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North China in South Bethesda - Chef "Joe" Comes From Joe's Noodle House - Closed


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I hadn't been to North China in 10 or 15 years. The last time I had been there, it was a better-than-average Szechuan place, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary.

About a month or two ago, I got a menu from North China in the mail, and I saw that they had a lot of more traditional dishes listed. We decided to try it.

We were in for a surprise when we arrived. The restaurant used to have two rooms; now it was down to one. And whereas the decor had been sort of upscale suburban, now it was much more bare-bones.

The food was outstanding. We had first-rate ma-po tofu, a very spicy shredded pork and chili appetizer, a sauteed squid dish with shredded pork and finely chopped greens, and a more conventional beef & mixed vegatables dish that was very well prepared. We didn't delve as deeply into the menu was I would have liked, because there were only three of us, one of whom was my son, who is more limited in his tastes than my wife and I. But there was lots of unfamiliar (to me) stuff to try. Fish stomach, anyone?

Although one visit isn't enough to base a comparison on, based on what we ate it wouldn't be outrageous to put North China roughly in the same ballpark as Joe's Noodle House. It's certainly a closer-in alternative if you're looking for non-Americanized Chinese food.

The address is 7814 Old Georgetown Rd.

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Word is that North China changed hands last summer, and the new chef/owner was the (original?) chef at Hunan Palace in Gaithersburg. Should be promising, although I don't know how his Szechuan cooking is; HP was excellent back then, while NC hasn't been on my radar since I was a teenager.

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Word is that North China changed hands last summer, and the new chef/owner was the (original?) chef at Hunan Palace in Gaithersburg. Should be promising, although I don't know how his Szechuan cooking is; HP was excellent back then, while NC hasn't been on my radar since I was a teenager.
I got some delivery from here last weekend and I was quite impressed with the quality, especially considering how average or just plain lousy City Lights and Foong Lin have become. I'm pretty pumped to make this my go-to Chinese delivery place, and also checking out a few more of the regional dishes they've added.
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Although one visit isn't enough to base a comparison on, based on what we ate it wouldn't be outrageous to put North China roughly in the same ballpark as Joe's Noodle House. It's certainly a closer-in alternative if you're looking for non-Americanized Chinese food.

Maybe not so outrageous after all - according to their website their chef is, in fact, "Joe," original owner of Joe's Noodle House.

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Maybe not so outrageous after all - according to their website their chef is, in fact, "Joe," original owner of Joe's Noodle House.
The web site suggests that the "Joe" is the chef from the *original* Joe's (before it was sold to the Sichuanese folks), specializing in Shanghai and Taiwanese food, not Sichuan.

So is it Hunan cuisine? Sichuan? Taiwanese?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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So is it Hunan cuisine? Sichuan? Taiwanese?

Inquiring minds want to know.

As far as I could tell, the menu features dishes from all three. Gave this place a take-out try in hopes of the mouth-numbing ma la flavor way closer than Rockville Pike. Didn't quite happen - although what I did order was tasty. Made it clear I liked Szechuan style, spicy, with the red peppers. Got a dish along these lines with Beef that had great flavor, and some sliced carrots and peppers. Strips of beef were good, but not crispy (though wasn't advertised as such, I kinda wished they were). The dish did pack a punch - a deep heat that made me sweat, but not the mouth and mind numbing I was seeking. Also got the dumplings, which were tasty- flavorful meat filling, and just the right thickness and stickiness in the wrapper, as they didn't fall apart at all yet weren't too firm. The woman running the front of the house, Jenny, was very nice and helpful. I'll definitely be back to explore the menu...

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Hah! I work right nearby and I was just looking at their menu the other day thinking "this place looks like it's a cut above your usual Chinese take out place" so I might have to give it a try soon.

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Does that say what I think it says? At the top of the dim sum menu, written in by hand!

Has anyone tried their dim sum?

Can anyone out there read simplified chinese characters? I think it says "xiao long bao"- soup dumplings. A restaurant that specializes in shanghainese cuisine that serves soup dumplings! Fingers crossed.

