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Authentic Chinese in DC area?

Where can I find a place that serves authentic Chinese fare?
Just as well if possible: where do the local Chinese go out to eat.

I have a group of friends heading to China in a few months that want to gather with other friends & family for an authentic Chinese meal.

Most have only had the standard American Chinese fare: chung King, fried rice, shrimp what ever, kung Pow this or that MSG laden Chinese chow. So the more authentic the better.

I have been to Full Kee on H street and think that is good. Any place else I should investigate?

As a maybe different chow theam, is Dim Sum going to be a different journey?
Meaning could you also include an authentic Dim Sum place.
Or just a very good one in the area.


Robert M

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  1. "Authentic Chinese" and "where the local Chinese eat" can still be two different things.

    Night before last we were the only round eye table at Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners, (Falls Church, VA)... and the place was full. Ask for the Sichuan menu. Many recs already on this board, you can do a search. My favorite, though, is still Joe's Noodle House in Rockville, also Sichuan. Be prepared for some pretty spicy stuff.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Second the nomination for Joe's Noodle. Lots of stuff on the menu I couldn't imagine myself eating being eaten by authentic Chinese folks.


      1. re: Steve

        I just got back from Joe's for lunch. That place has become one of my favorite restaurants. Today, I had the Triple Pepper Chicken,Tibetan Lamb with Cumin and the Edamame and Tofu Salad. All were phenomenal (and spicy!), and I've got plenty left over for dinner.

        Other favs are the Salt and Crispy Squid, the Yushiang (sp?) pork, Ma Po Tofu and Wontons in Hot Sauce. The beef noodle soups are good too.

      2. There is an organic chinese place in NW I really like called Mr. Chengs. I can't eat much Chinese food at least not the American stuff something in it makes me sick (no clue it is odd have tried lots of different stuff) at most places, but I could get food from here and I loved it. Very fresh, so you might want to check it out pre-arrival to see what you think.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ktmoomau

          What is the location of Mr. Chengs?

          1. re: RobertM

            I'm sorry the name is Mr. Chen's 2604 Connecticut Ave., NW
            Washington, DC 20008.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              Mr Chen's is ok. Lets just say it does the job for delivery but has nothing on the places in Rockville such as Joes Noodle House (Szichuan) and Bobs Noodle 66 (Taiwanese), haven't been to A&J but I hear good things as well.

              1. re: cleveland park

                haven't ordered from Mr. Chen's in a couple years since they had a health dept issue -- probably not fair of us. But isn't it pretty American-Chinese?

                1. re: mselectra

                  yea it is. It's nothing to write home about, but all other options are gross, so its the lesser of evils.

        2. I third the rec for Joe's Noodle. Amazing Sichuan. Go with a large group to be able to order a large number of things.

          Disclaimer: I don't really know NoVA, so this is my list for DC/MD.

          Taiwanese: Bob's Noodle 66 and Bob's Shabu Shabu (Rockville).
          A&J, Taiwanese Dim Sum, Annandale and Rockville.

          Cantonese: Full Kee in DC, Tony Lin's in Rockville. A number of other places.

          Hong Kong Dim Sum: New Fortune (Gaithersburg), Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard (Wheaton), Oriental East (Silver Spring). I haven't found any of the dim sum in NoVA or DC (and I've been to all of them, numerous times) to be equal to the 3 listed here.

          Dumplings: China Bistro (Rockville)

          Shanghai: Hunan Palace (Gaithersburg) but Chinese menu is not translated.

          Yes, this list is Rockville heavy, but that's where the Chinese population is centered these days, so it makes sense that the authentic places would be there.

          3 Replies
          1. re: DanielK

            Is China Bistro the place formerly known as Mamas dumplings? (next to the Giant on Rockville Pike)

            1. re: cleveland park

              IIRC it's the same place. Mama's dumplings was sort of a nickname I think, never the official name.

              Just across the pike from CB and a little further up is China Canteen which may also be worth a shot. Good sichuan fare if you order carefully. In NoVa there is Charlie Changs on Pickett just off Van Dorn--same advice. Also of course China Star in Fairfax.

              1. re: johnb

                China Bistro rocks. Mama's special dumplings or the beef and celery.

