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One Fish, Two Fish - Casual, Pan-Asian Cafe at 24th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in West End


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How many people in the US work in restaurants? Millions maybe? More than 5 but less than 10? No idea.

How many restaurants, in total, are in DC (including the suburbs or whatever)? A thousand? No idea.

Of whatever number is right for the DC restaurant question, how many of those have no presence on this, gold-standard, DC food (and more) website? Here, I am sure I have the answer!

A lot!

This topic probably won't stay near the top of the DC restaurant forum for very long. But, in a small way, maybe it honors all those places where people toil and are largely ignored.

This is about One Fish, Two Fish. What? You don't know the place? Precisely my point.

First, I did check to see if it was here on dr.com. Found this from 2008:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Bluefish

...but that has nothing to do with the restaurant now highlighted with this topic.

So what? Why should anyone care about one of the kazillion Chinese American corn starch, MSG temples that crowd cities and small towns across the land? Here's why.

1. The longevity. It's been operating in the same Foggy Bottom location, with the same name, for about 18 years!
2. The Name. It has been sold a few times with the current owners only in place about four years. But never have any overseers messed with the name. And who doesn't love Theodor Geisel?!
3. The location. Right next door to Marcel's, one of our most revered, loved and refined restaurants. One that gets a ton of (deserved) love from Rockwellians. I bet 95% of Marcel's regulars have never stepped into this place, where a big bowl of soup can be had for just a couple bucks.
4. They actually say they don't use MSG so that's something. There are even vegetarian items on the busy menu which suspiciously merges Japanese and Chinese food (usually a bad sign imho).
5. The people are nice though some don't speak English. Lots of smiles.
6. They made an odd* childhood favorite for me without blinking.

* As a child, long before I'd even heard of XLB, shumai, manti, pierogi, Kartoffelknoedel, dim sum, Banh bot lol, mandu, momo, gnocchi, samosa, gyoza, and even ravioli, I learned about magical dumplings. I learned to love them and went on to love that there are so many variations from all the continents. When dumplings started merging with newly discovered world history, culture and language, I was permanently hooked.

Along this line, as a child, one of my first dumpling loves was the humble wonton. But I also loved egg drop soup. And, for awhile, I had trouble deciding between them during my later, single-digit years.

Through childhood, college and well beyond, I've clung to my odd solution to childhood indecision: egg drop soup with wontons! Nothing refined or even healthy about that and not difficult for any Chinese American joint to do. Still, in my experience, most refuse when I ask. Not One Fish, Two Fish! :-)

Great or even pretty good food? Not really. But cheap and I'm glad they're there. You should be too. In a world of high-falutin, farm-to-table and $30 entrees, places like this keep people employed, the rest of us grounded, and college students sustained.

One Fish, Two Fish even has a website. What's not to like?

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As I've mentioned elsewhere, I recently moved into this neighborhood. One Fish Two Fish is about a four minute walk from my new home. I've never been in, and I don't think I ever even realized it was there until I started living around the corner, even though, as you say, it's right next door to Marcel's, one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I think the little building it occupies is quite peculiar, and one has to wonder how such a structure survived the relentless redevelopment of the West End. I rather like it, actually, as a bit of modest urban architecture.

Aside from their willingness to give you egg-drop soup with wontons, do you have any commentary or advice on navigating their menu? Much as I would love to give this place a chance at my business, the menu looks pretty depressing, with all the General Tso's Chicken and Hunan Pork and Egg Foo Young and dozens of other typical American Chinese restaurant dishes that are almost always terrible. (Pineapple Fried Rice! Sweet and Sour Pork! Kung Pao Chicken!) Any dishes that are surprisingly good? Any secret real Chinese menu? What do you order besides your special soup?

Oh, and while we're on the subject, would you please try out La Perla and file a detailed critique? Thanks!

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As I've mentioned elsewhere, I recently moved into this neighborhood. One Fish Two Fish is about a four minute walk from my new home. I've never been in, and I don't think I ever even realized it was there until I started living around the corner, even though, as you say, it's right next door to Marcel's, one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I think the little building it occupies is quite peculiar, and one has to wonder how such a structure survived the relentless redevelopment of the West End. I rather like it, actually, as a bit of modest urban architecture.

Aside from their willingness to give you egg-drop soup with wontons, do you have any commentary or advice on navigating their menu? Much as I would love to give this place a chance at my business, the menu looks pretty depressing, with all the General Tso's Chicken and Hunan Pork and Egg Foo Young and dozens of other typical American Chinese restaurant dishes that are almost always terrible. (Pineapple Fried Rice! Sweet and Sour Pork! Kung Pao Chicken!) Any dishes that are surprisingly good? Any secret real Chinese menu? What do you order besides your special soup?

Oh, and while we're on the subject, would you please try out La Perla and file a detailed critique? Thanks!

This is pretty funny. Whether or not that was partly your intent.

As for your excellent questions on One Fish, Two Fish, I can't authoritatively answer any of them. Though, I'm highly skeptical there'd be any "secret Chinese menu" a la Charlie Changs, a striver or conniver in ways this place is not.

Have only been to 1F, 2F once. This past week. Only got the soup. I'm not in college anymore.

That said, I can absolutely recommend the book but suspect you're already familiar with that? :-)

And only $8.99 at the place we should all be buying our books.

La Perla?

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It's nearly always my intent to be funny. Whether I succeed very often I leave to others to judge.

The mystery restaurant at 26th, L, and Pennsylvania, which has been in business for ages, but nobody has ever eaten there. I live one block away.

On the funny determination, thumbs up from my perch.

On La Perla, unlike you, I don't live in the neighborhood and already wrote way too much about a generic Chinese-American joint. I'd like to suggest you're now up to 'take one for the team.' Whaddya say?

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La Perla is one of Italy's great gifts to the world.  NSFW

NB: thi shas nothing to do with the restaurant

Someone will now have to create a new La Perla topic. And, while it's probably a major faux pax to even mention that much larger, poor-quality restaurant site with highly-questionable business practices, I will make one reference.

Whereas Hersch calls the place a "mystery restaurant" and sneers that "nobody has ever eaten there," it does have more than 80 reviews there with an overall rating of Four Stars! The proprietor is one "Chef Testa."

I really think The Hersch needs to step up here, walk the four blocks and get all Rockwellians a proper evaluation.

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It's real. Vittorio Testa used to run another Italian restaurant in either Vienna or McLean prior to opening La Perla. The name of it escapes me (as does the location, apparently), but I did eat there once - it was fine. Food was in the style of upscale Italian restaurants in the 80s... Like nearly everyone else here, I haven't been to La Perla.

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It's real. Vittorio Testa used to run another Italian restaurant in either Vienna or McLean prior to opening La Perla. The name of it escapes me (as does the location, apparently), but I did eat there once - it was fine. Food was in the style of upscale Italian restaurants in the 80s... Like nearly everyone else here, I haven't been to La Perla.

He was also the chef of a restaurant in Georgetown Harbour called Mona Lisa.

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