Authentic Asian Food and Asian Markets
I am new to DC, having recently relocated from San Francisco. I was wondering if I could ask for some help in finding some really good Asian food--Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai--I love it all. Unfortunately, I don't have a car, I've been trying to find metro-accessible places. Yesterday I went to Chinatown and was pretty discouraged by its small size.
In addition to the search for great restaurant, I'm on the hunt for an Asian grocery store I can access. Does anyone have any tips here?
Thanks so much, and I'm looking forward to contributing more to this board!
As you found out, Chinatown is a misnomer. The migration of the Chinese population to the suburbs and gentrification has transformed it into a yuppified neighborhood. If you want Chinese groceries and food, you can take the Red Line to Rockville. Look up Kam Sam and Maxim markets, they are a few blocks from the station. There are a few restaurants, notably Bob's 66 which is between the 2 markets. For Korean, you have H-Mart and Super-H in both Maryland and Virginia. I believe there is one near the Wheaton metro station. For Vietnamese, Eden Center in VA (East Falls Church on Orange Line) is about a mile south of the station. That is the ground zero of Vietnamese food and shopping in the DC area.
The H Mart in Wheaton is not that close to the Wheaton metro. Asian Foods is. It's a much smaller market and is Thai owned, so the focus is different than the Korean-owned stores. They also serve good prepared food. There is another small market (Hung Phat) across the street.
The H Mart in Merrifield is, I think, closer to the Dunn Loring Metro than the one in Wheaton is to the Metro. It's, IMHO, a nicer store than the Wheaton one.
If you do go to Rockville, Joe's Noodle House is a favorite for Sichuan (not noodles!) food.
Without a car, it will be difficult for you to get to most of the Korean food in the area - Annandale has the greatest concentration. The newest, biggest, and nicest Korean store in the area now is the new Lotte in Chantilly - out of range for public transportation, but worth a trip if you find yourself with a Zipcar or such.
I second the recommendation for Eden Center. There are also some decent Vietnamese restaurants in Arlington within walking distance of the metro - Pho 75 in Rosslyn/Courthouse for pho, Minh's and Nam Viet in Clarendon.
I think that, if you are coming from San Francisco, you will be disappointed in most of the Japanese food in this area.
I haven't lived in DC for a few years now but must agree: I was so dismayed when I went to a store in Chinatown and made a beeline towards the refrigerator cases at the back, only to discover them full of flip flops. Ack!
Second dpan: you have to go to the burbs to find good ingredients, unfortunately, and it can be quite a public transportation commute! For good Thai ingredients, I used to go to a market next to Duangrat and Rabieng:
Great selection, including freshly made rice noodles if you hit them up on the right day.
Oddly, I found it fairly easy to locate Indian ingredients in DC, if that interests you at all. I took a hiatus from Thai cooking and broadened my horizons to Indian while I lived there, and it was great fun.
Daruma is a Japanese grocery that's probably about a 10+ minute walk from Bethesda metro, and it has a ramen noodle shop (Ren's) next door.
Yes, I also don't have a car and it is such a schlep to get to the suburbs. It is definitely worth it to go to Rockville (Joe's Noodle House), Wheaton (Nava Thai), and Falls Church (Saigon Cafe across from Eden Center) once in a while.
But I have even better news for you: There is a pho place, Pho 14, that opened recently on Park Rd. next to the Columbia Heights metro station (green line). I tried it for the first time this weekend and thought it was great. Though the prices are a bit high ($9 for a large pho), it is worth it and I am so happy there's now something good in the District! They also serve bun, a couple rice dishes, and some interesting-looking banh mi. Definitely worth it, definitely better than all other District options I've had.
The other good District place is Shanghai Tea House in Glover Park (that is north of Georgetown on Wisconsin Ave, you have to take a bus to get there from Dupont or downtown). I just revisited this place last week and they do have some very interesting and authentic menu items, definitely not the standard americanized Chinese food. They also have the best bubble tea I've found in the District - try milk green jasmine tea. They make their own dumplings there as well. This place is a real find.
In terms of edible Asian food that is not revelatory but is not disgustingly bad, and will do when you're in a pinch:
Thai Tanic (14th St., south of P)
Malaysia Kopitiam (south of Dupont, on 19th St. and M I think)
Kotobuki (cheap good sushi, in the Palisade neighborhood in western Georgetown, have to take a bus there from Dupont)
Mandu (Korean food, the bibimbap is fine, it's between Dupont and Adams Morgan on 18th St.)
There is a small Japanese grocery called Hana Market between Dupont/Adams Morgan and U Street, at the corner of U St and 15th St. It's the real thing. There's also a Filipino market south of the Tenleytown metro station (red line), at least a half-mile walk down Wisconsin Ave from the metro station.
Nam Viet, both in Cleveland Park and Clarendon should be on your list. Spicy Salmon Soup as an app and the curried squid dish - winning combination.