THE PRODUCER- A taste of Hong Kong in Des Moines

By Chris Kelley

Kevin Le, founder of Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que, has served patrons — individuals and restaurateurs — an exclusive dining and take-out experience of this particular Mandarin flavor for more than a decade.

Caramelized BBQ duck and chicken hang on display in the warmer at the counter, where staff will pull orders and customize each.

Caramelized BBQ duck and chicken hang on display in the warmer at the counter, where staff will pull orders and customize each.

Inside Le’s, an array of full-sized roasted meats hanging in a warmer may, at first, appear alarming to the unseasoned Westerner. But as hungry eyes scan the vibrant colors gleaming from a caramelized glaze, it’s impossible for any meat-lover not to feel the piquing of saliva glands inside the cheeks — compliments to chef Tian Zheng.

Zheng traveled to Des Moines from Hong Kong 15 years ago to bring his culinary talents to Le’s. One of only five others on staff who help prepare the 200 pounds of duck and pork that are trucked in every couple of weeks, Zheng slow-cooks it in ovens that are big enough he could crawl inside them.

Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que is located at 1600 Second Ave., 244-6111.

Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que is located at 1600 Second Ave., 244-6111.

Typically served with rice and vegetables, the meat has a crisp finish and a spicy kick that makes an otherwise humble brick building on the corner of College and Second, in one of Des Moines’ oldest neighborhoods, stand out in a way a simple sign above the door cannot.

Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que is not Asian-American fusion. It is an authentic eastern barbeque style that many Americans have never tried. Zheng says only about 10 percent of clientele are Caucasian. Nearly all are Asian, most of whom come in for pre-orders and routine purchases.

But newcomers are a mutual blessing. At the table, diners can try several unique variations of colorful, creamy Asian dips, including a special sweet-and-sour sauce and a tangy, memorable Hong Kong original barbeque. Customers can also add Hoison Sauce (Tuong An Pho) to enhance flavor.

Serving in-house lunch, dinner or carry-out, Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que offers friendly hospitality with a language barrier that only adds to the restaurant’s charm. It remains the only place in town that offers this kind of Hong Kong spice. RELISH

Categories: Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: