I wanted to love Lucky Dragon.
I wanted to be willing to jump in the car and drive for 20 minutes for great Chinese.
I wanted the answer to “where do you go for good Chinese?” to be Rhinebeck, not Queens.
I’m in like not love, but love could be just around the corner.
Lucky Dragon is in the building that used to house Catch 38 and is being run by the folks who brought you the Amsterdam. It’s “farm to chopsticks” cooking.
My sense is that it’s a retro-influenced look back at all the classic Chinese restaurants where you would go on Sundays with your family, eat lo mein, and think you were very adventuresome.
If you’re expecting pages and pages of dishes, you’ll be surprised. They’ve edited the choices down to a manageable amount (just enough to fit on a placemat).
We started out with a bunch of appetizers—BBQ spareribs, chicken lettuce wraps, pork and chive potstickers and fresh spring rolls. The spring rolls were hot and crispy and came with a sweet chile dipping sauce and were a hit with everyone at our table.
The spareribs were good with a dark brown glaze and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Close to those lacquered red ones you might remember from days gone by, but nicely updated with what I’m guessing was a hit of hoisin.
Chicken lettuce wraps had chunks of chicken with scallions, slivers of bamboo shoots, sesame seeds and a light sauce, all of which fit perfectly in the lettuce. They were a bit hit with everyone at my table.
The potstickers were pan fried on one side and served with a soy, scallion sauce. I would have preferred the sauce on the side, as it made them a little soggy, but they were still tasty and not too heavy as potstickers can be.
Trying to be a little healthy, we opted for two of the vegetable dishes, a classic bok choy with sesame and soy, which was well prepared and the Szechuan eggplant, which was one of my favorites of the evening. Small slices of eggplant in a spicy (but not killer) sauce with lots of flavor.
For mains we went with the shrimp in black bean sauce, Szechuan chicken and pork lo mein. The lo mein was everyone’s favorite—it had great flavor and the noodles were well cooked, but sadly the pork in it was really tough.
The Szechuan chicken and the shrimp had a lot of the same ingredients, chunks of red and green peppers, beansprouts, water chestnuts and both were in a soy-based sauce. The big difference was that the chicken was a bit spicy and there were some black beans with the shrimp. We all agreed that we might have ordered two very similar dishes, and then mixed them up on our plates, blending them together so they were indistinguishable.
We all also agreed that we’ll be back. The Peking Duck that needs to be ordered in advance, is tempting, as are some of the other classics like General Tso’s and some of the other appetizers we skipped over.
The manager was truly interested in our comments, and after hearing that we thought the pork in the lo mein was tough, presented us with a box of cookies as we left and said she was going to take it up with the kitchen right away. So, I have faith (and hope) that the menu will continue to evolve, and we’ll end up in love. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: Overheard in another restaurant someone referring to “Yucky Dragon” and after a second meal that echoed the first, I’d have to agree. So disapointing.