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New Chinese is Arlington (Courthouse)

Last night we ate at TNR Cafe, a Chinese restaurant that just opened this weekend on Wilson Blvd at Courthouse in Arlington (next to Ireland's Four Courts). TNR stands for Tea, Noodles, Rice.

It was quite good. Arlington lacks good Chinese food; this could become one of the best. We had very good fried dumplings, sensational egg drop soup, decent hot and sour soup (not very spicy), and kung pao chicken, which was very good, although it tasted nothing like kung pao chicken normally does.

The place lacks atmosphere and energy, but they are trying, and the service was good and friendly. It might be ideal for take-out. I recommend giving it a try.

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  1. I almost got excited reading your post until I read "egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, kung pao chicken, etc." Not close to being authentic. If you're talking about that General Rosslyn/Clarendon area, the authentic (also selling americanized) joints would be China Garden and Hunan Number 1 (don't know if they're still there).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chownut

      Kung Pao chicken is excellent and I believe authentic at China Star. Not Chinese-American at all. Made with Sichuan peppercorns. It should be a dry saute IMO and if I'm not sure a restaurant will make it that way, I specifically ask for it dry. The driest version I've had and also excellent is at Peking Gourmet Inn, though no Sichuan peppercorns.

    2. Hunan Number One is one of my favorites. You can't really evaluate a chinese restaurant by the dishes listed, that's basically American food. Not that there's anything wrong with eating it and enjoying it, its just not really a good measure of chinese cooking.

      If you can get away from the chinese-american stuff Hunan Number one has lots of goodies, and its open late. Try that out some time.

      1. I agree with all of the above -- although I don't think Hunan One is as good as it was several years ago.

        I'm just suggesting it's worth a try.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mnadel

          Possible, I haven't been to Hunan Number One in a while and I heard rumors that the family that owned it sold and moved, but not sure if that's true.

        2. The food quality at Hunan one went down about a year ago when their rent and prices raised 20%. Not sure why the quality changed since they did put the extra expense on to the customer, but I don't eat there anymore.

          I wouldn't judge a chinese restaurant poorly for having dishes that people expect. I judge by the dished they have that people do not expect. Hunan1 passed that test, so it is a shame it isn't good anymore.

          I've only been to China Garden for dimsum, and it is good and metro train accessible. I still prefer Fortune in 7 Corners for dimsum.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Foodgeek

            Hunan #1 is not good anymore...Very greasy.

            Kung Pao Chicken and Hot & Sour soup are two of my favorite dishes....growing up in a Chinese household, their existence does not necessarily mean that it's ABC....just that 99% of the time, the restaurant has destroyed both of them. Hopefully some day, everyone will have a chance to taste both dishes homestyle. They can be excellent.

            1. re: microwave15

              Kung Pao Chicken is, I believe, prepared homestyle at Joe's Noodle House, and it's excellent.

              1. re: MartyL

                fwiw, China Star also has many of those "Chimerican" listings, but they are made with fresh veggies and housemade sauces (this was also back a couple of years ago).

                Quite a few years ago I was waiting for pick up at a place in Leesburg and a Chinese restaurant supply catalog was lying on the bar. The sauces, dried veggie mixes, soups, etc are all available for order. Basically like industrial versions of Lipton Noodles and Sauce. Hence, how similar they are, down to the menus.

                And on that note, most chinese restos at least at one time will prepare many dishes not on the menu. These have to be asked for. I've only ever gotten to this point with a couple of places, one being in Missouri since out here we have a few places that don't need to be supported by that other type of fare.

                1. re: Dennis S


                  I'm interested in the luck you have had with ordering "good" chinese food in out-of-the-way places where most everything is chimerican. Does it work?

              2. re: microwave15

                Well, if the best thing that someone can mention about a new chinese restaurant is their "very good fried dumplings, sensational egg drop soup, decent hot and sour soup (not very spicy), and kung pao chicken.." then that's not saying much. I'm sure every corner chinese takeout can do a decent version. Not much creativity there.

            2. Isn't Hunan Number One closed? If it's the place on Wilson between Court House and Clarendon, then it's definetely gone.
              I for one am desperate for chinese and am not a stickler when it comes to authentic or not. Thank you for the report on TNR.

