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


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5 hours ago, ElGuapo said:

My friend Will (who owns The Spotted Owl in Cleveland) waxed poetic about Great Wall - he visited a lot when he lived in the area. I'll have to give them a try.

I only have limited experience here (one, maybe two visits - in particular, I remember the Ma Po Tofu I had very well). I was flabbergasted when this restaurant came out in a major dining guide one year.

My food has been oily, greasy, and quite frankly: glop. Now, I'm not saying that other folks haven't had good experiences here, but I assure you that if you saw what I've gotten from Szechuan House, you wouldn't be as intrigued as you are. This could easily be a case of there being one good cook, and that cook having been absent during my presence - it happens all the time.

It is the very definition of "frustration," raving about a restaurant to someone, and then when they go, it's the cook's night off, and the food is lousy - as a result, your competence is doubted and questioned. That happens all the time, too, and is one of the reasons I review "meals" and not "restaurants."

Your name reminds me that I have a well-respected friend who goes to Guapo's in Shirlington all the time, and having been to at least two different Guapo's, on multiple occasions, I think this person is flat-out crazy (my steak salad there came with a *raspberry sauce*). Then again, he's also a chef who used to insist that Matchbox had the best pizza in the area. Strikes one, two, and three. ;)

I can't boil an egg; this person should not be reviewing restaurants. The lack of overlap between skill-sets is flat-out bizarre, but it absolutely exists.

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Is this person a Chef or a Cook? A lot of times on this board someone that cooks at a restaurant is noted as a Chef but from what I read and learn, it sounds more like a cook. I think there's a difference, but then again, I'm not in food services.

And if they are a Chef, maybe what you perceive is a lack of overlap is just a difference of opinion?

Like Chef Seng, the person that has both of the two Laotian restaurants in town is labeled as "chef" (rightfully so) in posts here. But the place that's regarded as possibly the best Sichuan place in the area - Hong Kong Palace (based on my reading of the aggregate reviews) doesn't have a person listed on as a chef. If you just picked a name of the guy that worked there the most in the kitchen, would he be the chef, or a cook?

Sort of rambling.. Long flight back from Chile overnight. Not much to write about food wise. 

 

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54 minutes ago, Simul Parikh said:

Is this person a Chef or a Cook? A lot of times on this board someone that cooks at a restaurant is noted as a Chef but from what I read and learn, it sounds more like a cook. I think there's a difference, but then again, I'm not in food services.

You will only hear *me* use the word "Chef" to describe someone who runs a kitchen (a "Chef de Cuisine") - that has been consistent since day one of this website. It is a job description; not an honorific. Others will use the word differently, but you can be sure that I'll be consistent every single time.

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My wife and I lived nearby before we left DC and regularly partook of the tongue-sizzling numbness that is (or can be) Great Wall. I've had fantastic dishes time and time again (Ma Po Tofu with meat, Szechuan Pork Dumplings, Szechuan Eggplant, Bok Choy with Garlic for instance) and some staggeringly bad ones (Peking Duck- well that's on me, poor ordering, Pork Belly, a few of the American-Chinese classics). Over the years, they were always consistent- that is, the Szechuan menu was on point, nearly flawless, consistently and the poor dishes continued to be poor

Oh for bowl of Ma Po Tofu...Chinese pretty thin on the ground in southeast Louisiana

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13 hours ago, frogprince said:

My wife and I lived nearby before we left DC and regularly partook of the tongue-sizzling numbness that is (or can be) Great Wall. I've had fantastic dishes time and time again (Ma Po Tofu with meat, Szechuan Pork Dumplings, Szechuan Eggplant, Bok Choy with Garlic for instance) and some staggeringly bad ones (Peking Duck- well that's on me, poor ordering, Pork Belly, a few of the American-Chinese classics). Over the years, they were always consistent- that is, the Szechuan menu was on point, nearly flawless, consistently and the poor dishes continued to be poor

Oh for bowl of Ma Po Tofu...Chinese pretty thin on the ground in southeast Louisiana

You can add to frogprince's list of very good/great dishes (and like frogprince, I love the Szechuan Eggplant and Ma Po Tofu):

-Ma La Pork Chop (General Tso's on crack)

-Dan Dan Noodles

-Shredded Beef

-Twice Cooked Pork (which is the pork belly, but I've had some great batches)

-Boiled Fish with Mustard Greens (though I have never had it, people have told me it's fantastic)

The only reason I don't go here often is because it is a bit unhealthy compared to home-cooking or even Baan Thai. But it is a very good option to have for delivery.

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18 hours ago, frogprince said:

My wife and I lived nearby before we left DC and regularly partook of the tongue-sizzling numbness that is (or can be) Great Wall. I've had fantastic dishes time and time again (Ma Po Tofu with meat, Szechuan Pork Dumplings, Szechuan Eggplant, Bok Choy with Garlic for instance) and some staggeringly bad ones (Peking Duck- well that's on me, poor ordering, Pork Belly, a few of the American-Chinese classics). Over the years, they were always consistent- that is, the Szechuan menu was on point, nearly flawless, consistently and the poor dishes continued to be poor

Oh for bowl of Ma Po Tofu...Chinese pretty thin on the ground in southeast Louisiana

My experience has been like frogprince's--the szechuan dishes--which are all i order here--are the best i've had in dc (though I think they are a notch below either peter chang or panda gourmet or some other places in Rockville). Yes, many of the dishes like mapo tofu are oily, but it's with that chili oil that seems to be present in many szechuan dishes, wherever you go and is probably half the reason they are so delicious. My faves are the mapo tofu, the salt and pepper tofu, the fried eggplant and dan dan noodles, and they will make most dishes vegetarian, which is nice. I think the key here, as it is many places, is ordering wisely, or ordering within their known area of competence. 

