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Anti-fans of Joe's Noodle House?

I bet I'll get flamed for this, but is there anyone out there other than me who doesn't like Joe's Noodle House (and is afraid to speak up :)? This board seems to be full of people who rave about the place so I thought I'd give it another shot after trying it once a year or so ago and not liking anything I'd ordered (I'm Chinese American and grew up on fabulous Chinese food in California, just to give some perspective, but I find A&J's here to be great).

This time, we had a party of 6, all Chinese Americans, and ordered about 15 or so dishes. I can honestly say that nobody had more than a single try of any one dish. They were all so terrible it seemed a waste of stomach space to put any more food in there. Granted, Joe's has lots of exotic dishes you can't seem to find anywhere else around here, but exotic doesn't equal good. They were all prepared so terribly with such low quality ingredients that I was embarrassed I had suggested the place to my friends. I mean, it wasn't even just that the food was OK and not wonderful the way we'd expected it to be based on reviews - the food was actually terrible! I would say definitely some of the worst Chinese food I've ever had! Can I honestly have ordered all the wrong dishes yet again???

Please tell me I'm not the only one out there who thinks Joe's is disgusting?

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  1. I have a big goose egg in my history of not trying A&J's, and I'm for one open to dissent to Joe's, but I wonder, from what region of China do you like the most?

    From what I know, A&J's fare prevails from the northern part of China, while Schezuan province is southwestern. I'm still eagerly learning much about the cultures and foods of all regions, but I know there are great disparities.

    What do you think of other Schezuan offerings?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dennis S

      I love spicy food so typically do love Szechuan-style Chinese food. The red-oil dumplings and dan dan mian in particular. (Wait, are Szechuan and Sichuan the same? It's the American part of the Chinese American coming out in me, as you pronounce these the same in Chinese, but I've never quite figured out if they're the same but with different Romanization spellings) However, I'm just a fan of Chinese food overall, from Cantonese dim sum to Shanghainese xiao long bao (which I've long given up on finding anything that compares to Ding Tai Fung and others in LA - even Joe's Shanghai in NYC doesn't quite cut it) and stir-fried rice cakes to Hainanese chicken rice to the unique dishes of the Suzhou area, the Hong Kong style seafood restaurants to Taiwanese food which also has its own distinct dishes and style. A&J's I believe is originally from Taiwan as the chain originated out there and gradually spread through California and then to the East Coast, but they definitely aren't exclusively Taiwanese food.

      Love all sorts of Chinese food had just been hoping to add Joe's to my rotation. Shocked by how terrible it was and was hoping to find others who thought similar and had alternatives to suggest! :)

    2. I've never tried joe's, and am not inspired to either. I do though, commend you for sticking your neck out and offering a dissenting opinion. Good for you.

      I have though, tried A&J, and was not impressed. NOt enough food for the money, and much overhyped. It's good to try once in awhile, but I wouldn't make a habit out of eating this type of food everyday.

      1. I'm also AA from CA and I wouldn't say I'm anti-Joe's, but honestly I have yet to have a completely satisfying Chinese meal in this area. After 2 1/2 years out here I've accepted that it ain't going to be the same. So I just go out to the Chinese restaurants here, keep my expectations on a moderate level and that way I can enjoy the meals. Plus my friends are sick and tired of my whinging ;D This goes double for Vietnamese.

        My apologies to the native Chowhounds, I know it sounds rather snotty, but really I just miss eating very good Chinese food. Some of the local restaurants that get praised here just wouldn't survive out in L.A. It's really vicious out there and if your joint is even just okay, you would be hard-pressed to be in business. There seems to be a enough Chinese folks and Chinese food fans here, I wish that we could generate some quality control.

        I stick with the Taiwanese and northern Chinese food and pass on dim sum and pho in DC. Just not worth the money.

        26 Replies
        1. re: tdonline

          I also moved to DC from SoCal, and go back there about once a year. I will agree about the quality of the Chinese food here compared to LA. But I will disagree about the Vietnamese. Sure there is a bigger Viet population around Westminster, but my personal opinion is that just for plain pho, the quality here is much better than in SoCal. I've had too many so-so phos in California. I think, at least for pho places, the Northern VA joints have the LA and NYC ones beat.

          1. re: dpan

            I'm going to respectfully disagree here. More disappointing than the Chinese food here is the Vietnamese. Granted since I do not drive, I have not had a chance to try many of the restaurants further out, but from what I’ve eaten in Arlington, I’ve pretty much resign myself to getting Vietnamese food in CA. I lived nearby Pho 75 in Courthouse and I’ve seen many praise that place and I just don’t understand it as my experiences there were so blandly below average.

