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More Authentic Chinese in Northern Virginia?

  • k

So far, I've been to three Chinese restaurants in Northern Virginia that I would deem reasonably authentic (two were recommended by contributors here - thank you):

China Star -- I will not add to the heaps of good comments you can find here

Peking Village -- If you didn't speak any Chinese I think this could be frustrating but the recommendation here was a good one

Oriental Gourmet in Arlington -- Good only if you order off the "Chinese menu," which is something of a misnomer since it is in both Chinese and English. The regular menu has some good things but many vile ones.

I'll also give an asterisk to A&J in Annandale, which I suppose is authentic though I did not find it very good (noodles indeed handmade but thick and rubbery -- maybe it's a regional variation?).

My question: are there any other authentic places like the ones above in Northern Virginia and yes I know I really should drive to Maryland but I am very lazy.

Thanks all.

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  1. Dragon Star, in the Eden Mall. IMHO, they have NVa's best dim sum. They're good for meals also. Salt & pepper tofu appetizer, Hong Kong style chicken, and any green vegetables are all good ideas.

    -JT

    1. I'm no authenticity authority, but I was pretty impressed with the dim sum and other offerings at Mark's Duck House.

      1. Miu Kee on Arlington Blvd just east of Annandale Rd., in the same little strip with the IHOP. Cantonese cuisine. Wonderful food, if you stay away from the Americanized stuff, such as anything with "Szechuan" or "Hunan" in the name. The good stuff and the bad stuff are all on the same long menu, but it's easy enough to tell which is which.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Herschel

          Hunan and Szechuan are thrown around quite a bit, but for all of it's good points, Cantonese style is also commonly adapted for American tastes. I also find it to be the most bland....with the exception of straight Cantonese chili sauce.

          1. re: microwave15

            Cantonese style cuisine is indeed often adapted for American tastes; until about thirty years ago, Americanized Cantonese was about all you could get in the US outside of some major Chinatowns--moo goo gai pan, sweet-and-sour pork, chow mein, fried rice, egg rolls, and so forth. Miu Kee, on the other hand, along with, among others in NoVa, Mark's Duck House, serve Cantonese-style Cantonese cuisine, which is why both restaurants are typically filled with Chinese diners.

            Like many good Cantonese restaurants, they put Americanized Szechuan/Hunan dishes on the menu for their American customers who don't know any better.

            1. re: Herschel

              Moo goo gai pan, sweet-and-sour pork, chow mein, fried rice, egg rolls, and so forth are just dishes invented in San Francisco...not long after chop-suey

              Mark's duckhouse is definitely Canonese, but even that brand of cantonese have been floating around in the US for the last thirty years. I used to love it whenever my family went to Chicago's Chinatown in the 80s....Three Happiness was great. Going to Mark's duck house takes me way back to those days....it's like comfort food.

              Here's my take on what chop-suey joints label as Hunan: Hot & Spicy with some sweetening. Szechuan just lacks the sugar.

              I don't rely on cuisine labels anymore....It's all about trial and error. Of course some places are obviously to be avoided....like the place in Dupont near City Lights...yikes!

              1. re: tedders

                Some board favorites are Joes' Noodle House in Rockville for Sichuan and Bob's Noodles 66 also in Rockville for Taiwanese. Have you tried these?

                1. re: tedders

                  Another revival of an old thread. This is two in as many days.

                  In addition to the restaurants mentioned by Steve, there are many others you could consider. This would include Sichuan Village near Dulles Airport, Charlie Chaing near Van Dorn in Alexandria (only that Charlie Chaing, no others), China Canteen in Rockville, and Mama Wok and Human Palace more upcounty in Montgomery County, just to name a few--I know Steve doesn't agree with all these recommendations, but I say they are worth a shot by someone who knows how to order. Also perhaps Hong Kong Palace at 7 Corners which according to a post just 20 min. ago has now gone Sichuan????

