Diners entering the House of Liu on the upper level of the Landover Mall Shopping Center are greeted at the entrance by a smiling, rotund statue of Buddah. It is, according to a waiter, a "happy Buddah," who promises delectable dining within.
I recently took my wife and two small girls to this restaurant, which specializes in Northern Chinese and Szechuan cuisine. We found the Buddah to be true to his promise.The food was terrific.
When we walked through the door, we were greeted by restauranteur C. C. Liu, who ushered us to our table, near several couples and families in the dining room.
Our courteous and talkative waiter brought menus and filled out water glasses. Then he found a booster seat for our 2-year-old and helped our 5-year-old say a few words in Chinese.
In scanning the menu, we found a variety of entrees ranging from Butterfly Kang Pao shrimp at $5.95 to Peking duck at $14 for a whole duck and $7.50 for half a bird to its least expensive entree - chicken with almonds, for $4.85.
Both my wife and I ordered the house special, Mongolian barbecue, for $8 per person. The special consists of a tossed green salad, with their tasty house dressing. Peking soup made of bean curd, chicken, bamboo shoots and egg drop, the combination beef and pork barbeque, and dessert - a fortune cookie for each person at the table. Rice and hot tea were also served with the meal.
The Mongolian barbecue is one of the restaurant's most popular dishes largely because the meal is prepared in ful view of diners on a brick and cast iron stove enclosed in glass near the center of the dining room.
Inside, you can see the chef stoking the oven with large pieces of firewood. Then the meat and oriental vegetables are placed on the hot cast iron grill. The show begins as the chef busily chops, stirs and seasons the mixture.
Our girls, who are usually fidgety while waiting for restaurant meals, were fascinated by the display and remained under complete self-control.
We did not order a special dish for the girls. The waiter suggested that the barbecue would be ample for all of us. He brought additional plates for the children and they ate at no charge.
We also shared our salad and soup with the children, although the soup was highly seasoned with black pepper and was just a little too hot for our kids.
As we waited for meal, we had time to look around at the restaurant's oriental decorations. There are large white lamps with red tassels swinging from the ceiling, which is painted with intricate black and gold designs.
One wall is decorated with two huge, playful dragons etched in gold, while on another wall is a large painting of what appears to be a scene in another Chinese restaurant.
In the background, traditional Chinese music piped in through speakers in the ceiling sets the right dinner mood and helps to shut out the chatter of shoppers passing the restaurant's open entrance.
The dish of Mongolian barbecue came piled high with delicious chunks of barbecued beef and pork mixed in with well-seasoned, grilled vegetables. The meal is more than enough for the normal adult appetite. We were more than satisfied, even after sharing with the children.
Our total tab for the evening was $23.75 including three ice creams, ginger ales for the children and the tip. Because its prices tend to be high, the House of Liu is not the kind of restaurant where the average shopper would drop in for lunch.
But it is an excellent place to take the family for an exciting evening of expertly prepared Chinese food and traditional oriental atmosphere. It is perfect for dining on special occasions and offers party catering and banquet facilities, but no private rooms.