            The good pho I have had in CA (and elsewhere) have really good broth which you know has been slowly cooked and infused with fantastic flavor which should come out steaming hot, fresh and abundant side veggies, silken noodles which have not been overcooked and meat that is tender. I have yet to have really good broth and noodles here in DC. I really question if they are really cooking the broth properly and slowly, I do think the places here cheat on this crucial factor.

            1. re: tdonline

              Why do people, when referring to Vietnamese food, only refer to Pho and/or Banh Mi? Has it come down to defining an entire culture's grub by using a noodle soup or a french inspired sandwich? I've tried a few vietnamese dishes at Hong Que and can't verify how authentic they were since I'm not vietnamese, but thought they were great. One dish in particular was chilean seabass nuggets stir fried with a brown sauce.

              1. re: Chownut

                Hey Chow, I hope that's a general rhetorical question. I only refer to Pho because as you can see in my profile, it's my fav comfort food so it's my own personal litmus test. Since I was born in Vietnam and my family can make home cooked Vietnamese food, I'm well aware that's a lot out there. I've had other Vietnamese food that I wasn't crazy about. For a good place, I like Viet Huong in Eden Center. I took my mom there when she visited and she told me that I've found a good Vietnamese joint and to stick with it. I haven't had their pho but the dinner we had was great.

                1. re: tdonline

                  I'm going to take a slightly different stance than Chownut and ask why Pho 75 still is the mark? They churn it out and are almost undoubtedly one of the places that uses MSG to bolster the broth when the stock is getting low, rather than investing the time into a real pot of new broth.

                  Unfortunately, I think the best Pho in the area (was in Rockville -0 forget the name right now) closed. Still there are many other greats, including Nam Viet, Pho Reston 75 (not part of the chain I'm rankling on here), and many others - many found in pho threads on the board. If part of your complaint is the pho from Pho 75 (the chain) then please try some of the others first.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    It was Pho Quyen and it was outstanding. RIP.

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      I've heard that the pho place in the same mall area as Full Kee in Bailey's is quite good. I've actually tried three times to go there, but the first time I got there, they were just closing and the other times, they were closed for renovation. Any word on this place?

                      Also, leaving Bob's 66, I saw a place called "Saigon". Any word on that place? It would be great if it's any good because it's metro-accessible.

                      1. re: tdonline

                        There are two places that you might have seen departing Bob's 66 with the name "Saigon" in them and they're both easily accessible from the Rockville station metro.

                        One is on the corner of Washington and Middle Lane in Rockville. It's new-ish (no more than a year old?) and I haven't been.

                        The other one is sort of in the back of a funny office building on 355, almost immediately adjacent to the fire station. I can't comment on a lot there, because I've only had the fish and veggie options, but I haven't been overwhelmed by their offerings. I think the summer rolls (I can never remember their name) for vegetarians are down right terrible. The other dishes have only been so-so. They do a great iced coffee. I don't think I've ever seen pho on the menu.

                        1. re: Smokey

                          Oh what a pity. Yes, the one I saw was in the office building. Perhaps the one on the corner is worth checking out then.

                      2. re: Dennis S

                        I kinda like the Pho 75 in Arlington. But their broth tastes like it's cut with chicken broth, kinda sweet in that sense compared to good beef broth. tdonline - you're very limited in your range if you don't have a car. I like Pho Tay Bac (sp?) in the Culmore shopping center where the Peking Gourmet is. It's no-frills dining hall kinda atmosphere. It's been a couple of years since I was last there, but I always thought their broth and ingredients were fresh. I now go to Pho Bistro in Centreville on a regularly basis. Was just there yesterday. The broth has very good flavor, the noodles just the right texture (not too firm as if just taken from the fridge and dumped in the broth, or overcooked), the beef thinly sliced and tender, generous amounts of tender tripe, the tendon so soft it melts in your mouth. The place is always packed these days, that place is a gold mine for the owners. According to a banner inside, they just (or are planning on opening) opened a branch in Ashburn.

                    2. re: Chownut

                      Well, I'm not a pho expert (don't even care for it that much - then again, maybe I've never had really good pho) but if it's anything like Japanese noodle soup, it does need skill and care to make it well. If a Japanese soba-ya is any good, the thick smell of pork broth should hit you in the face as soon as you open the door.

                      How I wish there were as many soba and ramen bars competing around here as there are pho places. Sadly, in this region, everyone thinks Japanese cuisine begins and ends with sushi and tempura. :( :( :(

                      1. re: little audrey

                        I wish there was one ramen place - there are a couple of places to get ramen, but nowhere that specializes in it.

