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  1. I go to A&J in Annandale on a sporadic basis, essentially going either when I suddenly get a craving for their stuff, or if I happen to be in the neighborhood, which is rare. But I was there this weekend with my partner's Chinese teacher for lunch, and we wound up talking about something I had noticed for some time--with one exception, any non-Chinese there were accompanied by Chinese people. I am not sure whether this is because of the location, or because the menu is a bit restricted, or some other reason, but there is really no reason for "foreigners" not to go here, since the food is fantastic. For those not in the know, A&J is a Taiwan-based chain, called "Ban Mu Yuan" in Chinese (means half-acre field) with locations all over Taiwan, Beijing, California, Rockville and Annandale. They are specialists in "small dishes", such as dumplings, noodles, vegetable dishes, etc, though they also have more substantial fare, like pork ribs, fried chicken and other meats with rice. It's all very authentic, and on weekends you can even get Chinese breakfast foods like soy milk and "you tiao" (fried dough sticks). Prices are very good, too, though be warned that they only take cash.
  2. With Rockville a bit of a hike for this father of a one year old, I'm still trying to get a grip on the level of excellence the DC crowd expects from their Chinese cuisine. My education on the finer details is somewhat lacking, but I have spent a LOT of time eating in China (to the tune of 40+ trips to Hong Kong and Shenzhen), so while I'm sometimes fuzzy on the details of how the good stuff got there, I like to think I recognize it when I have it. So I figured I'd share a little place that some of us Charm City Hounds have been frequenting for the past couple of weeks, and see if any of the Chinese fiends here have had a chance to check it out. Crackers and I have been organizing dinners at Grace Garden in Odenton as of late (and who could ask for a lovelier and more capable co-host than Crackers?), and we've been truly impressed by what we've had. It's a completely nondescript strip mall joint that seems to be subsisting on its Americanized carryout menu for the Army base across the street, but they have an authentic menu as well that focuses on the chef's native Cantonese, but also includes some Sichuan and others. We've had tender fish noodles in a velvety, subtle ginger sauce. We've had complex, fiery Sichuan fish with rice powder and crispy fried bones. We've had a sticky rice stuffed steamed duck that redefines the word comforting. We've had sliced pork belly stir-fried with toban djan, pristine baby bok choy with salted fish, salted egg shrimp with a crispy fried exterior and a volcanic head gush, mixed seafood with a superbly balanced hot/sweet XO sauce... I could go on. If it isn't bad form, here's a link to a more complete post with photos: http://www.skilletdoux.com/2008/05/grace-garden.html I'm inclined to think this is a diamond in the rough. Anybody else been there? Grace Garden www.gracegardenchinese.com 1690 Annapolis Rd. Odenton, MD 21113 410-672-3581 Mon - Thu 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM Fri - Sat 11:00 AM - 10:30 PM Sun Closed
  3. Went up to Philly for the Harry Potter exhibition at the Franklin Institute with the kids. Wanted good food and not overly expensive. General Tsao's House fit the bill. When we arrived at noon on Sunday, it was completely dead. A couple of tables did arrive shortly after us. We had (i) scallion pancakes $4, (ii) chicken potstickers $6, (iii) soup dumplings $8, (iv) pork dumplings with chili oil $7, (v) stir fried bok choy $11. The prices are on par or cheaper than Hong Kong Palace which is located in 7 Corners. I don't know how they do it. To be fair, the scallion pancakes and potstickers may have been from a grocery store but the soup dumplings and the pork dumplings were delicious.