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On 9/7/2016 at 7:32 AM, Jonathan said:

You can add to frogprince's list of very good/great dishes (and like frogprince, I love the Szechuan Eggplant and Ma Po Tofu):

-Ma La Pork Chop (General Tso's on crack)

-Dan Dan Noodles

-Shredded Beef

-Twice Cooked Pork (which is the pork belly, but I've had some great batches)

-Boiled Fish with Mustard Greens (though I have never had it, people have told me it's fantastic)

The only reason I don't go here often is because it is a bit unhealthy compared to home-cooking or even Baan Thai. But it is a very good option to have for delivery.

I'm eating the Boiled Fish with Mustard Greens literally right now, and I can confirm that it's fantastic.  Not oily glop at all, but super-flavorful with that lovely sharp sourness from the mustard greens cutting through.  I could eat a ton of this.

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On 3/27/2020 at 4:22 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

Thought it might give each other ideas based on where and what you're ordering for take-out or delivery.  

So excited that Great Wall Szechuan on 14th is back open! Our regular order (ma la wontons, Dan dan noodles, ma la kung pao chicken) last week was epically good.

Partly because I believe the owners are older and at risk, they do contactless pick up only from a table in front of the entrance. No outsiders allowed inside (all orders/payment via phone, no delivery services/drivers).

This was our regular Friday night ritual at least 2-3 times per month. Eating it again was deeply comforting to us and hopefully to the proprietors, May Kuang and Yuan Chen, as well. So grateful they're back open!!

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The DC Branch of my office is pretty much across the street.  I don't spend much time there, but when I realized this place was a Szechuan specialist I had to give it a try.  Too bad, that was at the height of the pandemic and they were closed.  The last time I did a tour at the DC office they were open and I finally got to try something.  I had bean sprouts with chicken.  I had never seen this on a menu and asked about it.  May said it was very good. I asked for it "Jah La", which means extra spicy and she laughed and knew that I knew what I wanted.  The dish did not disappoint.  It was a pit of fire, with a ton of numbing.  I devoured the whole dish in a matter of minutes and then did a ton of work, then wanted to take a nap.  I will, from now on, make this a regular stop when I am on my "DC tour".

Tim Carman gave them a nice write up in the Post a couple of days ago.  Please check them out, is you like Ma La cooking, you will not be disappointed.

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 I also live in Montgomery county and love it. They have my favorite version of mapo tofu in the area.  Sorry to  read about the chefs accident though, and that they might be selling. I feel like they are an underappreciated treasure. 

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On 1/14/2008 at 4:19 PM, sandynva said:

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.

On 12/9/2008 at 9:43 PM, DonRocks said:

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.

On 7/24/2020 at 4:56 PM, sandynva said:

 I also live in Montgomery county and love it. They have my favorite version of mapo tofu in the area.  Sorry to  read about the chefs accident though, and that they might be selling. I feel like they are an underappreciated treasure. 

We go back a long way here, sandynva. :)

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After hearing about it for many years, we finally tried Great Wall recently. We liked it so much we got it again the next week. Both times we enjoyed my wife's favorite Chinese-American dishes of vegetable lo mein (lots of good vegetables that are not overcooked), chicken with broccoli (flavorful brown sauce and again nicely cooked veg), and egg drop soup. I also tried some of their more authentic dishes from the Ma La section of the menu. The first order, I really enjoyed the fish with black bean sauce (a bit spicy (not numbing) with some nice funky bean flavor) - fish is sliced and battered and then sauced (not thick battered, more like the pics of the boiled fish in mustard greens farther up the thread) and I liked the szechuan eggplant in spicy garlic sauce (sauce was a bit gloppy for my taste but good). I didn't do as well the second time (good dishes but liked the others better) - ma la chicken with vegetable (again nice amount of standard chinese mixed veg and lots of sliced chicken) in a mildly spicy but very numbing sauce (don't think I'd get it again but likely that is personal preference) and szechuan string beans (these were more steamed/boiled with smooth skins then the usual crinkly fried versions I've had) which were a bit spicy but seemed to lack in flavor compared to how this dish usual is at other places. Overall, I think the quality of the cooking and ingredients is very good especially for carryout chinese. I plan to keep exploring the menu (although I'm a bit limited compared to what others have recommended since I don't eat pork or shellfish). Also, they don't seem to have their own city-wide app delivery partnership, so we ordered through Postmates which worked out well but added a few dollar larger than usual delivery charge.

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Takeout from here for zoom dinner tonight. I had Moo Shi Chicken and chicken wontons. I will have lunch all week from this. The boy had an egg roll, hot and sour soup, and Ma La pork chops. The dinner companions had soup, broccoli, Ma La Kung Pao, Egg roll, and Orange chicken.

Everyone was generally pleased. The boy was impressed with the "tingling" effect of the Ma La pork chops. He's still trying to decide if he LIKES it or not. I got him some pepper oil for Christmas - hasn't used it yet, as he is trying to figure out the "best" way to try it. Hope he decides he likes the tingling effect! (Then again, he read the article in the NYT about the pepper and told me about it, so it's his own fault he got it.)

So, this works very well for accessible Chinese takeout.

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