                        Of course, there's not a large Japanese population in the area to support such places.

                        1. re: Lori D

                          Aside from the Japanese market off Bradley in Bethesda, does anybody know of any other Japanese ramen places around DC? Most of the Japanese places around only offer overpriced Udon.

                          1. re: tedders

                            Blue Ocean in Fairfax has a very decent ramen on their menu. It's not a ramen place, but their food is generally very good.

                            1. re: tedders

                              There is no "Japanese ramen place" in the DC area. There are a couple of places that sell ramen, but there are none that specialize in it.

                              Daruma (the Japanese market in Bethesda) sells ramen, as does Temari in Rockville. I haven't tried Temari Cafe (although at least oone of my Japanese acquaintances has characterized their food as "oishikunai"); the ramen at Daruma is OK.

                              1. re: Lori D

                                I love Temari! It is indeed oishikunai. What I love about it is that it's real mama-san style cooking. Personally, I like their miso style ramen better than the shoyu style, but what I go for most often are the donburi and the home-style dishes I don't get as often elsewhere. Yummy!

                                1. re: whirlingdervish

                                  Oishikunai is the negative of oishii ... As i said, I was reporting someone else's opinion. One of these days, I need to find out for myself.

                                  Another place for home-style Japanese cooking (but no ramen, IIRC, is Hiro Sushi, near White Flint.

                                  1. re: Lori D

                                    D'oh! Of course, you're absolutely right. I think it's "oishidesu," largely because it reminds me of plain old homecooking the way my mom used to make. Of course, it's always possible that my mom was a bad cook...or that my impressions are tinged with nostalgia. I'll try Hiro Sushi, though. Thanks for the rec!

                  2. re: tdonline

                    Have you ever tried the chinese hamburger at Bob's Noodle House? I was watching a local eats program on PBS, and they profiled burger joints like Elevation and Five Guys. Then, they did a clip of Bob's Noodle House where the boss' daughter introduced it. It looked pretty nasty, as it was made out of preserved/smoked pork belly. One person tried it and was literally grossed out.

                    1. re: Chownut

                      I've had it a couple of times. The first time it was great, the next time a bit dry and boring. In person, it does not look disgusting at all. Just roast pork on a sweet bun.

                    2. re: tdonline

                      Maybe what you miss is eating California Chinese food, and you get DC Chinese food here. You know that cooking out of its native environment always evolves after a few generations and it's no longer pure. And it just evolves differently under different influences. And you, personally, have only one generation (yours) of taste buds evolved.

                      I think it's perfectly fair for you to say that you don't care for the Chinese food that you've had in this area, but it's not fair for you do declare that none of it is very good.

                      Would you expect to find good barbecue in China? What kind? Tennesse? Texas? Kansas City? Sam Ting. ;)

                      1. re: MikeR

                        Well, I should clarify that I think NONE of it is any good. That would be unfair. Afterall, I still go to Joe's, Bob's etc. My preferences is go to these places rather the Cantonese joints. Of course food evolves differently in different locations, even I accept that much of the Chinese food in L.A. isn't "authentic" compared to what is happening in HK or China. I'm just saying what is happening out here isn't very good. It's not so much purity as much as tastiness. When I get really good Chinese food in L.A. I'm experiencing fantastic taste, naunces, texture, etc. Damn, I'm hungry! Every time I come back from L.A. I can recall certain dishes I just had. For example right I'm still high from the "Phoenix Claw" dim sum I had last month. It's almost like I just ate it. I haven't had this experience with the Chinese food here yet...but you know there's always hope.

                        And just to show that it’s not 100% location bias, I’ve visited family in Sydney since the 80’s and the Chinese and Vietnamese food there is even better than L.A.’s. Sydney doesn’t quite have the variety that L.A. has, but the Cantonese and Vietnamese food is fantastic.

                        1. re: MikeR

                          China doesn't have the same sort of immigration policy we do. I'm sure they don't have an American expats community comparable in size to the ethnic Chinese community in the US.

                          As for the difference between California Chinese food vs. DC Chinese food. One can find good Chinese food in California. But for the most part, DC Chinese food is not very authentic and I would much rather just eat a burger. There are exceptions like China Star, A&J, and a few others. But the ethnic Chinese community here in DC just isn't big enough to sustain a larger selection of Chinese restaurants.

