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Joe's Noodle House, Rockville - From The Holy Mountain of Szechuan

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I did a quick search and found no listing for what I consider one of the more important restaurants in DC. Not since the glory days of Henry's Hunan and Brandy Ho's both in San Francisco have I found a restaurant that can have such a profound effect on me for days after eating there. I am not talking about any effects of food poisoning or any of that namby pamby stuff, but real fire from the extreme use of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns.

Joe's, Joe's Noodle House, serves pretty down to earth and homespun Sezchuan cooking. Owner Audrey is there during the day. If you order one of the dishes with two chilies and a star, she will ask you if you want it "toned down". No matter what you say, it will be toned down for the first few trips if you don't answer back in Chinese. But even then, the heat will be on. I m actually at the stage where Audrey will comment that she can't eat food as hot as I like it.

Joe's has far more than noodles but they are a great first introduction. There is a large selection of noodles and a few dumplings. I really like the unusual rice noodles in red sauce. No discernable flavor to the noodle itself, just a jelly like freshness that offsets the heat of the sauce. I also love the wonton or dumpling soup, with or without needles. To go with the noodles, I always have a plate or three of "cold dishes" such as pickled cabbage, sweet and sour cabbage, pickled cukes, stuffed bean curd etc. This is the same territory staked out by A & J. I like both places, with the style being more earthy and rustic at Joe's and much more restrained and slick at A & J.

But A&J is not known for having a large traditional menu as Joe's has. Some of my fiery favorites on the large menu include the Spicy and Tasty Tofu (With or without pork)- I had with for lunch today!, three pepper chicken and dry and spicy beef. The greens with garlic are just that, great simple straightforward greens with loads of garlic. The selection is huge and I have probably only worked my way through a third of the menu. Rabbit, home made bacon, pork belly, pork with garlic chives and pressed bean curd, tripe with spicy sauce are all available.

If there is enough interest, we can have a DR.com dinner there. I would be happy to arrange for it but no wimps allowed for my menu. It will be full of the fiery stuff!

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I would be very much up for a dinner at Joe's despite it being at the other end of the universe from my house.

As for comparing it with A&J, they are very different places--A&J is a very "northern" style place, serving primarily the sorts of small dishes you can find anywhere in Beijing or Taipei (it's a Taiwan-based chain, though they have branches in Beijing now), while Joe's is a Sichuan place (its Chinese name, E'mei xiao guan comes from the holy mountain of Sichuan).

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Joe's is yet another of Rockville's Chinese gems. We would absolutely be in for a DR.com dinner - great food, and less than a mile from our house. :P

Edited by Heather

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Inspired by Dean, I made my first ever lunch time trek to Joe's.

Niiiiiiicccceeeee!

I had the three pepper chicken and a cucumber salad. Don't know if it was Audrey, but the woman who took my order warned me that the chicken (meriting one chile and a star) was "very spicy". I assured her that that was fine by me, but I could tell that she had misgivings about allowing me to have the dish.

The chicken was beautifully crispy and among the peppers were some small fried ones (about halfway between a Thai Bird and a Jalapeno) that were almost caramel in flavor. The cucumber salad had a little red pepper powder in it, but along with the sweet dressing was an excellent choice for cooling down the mouth.

Heat level was a few beads of sweat, but nothing major. Then again, I love Thai and fiery Tex-Mex food.

Thanks for reminding me this place existed Dean.

PS - the portions were very large.

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Living in Bethesda good Chinese food is very hard to find. Joes is one of three places that I still go to in the Beth/Rockville area. Some of my favorites are shreded radish w/ hot sauce, Fish Filet over Vegetables Szechuan Style, Baby Conch w/ Basil (a milder dish) & triple pepper chicken dry saute. Anyone have any other favorites that are worth mentioning?

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Joe's is one of the great restaurants in the DC area, note I said restaurants not just Chinese restaurants. I'd love to join a DR chow group there. Count me in.

:P

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Rockville is not always convenient to Mrs. TJ and I, but we do make the pilgrimage to Joes several times a year nonetheless since the food is so damn good. But I agree, the portions are huge. So order accordingly, or be prepared to take it home with you and eat it for a few days. ;-p

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We go up to Joe's about twice a month. It's a trek from South Alexandria, but the H20 Fish Filet over Vegetable Szechuan Style (H20) is worth it. Take the broth home with you, then the next night heat it up and put some tofu in and make more rice. Heaven.

Other Favorites: Appetizers include Salty Crispy Squid. Wontons with Red Hot Sauce. Cold String Bean with Ginger Sauce. Szechuan Beef Jerky. Tender Bamboo Shoot Salad. Shredded pork with hot pepper and pressed bean curd.

Main dishes: Fish Filet with Pine Nuts. Yu-shiang pork home style. Steamed whole fish either szechuan style or with ginger and scallions. Stir-fried rice cakes with pork and vegetables. And of course, Bean Curd Szechuan Style aka Ma-Po Tofu.

For lunch there's not much better than a bowl of the beef noodle soup szechuan style and a scallion pancake. I go back and forth deciding whether I like this better here or at A&J in Annandale. I'm closer to Annandale, so I usually get it there, but it's nearly as good at Joe's, and sometimes I think it's better there.

One dish I would not get is the Sesame Chicken. Basically fried chicken chunks in ketchup with sesame seeds. Not my idea of a good time, but it might be someone elses.

