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Great Wall - Szechuan House, Neighborhood Szechuan Dive at 14th and Church St NW


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I went tonight. It's fantastic. They make lots of stuff "ma la" - with sichuan peppercorns - and it's all first rate. Had ma po tofu, steamed whole fish in a really good, oily sichuan sauce, great baby bok choy steamed with garlic. They were so excited to see a white guy eating the stuff that they brought me out some free double-cooked pork, which was crisp and flavorful rather than soggy, as it often is.

I think it may be illegal to import sichuan peppercorns, so there's a limited supply. They said they sold some to a NYC restaurant recently. The tingly mouthfeel could have been more intense, but the overall spicing level was superb.

This is the only good Chinese place I've ever been to in D.C.

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Never been, but I am intrigued. Anyone checked out this place?

Great Wall - Szechuan House

“ma” meaning “peppery,” as in the sour, pine-needle-like flavors of Szechwan peppercorns, and “la” meaning “hot,” as in generous amounts of dried chilies. Too many Western-style Szechwan dishes stiff you on ma and scimp on the la.

That quote by Tim Carman is funny, and this is a great article. So many things to comment on here ... descriptive, detailed writing - is it the result of a solid general education? The wake of Kliman?

No, it's not perfect, but I'm glad this article was published, on several levels. I feel like I "know" the restaurant now, and it's nice to see chefs such as Chen Yuan getting publicized.

There are a lot of talented young food writers in this area right now - it's a heady time for the DC restaurant scene.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I think it may be illegal to import sichuan peppercorns, so there's a limited supply.

No, they're legal to import to the U.S., but for a long time (1968-2005) they weren't. They have to be pasteurized before importation, but I haven't heard whether or not this affects the flavor.

And I agree with Rocks -- Carman's doing a damn fine job of filling in Kliman's shoes (which probably seem to be size 17, wide) and I'm back to looking forward to reading 'Young & Hungry' each week.

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ok... I live just blocks from this place and was surprised to see a writeup of the place... just figured it was your run-of-the-mill chinese-american takeout place that's there to compete with Yum's and never gave it a second thought. Now I almost feel emboldened to give it a try.

According to its menu, hours are Sun-Thur 11a-10p; Fri/Sat 11a-1030p. The menu looks kind of average, but I imagine this is the kind of place where if you know what you want, they'll make it for you.

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That seems to be the way at alot of your more authentic chinese places. The have the main menu that they hand most people that come in, i.e. your standard Chinese-American fare. But many also have a Chinese menu (that is often printed in Enlish as well as Chinese) or others that will make whatever you'd like. I'd like to try some places like that, but frankly know so little about "real" Chinese food that I have no idea what to try. I'm guessing that some of my favorite dishes (Moo Goo Gai Pan, Kung Pao Chicken, Cashew Chicken, etc.) aren't exactly authentic.

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That seems to be the way at alot of your more authentic chinese places. The have the main menu that they hand most people that come in, i.e. your standard Chinese-American fare. But many also have a Chinese menu (that is often printed in Enlish as well as Chinese) or others that will make whatever you'd like. I'd like to try some places like that, but frankly know so little about "real" Chinese food that I have no idea what to try. I'm guessing that some of my favorite dishes (Moo Goo Gai Pan, Kung Pao Chicken, Cashew Chicken, etc.) aren't exactly authentic.

Calling Pandahugga: We need some help here!

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I had dinner here yesterday, which was pretty good. They had a seperate "Ma-La" menu on the specials board which had 5 or 6 dishes on it. We had Ma-Po tofu, twice cooked pork, & Ma-La chicken dumplings. The pork was great, nice fatty pieces that weren't over fried. They were well seasoned and had tasty black beans & the peppercorns on them. I've had this dish at Joes Noodle House & Sezchaun Boy and I think this version compared well. This was hot, but not really overbearing. The tofu was extremely hot and pretty good, but this and the dumplings in oil lacked the complexity of the Peter Chang/Verbal Kent stuff I've had. I agree with the poster above, this is by far the best stuff I've had in the city limits.