  4. Mama Chang is supposedly a celebration of the culinary contribution of the Chang's female relatives. I think that's all PR b.s. Nevertheless, it's a bright and airy restaurant with the currently popular cement floors. The staff is bilingual and generally young. So how is it they can completely botch a menu description? Cumin duck wings and legs turns out to be wings and feet. Duck feet that's fried is very difficult to eat - the skin is tethered to the bone and hard to gnaw off. If you like chicken feet and you like to work hard for tiny morsels, this might be worth a try. I think the flavor is good but you'll have to eat with your hands and don't mind ending up with a plate of gnawed bones in front you. The Chinese description simply said "parts" so no way to know that you're getting some webby fried feet. Even the wings are scrawny - not much meat at all (certainly not as much as chicken wings). The pan fried fluffy vegetable bao is fine - note there're lots of sesame seeds on the bottom. The filling is mostly leeks and shitake mushroom. You can buy shen jian bao of equal quality in the freezer section of Chinese markets. The pan-fried noodles with vegetables was a let-down for me. They don't use egg noodles like at Cantonese restaurants. The veggies consist of mostly snap peas - something not really used in traditional Chinese cooking and which I don't particularly like. The thick noodles were okay, the saucing nothing special. This restaurant could be good. I just need to order differently next time. If anyone's interested in going as a group - post here or shoot me a message.
  5. Yes.... He is the son of the famous Duck Chang that started his business in Annandale. I remember going there on occasion as a kid, and the one on Rt1 is actually pretty decent. I had duck from the Annandale location last week... Sadly it was just passable No one in the area can really touch Peking Gourmet Inn for their duck
  6. I was invited for dinner at Sichuan Pavillion couple nights ago. Prior to my visit, I searched on the web to check out some reviews...there was almost none. Despite the fact that I probably passed by the restaurant thousands of times, it never struck me to check it out. The restaurant has a "traditional chinese/sichuan" menu on the last page of menu...the remaining of the menu is what you would see at a typical Chinese-American take out joint. We ordered from the traditional menu and we were pleasantly suprised at the authenticity of the dishes. We ordered the husband and wife beef tendon/tripe appetizer, sweet and sour cabbage, ma po tofu, steamed flounder, noodles with meat sauce (chinese take of spaghetti bolognese), chicken with dried red peppers, steam beef with red sauce and sauteed pea shoots. All of the sichuan dishes definitely had a kick and numbing sensation. Compared to Peter Chang, I would rank it lower but compared to Hong Kong Palace, the Szhechuan place on 14th Street and China Star, Sichuan Pavillion fared better. Can't wait to try out more dishes with a larger group.
  7. Tom Sietsema's review. Big fan of the original Hollywood East and excited that they're now doing dim sum. Looks like the new place is right across the street from Good Fortune on University Boulevard, hopefully the competition will spur both to new heights. (It sure it won't make parking any easier round there on weekends, though.)
  8. Sichuan Jin River is closed for at least a couple of weeks (they said there hadn't been much carry-out business). Has anyone had good carry-out from other DC-area Chinese restaurants that are still doing business?
  9. I'll preface my post with this: I don't know shit from shinola when it comes to authentic Chinese food. Don, feel free to trash this note if it's not helpful - I won't be offended The Lotus Garden opened 4 days ago, so there's a chance the food and service are still a work in progress. Their web site is here. Their speciality is Cantonese cuisine with hand-pulled noodles. They've got the standard Americanized Chinese dishes we all know and love, but I think the "Chefs Specials" are their focus. Mrs DrX and I split a bowl of Chicken Sliced Noodle Soup ($8.25). It was...interesting. The noodles were rustic and fairly tasty. The sliced chicken breast was dry and flavorless and included rib bones and cartilage for our gustatory challenge. I realize the "real" Chinese chicken dishes include cleavered chicken parts, but I'm such an amateur, I don't know how to eat this stuff, especially in a soup. The most disappointing part of the soup was the fistful of fresh cilantro which completely overwhelmed any flavor the broth may have had. Occasionally I could pick up some pepper flavor, but mostly it was cilantro and cilantro with a lingering aftertaste of cilantro. I burped cilantro 20 minutes after we finished our meal! I had the Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallion in Chef's Special Gravy. Let's see...the positives...hmm...the plate it