          2. Another recommendation for Joe's Noodle House in Rockville.

            In DC the only place that comes to mind is Full Kee. That being said, Joe's Noodle House is leaps and bounds better

            2 Replies
            1. re: MarcDC

              >>That being said, Joe's Noodle House is leaps and bounds better<<

              Hmmm....personally I much prefer Full Kee to Joe's Noodle House. But it is certainly a matter of taste and depends on whether you prefer very spicy Szechuan or wonderfully prepared but more subtle Cantonese food.

              1. re: Jim Zurer

                Therein lies the problem of determining what is the most "authentic" Chinese restaurant. I take most of the opinions stated here with a grain of salt. It seems that spicy Sichuanese food is the rage at the moment. Nothing wrong with that as I have my spicy food hankerings. For most Chinese, it's what comes closest to their comfort foods that would count as authentic, and of course that depends where they grew up and what kind of foods they had back home. If you grew up in Hong Kong, then Mark's Duck House, Full Kee, Miu Kee, or Vihn Kee would fit the bill. If you came from Taiwan, then Bob's Noodles would be the destination. And the Sichuanese restaurants would serve those who came from that province.

            2. Several posters have made some good picks. My family is Chinese and we enjoy the following places (I've tried to list some favorite dishes at each, although there are many other good ones):

              A&J (Rockville) - scallion pancake, wide noodles with spicy peanut powder, shou long bao pork and shrimp dumplings, seaweed salad, cucumber salad

              Fu Shing Cafe (Bethesda only, Gaithersburg doesn't seem as good) - three cups chicken, pork with yellow leek, eggplant with chicken

              China Canteen (Rockville) - pee bah tofu, snow pea sprouts, chow foon

              Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard (Wheaton) - beef tenderloin, crispy garlic shrimp, salt and pepper pork chop

              Peking Eastern House (Gaithersburg) - sesame pancake, fish with pine nuts, fish fillets with brown sauce, lions head, mongolian lamb, crystal shrimp

              Bob's Noodle 66 (Rockville) - lunch special

              China Bistro / Mama's Dumplings (Rockville) - dumplings

              Oriental East (Silver Spring) - dim sum

              Yuan Fu Vegetarian (Rockville) - hot and sour soup

              Vegetable Garden (Rockville) - stir fried udon noodles, crispy eggplant

              Possibly my favorite Chinese dish is snow peas sprouts sauteed with garlic. It's pronounced DOH-meow. It is an authentic Chinese dish that I think your friends will love. Not all Chinese restaurants have it. Some have it, but it's not on the menu. So ask for it if you don't see it. Enjoy.

              4 Replies
              1. re: housefamous

                These are great tips, and I also absolutely crave and adore snow pea sprouts with garlic, or most Chinese greens for that matter.

                1. re: jeanki

                  Miu Kee in Falls Church has excellent pea sprout shoots. They clean them really well (too many places don't and you have to chew a long time).

                  A&J's in Annandale also has excellent scallion pancakes and cucumber salad. It seems like such a simple dish but I rarely find a great cucumber salad (crispy fresh cucumbers, perfect spiciness). Most of the pastry type dishes there were good (scallion buns, thousand layer pancakes), as were the noodle soups (esp. deep fried pork chops and greens). I'd pass on the steamed short ribs with 5 spice sauce, dumplings and rice wrapped cruellers. The rice wrapped cruellers are so much better from the Great Wall.

                  1. re: chowser

                    A slight tangent - but does anyone know if the Full Kee restaurants are related? There's one in DC - which I think is the original, but there's another in Wheaton and one more in VA.

                    I'm not sure how the naming thing works in regards to restaurant intellectual property.

                    As to food - in addition to many already mentioned above, I also like Paul Kee in Wheaton, Hunan Peking in Georgetown (Prospect St.) and also Harmony Cafe in Georgetown (M St.), though Harmony is kinda Ameri-Chinese food and perhaps not so authentic (but still very tasty, especially if you or some of your friends are vegetarians).

                  2. re: jeanki

                    Snow pea shoots mostly show up in the early spring. After that, they turn into snow pea plants.

                2. I've never really been quite sure of the allure of Joe's Noodle House. It's certainly ok, better than most, but not really worth going out of my way for. Just my $0.02.