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Two of us tried North China today for lunch. The waitress (also one of the owners "Jeannie") waited on us and had spent years at Hong Kong Place in Gburg and chatted with us for awhile. Very nice, and very knowlegable. We treid three dishes, all were very good to great. A2 Mushroom, Din Bean Curd Skin was served cold with theskin wraped around cooked mushrooms. Tasted very fresh and was a nice size portion. E29 Ma Pa Tofu was light and medium hot. the red bean sauce was quite good with little to no oil. C2 Yellow Birds (Vegetables wrapped with dried bean curd skin) was the hit with both of us. Wonderful sautee greens with 5 of the "yellow Birds" on top. I wish I had order a second helping of the greens, they were that good.

I will try to but together a $20 dollar Tuesday over the summer. Jeannie said she would work with us to do a special all Chinese menu.

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And a good time was had by all...

We took up 2 tables at North China this morning and a good thing... we needed all the room we could possibly get for the multitude of plates that came out of the kitchen.

I'm sure I'm leaving something out but if memory serves correct, the plates held:

- Steamed Buns (delicious if a bit of a thick wrapper but it held lots of soup!)

- Chinese crullers and sesame flatbread

- Sweet Soymilk

- Taiwanese-style meat pie (didn't get to try this one but it looked interesting with its transparent outer casing)

- Mushroom in Bean curd skin (favorite of Daniel K's daughter!)

- Smelt with peanuts (a surprising favorite)

- Roasted duck

- Spicy pork with chili pepper (hot, hot, hot!)

- Crispy chicken - Taiwan style (quite nicely done - best with the accompanying basil leaves)

- Crispy squid - Taiwan style (split decision - some folks really enjoyed, some found it a bit chewy - either way, good flavor)

- Hamburger - Taiwan style (didn't try this one either as I was already pretty satiated but those that tried it enjoyed it!)

- Jelly fish

- Crispy intestines (my first time with crispy intestines - it was... OK. Not as "Fear Factor" as I had thought)

- Sausage - Taiwan style

- Leeks steamed dumplings

- Cold seaweed

- Fried noodles with Chicken, Beef and Shrimp

- Pea shoots (simply prepared, very delicious and a nice counterbalance to the other dishes)

- Very smelly tofu (I'm not sure what the real name of this dish is but you could smell it from across the room!)

- Sesame balls

Anyone else that attended, please feel free to jump in and provide your opinion on the dishes... or any that I missed!

On a personal note, many thanks to everyone for a warm welcome to my first Rockwell event. I'm looking forward to joining for many more!

Kat6185

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Thanks for the report, Katy!

Other dishes I remember:

- Radish Cake

- Chicken Roll

- Oyster Roll

- Oyster Pancake

Overall, I thought the meal was quite good, though there were a few misses (jellyfish, oyster pancake, radish cake, meat pie, seaweed). You can't really compare to Hong Kong-style dim sum, but it is a reasonable comparison to A&J. While I still prefer A&J, there's very little overlap in the menu, so I can still enjoy both places. As I've had nothing but mediocre Chinese food in Bethesda, this is by a long margin the best Chinese food in Bethesda.

I agree that the xiao long bao skins were a tad thick, but the dumpling was very tasty, and since EACH one had soup, these are probably the golden standard for soup dumplings in the DC area right now.

Total after tax and tip was $20/person, quite reasonable for the large quantities of food we all threw down!

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Also add to the list:

- Scallion pancakes (hand written on the menu as crispy pancake)

Unexceptional compared to the sheer perfection of my mother's, but even so... these were undersalted.

Was surprised at how the stinky tofu stink was quite in line with the one for the crispy intestines. Fried in the same oil? Thought it was interesting how scallions were tucked inside the intestines though.

In the balance of what we ordered at least, I don't necessarily think A&J is a complete comparison, since things were more weighted toward the Taiwanese end of things than the northern food spectrum. Felt more like a conglomeration of A&J and some of the first page items at Bob's.

Thought I would also note the daughter of the family working there was quite sweet and helpful.

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Took my aunt and uncle here for lunch today. Aside from a number of things we had the previous time I went for dim sum, we tried the oyster noodle soup, and the fried tofu noodle soup. I didn't really think the overwhelming thinness of the noodles matched with the thick oyster soup, but according to my aunt it is quite traditional. I did like the broth a lot, which was greatly enhanced by the addition of coriander. The fried tofu noodle soup was really enjoyable, with a nice fragrance and really good fried tofu - creamy and flavorful.