BTW you can get the peppercorn here. Penzeys

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This place is within walking distance of my office. I might have to give it a try at lunch time soon. I wonder if it would qualify for a $20 Tuesday outing???

Let me know if you want company at lunch. It's walkable from home. :unsure:

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I went there for lunch today. The three of us had 4 ma la dishes: The tofu, the bean sprout, the eggplant, and the pork. Pictures will follow soon. The "ma la" menu is limted to about 6-8 items on a white board separate from the printed menu. Every thing was great. The tofu produced the same "fuzzy tongue" effect that we used to get at TemptAsian. My favorite was the pork, more like thick slices of bacon than the lean pork I'm used to getting. But the size of this restaurnant and its capacity means that it will never be able to produce the broad range of authentic dishes produced by Chef Peter Chang at TemptAsian and China Gourmet. That having been said, if it's hot you want, the charming folks at Great Wall aim to please. I think they are unique in bringing the "ma la" to DC; apparantly it is well known in NYC.

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But the size of this restaurnant and its capacity means that it will never be able to produce the broad range of authentic dishes produced by Chef Peter Chang at TemptAsian and China Gourmet.

How many can its dining area fit? From the CityPaper profile (bullet proof glass partition) I had initially visualized it as "carry-out only."

Is it big enough to handle a $20 Tuesday invasion?

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How many can its dining area fit? From the CityPaper profile (bullet proof glass partition) I had initially visualized it as "carry-out only."

Is it big enough to handle a $20 Tuesday invasion?

There is seating, but not much. We sat at a big round table in the front window that would seat about 6 people. I think there were 4 banquets that would seat 4 each. So, whether it would hold a $20 Tuesday invasion would depend on the the size of the invasion.

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I went there for lunch today. The three of us had 4 ma la dishes: The tofu, the bean sprout, the eggplant, and the pork. Pictures will follow soon. The "ma la" menu is limted to about 6-8 items on a white board separate from the printed menu. Every thing was great. The tofu produced the same "fuzzy tongue" effect that we used to get at TemptAsian. My favorite was the pork, more like thick slices of bacon than the lean pork I'm used to getting. But the size of this restaurnant and its capacity means that it will never be able to produce the broad range of authentic dishes produced by Chef Peter Chang at TemptAsian and China Gourmet. That having been said, if it's hot you want, the charming folks at Great Wall aim to please. I think they are unique in bringing the "ma la" to DC; apparantly it is well known in NYC.

I managed to sneak out of a test I was having and got there about 2pm. I ordered three dishes, same as the selection above but no bean sprouts. I sampled some there but had to get back so brought the rest home. My reaction is pretty much the same, except I would stop at very good, not go all the way to great. Based on my sample anyway they have quite a ways to go to come up to the level of JNH or China Star. I did discuss with the lady the need to broaden the "ma-la" menu, but you're right the place is way to small to ever support a menu like Peter C did when he was around. And the layout of the place makes it non-conducive to a group larger than six, unless people want to split up.

On the whole, provided they can get to where they do a bit more variety, it will be a good spot to eat in DC, a decent alternative to Full Key and of similar overall quality (tho certainly of a different style). But I'm not yet ready to recommend a drive into the city to eat there.

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There is seating, but not much. We sat at a big round table in the front window that would seat about 6 people. I think there were 4 banquets that would seat 4 each. So, whether it would hold a $20 Tuesday invasion would depend on the the size of the invasion.

I'm the type the would definitely have to go with a group as Chinese is not my favorite cuisine. But if all of you are saying its good, then informed eaters must give it a try.

keep us posted about a $20 Tuesday?

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I live five blocks from Great Wall and had never tried it until reading the article in the City Paper and the reports here. Last night, on my first visit, I ordered the ma pa tofu from the ma-la menu. The staff folk were as nice as could be, they were gracious even though I called 15 minutes before closing, and the woman from whom I ordered told me the twice cooked pork was her favorite. I was excited about this possible new discovery in Logan.