              3 Replies
              1. re: redglass

                I think Oriental Gourmet in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center is top quality for Chinese-American food, the kind of stuff I grew up on as a kid on Long Island. I didn't realize how spoiled I was. You should no longer be desperate. And a surprise: very good Peking duck, too.

                1. re: redglass

                  No, Hunan Number One is still open. It's in Clarendon not too far from the metro. Even though it's listed in the yellow pages on Wison Blvd, it's actually more on the side street, I think N. Garfield. I haven't been in years but just called them today to see if they have peking duck, which they do. Planning to check it out since it's w/in walking distance for me and I'm always in search of good inexpesive peking duck.

                  1. re: tippytoes

                    Back in the day, I thought their rendition of clams w/ fermented black bean sauce was particularly good.

                2. Chill-pill needed in the Chinese aisle!

                  It sounds like your issue is with the person ordering the food, not the restaurant. How creative can a restaurant be unless it serves food that wasn't ordered?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: microwave15

                    Chill baby, chill.

                    It's really with both. A person ordering those dishes can't seriously declare it a potentially one of the best, and a restaurant serving up these kind of dishes can't be taken seriously until their authentic fare is sampled.

                  2. I went to TNR today for lunch...the menu is very basic, and the service is scattered...they may need a few weeks to get their routine down. I wasn't sure it this was an order at the counter and then sit, or full service establishment, and still don't know.

                    Since it was just me, I ordered their mi-fun (taiwanese style rice noodles), which is a relatively unmolested dish. I've found it to be a good ability indicator. It was OK...considering it didn't have the dried fried onions or the Krill. It's wasn't too greasy, and it wasn't too dry either....just right, despite the lacking of some key ingredients. I surveyed other tables, and didn't see anything that would make me want to go back..other than it's something different, and only a two block walk from work.

                    It's a place worth walking into...which is more than I can say for Panda MAXX....that place didn't even get me past the window. TNR is one of those places where you would never go alone, but are with a group of people with simple taste, so you agree to go, knowing there are a handful of fine items on a menu of 75-100 dishes.

                    Even so... Arlington is seriously lack in even mediocre Chinese.

                    1. Arlington lacks good Chinese food - baloney. I guess you haven't tried the Oriental Gourmet in the Harrison-Lee Shopping Center. They have a separate "traditional Chinese" menu, BUT the best food is vegetarian. The chef excels in mock meats and if they are not too busy will make almost any dish vegetarian. The vegetarian "Orange Beef" is to die for.

                      Not quite Arlington, but just across the border, the Oriental Star in a shopping center on Duke St. in Alexandria is also quite good. A small family run restaurant, they also can make almost all their menu using mock meats. Their vegetarian version of the old staple "sweet and sour pork" is far superior than any meat version, I ever ate in the bad old days.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Ed Lytwak

                        OK, so 1 good chinese restaurant to support a resident population of 200,000+ plus those employees in the county? That still qualifies as lacking.

                        1. re: microwave15

                          What about the place in the old USA Today buildings? I've not had a chance to go yet, but it used to be mentioned a good amount here.

                        2. re: Ed Lytwak

                          Never realized they had a 'hidden' menu! Though - I did once ask if they could prepare the kung pao chicken 'ma la' with sichuan peppercorns and dry fried (they normally prepare this very well, anyway). They did a reasonably good job of making it hot and dry, though I doubt they keep any Sichuan peppercorns on hand, so no numbing.

                          Thanks for the tip. We'll have to talk about Krakow sometime. Send me a PM.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Krakow was real surprise for vegetarians/vegans. After days on the road in rural southeast Poland and living on pierogies, potato pancakes & pizza, we found an incredible array of vegan restaurants that were either exclusively or very friendly for vegetarians - even vegans - in Krakow, all in the vicinity of the old town. Smak Sviata, Pierogiarna, Smak Ukrainska, and a number of excellent small cafes.

                        3. TNR has great food and really good prices. They now serve bubble tea too, which is a huge plus. Service has definitely improved (I've become a regular). I've been looking for a Chinese restaurant that serves a non-diluted version and this definitely is it. I doubt anybody will be disappointed when it comes to taste. Great food at cheap prices is hard to come by in this area.