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So I've been here for dim sum twice in the last couple months now. I agree with synaesthesia - there's really no good direct comparison between this place and other local dim sum--A&J is the closest, but it's still not quite the same. The xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings), imho, are the best in the area... still not NYC quality, but for the most part, the soup is retained in the wrapper and is quite tasty.

besides that, the highlights - the smelt w/ peanuts (this dish would be perfect in congee... wish they had it... maybe I should ask next time).

radish cakes - grilled to just the right crispness

sweet soybean milk with you tiao (the bread sticks)

sesame bread

sesame balls - these were tastier than the ones usually found at cantonese dim sum... and filled with lots of red bean paste.

snow pea sprouts

taiwanese fried chicken (pretty similar to A&J's... a smidge not as good)

hong zao pork

Mushroom wrapped in bean curd skin

just ok - seaweed salad (not as good as A&J)

roast duck (just doesn't compare to a place like Mark's - though we didn't order it, I got a taste of the Peking Duck - and I think I want to try that next time)

beef chow foon (again, doesn't compare to cantonese places... I think next time I'll try the taiwanese rice noodles)

steamed leak dumplings (good, but nothing special)

sweet taro ball

oyster pancake

I will need to come back and try out some of the dinner entrees.

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Great dinner at here tonight. Folks, this is a really good restaurant. Given the sea of mediocre or worse Chinese restaurants in the DC area, I feel almost a moral obligation to help places like this succeed.

Smelts with peanuts were just about as good as at Joe's Noodle House, the crispy chicken Taiwan style was delicious, deep fried boneless chicken done in a salt and pepper style, topped with fried basil. It's great. Both of our entrees, yellow chives with bean curds and imperial shrimp Shanghai style, were excellent as well. The shrimp were shell-on and head-on, sauteed crispy so you could eat the whole thing. The oyster pancake was the only "meh" dish we had. Unfortunately they don't serve alcohol.

This was our first visit (well, my wife's first, and my first since about 20 years ago, when this was a very different type of restaurant) and we'll definitely be back to sample more here. The only bad part of the evening was looking around on a Friday night at 7:30 and only seeing one other table occupied. So go give North China a try!

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Eight of us had dim sum at North China today. It’s a rather small place, a shell of it’s former self. Two long-time Bethesda residents commented that the current location is about a third of its original size – they downsized about 8 years ago. Although we had reservations, there was no one in the restaurant when we arrived at 1 PM. In fact, only three other parties dined while we were there. Once “the” place to go in Bethesda now -- with the advent of New Bethesda -- North China has been given a run for its money.

We used Kat6185’s review as a guide for ordering. Although there were no “misses” the stand outs include: Crispy chicken Taiwan style, beef chow foon, spicy pork with chili pepper, scallion pancake, Imperial shrimp.

Several items were good but nothing to write home about: Radish cakes, mushroom wrapped in bean curd skin, chicken roll, steamed leek dumplings. The table was divided about the conch: you either loved it or you didn’t. I thought the pieces of conch could have been sliced smaller.

Items of interest: Several of us liked the smelt with peanuts although we argued throughout the meal to figure out what was “smelt” and what was noodle. It was something you’d expect to find at a bar, right next to the salted nuts or the Chex mix. The Chinese crullers a.k.a. fried bread. Nothing wrong with fried dough. However, the folks at the adjoining table sandwiched the cruller between some sort of flatbread. Couldn’t figure that one out – a fried bread sandwich.

We ended the meal with the sesame balls filled with red bean paste, a personal favorite. They didn’t disappoint.

On my next visit – and I will be back – I want to try the xiao long bao, the stinky tofu (I loved it at Bob’s), snow pea sprouts, and yellow birds.

Total after tax and tip: $11. Yes, that’s right -- $11. And we had a lot of food.