                          1. re: tedders

                            This is absolutely true. Now that I am an American living in China I can attest to the fact that the American food here is just as bad here as most Chinese food is in the US. We had a craving for a US-style breakfast (pancakes, biscuits & gravy) a few weeks that I wish I had satisfied at home in my own kitchen since what we got was decidedly 100% unlike the 'real thing'. And the place is run by an American. Of course, unlike Chinese places in the US, the waitstaff here were not Americans but rather Chinese who had no idea whatsoever what the term 'over easy' means...

                            1. re: James G

                              James G.

                              Good luck in the PRC. I know what you mean. I was once in Taipei for a week. I enjoyed every single business meal and street vendor I can find in that town. But by the end of the week I had to hit an American chain just to try to get a taste of home. Needless to say, I didn't get the burger I wanted. But at least I got a full week of incredible Chinese food.

                              Funny enough, it's not the fancy Chinese restaurants of California, Taipei or Hong Kong I miss. It's the street food.

                      2. Did you (vgaw98 and/or tdonline) ever try China Star prior to May of 2005, TemptAsian from then to about end 2005, or China Gourmet/Szechuan Boy between March 15 and April 30 last Spring? If so, what did you think about the food quality?

                        What places in the DC area do you like, if any?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: johnb

                          Sorry, johnb, I've not been to that places, not that I can remember anyway. I don't drive so I usually rely on friends' giving me rides and sometimes I tend to forget where they've driven me. Usually the one's where the food isn't very good. I've been to Full Kee at Bailey's when I need my Cantonese food fix. It's definitely hit or miss there. Some stuff they do well and others...I would skip the pork blood there. The one time I ordered it, it wasn't fresh at all and my mom and I ended up visiting the porcelein throne throughout the afternoon. We actually had a laugh about it because we were both desperate for the bathroom while visiting Great Falls.

                        2. vgaw98: I'm a big fan of Joe's (and of A&J), and just wanted to take a moment to thank you for posting -- We definitely need a broader cross-section of opinion here! It helps us a lot to hear dissenting voices, and, especially, comparisons.

                          I must admit that I've had some mediocre meals at Joe's -- but also some spectacular ones.

                          In general, the preparations seem much homier, a bit less creative, than were Peter Chang's -- but of course they're aiming for a different ideal.

                          We really ought to pull together another big Chowhound gathering at Joe's and have you join us -- perhaps you'll have a much better meal, or perhaps we'll get some perspective on what good sichuan cuisine can be.

                          In any event, please don't hesitate to post with more naysaying -- or, especially, with some raves of your own!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MartyL

                            I think a big group is the best way to go. The Chinese restaurants here are rather hit and miss so my fav expereinces have been with a bunch of folks to increase the likelihood of yumminess.

                          2. I used to find Joe's to be a bit hit-or-miss, but some dishes they did really well, such as the mala tuding (cold spicy rabbit), and occasionally the dumplings. A&J is usually more reliable, perhaps because it's almost like a factory back there, with not that many dishes being churned out pretty regularly (also, it's a chain). However, having now been in China for a while I can say that A&J is more like true Chinese food (in Beijing, anyway) than Joe's or China Star is. I have not eaten much Chinese in SoCal, though, so cannot say how that would compare to the 'real thing'.

                            1. I was there once and, unless they changed the system, you stand on line to order and the food is brought to your table. It decreases the incentive to order more. The food is OK but I am not convinced it is worth wandering out to Rockville Pike unless you happen to be close to it in the first place. I much prefer Hollywood East but I am not enough of a Chinese gourmet to know what to really order to test a restaurant.

                              1. Every time I'm at Joe's, the clientele seems about 90% Chinese couples and families. I'm guessing they're not from Los Angeles, que no?

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: flavrmeistr

                                  The fact that the clientele is mainly Chinese is not a usueful measure as a similar percentage of McDonald's and Burger King customers are American. Of course, if it were the Chinese Gourmet Society, it would be a more substantial thing.

                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                    Ummm...maybe it's a matter of something over nothing? Where else are Chinese people here going to get their food? NYC? If I was in L.A. would I go to Full Kee? No. But since it's one of the better options around here, I go occassionally. So I have two categories: Places that I go to because I need my fix and it's better than nothing and places I just don't go to period.

                                    1. re: tdonline

                                      Ummm...they don't appear to be "disgusted" by the food at Joe's, whoever they are. I'm not even sure if they're Chinese. I only say that because they look and sound similar to the Chinese people with which I've become acquainted. For all I know, they could be from Omaha (which only sounds like a Chinese place) and, like myself, unable to distinguish between the disgusting food at Joe's and the exhalted Chinese food of Los Angeles. And, as I extend my unwaivering support for the rights of you and your friends to be disgusted by Joe's and the many other second-rate establishments surrounding the Nation's Capital, I would like to hear about some of those fabled Los Angeles joints. I'll be out there some time next month.