                  Why is the Annendale A&J different from the Rockville location? I thought they were more-or-less equal outposts of the same (Taiwanese??) chain?

                  The comparison of DC with metro areas of 4 to 8 million is entirely appropriate. Most folks don't seem to realize that the population of DC metro is about 5.5 million and growing fast. I imagine the problem with quality Asian cuisine around DC (if indeed it is true that LA and Vancouver are so much better as their boosters claim) might be more related to the fact that expat Asian populations in those areas is so much greater, but this would be an interesting topic in itself.

                  1. re: johnb

                    Thanks for the recs. I appreciate it and will be hungry just thinking about trying these new recommendations.

                    I've tried Joe's and Bob's. They're not bad but not great. If you've been to Taipei before, these are the kind of food one would find with a street vendor. You won't find Joe's and Bob's food in proper restaurants. But I'm glad they're around and I visit from time-to-time just to get my fix.

                    IMHO I prefer A&J's in Rockville and China Star. A&J's is casual enough that I can go there for a bowl of Beijing-style noodles or for breakfast food that northern Chinese and the Taiwanese eat. In terms of Taiwanese food I actually prefer Jen's Restaurant in Shady Grove during weekends (opened by Joe's original owner). It's just a heck of a long way to drive coming from Mt. Vernon Sq. in DC. I also find it ironic that I live 15 minutes walk north of Chinatown but drive out to the 'burbs to get anything decent. I guess that's just a reflection of where the ethnic Chinese community is at.

                    I don't know why A&J's in VA and MD are different. Perhaps different cooks in the kitchen? But I just don't find the food in the VA location as good.

                    As for the difference between LA, NYC and Vancouver versus DC, I think you're spot on with the observation about the expats community. In LA you'll find a larger concentration of Taiwanese, Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese than anywhere else in North America. The diversity is reflected in the number and quality of Chinese restaurants. I think Vancouver does the best dim sum in North America and New York City is great for Shanghai, Fukienese and Taoshan food. I haven't found a decent concentration of Malaysian-Chinese food in North America yet. Since I grew up in LA I can safely say that I can find a better concentration of ethnic Chinese restaurants in a four block stretch of San Gabriel Valley than in the DC area. I think we just have fewer recent immigrants here. I realize that and treasure the good ones we do have here.

                    Same thing goes for Italian food. In LA and NYC you can still find really decent and reasonably-priced family style Italian or Italian/Argentine restaurants. The only ones I find in the DC area are places designed to attract the expense account crowd. These downtown Italians are very good if you're looking for something upscale. But I like family style cooking and don't believe that $$=good food.

                    1. re: tedders

                      Thanks for your recommendation of Jen's Restaurant in Shady Grove.
                      I think you're the first to mention it. If you have any particular items to recommend, then I'd love to hear about them.

                      Yes, to be a Chowhound means having to travel. All the best places are never in one spot!

                      And here's a tip for you in your neck of the woods: go to El Rinconcito near 11th and M for the carne deshilada (with egg). It's not a great place overall, but the deshilada is a terrific dish. The other thing to get there is a perfectly respectable tamale.

                      1. re: tedders

                        This is not about Dim Sum but I would like to recommend La Piazza near Braddock Metro. It is a family own, low key, inexpansive Italian restaurant.

                        http://www.lapiazzaoldtown.com/

                        1. re: tedders

                          (I'm linking this to tedders' since it seems like we've eaten Chinese in a lot of the same places - maybe same expectations? but)
                          Does anyone know of a place where I can get good liang mian (cold noodles)?

                          I was at A&J's Annandale last night and their liang mian was not what I thought it would be (ham!? really?). I've been really craving this lately. I'm really looking for the northern version also known as rang pian'er that has a more jian (textured or al dente? rough) noodle. But a more perfected basic liang mian with bean sprouts, cucumber in a tasty sesame/peanuty oil sauce would hit the spot too.

