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Chef Guo, Chef Guo Wenjun's Chinese Imperial Banquet Cuisine on Little River Turnpike off I-395


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Thought people might be interested to hear about Chef Guo, a new restaurant featuring Chef Guo Wenjun's take on Chinese banquets. This is probably the closest the DC area has had to Chinese fine dining, and I'm interested to see how it fares. The chef serves a selection of two tasting menus, the Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot ($68 lunch, $98 dinner), and the Banquet of Peace and Prosperity ($158 dinner only), both of which feature 10+ courses in the style of imperial cuisine. Scroll through the website to see the full menus, pictures of the dishes, and a press release detailing the overall concept.

So far there hasn't been much buzz about this place outside of the Chinese community, but some friends who have gone reported it to be luxurious, visually and conceptually unique, and a lot of (too much?) food, mostly very good to excellent. There seems to be a mix of traditional cuisine and modern/Western techniques. If I understand correctly, the dinner they attended was a special event combining dishes from both menus, with all of the guests at a shared table and Chef Guo himself coming out between each course to explain the concept behind the dish (in Chinese); it's not clear to me how different the experience will be once the restaurant gets settled in, but from their website it seems like they are definitely interested in catering to non-Chinese clientele as well. 

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47 minutes ago, Shaho said:

Thought people might be interested to hear about Chef Guo, a new restaurant featuring Chef Guo Wenjun's take on Chinese banquets. This is probably the closest the DC area has had to Chinese fine dining, and I'm interested to see how it fares. The chef serves a selection of two tasting menus, the Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot ($68 lunch, $98 dinner), and the Banquet of Peace and Prosperity ($158 dinner only), both of which feature 10+ courses in the style of imperial cuisine. Scroll through the website to see the full menus, pictures of the dishes, and a press release detailing the overall concept.

So far there hasn't been much buzz about this place outside of the Chinese community, but some friends who have gone reported it to be luxurious, visually and conceptually unique, and a lot of (too much?) food, mostly very good to excellent. There seems to be a mix of traditional cuisine and modern/Western techniques. If I understand correctly, the dinner they attended was a special event combining dishes from both menus, with all of the guests at a shared table and Chef Guo himself coming out between each course to explain the concept behind the dish (in Chinese); it's not clear to me how different the experience will be once the restaurant gets settled in, but from their website it seems like they are definitely interested in catering to non-Chinese clientele as well. 

This may be a perfect opportunity to plan a DR. dinner event? Thank you @Shaho for this fantastic post!  I am, anyone else care to join me? Me thinks, February 5th will be a suitable date. 

#yearofthepig,

kat

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2 hours ago, Marty L. said:

I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and speculate that this is the only restaurant in the DMV whose website touts the chef having served both Barack Obama and Kim Jong-Un (with photos).

Michael Landrum served Obama and Dmitri Medvedev in the same meal:)

I've always wondered when something like this would arrive - this is one of the most intriguing restaurant openings of 2018.

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10 hours ago, curiouskitkatt said:

This may be a perfect opportunity to plan a DR. dinner event? Thank you @Shaho for this fantastic post!  I am, anyone else care to join me? Me thinks, February 5th will be a suitable date. 

#yearofthepig,

kat

I tried booking a table for a group of us for Feb, but the website  doesn't prompt for a month ahead, so I am thinking 1/19 for approx 8 to 16 people? I could make it a private event or we could be in the main dining area. Chime in if you are interested in attending. The cost is  $ 158/ peace & prosperity banquet. 

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Did the dinner ever happen?  I'm interested if this resurfaces. 

And from Tim Carman in today's Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/chef-guo-serves-an-emperors-feast-in-a-suburban-strip-mall/2019/05/07/52d86ed4-65ff-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html?utm_term=.97ae5be190b7

They now serve three different menus: The Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot $98;  The Banquet of Peace and Prosperity $158; Banquet Filled with Precious Gem and Jade $278

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18 hours ago, Bart said:

Did the dinner ever happen?  I'm interested if this resurfaces. 

And from Tim Carman in today's Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/chef-guo-serves-an-emperors-feast-in-a-suburban-strip-mall/2019/05/07/52d86ed4-65ff-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html?utm_term=.97ae5be190b7

They now serve three different menus: The Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot $98;  The Banquet of Peace and Prosperity $158; Banquet Filled with Precious Gem and Jade $278

I proposed a dinner back in February. Only one person mentioned they were interested. I'd be interested in as well, but for transportation challenges. it would need to take place on Sunday for me to attend, but by all means I am happy to plan it for the rest of you if you are interested in a weekday outing.

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On 5/8/2019 at 3:24 PM, Bart said:

Did the dinner ever happen?  I'm interested if this resurfaces. 

And from Tim Carman in today's Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/chef-guo-serves-an-emperors-feast-in-a-suburban-strip-mall/2019/05/07/52d86ed4-65ff-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html?utm_term=.97ae5be190b7

They now serve three different menus: The Banquet of Eternal Bliss Hot Pot $98;  The Banquet of Peace and Prosperity $158; Banquet Filled with Precious Gem and Jade $278

I think this is a great opportunity to get the DR forum some additional "mainstream" attention. Look for my tweet, and please add a like, retweet, etc. It's not for me, but it is for Don and all of the others who contribute to make this place a unique resource. Cheers.

Of course, the original credit belongs to Shaho, who started this thread.

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2 hours ago, reedm said:

I think this is a great opportunity to get the DR forum some additional "mainstream" attention. Look for my tweet, and please add a like, retweet, etc. It's not for me, but it is for Don and all of the others who contribute to make this place a unique resource. Cheers.