                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                        First of all, thanks for such an interesting discussion on this thread. As a relative newcomer to the area and this board, it's great to see all the different opinions.

                                        I think my dissent with Joe's and some other places around here are similar to tdonline's. I don't really care that much about authenticity (hey, I grew up in the US, it's not like I'm THAT familiar with the real food back in China anyway) as I do about general tastiness. I found that a lot of the stuff I ordered at Joe's was overcooked (the pork liver dish for example - super tough and chewy, not tender as it should be, also a vegetarian duck whose tofu parts were dry and old and overall bland) or just not good quality (we ordered a duck blood dish, which is supposed to be nicer, smoother, and more expensive than pig's blood, but we could tell from the texture that it was more actually pig's blood or at least, very poor quality ducks' blood). At some other places, it's also just the poor quality thing (went to the new Shabu Shabu place from the folks at Bob's and the meat was such poor quality AND they were super chintzy with it). I also did used to think that a lot of Chinese people at a Chinese restaurant was a good sign, but have since begun to think like tdonline as well. When there aren't a lot of choices, where else are you going to go?

                                        For flavrmeistr, enjoy your trip to LA! I'm jealous! Definitely try out Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia for xiao long bao's (but you have to go early when they open at 10:30/11:00am or you'll wait FOREVER), Dai Wo (which I believe is in San Gabriel) for excellent dan dan mian, gan ban mian, and this dish I don't know what it's called in English but it's a mix of tripe/stomach, firm tofu, cilantro and hot red oil. Go get bubble tea and some Taiwanese snacks at the various Lollicup chains throughout the area (others will disagree as people are very opinionated about their favorite bubble tea place, but that's mine!) And my favorite dim sum is at this place on Valley Blvd (either San Gabriel or Monterey Park, right near where the two cities meet) in the same strip mall as the Hawaii supermarket (it's a huge Chinese supermarket and the strip mall isn't that big, and this is the largest restaurant in that strip mall, the name has something with 8's in it, i think). If you want some Chinese breakfast, get up early to the 99 Ranch supermarket in Arcadia and go to the prepared food stand outside of the checkout lines and get their sticky rice roll with the fried doughnut inside. When it's fresh, it's FANTASTIC. In general, head to the Monterey Park/San Gariel area or the Hacienda Heights/Roland Heights area for concentrated pockets of Chinese places. I'm sure there's great places in OC too, but I'm not familiar with that area. Have fun eating and let me know if you got to try any of these suggestions!

                                        1. re: vgaw98

                                          I know what you mean. Everyone overcooks liver and hog liver I only eat if I'm there at the killing. Some of the beef I've had at Joe's was a little suspect. But of the dozens of times I've eaten there I have to say the food is mostly savory and tasty. I wouldn't say it's high-end or "wow", more like a good diner that you can usually count on. I'd give Joe's another shot because sometimes they can hit it just right.

                                          1. re: vgaw98

                                            Thanks for the tips. I will consult on these with my local contacts.

                                          2. re: flavrmeistr

                                            Oh! And one more thing - also wanted to say that it's not necessarily LA-style Chinese food I love. My favorite is probably Vancouver actually, which I think is even better than Hong Kong (blasphemy! :). Sorta like how a lot of my Korean friends think that Korean food in LA is even better than Korean food in Korea because here in the US, they are more generous with the meat and use higher quality meats and veggies.

                                            1. re: vgaw98

                                              Toronto is a lot closer and arguably has the best Chinese food on the Eastern half of North America. Last year we visited and ate in the Chinatown area around Spadina and also in the Chinese burbs in the big Asian shopping center at Richmond Hill. Great food!

                                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                For LA Chinese food, take a look at the LA board. Otherwise stick to the San Gabriel Valley (Monterey Park, Alhambra or El Monte), major streets to look are Valley Blvd, Atlantic Ave, or Garvey Ave; or the area around Rowland Heights (off the 60 Freeway near the Nogales exit). Orange County has good Chinese places in and around Irvine (Sam Woo on Culver between I-5 and I-405, and a shopping center on Walnut and Jeffrey).

                                                1. re: dpan

                                                  Too busy at work to list much, but off the bat, yes San Gabriel Valley is the place to be. I'm from LA proper and am not familiar with the OC scene.