                          The last time I had this was in Beijing so please understand why I have this 'ideal' version.
                          Also, I'm sorta new in town (Alexandria) and my mom's cooking is oh so far away.

                          Does anyone know of a place with good chinese style lamb? esp on a skewer? (It's too expensive at $11/lb for tiny sized chops at Harris Teeter for me to mess around at home) Or hot pot? These northern/mongolian type tastes are usually in the same place.

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: tedders

                            oh and for Maylasian-Chinese there are these two places if you're willing to travel.

                            Penang in Chicago (chinatown)
                            Peninsula in Minneapolis (uptown)

                            I've had both many times and so have good friends who are Singaporean, Sri Lankan, etc.

                          2. re: johnb

                            HK Palace is definitely Sichuan/Chengdu now. Oh yum. The cumin lamb, the chendu cold noodles, the braised fish...OK. Very hungry now.

                        2. re: Herschel

                          Any specific recs at Miu Kee?

                          1. re: Steve

                            Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to have a big meal at Miu Kee with lots of people ordering many things. Mostly I've eaten there alone, and have ordered either one of their big noodle-and-wonton soups or roast pig, roast pork, or soy chicken on rice. All of these are superb.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to have a big meal at Miu Kee with lots of people ordering many things. Mostly I've eaten there alone, and have ordered either one of their big noodle-and-wonton soups or roast pig, roast pork, or soy chicken on rice. All of these are superb.

                              1. re: Steve

                                They have a tofu stuffed with shrimp paste and in a sauce that includes whole peas that I find myself revisiting on occasion...

                                It's my neighborhood Chinese, so I eat there with some frequency; that said, I think it's decent but not necessarily revelatory. And they have had a few run-ins with the Dept. of Health, though generally I find it cleaner overall (at least as far as what customers see) than a number of other similar establishments.

                        3. There is one good Chinese restuarant in NA called Peking Village. It is mostly Sichuan and it is very authentic. Here is the address. 2962 Gallows Rd.
                          Falls Church, VA 22042. I found most Chinese restuarants in the US cook the food in a Chinese way but they do not use the correct sauce or the ingredients. Most dishes are adapted to fit American's taste and they are all sour and sweet. The slices are usually too big and thick for stir fry. Gu Lao Rou is from Shanghai, where most food are slightly sweet. Cantonese food suppose to be light. People enjoy the delicate taste of it and the nutrition it suppose to bring. Back to Peking Village, they serve one dish is shrimp with chilly pepper and scallion. It was delicious. The other dishes are good too. A&J is not a real resturant, it is a kind of dinner/fast food. I did not find it very attractive. It is certainly not as good as it is in Beijing.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: bookworm

                            Our own James G. used to rave about this place, back in the days before China Star. James, have you been to PV lately and, if so, how does it compare to CS?

                            1. re: Marty L.

                              Wow, this is quite a coincidence! Just this morning I discussed PV with my Chinese tutor, who gave me an "Honored Guest Card", entitling me to a 100

                              1. re: James G

                                Of course I meant a 10 percent discount, not 100 percent...

                          2. There is one good Chinese restuarant in NA called Peking Village. It is mostly Sichuan and it is very authentic. Here is the address. 2962 Gallows Rd.
                            Falls Church, VA 22042. I found most Chinese restuarants in the US cook the food in a Chinese way but they do not use the correct sauce or the ingredients. Most dishes are adapted to fit American's taste and they are all sour and sweet. The slices are usually too big and thick for stir fry. Gu Lao Rou is from Shanghai, where most food are slightly sweet. Cantonese food suppose to be light. People enjoy the delicate taste of it and the nutrition it suppose to bring. Back to Peking Village, they serve one dish is shrimp with chilly pepper and scallion. It was delicious. The other dishes are good too. A&J is not a real resturant, it is a kind of dinner/fast food. I did not find it very attractive. It is certainly not as good as it is in Beijing.