Of course, the original credit belongs to Shaho, who started this thread.

When I saw Laura Hayes say “ Why did I not know of this?” I shreaked. @Shaho posted about this last yr. Thank you for posting on Twitter. We all know we as a forum bring value , and sharing our discoveries online and linking it back to this platform is a way to spread the importance of Donrockwell.com. Tell your friends about us. Its free to join, and you never know where it may lead. I have made great friendships & have gained extraordinary insight not only on food & beverage , but so much more. Thank you to everyone who contributes ! I am grateful. I can honestly say Don is grateful as well. If one or any of our posts has helped, we all have done well. 

Grateful,

kat

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On 12/30/2018 at 10:45 AM, Finatic said:

Seems like an odd location for an expensive Chinese restaurant.  Anyone remember Mr. K’s?

On 12/30/2018 at 12:13 PM, Finatic said:

Mr. K’s was the first (and perhaps only) white tablecloth Chinese restaurant I have ever been to. They served a small dollop of sorbet between courses. It was on the corner of 18th and K.  I wonder if there is a relationship to Mrs. K’s?

I recall it and I dined there.  I never returned and I have no recollection of the dinner being compelling or standing out.  It was more elegant than other Chinese restaurants.  I also don’t recall feeling that it’s price or price to value was out of line

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1 hour ago, curiouskitkatt said:

When I saw Laura Hayes say “ Why did I not know of this?” I shreaked. @Shaho posted about this last yr. Thank you for posting on Twitter. We all know we as a forum bring value , and sharing our discoveries online and linking it back to this platform is a way to spread the importance of Donrockwell.com. Tell your friends about us. Its free to join, and you never know where it may lead. I have made great friendships & have learned so much not only about food & beverage , but so much more. Thank you to everyone who contributes ! I am grateful. I can honestly say Don is grateful as well. If one or any of our posts has helped, we all have done well. 

Grateful,

kat

Thank my girlfriend for the tip!

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We had been aware for some time that an outpost of Chinese imperial cuisine manned by a famous chef, named after the latter “Chef Guo”, was hiding fairly close to where we live. We found out that Chef Guo was located in an unpretentious strip mall in the Alexandria Landmark neighborhood, curiously sitting next to a Peruvian roasted chicken take-out place. We were intrigued by the presence of an ambitious gastronomic establishment in such indifferent surroundings. Thus, we decided to try it for dinner, on a chilly Valentine’s Day evening.

From outside the restaurant looks like a nondescript small glassy box, except for some posters with the pictures of chef Guo and biographical information on him. As soon as we entered, we were gifted a wonderful red scarf with the Chef Guo logo embroidered on it: a nice gesture indeed! The room accommodates perhaps 6-8 small tables and a large communal table. The tables were beautifully arranged with traditional expensive-looking china plates and bowls in yellow flowery tones made especially for Chef Guo.

One can choose between three tasting menus: basic, intermediate, and top, though they are given much fancier names by Chef Guo. The basic menu includes a high-scale hot pot, while the other two do not. We opted for the top tasting menu option (dubbed The Banquet Filled with Precious Gem and Jade), which consists of twelve small plates (in the event, it turned out to be thirteen, since chef Guo generously comped an additional small plate). The following link includes the three menus: https://chefguo.com/#menu. We also ordered a Cote du Rhône wine and green tea to go with our food.

The presentation and the taste of each dish were both outstanding, and also very different from anything we have ever tried before in the US, Europe or Latin America (we have not been to China) as far as Chinese cuisine goes. Every single dish was accompanied by a thorough explanation of the ingredients and a brief description of the underlying cooking techniques, with some excursion even on its broader cultural meanings (e.g. the Tai-Chi Truffle soup presented its two main ingredients, asparagus and pumpkin, as both separate and integrated in the traditional Yin-Yang symbol disposition, as in fancy cappuccinos).

We especially liked the braised Australian abalone, the pan-fried foie gras with gold leaf flakes and green rice, the Chef Guo signature noodles and the Tai Chi Truffle soup, but it was really hard to choose among a swirl of dishes simultaneously delighting our eye sights and satisfying our palates. In particular, the abalone—a mollusk rather difficult to prepare well--felt neither too hard nor too soggy, say, it was exactly “al dente”. Not that we ever cooked abalone ourselves, but it seemed to have a perfect consistency and the sauce/broth with which it was dressed also tasted just right. Moreover, the condiment of the signature noodles was a bean ragout with a great umami/meaty taste, probably enhanced by the presence of soy sauce.

A word of advice if you go to Chef Guo. There was some obvious inconsistency between the high price of the culinary experience and the ambiance, wine program and the service. The ambiance, while definitely comfortable and pleasingly quiet, resembled too much a hut with stitched up velvety and other possibly luxurious decorations. Also, two TV monitors, appropriately muted, endlessly showed documentaries about chef Guo with Chinese captions, which seemed to us a bit exaggerated. One of the monitors also crashed during the dinner and ended up listing the icons of the various videos for the remainder of the evening… The wine list was limited, though it included some good bottles. But there was no assistance in choosing the wines and definitely no wine pairing option to accompany the tasting menu. Both would have required some sommelier expertise that was clearly unavailable. Finally, the service, while always kind and friendly, looked at times rather improvised. At a price point for the top menu which exceeds that of Minibar, these are issues that may put some people off. If you go, you must be prepared to accept these limitations.

In the end, for us the excellence, and uniqueness, of the culinary experience more than offset these shortcomings. Indeed, it proved the best way to celebrate our Valentine’s Day.

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