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Chinese food - the dreaded Americanized kind

  • r

So, here's a question that hopefully won't get me flamed too far into oblivion: sometimes I really like a good kung pao chicken, hot and sour soup, and, yes, even beef with broccoli. Where in the DC metro area (preferably DC itself, or, to get even more local, Chinatown) can I find good, spicy renditions of these things that do not wholly lack flavor? For instance, hot and sour soup is never sufficiently hot or sour unless I order take out and doctor it up at home.

Or, alternatively, what should I be ordering that is kind of like these things, but better?

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  1. Peking Gourmet Inn (Falls Church) has dumbed down but still excellent versions of kung pao chicken, szechuan beef proper (a jerky dish), and garlic sprouts with the protien of your choice. Any of their basic beef and broccoli-like dishes will be very good. This is an old fashioned place a bit on the pricey side. The food is just about as good and less expensive at Oriental Gourmet at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center in N. Arlington.

    If you want an authentic version of kung pao, then any of the area Sichuan places can do that. At Sichuan Pavillion in Rockvillle, in addition to the kung pao you will love the vegetable served over sizzling rice cakes with white sauce.

    If getting out to the burbs is a possibilty for you, that is where you really should check out the Chinese options. The one thing I would caution you against is going to an authentic Sichuan restaurant and ordering off the Chinese-American menu. They usually fail spectacularly at that kind of cooking.

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    Peking Gourmet Inn
    6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

    1. If it's Chinese American food you are after in DC, then you're in paradise. And you'll be an overstuffed Chowhound in paradise if you visit Chinatown.

      Just about every single notable "Chinese" restaurant in DC Chinatown serves authentic "Chinese-American" food. Can't go wrong at any one of them.

      It's just like trying to find a sand at the beach. So easy it's not fun, nor a challenge.

      Enjoy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        All I can say is "ugh." You can get some decent Cantonese style food, picking through the better options like the oyster and ginger casserole at Full Kee or the baby squid heads at New Big Wong, but the C-A stuff is dreadful.

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        Full Kee Restaurant
        509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Not true. I live there. It's totally inconsistent. You'll order once and it'll be great and then the next time, totally inedible.

          yfunk3 - I have not tried Chinatown Express yet. I'll give it a shot, but I kind of thought it was basically equivalent to food court Chinese food, and I'm hoping for a little bit better than that.

          I did order from Sichuan Pavilion once a really, really liked it, and then we promptly moved out of the delivery area. Before that, I ordered from Great Wall, which was occasionally sublime, sometimes good, and a few times totally awful.

          I have not ever been to Peking Gourmet Inn, but I will move it right to the top of my list.

          1. re: Raids

            The best thing Chinatown Express has going for it are the condiments they serve at the table. Get a round steamer basket of dumplings and use the sauces. This is a terrific lunch for about $5. The noodles are all made there (!), but to no advantage. They pour a ton of oil over them, so I think of them as the worst lo mein around. The roast meats are the other standount.

            If you go to the burbs, and are willing to try kung pao that is hot and numbing, then get an order from SIchuan Pavillion in Rockville as well as the sizzling rice cakes with vegetables. That would make for a great meal. If you don't want the heat, then PGI for the garlic sprouts and their always non-spicy kung pao, easily the best version around.

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            Chinatown Express
            126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

            1. re: Steve

              The lo-mein style noodles at Chinatown Express are greasy, but in soup form, they're quite good. And yes, the dumplings w/ that garlic chive oil sauce are one of the best deals in town.

        2. Chinese person who loves Chinese-American (or Americanese, as I call it) food here.

          Had a couple of dishes at both Full Kee and Chinatown Express. Full Kee's General Tso's is super fresh and pretty good. It wasn't particularly spicy (well, at all), but I'm positive they'll make it spicier for you if you want by adding chili oil. Chinatown Express's lo mein (they call it fried noodle, made with their handmade noodles) and sesame chicken were fairly good, though their sauce is stickier and more sugary (probably because they put tons of sugar in it!).

          But for that classic Chinese-American restaurant taste, I'm sure you can't go wrong with those two places in "Chinatown" (which I refuse to call Chinatown and just refer to as Gallery Place :o). The prices are good too, as both places have cheap lunch specials, $5 to $6.

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          Full Kee Restaurant
          509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          Chinatown Express
          126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

          2 Replies
          1. re: yfunk3

            Have you been to Peking Gourmet Inn?

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            Peking Gourmet Inn
            6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

            1. re: Steve

              Peking Gourmet Inn is good, and definitely a a half-step above just the typical Chinese carry-out (with prices to match). They have some authentic Cantonese stuff, but most of the people there the three or so times I've been were non-Chinese and eating the Americanized stuff, and they seemed happy with it. It all looked very fresh to me.

              But you must have the Peking duck while you're there as well. No, it won't rival what you find in Beijing, but it's still damn good.

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              Peking Gourmet Inn
              6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

          2. My favorite Chinese food restaurant in the district is Sichuan Pavilion (the one at 18th and K Streets). Their kung pao chicken is excellent. I haven't had the hot and sour soup yet but I'm sure it's great. Good pan fried chicken dumplings, lo mein, shredded chicken with garlic etc. I actually have yet to order anything I didn't like there.

            They have really good "Americanized Chinese" food as well as the real deal dishes (jellyfish etc). I highly recommend.

            I should mention there is another Sichuan Pavilion out in the burbs. This one is different and unrelated I believe...but still very good. I searched for good Chinese food inside the District for 5+ years until I found S.P. I was SO relieved when I finally started working across the street haha.

            1. It's really too bad that the only Chinese place by my office is Bao, which is terrible. Especially, ironically, the bao. Anybody know of any other places downtown?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Raids

                Bao is the newish Chinese place on Vermont, right? Years ago that same spot was occupied by a different Chinese place whose name I can't remember that did pretty good Americanized Chinese. I haven't been to Bao yet, but I've heard from a few folks that the owners are actually Sichuan and can make some decent off-menu Sichuan dishes like Ziran (Cumin) Lamb and Shuizhu (Sichuan braised) fish/beef; you may want to check into that. (And report back.)

                1. re: sweth

                  Sorry, once bitten, twice shy.