                                                  Within a few blocks in Monterey Park, you'll be sure to find some very good dim sum. New Concept on Atlantic is my current favorite. It's "new wave" dim sum and it's a little pricier, but the food is exquisite with wonderful nuanced flavors. Unlike the traditional cart system, you order off a list and the food is brought to you steaming hot from the kitchen. I'm not big on desserts, but try the lavender cake here. Delicate and not overly sweet.

                                                  For more traditional dim sum, at the corner of Garvey and Atlantic is Capital Seafood Restaurant which is fairly new. This was the place I went to during my last visit and it was wonderful. Some interesting dishes and the ingredients were outstanding plus very generous portions. The standard Chinese broccoli blew me away. Often times, you get stuck with old tough broccoli, but that weekend must have seen a good batch of veggies. The chicken feet "phoenix claw" was awesome as well.

                                                  Across the street is Ocean Star which is the football stadium of dim sum places. Huge place with a huge selection. The food can be very good, but as it's so big, quality control can be a little uneven. But a fun place if you want the raucous dim sum experience.

                                                2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                  I can't speak for LA Chinese food in general, but if you do get to Monterey Park, I can suggest the chili chicken at Chung King. It's a dish that gets discussed on the LA board, and the two times I've had it, it was wonderful. I found it to be a really interesting restaurant. I've heard they recently moved, so I don't know what, if any impact that may have had on the food or the vibe of the place.

                                                  1. re: Warthog

                                                    Sounds good to me. I'm taking all this down. Surprised we haven't been popped yet.

                                                    1. re: Warthog

                                                      Seconding Chung King as good place to visit. Do not be ashamed to ask for mild. I love spicy food and the last time there, since my mom and I were "local", they went to town on the spices. My mom had to cry uncle while I plowed on, suffering excruiting and delightful pain!

                                                    2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                      As for Hacienda Heights (Take the Azusa Exit off the 60 and go south - right), my favorite is Earthen. Great dumplings, green onion pancakes, and spicy noodle dishes. It's in the 99 Ranch Market strip mall on the west side of Azusa across the street from the Puente Hills Mall. Another interesting restaurant there is Taipan which specializes in these rice dishes in which the rice is cooked in stone dishes so that the outsides get toasty and crispy. You then add tea and mix it up, kind of like what you get in good Korean tofu joints.

                                                      In Irvine, go to Sam Woo BBQ. It's next to the Sam Woo Seafood restaurant, also in the 99 Ranch Market shopping center at Culver and Irvine Center Drive. Take the Culver Drive exit off I-5 and go south (right). The shopping center will be on your right about 1 mile down.

                                                3. I didn't use the word "disgusting". I have in my own fumbling way, just stated that in my IMHO, the Chinese food here is hit and miss. Note "hit" there's some good stuff. I'm just awaiting my first "wow" meal. There's a lot of stuff that don't blow me away in LA either, but there is truly some good good out there. I'm looking for that same experience in DC. I knew this was going to happen...

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: tdonline

                                                    Sorry, I had you confused with the original poster who stated they and their friends found the food at Joe's "disgusting". I try to keep up.

                                                    1. re: tdonline

                                                      tdonline, I think you're just trying to walk a really fine line. It's perfectly reasonable not to like a restaurant, even one that everybody else loves. I think the difficulty is when a poster starts comparing all of ethnic food X in one city/part of country to all of ethnic food X in another city/part of country. Those comparisons are usually nearly meaningless and can't be easily translated into better eating anywhere (the goal for all of us, right?!). You actually did use the word 'disgusting' (see your original post, last sentence).

                                                      I have found JNH to be hit or miss. There are some dishes I love, and others I don't, including some that others here really seem to like. I don't much care for the salty crispy squid. I've seen others rave about it.

                                                      To each their own.

                                                      1. re: Smokey

                                                        As always, Smokey is so right on this one -- the crispy squid of great renown is simply not very good at Joe's. Indeed, I haven't been thrilled with squid in general there.

                                                        Anyone looking for Joe's tips should do a search on this Board -- there are several threads listing dozens of menu items (by number) that folks have enjoyed.

                                                          1. re: tdonline

                                                            Sorry tdonline, I e-mistook you for the OP.

                                                        1. re: tdonline

                                                          Not to compare it to LA (I lived in Long Beach years ago and there wasn't good chinese food there at the time but we could drive to Monterey Park), but for NoVa, I do agree with you about the Chinese food here. I generally go by my in-laws who are Cantonese and have been in the restaurant business here. There are few places they will go to (though my MIL surprisingly goes to Peter Pan fairly often!). It's hard to find a place to do a banquet that satisfies my FIL. They mostly stick to Mui Kee, Marks Duck House. I haven't been up to Maryland, though, and would like to still try Joe's and Bob's. And, there's always A&J's here that i haven't been to, too.