came on was pretty and supported the food fantastically. I'll admit that maybe this dish just wasn't for me and that it's actually a good dish to people who know the food, but I didn't like it. My dislike started with the cooked chicken face that accompanied the dish. The steamed chicken was dry (is that possible when steaming?) and the sauce was bland and was boring to me. The rice side dish was cold. Cold rice? Really? Of course, it used cleavered chicken parts and most of my time was spent peeling off the rubbery, fatty skin and prying off little pieces of meat from the bone and cartilage. I ate less than half the dish. I just got tired of working so hard for such flavorless food. Nancy had the Steamed Shrimp with Garlic Sauce. It consisted of about 8-10 large, butterflied shrimp coated with jarred garlic sitting on a bed of hand-pulled noodles in a garlicy sauce. We both thought it was tasty, but the garlic was 10x more than was pleasant (this coming from people who loved eating at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco). The shrimp were cooked very well. I thought the noodles were cooked about right for Chinese noodles, but my Nancy said Four Sisters cooks theirs al dente, so she was disappointed. Our server was very friendly, but didn't have a solid grasp on English. She told us it was her first day when we were having trouble ordering. It was obvious in that we had to show her our choices on the menu and she needed to mark them with a pen. I saw the soup get set on a cart outside the kitchen several minutes before someone else (not our server) picked it up and brought it to us. It almost went to another table, though. We had to ask for water after we finished our hot tea (which was good, but leafy). There were about 6 servers milling about, so it's not like they were overwelmed. Our entrees came out separated by several minutes, but maybe that's the way it's done in China. Europeans tend to bring food while it's hot, right, regardless of trying to serve the table at the same time. There's a large window looking over the kitchen where you can watch the chef make the noodles. It's quite a show. Several people left their tables to stand and watch. If you're bothered by ducks hanging by their necks, then you may not be able to see past them to watch the noodle puller, though. If you like duck tongues, pig blood, duck webs, jellyfish and pig knuckles, then maybe this is the place for you (they have them all). Serenity, a little east on Maple Avenue, and China Star also try to cater to real Chinese food eaters, in that all specials are written in Chinese and never English. Maybe this is Lotus Garden's target demographic, too. I'm interested to hear what other Rockwellians think about Lotus Garden. I'm willing to try it for food that I know, but our first impression was not good. Things that seem odd: over 200 dishes on the menu right off the bat after opening and that their hours state they close at 2-3AM, depending on the night.
  10. Never been, but I am intrigued. Anyone checked out this place? Great Wall - Szechuan House
  11. As I was foraging through the newly-opened Momo's Nepalese Food in Springfield Plaza, I noticed across the parking lot a large banner declaring "Grand Opening" and many colored pennants flapping in the breeze at what is now called Golden Hong Kong.
  12. Nine hungry Rockwellian dim sum addicts descended upon Mark's Duck House at noon today. After disappointments at our two previous NoVa outings (China Garden in Rosslyn and Fortune across the street from MDH), we were delighted at the consistently good tidbits pouring out of this kitchen. Our feast consisted of the following: scallop dumplings roast suckling pig baked roast pork croissant (flaky triangular pastry filled with char sui) sui mei har gow shrimp cheong fan roast duck BBQ spareribs spareribs in black bean sauce tripe with ginger shrimp in seaweed shrimp/taro cakes baby cuttlefish clams in black bean sauce braised chicken feet sticky rice in lotus leaf potstickers salt & pepper head-on shrimp Chinese broccoli baked char sui bao stuffed bean curd skin tofu with some unspecified roast meat on top some sort of fried shrimp dumpling with a shrimp tail for decoration fried roll with shrimp and fake crab pineapple buns custard tarts sesame seed balls There might have been another dish or two in there as well. There were a few misses here and there, but the quibbles were minor - overall, the quality was consistently good. Service was outstanding compared to other dim sum places. My minor quibbles... The tea was much weaker than its color would have indicated. Perhaps the leaves were a bit stale? Sesame balls are usually filled with red bean paste, but MDH used something we couldn't quite identify. I think shredded coconut was a component. It wasn't really creamy or flavorful, and the balls themselves were loaded with oil. Not horrible by any means, as it still tasted nice enough, but it was not at