                  Otherwise in NoVA, here are my recs in order of preference:

                  1. Hong Kong Palace - Chengdu/Sichuan style. Can be superspicy but really yums. Tiger Skin Peppers, Cumin Lamb, Golden Fried Corn and Egg Yolk, and the Chengdu Spicy Cold Noodles are some of my favorites.

                  2. China Star - not as good as it used to be, but still turns out some decent food. Try a spicy dish and balance it out with the Crystal Shrimp.

                  3. A&J - Annandale branch. Same as Rockville, just closer for me! :-D

                  4. Peking Village (by Great Wall in Merrifield) - excellent version of Ma Po Dofu - they call it Mama Chen's Tofu, I think.

                  5. Lucky Three - dim sum on the weekends. The buffet during the weekdays is ok. The carts are better - see if you can snag the shrimp with walnuts. Yum.

                  6. Mark's Duck House - great for Beijing duck, casseroles, and noodle soups.

                  Good luck!

                  1. I'm also a big fan of chao dou miao (stir fried pea shoots). It seems this dish would be the perfect fit for Bob's Noodle House, but they don't do it there. What are the other restaurants that are confirmed to have this dish on their menu or at least make it upon asking?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: famba

                      The Cantonese places (Mark's, Full Kee, Miu Kee, etc.) have it pretty much on a regular basis when they are available. Also I've seen it at China Star and Sichuan Village. You have to ask what their daily vegetable specials are. Usually they will have the Dou Miao, along with Chinese Rape (You Chai), Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan), and On Choy.

                      1. re: famba

                        They do when in season. Look on the specials wall behind the counter about March or so. They do other fresh greens with garlic that are also quite good, especially the spinach.

                      2. Any decent ones in Arlington? I've found my take out/delivery options are routinely poor.

                        1. chinatown: Eat First and Chinatown Express
                          Wheaton: Paul Kee, Full Kee or Holywood East
                          gaithersburg: Fu Shin

                          1. I'll add Seven Seas in Rockville, known for it's seafood. Get a group together and try out the prix fixe group menu.

                            Btw, I passed by Peking Village in Merrifield and noticed a lot of Chinese coming to and from the restaurant. You wouldn't think it would be popular with the natives given the Chinese caricature decor. They offer a $6.95 buffet on the weekdays. Has anyone tried this??

                            (I ate at the Five Guys next door. They seem to be sprouting everywhere!)

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Minger

                              You can't judge the food by the decor, especially for Chinese restaurants. The Great Wall supermarket has a lot to do with the large number of Chinese customers. I believe they serve authentic northern style food, including breakfast items.

                              1. re: dpan

                                I really enjoyed Peking Village; however, I dined with Chinese friends who did the ordering from the Chinese breakfast menu, which was not translated. When I arrived (earlier than my friends), they gave me the Chinese/American menu. That's their standard practice.

                                Their chef won several awards in China.

                              2. re: Minger

                                Yup, Peking Village is pretty authentic in my book. I referenced it in my list of suggested places above.

                                1. re: Minger

                                  Buffet: no. Just no.

                                  Ask for a seat in the back room, and ask for the Chinese menu. The back room will remind you of one of those places Tony Bourdain visits in China down a mysterious-looking alley - it's barely got what you'd call "decor," the ceiling tiles are ... well, don't look at the ceiling tiles, and you wonder if you'll be getting out of here alive, but the food is worth it (that's often the kind of place where you find food that's really worth it).

                                2. I don't know how authentic it is, but I believe Meiwah has the best Chinese food in DC (i.e., excludes MD &VA). Chinatown Express and Full Kee in Chinatown are good though.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: masonuc

                                    Fwiw, Meiwah is *very* Americanized. That said, it's pretty good as far as that kind of thing goes. And they deliver.

                                    1. re: FoodieGrrl

                                      Meiwah is American-Chinese but it's good. The spicy salt squid is excellent and I love their garlic eggplant. The veggie dumplings are also tasty (better than the pork ones). The mini They will do more authentic Taiwan-style dishes, but you have to ask, like Taiwanese Rice Noodles aka Bee-whun is masquerading on the menu as Shanghai noodles or something like that. And a friend of mine who lived in Taiwan declared after downing several of them, that the mini-dumplings were as good as any you'd find in Taipei. They do a decent Peking Duck too. And they'll deliver at least as far north as Woodley Park--their takeout operation is something else. A lot better than Mr. Chen's!