(I'll be editing this later. As soon as I show it to my wife, she'll say why didn't you mention dish X ? And she'll be right :P )

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One of my sons suggested a T-shirt with the legend, "I survived H-20 at Joe's!"

Please let me know when you plan to go. I'd like to join you.

StephenB

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We actually did a group lunch here with a crowd from one of those other boards. Very successful outing, and I remember the total coming to well under $20/person.

A couple of lessons learned from that gathering:

1. Don't get too large a group. The restaurant is really, really, small.

2. Go off-hours. There's no way that they can accomodate a large group at mealtime. Mid-afternoon on a weekend worked just fine.

3. Call ahead, and warn them we have a large group coming.

4. Order a bunch of food as soon as the first few people get there, and then order more as you go. Otherwise the food comes too quickly.

And count me in!

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Brought in dinner from Joes last night. Had the string beans in ginger sauce and spicy and tasty tofu w/ pork. When I called the woman asked if I wanted my tofu toned down a bit and I said no. My g/f had egg drop soup and steamed chicken and broccoli since she is so adventurous.

The tofu was definitely a little sweat inducing but nothing that I couldn't handle. I guess Dean is right in that they will still tone it down no matter what you say until they get to know you.

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.......... until they get to know you.

Don't forget, they have a buy 10 get 1 free deal (cash only). Get the little card, which they punch each time you spend at least $20. :wub: Bring cash. :P

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Tofu with pork for lunch. I've always hated tofu, but this shows how it should be done.

I must have made an impression the first time I went in, I wasn't even asked if I wanted it "toned down".

"You are an exciting and inspiring person"

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So far...

PandaHugga

Heather

Mrs. B

Alan 7147

John B

Stephen B

Daniel K

Dean and Kay

I spoke with Audrey today, she has been out of town and she is back now and going to work up a menu for a banquet style meal. I am shooting for a Tuesday or Wednesday night in Spetember. Let me know how many you will be. I bet the price will be in the $30 a person range. We will not go hungry!

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We'd love to come...but I work in Arlington, and getting to Rockville on the Metro on a Tuesday/Wednesday would be...unfun. HOWEVER, I don't work in the office on Mondays (hooray!) -- any chance of having it on a Monday in September?

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I spoke with Audrey today, she has been out of town and she is back now and going to work up a menu for a banquet style meal.  I am shooting for a Tuesday or Wednesday night in Spetember.  Let me know how many you will be. I bet the price will be in the $30 a person range.  We will not go hungry!

Sounds great. Either night is fine with me as long as it's after 6pm.

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Count me in. I'm tired of dining with people who want pork fried rice, and there's a limit to how many dishes I can order when I'm there alone!

Thursdays are difficult, but any other day of the week is fine.

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While my friend John and I were lunching at Joe's Noodle House (in Rockville) this afternoon, propietor Audrey came by our table and told us that Joe's had been selected as one of the 100 best restaurants in the United States by the Chinese Restaurant Association of America.

The banquet will take place and the awards will be formally announced in Los Angeles next month. She did not know if any other DC-area places had been so honored.

Audrey said that she has two main chefs, both Szechuanese, who have been with her for years. Each has one day off per week, so most of the time they're both on.

It will be interesting to see if China Star, TemptAsian, Mark's Duck House, etc., make the list, and particularly interesting to find out the criteria on which the prizes were based.

As a JNH regular, I am delighted for Audrey, and for the restaurant.

Edited by StephenB

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I found the list of candidates for the 2005 Top 100 Chinese Restaurants awards. The website says that the winners will be announced at a banquet on Oct. 26 in Los Angeles. Maybe the winners have been notified so that they can attend if they wish.

Here's the candidates' list: Top 100 Candidates

I see Joe's Noodle House listed, but not too many other area restaurants. They are alphabetical by state.

ScotteeM

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I found the list of candidates for the 2005 Top 100 Chinese Restaurants awards.  The website says that the winners will be announced at a banquet on Oct. 26 in Los Angeles.  Maybe the winners have been notified so that they can attend if they wish.

Here's the candidates' list: Top 100 Candidates

I see Joe's Noodle House listed, but not too many other area restaurants.  They are alphabetical by state.

ScotteeM

I've seen this list before. Based on a look-through, I doubt seriously the food quality is an important criterion to be placed on it. Among other things, there are too many buffets and other such things, including in this area, to suggest much credibility. I suspect this is one of those "industry association" deals where who you know counts most in determininng whether your place is listed

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I suspect this is one of those "industry association" deals where who you know counts most in determininng whether your place is listed

It would really surprise me if Audrey turned out to be a schmoozer and finagler. She's hardly the type.

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I've seen this list before.  Based on a look-through, I doubt seriously the food quality is an important criterion to be placed on it.  Among other things, there are too many buffets and other such things, including in this area, to suggest much credibility.  I suspect this is one of those "industry association" deals where who you know counts most in determininng whether your place is listed

I took a look too and noticed that Cafe Zen in Baltimore was on the list last year. It is gag inducing. This year Chinatown Cafe is on the list and it is not horrible, much better than Cafe Zen, but I don't think it is great by any stretch.

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It would really surprise me if Audrey turned out to be a schmoozer and finagler.  She's hardly the type.

I agree with you about Audrey and JNH deserving to be on a "best list." But I still think that this particular list has no relationship (other than a coincidental one) with the quality of the food provided by the listees. Put another way, unless somebody proves me wrong, I wouldn't give it much weight in choosing where to eat Chinese food in City X.

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