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  1. Far East in Rockville (website) has been around for probably close to if not more than 40 years. It serves a mostly Americanized menu, but it does a good job at what it does. It is the classic Chinese restaurant of old where if you take a sip of water someone arrives out of no where to refill it. While I haven't eaten here in a while, this post is more than a review of a restaurant (my tastes have shifted and I am more interested in eating purely authentic food). They have a space upstairs which is suitable for banquets (website says 20-225 people). (some of the foregoing is based upon my dad's stories as I am too young to remember) When the Wong family moved to America in the 70's they lived 2 houses from my parents in Silver Spring. When they set out to open their restaurant, they used North China as their template. They started with a smaller store-front spot next to their current larger free-standing location. I think for the time it was very well received as dinning out of the house provided few options. When talking about Far East my parents always re-tell a story. My dad helped them fix something at their house, and Mr. Wong asked what they could do to repay my dad. My dad being my dad, he said "cook us a meal"-much to my mom's embarrassment. Mr. Wong insisted. The chef was sent to the store with my mom to buy meat. The chef insisted on whole chicken. When they got back to my parent's house, he quickly dispatched the chicken into several parts. My dad kept a huge vegetable garden in the back yard. The chef had his pick of fresh vegetables and made an amazing meal. (I wish I was old enough to remember). More often than not, we would order carry out. My dad was fond of their seafood hot-pot soup (no longer on the menu). Although the soup was not available for takeout, we would bring my mom's largest stock pot and they would fill it to the top. At our request, they would include sea cucumber to the bounty which was certainly beyond exotic at the time. Another story (one which I remember vividly) involved the Wongs and my grandparents. Growing up I was truly blessed to live around the corner from my grandparents. While my parents had a couple of houses separating them from the Wongs, my grandparents shared a back yard. The Wongs imported some sort of Chinese peach tree and planted it on the property line with my grandparents. This tree did not bear fruit, but the Wongs would pick the leaves and pickle them. Even once they moved, they would come back every year and collect the leaves by the trash bag full. My grandparents hated this tree. Although it provided a bounty for the Wongs, it left leaves on their lawn in the fall. As it grew, its roots came into my grandparents yard. One day when my grandparents had had enough of the tree (long after the Wongs had moved) they had the tree removed. You would think this would have been the end of it. This was one suborn tree. The tree started putting up shoots in their yard. My grandparents were in their 80's at this point and had a vendetta with this tree. They would chase it around the yard trying everything they could to get rid of this thing. I remember going over there one day and saw them digging holes and pouring salt into the ground. My grandparents finally won, but it has provided a lifetime of memories. It has been years since our family has shared a meal at Far East, but perhaps it is time to get everyone together again and introduce the next generation.
  2. We've seen the slow renovation of El Patio into a pizzeria over the last several months, and after an aborted attempt a few weeks ago (they closed a bit earlier than we anticipated), we carried out a pizza from Crust. They have 14" and 20" pizzas, comparably priced to most local competitors. The space is big--for some reason, I didn't think that El Patio was this large, and so they must have opened up the space quite a bit. There were 5-6 tables occupied at 9 PM on a Friday night, and the openness is nice. I'm not sure about the layout--a long counter where it looks like you could sit and eat a meal is empty, and without seats; a row of chairs by the cash register (for take-out orders, I assume) seems like an afterthought. Service was straightforward, welcoming but not effusive, but then again I was only there for take-out. The servers' interaction with the tables seemed nice. And the pizza: it was good, with a nicely browned, crisped on the bottom, a bit doughy on top, crust. We ordered sausage and artichoke. The sausage was nice; the artichokes a bit off for me--too vinegary, I think that they had come directly from the can/jar, and a water rinse would have been much nicer. The sauce was sweet but not overly so, and the cheese was good. This is NY-style pizza, though many NY-style afficionados would likely take issue. But if judged objectively, I think it stands up pretty well as a solid pizza. With Pizza CS just down the street, so to speak, Matchbox (which some people love, I'm a bit less of a fan) just a few minutes away, and Mamma Lucia down the road, there are suddenly a lot of pizza options in this area just off of the Rockville Pike. As a Neapolitan-style fan, my first choice is pretty clear, but I'd happily go back to Crust.
  3. We had dinner on Friday night at Hwaro, the (mostly) Korean half of a two-restaurant combo (the other half is Norito, described as an "authentic Japanese Brasserie"). This is a relatively new restaurant on Rockville Pike in the same plaza as Penzey's Spices. The panchan were good and plentiful, and my Jap Chae was pretty good (my frame of reference is limited, but the noodles were good and the flavor was great). We'll return to do BBQ some night, and will almost certainly go to Norito soon to check it out as well (and maybe pick up a bento box for lunch some afternoon).
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