the same level of quality as the rest of the offerings. The cheong fan sauce wasn't as rich as one normally finds - it was more like lightly sweetened soy sauce. I was surprised that the roast duck was the weakest meat platter we got at a place called Mark's Duck House. The fat wasn't fully rendered, so the skin was a little too limp and the meat a little too greasy. OTOH, the roast suckling pig had wonderfully crisp skin, and the BBQ spareribs were a major highlight of the meal. For me, the best dishes were the BBQ spareribs, the clams in black bean sauce (oh dear, did I really end up eating half the platter?), and the baby cuttlefish. Oh, and the triangular char sui pastry - I think Hollywood East On The Boulevard's version is a touch better, but it's a close call. (MDH had better pastry, HEOTB had better char sui) The restaurant is quite small for a dim sum crowd - I can't imagine it seating more than 150 people. Must be a heck of a wait on Sundays. Unlike, say, China Garden, MDH seems worth the wait. Cost per adult: $18 including a generous tip
  13. Guess some of you will be headed down my way now. http://news.fredericksburg.com/businessbrowser/2013/02/14/broker-new-fredericksburg-restaurant-likely-to-draw-from-no-va/
  14. Update on the Bethesda Fine Dining Location, which reports a May opening (credit--Bethesda Magazine)
  15. China Wok in Tyson's corner (next to Marshalls) hired Chef Wang formerly of Hunan Lion. He is not there every night, but when he is, he makes a mean Peking Duck. Call ahead to see if he is working. Plus they deliver Tyson's Corner 8395 Leesburg Pike Vienna, VA 22182 703-893-4488
  16. Today, after discovering that Myanmar was locked and dark (I'm 0 for 2 on my lunch attempts this week), I remembered this post and set out to find Miu Kee. I ended up at Vinh Kee, on Route 50 at Graham Rd. (same shopping center as Pho 75, but facing 50). We started with steamed dumplings, and although the dough was kind of tough, the dumplings were tasty. I had shrimp with Chinese broccoli and my husband had shrimp with spicy salt. Both were so good my husband is already talking about going back.
  17. I don't know if I went on an off-night, but I thought Kee was terrible. Or I ordered the wrong stuff - seafood - I felt like I was chewing on rubber.
  18. I had heard about this place before, as my friend Satellite Will had moved to the neighborhood, but hadn't tried it. My friend, the Booz Consultant, had a hankering for some XLB, and were not going to be able to go to Rock-vegas on a weeknight, so figured we'd check this place out. It's a super cute little restaurant. I like the red brick exterior. The first floor was pretty packed and we were going to sit at a table down there, but then the waitress told us that some old people came in, and it would be hard for them to go upstairs, so she sent us upstairs. I had the feeling no one would be up there, but the upper floor was also packed. And very Chinese. I think all the Asian people got to eat upstairs. So, we sat down. Took a while to get served. They have wine and beer, maybe cocktails, I don't remember. I got a Goose Island IPA. We ordered soup dumplings (they called them pork soup buns or something like that). 8 to an order, they took a while to come. They were small-ish, and not a whole lot of soup in them. Got a Agaric Garlic Salad, that was basically wood eared mushrooms. It was dry, but when you put the sauce on them, tasted pretty good. Then we got to ordering mains. We looked around and saw these metal bowls over burners, and tried to get an idea of what was going on there, but couldn't figure it out. There was two lovely GW students from outside of Shanghai, and we looked at their menu. Different than ours, of course. It was all in Chinese language. We asked them if there was anything on that menu that wasn't on our menu, they said it was basically the same. I was skeptical. So, then the people next to us got the same metal thing, and we asked the server. He said it was a dry pot. TOTALLY NOT ON OUR MENU!! Why do they do this??? Anyway, we got lamb dry pot and pork with garlic sauce. The dry pot came, lamb, chilis, green pepper, lotus root, mushrooms. I liked it, not super spicy. My dining partner wasn't as big a fan. I liked the pork, too, good flavor. Sort of reminded me of the sauce at the Uighur place that they give you on the side. We chatted with those students, and they said turns out the dry pot was on the Chinese menu, but not on the American one. I don't know what else was on there, but I'm sure they are hiding stuff. So, the XLB crave was sort of managed, but not the best I've had. I did like the dry pot, and don't think that's easily available in DC proper. There is probably other good stuff, they seemed to have some Sichuan options, and the beef spicy noodle soup looked good, but we didn't get since I don't eat beef and she wasn't sure if she'd be able to tolerate the heat. I'd go back and try some other stuff.