                                                        2. I was at Joe's Noodle House the other day and got the shredded radish and a couple of other dishes. I didn't want to eat much of the radish for fear of filling up too quickly. But it was sooooo good I couldn't stop myself. I gobbled up the whole thing before the other food came out. Oh well, at least that meant more leftovers!

                                                          For those of you who have higher standards, I certainly look forward to hearing about the occassional triumph you do have, however rare that might be.

                                                          1. I don't know about authenticity and I don't recall the details, but each of the four times I've eaten at Joe's I've loved every bite of every dish.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: sweetpotater

                                                              I've had better Ma Po Tofu in Texas!

                                                              About the chef: Chef John Hrinkevich joined P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in 1997 as Executive Chef and Culinary Partner of the North Park, Dallas restaurant. In 2001 Chef John was promoted to Market Chef and is responsible for the culinary operations, training and development and quality control of 19 restaurants in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Louisiana.

                                                              Why was Chef John drawn to Chinese cuisine and P.F. Chang’s?

                                                              "You can always count on two things at P.F. Chang’s. Every dish is made to order using the freshest, highest quality ingredients and we are all about wok cooking," said Chef John.

                                                              "Wok cooking is unlike any other style of cooking. We build the flavor of each dish using aromatics and spices which the Chinese call Bao Syang or "exploding into fragrance." The sauce ingredients are added and then the vegetables and proteins. This is all done under very high heat and very quickly giving the finished dish the "breath of the wok" or Wok Hey."

                                                              Chef John makes his home in South Lake, Texas with his wife and two daughters.

                                                              P.F. Chang's China Bistro
                                                              225 North Park Center
                                                              Dallas, TX 75225

                                                            2. I will agree with many posters. I went to Joe's as a vegetarian and the dishes are hit or miss. Ma po tofu was not good, shredded potato not good, vegetable soup not good, bamboo shoot and tofu noodle tasted old.
                                                              But I have had some great dishes spicy radish, mustard and edamame, and pickled vegetables were quite good.
                                                              So I can only say that I enjoyed those dishes but it is quite an experiment where you always have to be ready to be dissapointed.

                                                              1. I finally ate there with a buddy about a year ago based on great reviews here and we found our food revolting. My buddy's General Tsao's Chicken I think it was was just gross he said. Mine was bad too, whatever it was. Yeah, it was boring, safe Americanized chinese dishes, but they should have tasted good! They didn't.

                                                                We'll never go back to Joe's. For chinese food, my favorite in the area for ambiance and food is Jade Billows in Cabin John Mall in Potomac. Everything we've had there is fantastic.

                                                                Steve R

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: stever500

                                                                  I have to say that some of the worst food I've ever had was Chinese-American food served at Chinese restaurants. If you want to play it safe, you need to stick to restaurants that cater to a purely American audience.

                                                                  One of the rare exceptions is Miu Kee on Rte 50 in Falls Church. Respectable Chinese-American food, even though 80% of the clientele is Asian, ordering the Chinese selections.

                                                                  1. re: stever500

                                                                    Interesting. Jade Billows is probably the closest Chinese restaurant to my house, and I've been there 3 or 4 times, but never had anything worth ordering a second time.

                                                                    Try Tony Lin's at Montrose Crossing. I bring friends there who want "safe Americanized chinese dishes", because they do a good job of those, but also have a separate, translated "authentic Chinese" menu for me to order from.

                                                                  2. Actually, I don't like A&J's but then Joe's is take it or leave it with me too. I like being able to get some exotic dishes at Joe's (my son loves duck tongues) and their spicy dishes are better than some, but their major asset is that they are cheap and have a huge menu.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                      You can get your son cooked duck tongues at the hot food section at either Maxim or Kam San Supermarkets in Rockville without having to patronize Joe's.

                                                                    2. I'm originally from So. Cal. and grew up on fabulous chinese food also. When I moved here I used to search all over for some good chinese food. I used to live very close to Joe's Noodle House but was not a big fan, just ok. Better to drive to Wheaton or Gaithersburg. Now I live in NoVa and go to Fortune Seafood in Reston for select items when I get the craving. When I'm willing to travel, I'd go to Full Kee or Mui Kee.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: josie888

                                                                        I'm curious as to what you get at Fortune Reston. It's 5 minutes from my house and generally empty at dinner, but we've found some pretty good dishes there if you concentrate primarily on the seafood. Their dim sum is okay, but a bit heavy for my tastes and we have been hitting Lucky 3 or A&J (not dim sum, but hits the "lots of small plates" craving).