I am disappointed to report, however, that my ma pa tofu was inedible. It was the saltiest dish I have ever tasted, which is a feat given my upbringing in rural Georgia and my love for salty foods. After three chunks of bean curd, I threw the reamainder in the garbage. Even with the horrible overload of salt I was able to taste the nice, slow burn.

So, my questions are:

1. Is this what authentic Szechuan cooking tastes like? I'm not sure I've ever tried the real deal.

2. Was this an accident, like when Miguel on Top Chef accidentally put salt in the sorbet instead of sugar?

3. Have others had similar experiences?

I intend to go back soon to try another dish or maybe the same one. At $8.75--which includes a free can of soda--it's ridiculous to not do so. Just looking to confirm that my meal was an aberration.

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I live five blocks from Great Wall and had never tried it until reading the article in the City Paper and the reports here. Last night, on my first visit, I ordered the ma pa tofu from the ma-la menu. The staff folk were as nice as could be, they were gracious even though I called 15 minutes before closing, and the woman from whom I ordered told me the twice cooked pork was her favorite. I was excited about this possible new discovery in Logan.

I am disappointed to report, however, that my ma pa tofu was inedible. It was the saltiest dish I have ever tasted, which is a feat given my upbringing in rural Georgia and my love for salty foods. After three chunks of bean curd, I threw the reamainder in the garbage. Even with the horrible overload of salt I was able to taste the nice, slow burn.

So, my questions are:

1. Is this what authentic Szechuan cooking tastes like? I'm not sure I've ever tried the real deal.

2. Was this an accident, like when Miguel on Top Chef accidentally put salt in the sorbet instead of sugar?

3. Have others had similar experiences?

I intend to go back soon to try another dish or maybe the same one. At $8.75--which includes a free can of soda--it's ridiculous to not do so. Just looking to confirm that my meal was an aberration.

You must have gotten a bad batch, the same tofu dish I had for lunch yeterday had no discernible "saltiness." Try the twice cooked pork, it's not nearly as spicy as the tofu and also not salty (at least not mine).

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I live five blocks from Great Wall and had never tried it until reading the article in the City Paper and the reports here. Last night, on my first visit, I ordered the ma pa tofu from the ma-la menu. The staff folk were as nice as could be, they were gracious even though I called 15 minutes before closing, and the woman from whom I ordered told me the twice cooked pork was her favorite. I was excited about this possible new discovery in Logan.

I am disappointed to report, however, that my ma pa tofu was inedible. It was the saltiest dish I have ever tasted, which is a feat given my upbringing in rural Georgia and my love for salty foods. After three chunks of bean curd, I threw the reamainder in the garbage. Even with the horrible overload of salt I was able to taste the nice, slow burn.

So, my questions are:

1. Is this what authentic Szechuan cooking tastes like? I'm not sure I've ever tried the real deal.

2. Was this an accident, like when Miguel on Top Chef accidentally put salt in the sorbet instead of sugar?

3. Have others had similar experiences?

I intend to go back soon to try another dish or maybe the same one. At $8.75--which includes a free can of soda--it's ridiculous to not do so. Just looking to confirm that my meal was an aberration.

I had the same experience yesterday. I ordered the ma po tofu and the double cooked pork. The double cooked pork arrived first and was fine, but when the ma po tofu came, it tasted overly salty to me too. I mentioned it to the GM who got me another batch, but with the same result (although I didn't say anything the second time). It made the water that I chased it with tastedparticularly strange, so I don't know if it's a chemical recation resulting from the spicing or what. The GM is particularly friendly/talkative. She told me they planned to try out different ma la items to see which were the most popular, so expect the white board offerings to change.