Overall impression: The food was cooked to order -- not a dim sum cart in sight. We managed to order a good combination of textures. Although we had several fried items, none of them tasted of grease: they were all light and crisp. The timing of the food to the table was spot on; just when we had settled in our chairs and looked at one another as if to say what’s next out came three or four more dishes. Yet we had to hunt down the staff to get tea and water refills. (Oh! And, no green tea. Only Lipton black tea.) I’m not a big dim sum fan -- I’ll do dim sum about once a year -- but this place might just change that. I haven’t sampled enough dim sum to be able to express a preference between Taiwanese and other regional cuisines yet I really liked this place. It's mandatory that you go with a group if for no reason other than to sample more food. I’m with Rhone1998 on this: Although North China has been around for at least 20 years, I would like to see it continue to succeed. And, at $11, you can't beat the price.

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Items of interest: Several of us liked the smelt with peanuts although we argued throughout the meal to figure out what was “smelt” and what was noodle. It was something you’d expect to find at a bar, right next to the salted nuts or the Chex mix. The Chinese crullers a.k.a. fried bread. Nothing wrong with fried dough. However, the folks at the adjoining table sandwiched the cruller between some sort of flatbread. Couldn’t figure that one out – a fried bread sandwich.

While the fried dough is yummy on its own, it is typically eaten either a) in the sesame bread to make as you say, kind of a sandwich; or B) in soybean milk.

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Oh my goodness! Looks like the type they have up here in NYC. This will go on the list of must-try when I swing by the area next time.

They're too heavy handed with the sauce, tho.

Those are just pictures, not actual product served by North China. I've only had oyster pancakes at Bob's Noodle Bistro in Rockville, which were pretty good.

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Ate here last night. The dishes were all good (the pork very good), but lacked punch. The cooking technique itself was great and the ingredients fresh and high quality. But I don't know if it is what we ordered (Happy Family in Hot Pot, Sha Cha lamb and the hong zao pork). Everything tasted like it needed something added to make a wonderful dish (ie more ginger in the hot pot, more heat in the lamb and something to offset the pungency in the pork).

Might try it again (more because it is way off our usual trails) and do more small dishes so we can taste a broader range of flavors. Also will look at the list of well recieved dishes above and try some of them.

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I fed the American-Chinese food monster in me this weekend with an order of orange chicken, some steamed vegetarian dumplings and sauteed Chinese broccoli. The chicken was good and quite gingery though I would have liked it a touch spicier. I'm not a big dumpling person, so I don't really have much to say about their vegetarian dumplings. The Chinese broccoli was quite good and made me feel a little healthier despite all the unhealthy fried stuff. I appreciate that because it got delivered to my place they didn't add utensils, saving the environment a little bit.

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I was here a weekend ago... and with saturday dim sum lunch, we indulged in the peking duck... which was tasty. But the interesting bonus is getting the duck soup, which they make using the carcass and adding some veggies (chinese cabbage primarily), tofu, and bean threads. As one of my friends said, it tasted quite "ducky". Not a lot of places do this, and it'd been awhile since I'd had it. Some places will also create a noodle dish using some of the duck meat, so it's Peking Duck - 3-dishes.

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Not impressed with brunch - had a disappointing da lu mian (overcooked shrimp and mostly inauthentic ingredients - made with typical lo mein noodles), chicken roll (better at Bob's Noodle Bistro), scallion pancake (flavorless) and you tiao (better than A&J's but not as good as Peking Village). For northern Chinese brunch, I still prefer Peking Village. If anyone knows of other places, please let me know. I haven't been to Joe's Noodle House yet.

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Got a little Chinese New Year delivery. Nothing very New Year-y, but still enjoyable. Really was surprised by their chicken chow fun, which wasn't too greasy and had a nice slightly sweet flavor. Their chicken and corn soup was sweet, and not overwhelmed by salt. Also ordered some go-to items: smelt and peanuts, Taiwanese crispy chicken, and roast duck. The duck wasn't as flavorful as the first time I ordered it, though some of the pieces were tastier than others. It is definitely one of the better Chinese restaurants that deliver.

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http://www.northchinabethesda.com/

We went to try North China this weekend. Even though we've lived in Bethesda for 9 years, we've never been there. I think we just have low expectations for Chinese food around here. Lots of American Chinese food, not much authentic cuisine. But I did a search for dim sum on Yelp, and the reviews of North China looked interesting, so we decided to check it out.