  19. This restaurant is in soft-opening mode still with little web presence and a limited menu (not all the items on the printed menu are available yet)...that being said I think it is a game changer for the miserable state of dumplings in Alexandria. We went on a Sunday morning and had the following: Pork Soup Dumplings(XLB) --- I thought these were better than the XLB at all the Rockville joints. Great flavor to the soup--perfect mix of fat and meat. Thin delicate wrapper, yet sturdy enough not to tear when removing it from steamer basket. Steamed shrimp (har gow)--crisp shrimp, well made tapioca wrapper, held up without becoming mushy Scallion Pancake--were fine--Ive had better--less flaky and more flat Pan Fried Buns with egg and Chive--these were deep fried and tasty with fresh chives Pan Fried Buns with shrimp and Chives-- These were in a har gow style wrapper but pan fried with crispy bottoms--excellent Vegetable Stir Fried Noodles--these were a bust--we wanted something with the hand pulled noodles and these were the only veg option--noodles were good but sauce tasted like it had tomato sauce or ketchup in it--very weird This place is a franchise from NYC and is well reviewed there. I am excited for the full menu and will definitely be back. I think this place is going to be mobbed once fully opened and reviewed in the press. No website yet-- so I am grudgingly putting the yelp link here.
  20. Had a pre-dinner meal at Sampan Cafe this evening. This place is in the little strip mall where Mediterranean Gourmet Market is located, and whenever I'm in this vicinity, I always eat at Mediterranean Gourmet Market. It's the best Middle Eastern food in northern Virginia, I'm convinced, but it turns out it closes on Sunday evening at 5pm. So, Plan B was Sampan Cafe, a few doors down. I had been going to Sampan Cafe for over 20 years in its original incarnation. It used to be the definition of American Chinese, with big floppy egg rolls and chop suey on the menu, and the waiters clad in red tuxedo tops. Not many Chinese people ate there back then. It closed about 6 years ago and an average-ish Vietnamese restaurant took its place. Then about 4 years ago, it reincarnated as Sampan Cafe, under different ownership. I have raved a bit on this board about Canton Cafe in Springfield. Sampan Cafe is at least its equal, and maybe then some. Aside from a few quirks in the service -- girlfriend's entree arrived about 5 minutes before mine -- the food here is very good and the clientele is mostly Chinese. We started with a whole steamed oyster with black bean sauce that was exquisite (and large). Last night I had the Beef in Black Pepper Sauce at Canton Cafe and labeled it Peking man-food. I mentioned that at $16 it was superior to any beef dish I ever had at Morton's or Ruth's Chris or any other steak house that would charge $40 for a la carte beef. Well, tonight I had the same dish at Sampan Cafe, and it was even better and was only $14. It came out sizzling like Canton fajitas, but the beef was perfect, tender and juicy. Girlfriend had her standard seafood combination, which in this case was off menu. Chunks of scallops, shrimp, lobster, and veggies in a white sauce, for $12.50 (did I mention lobster?). The chef's specialty here is "Hong Kong style" and I intend to come back and taste "Sour Cabbage Stir Fried with Intestine" and "Salt Fish and Chicken Stir Fried with Chive Flower".... Bottom line is that Sampan Cafe in its current incarnation is very good, and at least the equal of Canton Cafe, but at a better value. [but I still have the problem of passing up the best Middle Eastern food in northern Virginia just a few doors down!]