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the water tasted funny because of the szechuan peppercorns. the citypaper article translated ma as peppery but the meaning is closer to numbing or tingly. i'm not sure how this translates to food but ex. if your foot falls asleep, in chinese the word ma would be used to describe that feeling. although authentic szechuan food certainly would not let your tongue fall asleep!

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in chinese the word ma would be used to describe that feeling.

I always thought ma ma ma ma ma ma ma ma meant something like "Mother is scolding the horse who is kicking the hemp and the leech is on morphine," depending on the inflections.

I'm serious!

Rocks.

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I always thought ma ma ma ma ma ma ma ma meant something like "Mother is scolding the horse who is kicking the hemp and the leech is on morphine," depending on the inflections.

In college I took some Mandarin Chinese classes. On the first day of class, our teacher, a very short (and that's short in my world!) woman leaned into my face and yelled, "ma ma ma ma!" with each "ma" having a different tone. She asked what we thought she had said. No one replied and so she said, "I just said, mother, horse, scold, marijuana." My classes were not too helpful in teaching us anything about Chinese food or menus, but I wish I'd known at that time to ask about "ma la" foods.

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At the behest of a friend who recently returned from a year in Nanjing, I went back to Great Wall last night.

They've cleaned the place up a bit -- no more bulletproof glass, new tables, new menus and there was no palpable shock on the faces of the owners when the three of us elected to dine in. Still, it's a not-so-inviting hole-in-the-wall joint, some people will be comfortable there, some people will not be.

During the course of our meal, another person walked in for a sit-down meal. There were a handful of takeout orders as well. Maybe more improvements are on the horizon.

Here's the interesting bit -- my friend, a tall, skinny white kid who speaks passable mandarin and has covered a lot of ground in mainland china, just flipped for the ma po tofu. He called it one of the better tofu dishes he's ever had.

I'm not a big tofu eater, but I really like the dish for a few reasons. The consistency of the tofu is wonderful -- crisp exterior, creamy interior -- and the sauce doesn't leave me reeling like some of the other ma la dishes I've had there. Yes, it's spicy, but I was able to appreciate that unique peppercorn tingle without feeling like i'd stuck my tongue in a light socket.

So, if you're curious about the sichuan peppercorn but haven't taken the plunge, definitely do check it out.

Oh -- and if you do end up there, consider the hot and sour soup. Their version is thick, pungent and delicious.

Alex

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I agree with the praise for the mapo tofu. it's great stuff, way better than anything else i've had in NOVA or DC, though i have to admit i've never made it to joe's or HKP to compare.

My comparison of Great Wall and Joe's can be found here.

You know, I ordered from Great Wall last night and the ma po did not seem as hot as usual. The ma la wantons were also not as hot as usual, but they were so tasty. They seem to consistently have more flavor than the ma po tofu.

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I ordered twice from Great Wall, two nights in a row (what can I say? Work is busy, my hotel is in the area, and I'm lazy...). Monday night I got the ma la wontons and ma la twice cooked pork belly. Both excellent and got a bit of the "furry mouth" feeling that was interesting. On top of that though both dishes had an excellent taste without relying on pure heat to be the extent of the dish as many hot dishes do. I didn't really think the dishes were all that hot (though my scale is much different than other peoples I've noticed) but built up a nice light sweat as I worked through the two dishes. Both dishes were everything that was described above so I won't go into them in too much detail. I really liked the bacon-like taste of the twice cooked pork. I would have liked it a bit crisper, but that's probably due to the 15 minutes walk I took in the cold from the restaurant to my hotel.

Tuesday night was a different story though. Got the steamed meat dumplings and ma la kung pao chicken. The dumpling meat was good and the sauce was very good, different than other sauces I've had for dumplings. It was almost like the sauce that the ma la wontons are in but isn't quite the same. There was excessive dumpling for the most part though that I wasn't wild about.