                                                                      2. I like their seafood and hot pots, the eggplant with diced chicken and salted fish has a distinctly chinese flavor that is not available in chinese-american places, oyster casserole, seafood hotpot. I also like the sesame chicken, much better than their orange chicken. The live seafood on special occasions has been good. Must very selective with dim sum to avoid the heavy stuff. Most of the americanized stuff is too greasy for my taste.

                                                                        I'll try Lucky 3 for an excursion but its too far for me for everyday.

                                                                        1. Yes, Joe's Noodle House is terrible. I try not to eat there more than three times a week.

                                                                          1. I've probably eaten at Joe's 10-12 times over the last five years. It's my favorite Chinese (read: Sichuan) restaurant in the DC metro area, basically because it's the closest thing I've found locally to my favorite Sichuan restaurant in Taipei. Is it 100% authentic? No. I've eaten in Chengdu, Sichuan and the food as served there was very different, even with basic dishes like ma po dofu. But Joe's serves dishes I can't find elsewhere or can find only in lesser versions (Ants Climbing A Tree, Four Season Beans). It's also been consistently good. Or at least was as of my last visit a few months ago. If the place has gone down the toilet since then, disregard the preceding. Otherwise, for those who haven't, give it a try. I always go Saturday lunch or dinner. It's generally full but food always comes out hot and fast.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: the sobsister

                                                                              Thanks for your informative post. I've been to Joe's quite a few times, and I have yet to try the ma po tofu. It is not listed on the menu in English as such, though their version might be called "Bean Curd Szechuan Style" What about it did you find inauthentic? Or... how is it served in Chengdu?

                                                                              JNH has so many versions of tofu: pressed, dried, shredded, fried, fermented, home style, and regular. I think the place is a tofu lover's dream.

                                                                              Here are some of my favorite small plates (xiao chi):
                                                                              fried baby smelt with peanuts
                                                                              wontons in red hot sauce
                                                                              shredded radish
                                                                              spicy and sour pickled vegetables
                                                                              home made bacon with leek
                                                                              pressed tofu with hot sauce
                                                                              rice cakes with shredded pork
                                                                              seasoned seaweed
                                                                              spicy and tasty fried tofu with ground pork

                                                                              And,as a main course:
                                                                              H-20, fish filet over vegetables

                                                                              If you've tried any of these, how would you compare these to the small plates in Chengdu or in the case of the H-20, a water based dish?

                                                                              (anyone can answer, not just sobsister)

                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                Re: the xiao chi, I've only had the cold sesame tofu noodle at JNH, which is a favorite of ours. I will try some of the others too, on your recommendation. I'd love to find good dan dan mian around here. There was a place south of Gaithersburg that had decent dan dan mian and good bubble tea too, one of the first to feature the latter in this area.

                                                                                Re: the ma po dofu, the biggest difference--and not necessarily a bad one for JNH--is that in Chengdu, the dish is liberally sprinkled with "Sichuan pepper" which produces a numbing sensation on the palate. I've had it prepared this way at only one place in the DC area: a restaurant out in Fairfax or Annandale which made/makes? decent Sichuanese food.

                                                                                1. re: the sobsister

                                                                                  I just had the ma po tofu at Hong Kong Palace in the Seven Corners area of Falls Church. I can tell you there was no lack of Sichuan peppercorns in this dish. In fact, after awhile it tasted like they were the ONLY ingredient. Despite the name of the restaurant, they are under new management and serve an extensive Sichuan menu.

                                                                                  1. re: the sobsister

                                                                                    Have you tried the dan dan noodles and A&J? I openly admit I don't know from authentic, but I think they're quite good. Definitely get the wide noodles (they're yummy and chewy). The +1 made the mistake of ordering it with the thin noodles once and I didn't think it was anywhere near as good.

                                                                                    1. re: Smokey

                                                                                      I haven't been to A&J in a long while. I'll try the dan dan there. Thanks.

                                                                                      1. re: Smokey

                                                                                        Definitely get the wide noodles. They're handmade. The waitresses at A&J told me the thin ones from bought from stores and are not as tasty.

                                                                                    2. re: Steve

                                                                                      You should try the wontons in hot and sour sauce (if you haven't already done so). The hot and sour sauce is very similar to the red hot sauce, but there's a vinegar undertone to the hot and sour sauce. I like both, but I prefer the hot and sour sauce.