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Restaurant Reviews

Apres-Pai Gow

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood is surrounded by small businesses that cater to the whims gamblers can't meet inside the casino complex. On surrounding streets, you'll find, for instance, tax-free cigarette shops, dozens of pawnshops, check-cashing stores, and a late-night eatery where you can go for sauteed duck tongues, braised pig knuckles, $68 plates of abalone with sea cucumber, or "deep-fried ribs with banana and nuts in birds' nest."

Dragon City (6706 Stirling Rd., 954-894-8393), a few blocks west of 441 in Hollywood, still has the usual takeout menu listing the evening hours you'd expect of an unvarnished Chinese restaurant, but in response to suburban Broward County's burgeoning Asian communities and the Seminole juggernaut down the street, they stay open until 4 or 5 in the morning every day.

Nearly all the "authentic"-style Chinese restaurants in South Florida are Hong Kong-style, and if you've been to others, you'll recognize the setup: a simple, austere room with roasted ducks and slabs of pork hanging over a counter, some fish tanks along a wall, and two menus, an "American" and a "Chinese" one, which you might have to ask for. The first thing that sets Dragon City apart from most other HK eateries in the area is the sheer number of fish tanks filled with creatures ready to be cooked. The next surprise is the depth of the menu, twice as long as some of its rivals'.

Everything we tried was good or better: The BBQ pork ($7.95) was fine but not the best around, the minced chicken and corn soup flavorful. Among main dishes, sauteed sliced pork with chives and dried bean curd ($9.95) was a nice exercise in textures, a thatch of snappy greenery strewn with sweet, fatty strips of meat and chewy strips of tofu. Sliced pork with chilies, ordered extra spicy, impressed with its use of several kinds of hot peppers, dried and fresh, and a light-handed approach to the sauce, with none of the corn-starchy glopism of takeout "Szechuan" cooking. Shrimp in garlic sauce, a tired warhorse, gets new life, its sweetness cut with just the right vinegary tang. The same fresh-as-can-be crustaceans appeared battered and fried as Grand Marnier shrimp ($13.95), perfectly cooked, greaseless, and drizzled with a sweet, almost floral sauce: Think lemon chicken for grownups. And those ribs with banana and nuts? About a half-dozen small ribs came out atop a haystack of shredded lettuce and crowned with a fistful of walnuts; the "banana" turned out to be the more dessert-like of two sauces used as alternating glazes. It wasn't great cuisine so much as it was both odd and oddly familiar, like Buffalo wings from Mars, just the kind of thing to order with a couple of beers if you happened to stumble into a Chinese restaurant at 3 a.m. after a night of sensory overload.

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Steve Koppelman

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