However, the ma la kung pao chicken was literally inedible. Possibly the first time -ever- I've had a dish that I considered inedible. I think it was the same experience that LoganCircle had and described as salty. If I hadn't had the twice cooked pork the night before I probably would have described it as tasty remarkably, amazingly salty. Having had extensive experience with ma la cooking at this point (i.e. one prior dish, the night before) I noticed that the "furry mouth" feeling was much more pronounced than the night before and I think it wasn't oversalted as much as it was over "ma la"d. Whatever it was it made it so I couldn't finish the dish. It certainly wasn't too hot as I didn't catch any spicy heat coming from it.

It's certainly an interesting experience and one I'm fine with experimenting with every now and then. I'll probably order the kung pao chicken and the twice cooked pork one more time each (though not for a couple days at least I hope!) just to try them out before I pass final judgement. If I end up with the same feeling again as the kung pao chicken I had then I'm going to have to pass on dining here again as to iffy (or at least skip the kung pao chicken and stick with the twice cooked pork).

ETA: Just looked up Sichuan Pepper in McGee.

They produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals ofa nine-volt battery to the toungue). Sanshools (ed: the active chemical in Sichuan Pepper) appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion.

Pretty sure that's the first (and second) time I've ever eaten anything described as causing "neurological confusion" :-)

ETA: So it is gnatharobed. I blaim my neurological confusion :-)

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I curse the DR.com community for introducing me to Szechuan cuisine. I have developed a taste for the pepper and heat that sometimes just has to be met. Joe's Noodle House (except for a month or so of inconsistency) generally can't be beat, but it sometimes is nice to walk from the gym to Great Wall.

Or not, the past two times I have picked up from Great Wall the heat has been missing from the oily sauce that covers the protein and vegetables in their Ma La offerings. Last night I specifically addressed the lack of heat with the woman who seems to be the owner/manager. She assured me that the dishes were hot and the pepper should have the numbing effect.

Considering the past two times they have not, I should have left and sacrificed the gas to drive to Rockville (though the last time I did, I got a picture in the mail to commemorate my trip!)... but I did not... I ordered the Ma La Chicken and Veggies and Ma La Cucumber.

The Ma La Cucumber was shockingly disappointing. The cucumbers were fresh and crisp, but swimming in Ma La sauce without much heat. The sauce was bored over the cuke spears when I ordered it so there was no time to marinate. I was really bummed because my expectations were set at other places, and Great Wall failed miserably.

I enjoyed the chicken and brocolli in the Ma La Chicken and Veggies, but everything else in the dish smacked of bad food court Chinese! The sauce was oily and lacked any of the numbing pepper that signifies Szechuan cooking.

Next time I want Szechuan, I am going to go Joe's. Boiled peanuts, numbing noodles, great fresh veggies and other treats make it a place that may not be able to be beat.

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I was shocked when I saw the Washington City Paper name this place the best Chinese restaurant in the District. I had walked by the place several times and it looks just like the rest of the Chinese places in the area, which is not necessarily a good thing. I decided to go safe and just get takeout, which included some hot and sour soup, an order of combination chow fun, and the spicy shrimp in garlic sauce. Now, I know that this is more of the Chinese-American fare, but JNH does these types of dishes well, so shouldn't Great Wall too? Meh. Everything was pretty standard as far as Chinese takeout goes, with some good heat in the shrimp and decent flavor to the chow fun, but I will not be rushing back here.

Next time I will try the ma-la offerings, but everything that sounded tasty included pork in some form, which the lady will not do. As far as Chinese-American food in the area, though, this is not necessarily a keeper and is light years behind Oriental Gourmet in Arlington in that regard.

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I was shocked when I saw the Washington City Paper name this place the best Chinese restaurant in the District. I had walked by the place several times and it looks just like the rest of the Chinese places in the area, which is not necessarily a good thing. I decided to go safe and just get takeout, which included some hot and sour soup, an order of combination chow fun, and the spicy shrimp in garlic sauce. Now, I know that this is more of the Chinese-American fare, but JNH does these types of dishes well, so shouldn't Great Wall too? Meh. Everything was pretty standard as far as Chinese takeout goes, with some good heat in the shrimp and decent flavor to the chow fun, but I will not be rushing back here.

