Western appetites need not be afraid of the pig intestine or tripe on the menu at Asian Court in Ellicott City. There are plenty of familiar dishes that will satisfy apprehensive eaters—from kung pao chicken to Peking duck.
But if you’re confused about what to order, you can trust co-owner and hostess Kay Chen to guide you. She and her husband, Luu Quoc Hung, the chef, came here from Hong Kong, and, after owning other restaurants, set up shop along busy U.S. 40 in Howard County.
There are no bells and whistles when it comes to the décor, but the mustard-yellow dining room is cheerful and laden with reminders of the owners’ heritage from a wedding symbol on the wall to a tiny altar with apples honoring the kitchen god.
A drawing card is the dim-sum menu, featuring an array of fragrant dishes. The steamed buns—we tried one type filled with shredded roast pork; another with sweet pineapple—are lovely beginnings. On weekends and holidays, the offerings are served by cart until 3 p.m.
But we headed to the restaurant to sample its Cantonese lunch menu, which features three entrees plus one soup for $20.95. It’s enough food for three people to share. Our table soon became a banquet of colorful foods. The fish ball soup was a soothing broth with bright-green watercress leaves and medallions of thin fish cakes.
We also had shredded pork with hot peppers and thick scallions that left a delicious, spicy tingle on the tongue. The lotus-root stir-fry with brown sauce was a vegetable lover’s dream with slices of the root mixed with mushrooms, snow peas, carrots, celery, and chives. The fish fillet sauté with XO sauce was also wonderful—soft, white fish with chunks of Chinese zucchini in the spicy seafood sauce.
And, because we heard that the chef makes an impressive empress chicken, we tried that, too. Essentially, it’s a half of a bone-in chicken that’s been boiled gently until the meat practically falls off the bone. We finished our meal with three crispy, mini tarts lush with fluffy egg-custard filling.
We had to laugh at two women at a neighboring table who were enjoying a mountain of lobster. They shared their praises for Asian Court, worrying that if people found out about it that it would become too crowded. We understand their desire to keep this gem to themselves, but we just had to share its charms.
Asian Court, 9180 Baltimore National Pike, Chatham Station Shopping Center, Ellicott City, 410-461-8388. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Appetizers: $2.95-7.95; entrees: $7.50-26.95; desserts: $2.95.