At Amore Eats, a Taiwanese restaurant that opened inside the Exxon gas station at the corner of Thompson Avenue and Rockville Pike last May, Taiwanese chef Amei Lo carefully debones two whole skin-on chicken legs, pounds them to even thickness, marinates them, dredges them in sweet potato flour (seasoned with Taiwanese black pepper) and deep-fries them until crispy and golden brown but still ultra-moist inside. The enormous portion, which fills a
dinner-size paper plate, is very reasonably priced at $13.99 but a stupendous bargain considering it is part of a bendong (bento) box that includes steamed rice topped with braised minced pork and slices of house-made Taiwanese sausage, plus two vegetables of the day. (Ours are scrambled eggs and tomatoes and fried cabbage with abalone mushrooms.)
It’s not so shocking anymore that excellent food can be found in gas stations and especially not at this one, where Corned Beef King operated for three years before Amore Eats.
Montgomery County real estate agent Pei Hsieh, who co-owns the restaurant with Derwood resident Max Mo, fell into the project. Hsieh was looking for space for her friend, who was selling bao (filled steamed buns) at New York Mart in Rockville but had lost her lease. By the time Hsieh found the gas station spot, her friend had already located another space. “I told Mo [who is a former chef], ‘Maybe I should open a small Taiwanese restaurant. It has been my dream,’ ” Hsieh recalls. “He said, ‘That’s easy!’ so we signed a lease.”
The restaurant, which seats 20, is an homage to Hsieh’s Taiwanese heritage. The menu is extensive. Among our favorite dishes are stinky (fermented firm) tofu ($9.99), crispy and puffy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served with plum vinegar pickled cabbage; marinated pork belly stir-fried with cabbage and scallions; gua bao, steamed buns with braised pork belly, peanuts and pickles (four for $15); Taiwanese sausage with sticky rice sausage ($7.99); and beef noodle soup ($15.49).
Asked why she named the restaurant Amore Eats, Hsieh responds, “I wanted a name that began with ‘a.’ ‘More’ means a lot and ‘amore’ means love, and I love to eat. So this is a place where people who love to eat come to eat.” And eat very well.
Amore Eats, 1900 Rockville Pike (in the Exxon station), Rockville, 301-665-8999
This story appears in the May/June issue of Bethesda Magazine.