Next time I will try the ma-la offerings, but everything that sounded tasty included pork in some form, which the lady will not do. As far as Chinese-American food in the area, though, this is not necessarily a keeper and is light years behind Oriental Gourmet in Arlington in that regard.

Why shocked? The article did make it pretty clear they were calling this the fastest horse in a very slow race. As Carman said, bottom line there is no good Chinese food in the District, so this may well be the best of the group. Certainly if you are looking for Sichuan, which lets out Full Kee, the most frequently mentioned other contender. What other place is there? I don't think Chinese-American is even on Carman's radar screen, nor should it be on ours, so "better" carry-outs need not apply.

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I don't care if you're serving hot dogs, pizza, foie gras, sushi, or whatever, if you put it on your menu, you should execute it well with semi-fresh ingredients. No matter how you or Tim Carman or anyone else feels about "carryouts" or Americanized Chinese food, care should be taken when preparing the food that makes up 75% of your menu like it does at Great Wall.

In regards to my shocked comment, I guess it was less that I disagreed with his opinion and more "there really isn't better Chinese in the city than this???" That's all I was saying.

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In regards to my shocked comment, I guess it was less that I disagreed with his opinion and more "there really isn't better Chinese in the city than this???" That's all I was saying.

If there is, I haven't found it... I'm just talking about DC itself (not sure if that was the focus of Carman or not) as there are good places in the surrounding areas, just not in DC itself, at least that I've found.

I've certainly seen the unevenness of spice in their food. The first time I ordered the food was awesome and really impressed. The second time I couldn't finish my meal as it was overly spiced (it wasn't too hot I don't believe; too tingly rather), and I'm not a guy to miss alot of meals. The third and fourth times have been decent; good enough that I'll continue ordering there intermittently when I'm staying at hotels in the area, but not something I'd go out of the way for. From the one or two items I've tried outside of the ma-la part of the menu, everything else seems to be standard Chinese takeout quality.

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In regards to my shocked comment, I guess it was less that I disagreed with his opinion and more "there really isn't better Chinese in the city than this???" That's all I was saying.

I think the answer is, no there really isn't much if any better Chinese in the District. Good Chinese, like good most other ethnic food (Ethiopian seems to be the major exception to the rule) is to be found in the suburbs, not the city. Why? Basically, because the best ethnic foods tend to come from small, family-owned and operated, undercapitalized restaurants, the kind that can't afford rents in the city--the big boys with access to big money beat them out every time, so they are in the suburbs, in little strip shopping centers and similar spots.

Tyler Cowen has discussed this phenomenon at greater length. Here is a link--go down to about the 6th paragraph:

http://www.tylercowensethnicdiningguide.co...ral_remarks.php

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Ma la cold noodles - blech. Way too grassy and sour. Not ma la enough. Just weird.

Double-cooked pork - flavorful, but it was thin sliced like bacon, when it's much better, and I believe traditional, to have it in chunks which is then crisped and fatty.

What a waste.

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Took the advice on here and ordered from the Ma La menu and, while it was better, still lacking something for me. I agree with synaesthesia about the grassy, sour, almost lemony taste in the noodles. The heat was there, but I could not get past the almost citrus aftertaste coating my lo mein. Also, I don't get the numbing thing. Is this supposed to be appealing? I finished up my won tons and felt like I got a small shot of novacaine on my lips. Not what I'm looking for out of my dining experience.

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Yu Xiang Pork Szechuan Style has way too high a veg:meat ratio (carrots! snow peas! water chesnuts! mushrooms!) and the flavor is not that great. I'm sweating bullets writing this....it's not even all that spicy, but something about it has me crazy overheated. The "Ma La Wonton" necessary to get my order over the $15 delivery minimum are doughy and....well, doughy. Disappointing, since the Ma La Belly had me thinking this was going to become my go-to delivery place in my 'hood. However, the 8 minutes from call to delivery is a definite plus for the days when I can't walk the two blocks (today it's because I'm brewing).

