HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


China Garden??

I am craving dim sum this weekend, and we typically head out to Falls Church, but for professional reasons, my boyfriend must stay within a 15 minute distance of the District. Is China Garden worth going to or should I hold out for another week?

How long is the wait usually?

A side note, if I am going to hold out for somewhere farther, Lucky Three or Mark's Duck House?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This seems to be the most widely discussed topic on this board lately. I like China Garden a lot -- it has the nicest decor of any dim sum place in the area and the food is consistently good. Some on this board note that it's a bit more expensive than other dim sum places, but I believe it's worth it. So I strongly encourage you to go.

    The wait depends on when you go. If you get there between 11 and 11:30, you can usually sit right down. Anytime after that it can be as long as an hour until the rush subsides.

    3 Replies
    1. re: CMACDC

      In a nutshell, this input covers most of what China Garden offers. One more thing that I've noticed is that the portions are generally smaller, which makes the higher prices even more annoying.

      Another dude who surfs here regularly recently had a great dim sum meal at Tony Cheng's Seafood restaurant in Chinatown. If you're hungry for dim sum this weekend, you may want to check it out.

      I'd vote for Lucky 3 over Mark's Duck House. Mark's stuff comes out of the kitchen cold, and they specialize more on dumplings, noodle soups, roast pig, and roast duck rather than dim sum. At mark's, you can order dim sum almost anytime of the day and they'll bring it out of the kitchen for you, or pack it for you to take home to heat up.

      Another close-in option in Silver Spring, near City Place, is Oriental East, which is known as the best dim sum joint in Maryland, although some disagree. It might meet your 15 minute requirement, depending on where in DC you need to be 15 minutes to. Since they open at 11am on weekends, you will need to be there by at least 10:15 to get on line. Otherwise, the first rush probably won't be done until about 12:15.


      1. re: Chownut

        Hi! Thanks for the input. We went to Oriental East once and the food was excellent but the wait was definitely not. This was also on a day when we did not have geographic limits (the 15 mins or so has to be from Georgetown, boyfriend is an MD).

        China Garden might be worth it, depending on how strong my craving gets between now and Saturday. Otherwise I might just hold out till and go to Lucky Three. We usually hit Fortune at Seven Corners, is Lucky Three way better?

        Also, I love the food at Mark's Duck House but the service is abysmal, so thanks for the info, I'll save up my patience and hold out for a peking duck night.

        1. re: caphill2320

          Oh yeah, if you want dim sum from Oriental East, you need to be there by at least 10:15 to get on line.

          Since Georgetown is Ground Zero, China Garden is the closest place. Lucky 3 is way better. In my mind, Fortune is gawdawful.

          Mark's is great for the stuff I mentioned, but they serve cantonese roast duck. If you want real peking duck, try this place:


    2. INTERESTING...thanks for the tip on the duck! I will certainly be mentioning that soon. Honestly, the last time we went to Mark's, the service was so bad it was comical. I wonder if Duck Changs is open xmas day...

      So Lucky 3 is the best of the bunch? Oriental East's food has been the best so far in the area, but I seriously can't tolerate the wait (with all the pushing!) and it's too far to get there that early. I'll definitely start whining about getting to Lucky 3 soon. Do the carts come frequently?

      1 Reply
      1. re: caphill2320

        For the most part, you can depend on Chinese restaurants to be open on Christmas Day. Generally, a lot of people do dim sum on that day also, and if not, then they still remain open for other customers like Jews who don't celebrate Christmas. For the most part, the only day that chinese restaurants are closed is for Thanksgiving.

        Lucky 3 carts move pretty well, but the key is to sit near the kitchen for the fresh stuff to come out. That would be on the left side of the dining area in the back. I must say though, if you want to "gorge" yourself with dim sum, you should stop by on a weekeday when they have their dim sum buffet. That way, you can get what you want when you want. They have the best dim sum buffet in this area, and all of it is authentic for the most part. In addition, they also have other stuff like stir fried crabs, stir fried eggplant, mussels in curry sauce, stir fried tofu, etc. You might want to check with them to see if the buffet is being offered on Christmas day, which is on a Monday.

      2. Just an update, we held out until we could go anywhere (so long as we were home by 1 for the Redskins game) and went to Lucky 3.

        It was REALLY good. Definitely my favorite place in the area so far. We got there pretty early, right after 11 and sat right down. There was tons of good stuff and everything was sooo good. Plus, it was cheaper than Fortune, which is always a bonus. We will certainly be coming back soon. Thanks for all the advice!

        1. Next time do try China Garden. Lucky 3 is good but China Garden is still my favorite! We usually get there 30-40 minutes before they open. They frequently open the doors a little bit before the stated opening time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TerriS

            China Garden offers pretty good dim sum, but below are a few points that make Lucky 3 a better choice. China Garden is still worth trying though, if you've never eaten there before.

            * Lucky 3's portions are larger and prices are lower.

            * You generally don't have to wait for a table at Lucky 3. Their dining area is larger than China Garden's, and China Garden usually reserves 1/3 of their restaurant for bus tours, which makes the wait that much longer.

            * Lucky 3 has the best dim sum buffet in this area which is served M-F.

            * Both places offer free parking, but parking is easier at Lucky 3 because of the open lot vs. CG's basement level parking, where a lot of the prime spots are reserved.