Like many a Chinese restaurant, the decor pretty much sucks. It's small and grubby looking. But us Asians don't really care about that much. It's all about the food. It seems to be a family run place, and the lady who waited on us spoke Taiwanese (yay!). I'm second generation, so I don't speak, but my wife was born in Taiwan.

Here's what we ordered:

Chicken & corn soup: OK, but rather non-descript

Squid in five flavor sauce (I think. My wife who speaks & reads Chinese did the ordering): Very good. Lightly steamed and then covered in a sweet sauce, same sauce as the oyster pancake, I think.

Oyster Pancake, Taiwanese style: Excellent. Very authentic.

Chicken Roll, Taiwanese style: Pretty good, although I hadn't really had it before, so I can't really compare.

Hamburger Taiwanese style: Excellent. Kids loved it. Steamed bread bun filled with roasted pork, crushed peanuts and Chinese parsley. Just like my Mom makes.

Crispy Pancake (I think): or onion/scallion pancake. Really good. Thinner and crispier than A&J's. Hand made, which I don't think A&J does. I think their's is frozen.

Snow Pea Leaves: Very good. Not too oily. Sauteed with a bit of garlic.

Overall we were very happy with all the dishes except maybe the soup. The dishes we had very authentically Taiwanese. My wife liked it better than Bob's Noodle in Rockville, which also does Taiwanese dishes. She thinks the flavors are lighter and the food are not as greasier.

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It's our go-to delivery place. It's been consistently open for ... okay, I took a date there in high school. In the 80s.

There's at least the space that used to house Graffiti Audio Video. I would doubt heavily against the building going up, as the corner flatiron is the home of the new Bang & OIufson. (I find it hard to believe they sold anything when they were in downtown Bethesda, so I guess they can just be eye candy for drivers.)

For what it's worth, the Peking duck passes the My Mom test. Also, Garlic (yu-shiang) chicken with leeks, same treatment of Chinese eggplant, and sesame chicken for the Mrs., who hails from suburban rural Boston. *Sigh* :)

This is, at once, a unique blessing and curse: the lady who presumably runs the restaurant with her family knows my mom, so when my phone number comes up, she starts talking to me in Mandarin, which I'm not good at. Not wanting to appear rude, I work through it, so ordering takes 15 minutes. But we occasionally get off-menu items when I remember how to pronounce them like a white fried rice with seasoned with ground white pepper and ginger. I'll need to figure out what that is again.

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It's our go-to delivery place. It's been consistently open for ... okay, I took a date there in high school. In the 80s.

I moved here in the early 80s. It was my Mom's cousin's go-to place, and apparently had been for quite a while. She was born in China, lived there until she was about 10, and had returned numerous times since. (Not Chinese. Her parents had been educators in Shanghai.)

She died in the early 90s, and her husband died not long after. I haven't been back since then. I should have. I used to like it when we went there. And as a college student I did SO love being taken out to nicer places than I could afford by people that I was a bit in awe of.

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Not wanting to appear rude, I work through it, so ordering takes 15 minutes. But we occasionally get off-menu items when I remember how to pronounce them like a white fried rice with seasoned with ground white pepper and ginger. I'll need to figure out what that is again.

Do you mean Yangzhou Fried Rice?

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I used to come here often with my family during the restaurant's glory days in the 1980's and early '90s. Particular favorites were the crispy beef, moo shi pork, and Peking duck. I used to request that the owner's son, John, personally carve my duck every time because the one time someone else did, I wasn't happy with the carving. I was like seven years old at the time, but I had standards. Good times.

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THAT's the one! You nailed it. Mom's on vacation - couldn't ask her.

Is that on the menu?

I didn't see it on their online menu, but can't hurt to ask. If you're inspired to make it, Fuschia Dunlop's version is pretty spot-on, with the exception of the chicken stock part... :)

There are a few places that have it, but I can't recall where, sorry. But I love making it. Sometimes you see it as "Young Chow" on the menu...

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About 7 years ago, a friend moved to the neighborhood. We did what my family likes to do, order the same thing from a few places for direct comparisons.. then you know where to get take-out from then on. North China won by a mile back then. I believe the tested item was beef with broccoli. (we were not going for authentic)

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