  21. Not sure if this is on anyone's radar, but I discovered this place through another website that shall remain nameless (begins with a Y), but even there, it seems to be flying under the radar except for people of Chinese extraction. Anyway, I decided to check it out last weekend. Here is a synopsis of what I have posted elsewhere: My server seemed eager for me to try some of the Szechuan specialties which are printed in English on both the eat-in menu and take-out menu, rather than the Chinese American menu items (maybe it was because I expressed interest in the crispy pork intestines). Anyway, the menu has a section with "Szechuan and Country Style Entrees" and "Szechuan Chef's Specials, Appetizers and Cold Dishes". I stuck with the appetizers: String Beans in Ginger Sauce, Shrimp with Scallion Sauce, Dan Dan Spicy Noodle with Minced Pork, Steam Dumplings in Red Hot Sauce, and Sauteed Duck Eggs with Green Pepper. I definitely got the lip and tongue numbing sensation caused by Szechuan peppercorns. Personally, I thought the steamed dumplings were the tastiest of the lot. The dumplings themselves were a slightly thinner versions of pot stickers/gyoza. The duck eggs were what are sometimes known as thousand-year-old-eggs, century eggs, etc. and the green pepper was actually jalapenos. Although I didn't try any of the mains from the Szechuanese menu, it included such Szechuan staples as Double Cooked Pork and Ma Po Tofu in addition to more interesting sounding items such as Lamb with Cumin and Shredded Duck with Szechuan Sauce. But, to add another twist, there is yet another menu of specialties (on a separate menu) from Xi'an called Rouga Mo. These are like muffins/biscuits/flat bread split down the middle and filled with pork that's been cooked with five spice powder. According to my waiter this is what a lot of what the Chinese clientele (the majority of the diners) come to order. That and Chengdu Spicy Noodles. He was kind enough to offer me one on the house, and it certainly would make for a great lunch/snack.
  22. Foong Li is not great, but it isn't nauseating. We've been all over the menu at Foong Li, trying the familiar and the not-so-familar and while we have had dishes we didn't like, none were as bad as those at HEOTB. Are you telling me that we shouldn't order spicy shrimp wonton (and if so, why?) or that they are supposed to served in a greasy glop? Are you telling me that a dish that is supposed to have ginger and scallions, but has no ginger is the fault of the Westerner who ordered? Maybe I am supposed to know that authentic Chinese ginger is flavorless? Sorry - I really think this was bad cooking, not bad choosing.
  23. Yunnan by Potomac is a new place in northern Old Town (according to google maps, it's outside the actual boundary of Old Town), that opened in early February. I went there a couple weeks ago for lunch and enjoyed it for the most part. They are a Mixian Noodle place from the Yunnan Province. Here's the blurb from their website: MIXIAN: SOUL FOOD Yunnan is a beautiful diverse region in southwest China, offering a variety of unique flavors and textures in its distinctive cuisine – not your typical Chinese food. The soul food of Yunnan is Mixian - delicious rice noodles - which are prepared with braised meats, rich broths and sweet, savory and spicy sauces. Mixian bowls are at the core of our menu and are complimented by a variety of unique small plates. They have (or did) a limited menu at this point with promises for more to come. The menu in the restaurant has more options than the one currently posted online. I ordered Pork Belly Lotus Leaf Bun and the Braised Beef Lu Mixian soup (at least I think that's what I ordered. I just asked what's their best dish/specialty). The pork belly bun was good, but not great. The meat was fine, but the bun tasted like a mass produced Wonder bread version. That may be an unfair assessment, as I'm no expert, but I was underwhelmed by taste/texture of the bun. The soup was good, but again I don't think the broth was as deep and rich as my memories of Daikaya or Momofuku's versions of broth. Like I said before, I'm no expert on this, so maybe my memory of those other soups are better than they actually were?!!? I'd love to do a side by side comparison of all the ramen/mixian broths that's probably impossible. The service was understandably a bit rough as they are brand new. When I sat down I was greeted by a server who came up to my table and said, " ". I said, pardon me, and she said, "Drink?". This time it was an audible question. Barely audible, but audible! I asked what they had and she said, "Soda, water, tea" so I just got water. I saw repeat performances of the super quiet interaction with other guests, and lots of repeat questions. The woman working the register and taking the orders was much more on the ball however. Interestingly, I didn't see a single Asian person working there, but I never saw into the kitchen. Also interesting perhaps was my second "visit" to this place. I happened to park in front the other evening for a class, and a group of 4-5 Asian people were entering and none were speaking English. I took that as a good sign, but it's likely that was their first visit (it took them a few seconds to figure out where it was along the block), so who knows if they'll return? I'll definitely go back when I'm in the neighborhood and I'm happy to have a new cuisine on the scene. Photos of the menu and my dishes below.
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