishes we tried were marked with one pepper. I can’t even imagine the fiery punch the three pepper dishes must pack. While each dish was fiery hot, they each had their own unique taste and complexity. I was impressed by this because often the heat overpowers any other flavors in the dish. However, here you could still taste the distinct cumin flavor in the lamb and the garlic in the pork. I think this is why we couldn’t stop eating! I haven’t been to China so I can’t comment on ‘authentic’ Szechuan cooking but I can say that the food at Gourmet Kingdom is fantastic! I look forward to going back and trying other dishes on the menu. Only this time, I know to add a dish marked with zero peppers to provide my tongue a break!
301 E Main St