China Cottage, Houston, Texas
January 4, 2008
When my dining companions described China Cottage to me as a “hole in the wall,” two things came to mind:
Must eat there NOW; and
Exactly what is their definition of a “hole in the wall” anyway?
In answer to my question, their definition was truly spot-on. China Cottage is, quite literally, a tiny little hole of a place inside a non-descript strip mall off Gessner behind Memorial City Mall. It contained exactly three booths and two tables, all of which looked to have been originally made for either preschoolers or forest gnomes. I’m 5’1″, so if something looks small to me, then it’s probably really freaking tiny.
But it was charming; tiny, uncomfortable booths aside. What astonished me was the incredible breadth of items available on their menu, considering the very small kitchen (75% of which you can see directly from the dining area). They had Chinese, Thai, and Greek (yes, Greek!) dishes on a menu that unfolded like some sort of complicated set of instructions for a home theater setup.
I’d been told that their pork dumplings were to die for, so I tentatively ordered them (tentatively only because they were listed as an appetizer and I wasn’t sure they’d tide me over for lunch…). One of my companions took the plunge and ordered a gyro, complete with a side of fried rice. And another companion followed my lead and ordered the pork dumplings as well.
As we sat and waited on our food, I watched the cooks scurrying around the tiny kitchen with clockwork-like efficiency while the cashier took order after order for delivery or pick-up. It is a very popular place with the lunchtime crowd at the medical center across the street as well as the giant office buildings a few blocks away. People in suits and scrubs flew in and out of the door, picking up their food and exchanging a few quick pleasantries before taking off back to their offices. It was like watching a post-modern ballet of sorts.
Our food made it out in about ten minutes. The steamed pork dumplings were, as promised, scrumptious. And there were more than enough to fuel me for the rest of the day. I could have used a knife, as they were a bit doughy in places, but the filling was so delicious that I ended up abandoning utensils altogether and eating them like finger food.
As for the Greek food, my companion proclaimed it a total success. He stated that he would never have known it was from a Chinese restaurant; it tasted just like a gyro from Niko Niko’s. I scowled at him with distaste as he made a giant garbage plate out of his meal by mixing in the fried rice with the tzatziki sauce and onions, and then slathering the mixture on top of the gyro meat. He seemed to be some strange hybrid of Greek-Chinese heaven, though, and swore to return again for the same concoction.
I plan to visit China Cottage again soon so that I can try some of their Thai menu items and delve a bit deeper into the actual Chinese entrees, instead of just ordering an appetizer and calling it lunch. And with the almost anachronistically-low prices and proximity to my stomping grounds, it’s a great place to grab a cheap bite of Chinese comfort food. I think I might leave the Greek food to Niko Niko’s for now, though.