            * Lucky 3 offers full sized original egg custard tarts, CG doesn't.

            * Outside of dim sum, Lucky 3 offers better authentic cantonese fare compared to China Garden. China Garden is generally favored for parties and banquets because it looks upscale, nevermind the food.

          2. Ahhh...let's talk about the egg custard tarts (or Dan Tat). I love the CG tarts because they, IMHO, are the closest to the authentic. Get them fresh from the kitchen (ask the waiter or waitress and they will bring them out). Nothing beats a hot egg custard tart with the flaky pastry crust and the burnt custard like a creme brulee. Mmmmmmmmm......

            How does Lucky 3 make theirs? I'm leery of trying Lucky 3 because I didn't like its predecesor Maxim, and the idea of a dim sum buffet suggests that quality and variety isn't the main selling point.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dpan

              I like my egg custard tarts like how they're typically sold, with an egg/sugar mixture, not with some sort of burnt coconut mix in it. If I wanted it like creme brulee, I would have creme brulee instead. Same goes for Mark's Duck house. They only offer tiny egg custard tarts.

              As for Lucky 3's buffet, everything on the buffet table and in the steel tins are exactly as they are on regular saturday and sunday dim sum afternoon, with much variety and very good quality.

            2. It's not a coconut mix, it's only egg custard that's been burnt on the top. I'm no fan of coconuts and can taste it if there's any in the mix. When they're fresh out of the kitchen hot, the center of the custard is still soft, almost liquid in consistency, contrasting with the burnt outer layer. This is the way I've always had it growing up in Hong Kong and NYC. The CG tarts are not tiny, they're almost 3 inches across and come 3 to a plate. I do not like the custard in the cake crust that some restaurants serve. Not authentic IMO.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dpan

                Weird, why would they want to burn the top of the egg custard? It's not like a creme brulee crackling burnt, but a gooey burnt that's not so good. Kind of like cold oatmeal.

                I've had almond custard tarts up in NYC also, too bad they don't have it down here. Also, my remark about small egg custard tarts was about Mark's Duck House.

              2. It's never been gooey in my experience, just a thin layer of burnt custard at the very top. I think the trick is to get it hot out of the kitchen.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dpan

                  For some reason, I think the last time I had it there it had some coconut in it. I believe I even asked the push cart girl what was in it, and she said coconut custard. Given that though, I'm surprised they don't offer people the excellent standard version.

                2. In my experience, the regular egg custard tarts are a quick seller, they don't last long on the carts, if at all, as the customers usually grab them before they've made a circuit of the dining room. Every time we go we've had to ask the waiter to get them from the kitchen, and they always oblige.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: dpan

                    There's one thing at Lucky 3 that you might appreciate. They have all you can eat full size egg custard tarts, never mind all the "bowh loh bows" and "gai mei bows."

                    1. re: Chownut

                      Oooh, what are those? Will you suggest some things to try? We sampled all the familiar favorites at Lucky 3, but I'm always interested in new things. I adore anything with roast pork, and the little pastry triangles with pork were excellent there.

                      I guess our only complaint was that a few of the cart people spoke spanish, not chinese and did know what was in a few of the dishes that we asked about.

                      1. re: caphill2320

                        First I mentioned egg custard tarts which is basically egg/sugar mix baked on a shell that has tons of lard, which makes for crackling goodness. Next is a pineapple bun, which has a fruity mash of pineapple and sugar inside the bun, with a sugary/crusty top. Finally is a bread like pastry with a sugary coconut mash inside.

                        Yeah, the roast pork filled triangle is called "cha siew soh." I like that a lot too. It's great when it's extra flaky.

                        Yeah, at Lucky 3, they employ latinas to push the carts who don't know the dishes well, and at China Garden, they employ chinese high school girls who don't know much about the dim sum either.

                        Another pastry that I like a lot also is called "gah lee gok" which is a curry beef pastry. You don't see it too much around here.

                        1. re: Chownut

                          Well, everything is so cheap there anyways, I guess we could always just try it and see. My boyfriend loves pork shumai, and had high praise for the ones at Lucky Three. We also thought the fried dumplings were really good.

                          What is the turnip cake like? Worth a try?

                          Does anyone have a "field guide to dim sum" blog? It would be a really helpful endeavor...

                          1. re: caphill2320

                            Yes, the turnip cake is one of my favorites. It's usually served with some hoisin sauce for dipping. It's like a thick gelatin with some choice bits of chinese sausage. Make sure you get it hot though, meaning right off the griddle, not stacked on top. Also, try the fried taro (light brown egg shaped pastry). There's savory pork inside (not bbq pork) with a flaky taro exterior.

                            You should seriously consider stopping by Lucky 3 on a weekday for their dim sum buffet. It's only $9.95/person (excluding tea) and you get all the aforementioned choices on top of noodle dishes, stir fry dishes, crab, etc.

                  2. I know, I've heard so much about the buffet there but I work VERY far away from Bailey's Crossroads. I'll have to wait for the next time I take a "sick day" and head out.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: caphill2320

                      They could be offering their dim sum buffet on Christmas day (Monday) or New Year's day (Monday) if you're interested, but I would call ahead if you really want to check it out.