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Eat First, 6th & H Streets in Chinatown

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Doesn't look like Eat First has its own thread, but for what it's worth, give the baked shrimp in spicy salt a try-- salt crusted head on shrimp with slices of okra and a good bit of heat. Goes great with your Tsing-tao.

It's still on the menu, proud papa, for $13.95, and so's your Tsing Tao, for $3.95.

Eat First has really gotten decrepit and downright dirty over the years - the carpet (or what's left of it) looks like it hasn't ever been cleaned, and going to the bathroom is a tiptoe operation. Most of the food I saw coming out last night was Fried Glop In Brown Sauce, but I bought my way out of the situation by finding the most interesting-looking (and one of the most expensive) items on the menu, Sauteed Geoduck Clams and Corals with Chinese Yellow Leak [sic] ($18.95). And that is one hilarious typo!

I asked my server what, exactly, "Corals" were, and she said it was a second type of clam. Sure enough, I got a medium-large oval plate, piled high with yellow leeks, and dotted throughout with geoduck clams (white and smooth) and the corals (red, rough, and fungus-like). Two of my three biggest enemies, corn starch and oil, were used only in moderation, and this dish wasn't at all bad. Yes, the clams were surely bulk-frozen, but you can do a LOT worse than this here.



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I used to go to Eat First at least every other month, but somehow I've been distracted and hadn't been in 4 or 5 years. I wanted to get back to some of my old favorites in Chinatown, see how they're fairing.

I had what may be the worst lunch ever here today. The menu has changed considerably from the old days, when you had the table list of soups, noodles, barbeques, and offal, and then the long list of both American style and Cantonese things on the menu. No more chow foon with shredded duck. No more big bowls of Hong Kong style dumplings in soup. No more chicken with ginger and scallions in clay pot. And no chopsticks on the table.

We were trying to figure out the new menu, what looked familiar, and what looked like generic American Chinese, which was most of it. When the server came, she said lunch and turned our menus for us to the lunch special page. "We can only get this?" we asked. Lunch, she said, and walked off. So, no more ordering the good stuff at lunch. We tried, dear god we tried, with fried wontons, Singapore noodles, and double cooked roast pork. The wontons we ate, because fried wonton wrappers are good, but I defy you to find one thimble-full of filling between the six of them.

The double-cooked roast pork was sliced pork loin, with nearly all hard bits of meat, that had been stir-fried with cabbage, canned straw mushrooms, and carrots, served in brown gloppy sauce. You can eat it if you're hungry enough, and I was for at least 800 calories worth. But the Singapore noodles? They were bad. It was spicy, but stale and tired-tasting. My friend tried to pick all of the pork and shrimp bits out, but finally gave up on them. In a twist on the old joke, it was bad food and large portions of it.

The server came back later, and said to my friend "You want box?" and she said "No, this wasn't good." Immediately they brought the check. We paid and left.

I'm sad to say I won't be back. Maybe it's better at dinner now, maybe they only have one good chef for dinner and the lunch chefs only make the glop. Or maybe with the dying of DC's Chinatown, there just isn't enough demand to support as many traditional Cantonese restaurants. I don't want to take the chance with dinner though.

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I am sorry to hear of your write up--I know a few folks who are fans of this place, but signs of going downhill were present when I ate here about a few years back. I worry about the state of many Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, since there only seems to be about three-five that are faring really well.

On a sidenote, I do like your quote!

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I worry about the state of many Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, since there only seems to be about three-five that are faring really well.

The sad decline of China-block (not enough left to be town any more) continues. I haven't been to Eat First in a while but am bummed to hear how bad things have gotten.

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I hate to write off a restaurant after one meal, but I see so many signs of trouble. Does anyone have recent experience there that was good? Should I go back at dinnertime? What should I order?

It's been mybe 8-10 months since we went to EF at dinner, so recollection is weak. But I do remember a very extensive menu, specials posted on the wall, pretty decent food and indifferent service. It was fine, as I recall, for a quick early dinner. We were ahead of the dinner rush, BTW. I remember thinking that I would pop in again. Maybe dinner is a better bet than lunch?

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