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Monday, Aug. 18, 2014

Adventures in Chinese Dining

Peking House offers the usual (and so much more)

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The first thing lunchtime visitors will notice at Peking House is a buffet. Those that request a menu will find that, at first, it looks just like every other Chinese menu in town with moo goo gai pan and wonton soup leading that pack. It does get as exotic as kung pao chicken, potstickers and lettuce wraps! But turn a few pages to find the “House Specials.” This is the real Chinese thing, mainly inspired by the food of Szechuan. Here are pig ears, jellyfish, pig intestines and pork hocks—along with many more accessible ingredients.

The restaurant was first located in Pewaukee before making a move to Downtown Milwaukee. Its location has been the site of many restaurants; Zaafaran, Singha Thai II and Los Mitos are just the most recent. Remember Ed Debevic’s? There now is less square footage but there is a bar and buffet tables dominate the rear wall.

Skip the crab rangoon and instead opt for jellyfish with Szechuan sauce ($8.25). Jellyfish actually has little flavor and is a bit gelatinous. Here it’s served chopped and often resembles pasta. The Szechuan sauce has a bit of vinegar and plenty of hot red pepper. Some chopped Napa cabbage lightens things up a bit and a sprinkling of sesame seeds adds some crunch. Tasty stuff. Wonton soup? Go for the sour pickle with fish fillets soup ($8.95-$15.95), instead. The authentic soups are all large servings. Even the smaller size is nearly enough for an entrée. The pickles are not all that sour. The fish fillets are white and mild in flavor in contrast to the spicier Szechuan fare.

Cumin lamb ($16.95) is starting to appear on a few local menus. This version has meat of high quality—very tender and not fatty. Thin slivers of garlic join the cumin alongside ginger and shreds of celery. Shrimp with dry chilis ($16.95) lives up to the billing. The shrimp are in their shells with the heads on in proper Chinese style. Toasted dried chili peppers are as numerous as the shrimp, although their spiciness does not suffocate the dish. Garlic is abundant. Vegetarians will find many options. The standard menu offers Buddha’s Delight ($11.95) and the specials add ingredients like pea tips, lotus root and bitter melon—a good panorama of Chinese produce.

Some people will never understand the appeal of the House Specials, but for adventurous tastes, the sesame chicken and beef broccoli are not what should be ordered at Peking House. Think instead of Ge Lou Mountain Chicken ($25.95), Long Chang Style Rabbit ($16.95) and Lai Fung Whole Fish (market price) and you will have an idea of this kitchen’s ambitions.

 

Peking House

782 N. Jefferson St.

414-763-9378

$$-$$$

pekinghousewi.com

Handicapped access: Yes