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It's been four-and-a-half years since I first wrote about Peter Chang at China Star (thanks to you, Basilgirl). Tonight, on my first, and last, visit to Great Wall, I look back and strain to remember the profundity of Chang's Ma Po Tofu - the version at Great Wall being nothing more than a sloppy, gloppy, oily, heat-dictated, superficial, forgotten, bastard-child to The Master, with nearly all the flavor derived from Szechuan peppercorn and salty, fermented black bean. Are people so seduced by heat that they neglect to actually taste these dishes? Great Wall's version is made with chicken, not pork - no crime there, but as my quickly cooling bowl sits a foot away from me, all I can think of is a bouillon cube as I desperately long for a shower. I'm sitting here staring into my nearly empty bowl trying to think of something - anything - good to say about this dish, but words are eluding me. I'd MUCH rather go to Meiwah and have pepper steak than endure this a second time. Am I missing something here?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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It's been four-and-a-half years since I first wrote about Peter Chang at China Star (thanks to you, Basilgirl). Tonight, on my first, and last, visit to Great Wall, I look back and strain to remember the profundity of Chang's Ma Po Tofu - the version at Great Wall being nothing more than a sloppy, gloppy, oily, heat-dictated, superficial, forgotten, bastard-child to The Master, with nearly all the flavor derived from Szechuan peppercorn and salty, fermented black bean. Are people so seduced by heat that they neglect to actually taste these dishes? Great Wall's version is made with chicken, not pork - no crime there, but as my quickly cooling bowl sits a foot away from me, all I can think of is a bouillon cube as I desperately long for a shower. I'm sitting here staring into my nearly empty bowl trying to think of something - anything - good to say about this dish, but words are eluding me. I'd MUCH rather go to Meiwah and have pepper steak than endure this a second time. Am I missing something here?

Cheers,

Rocks.

It's very hit or miss at Great Wall. Earlier up thread I wrote about a time that I ordered two nights in a row. One night was very good (though I haven't had the chance to try Chang's food so don't have a great barometer), the next night was as you described; heat from the Szechuan peppercord and extremely salty to the point that nothing else can be tasted.

I've taken to ordering from other places that aren't nearly as good as Great Wall on the times I've gotten good food, but much better than Great Wall on the nights I get bad food from them.

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Am I missing something here?

Based on the numerous experiences I have had here, no. Again, this is why I expressed shock at Tim Carman calling this the best Chinese restaurant in DC. My wife loves Steamed Shrimp and Mixed Vegetables from pretty much anywhere, so we typically order from here when she gets her craving (I will say, their delivery service is outstanding, never more than a 20 minute wait for food). But I have yet to find anything other than the Boiled Beef to be even somewhat good. I have tried almost everything from the Ma La menu and it all comes way too oily and tasting strongly of lemongrass, which for the life of me I cannot understand. This place may have been something to write home about a while back, but right now it is merely mediocre Chinese takeout.

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:):):lol:

It's very hit or miss at Great Wall. Earlier up thread I wrote about a time that I ordered two nights in a row. One night was very good (though I haven't had the chance to try Chang's food so don't have a great barometer), the next night was as you described; heat from the Szechuan peppercord and extremely salty to the point that nothing else can be tasted.

I've taken to ordering from other places that aren't nearly as good as Great Wall on the times I've gotten good food, but much better than Great Wall on the nights I get bad food from them.

Damn it. All the MaLa dishes were so very good last week (mapo dofu, belly, eggplant & chicken w/peanut) but due to an ordering malfunction (ordering typical Chinese american food before the good stuff) everything arrived overly sweetened and in a blech sauce.

Can we make a password or something for gweilo peeps that like real, spicy food? :lol:

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