Only one or two of the following restaurants are one ones that have gotten much notice. Three are in DC, and the other two are close by, one in the Maryland suburbs, and one in Virginia.
Mala Tang, 3434 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA – 703-243-2381
If you happen to find yourself across the river (my wife Ellen says if she has to cross the river she usually does so only to get on a plane), Mala Tang is a place to go.
Most folks know about Mongolian Hot Pots, but Sichuan Hot Pots are not so well know, or at least not to us. These are individual hot pots, tho if you have a few appetizers first, which we highly recommend, then one hot pot can serve for two. You choose whether you want the hot pot spicy or not, then you add a starch (noodles for us), one or two meats (beef in wine is wonderful) or seafood, and a vegetable or two. You can also make it work if you are a vegetarian.
The cost is reasonable, and there are some new and old tastes.
Their website: http://www.mala-tang.com/
A & J, 1319 Rockville Pike, Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852 – 301-251-7878
This restaurant is an easy one to miss. The name doesn’t sound particularly Asian, and it is not easy to see the name nor the entrance from the Rockville Pike. But if you’re in the area, it’s worth the effort.
Another Sichuan restaurant, this one I tend to think of as having ‘Chinese tapas,’ good as a lunch place (in part because the only time I get to it is when I’m taking my car to the repair shop a few miles north of A & Js.
Mostly there are small dishes, including soups and dumplings. You’ll probably find mostly Asian folks and an Asian menu, but they do have a menu translated into English. You can figure out most of what those folks are eating at the tables near by.
Be sure to try the pickled spicy cucumber, the wide dan dan noodles, one of the soups (beef stew), the shredded bean-curd salad with chilis and cilantro, but I suspect almost anything you choose will satisfy. Again, not every expensive, actually quite inexpensive, but bring cash as they don’t accept credit cards. I understand they also have a restaurant in Annandale, but word is the Rockville place is more authentic.
One website description:http://www.menuism.com/restaurants/a-j-restaurant-rockville-158625
Great Wall Szechuan House, 1527 14th St NW (between N Church St & N Q St) Washington, DC 20005 – 202-797-8888
How many times have you passed a store front Chinese restaurant and wondered, ‘how do they stay in business and who would go to a place like that?’
Well the other night we had some time before our Studio Theatre play (see mini-review here) was to start and so were walking a few blocks up and down 14th Street to check out some of the new restaurants and stores. In the midst of a number of new places, we saw a small store front Chinese restaurant which I thought was one of those carryout, small menu places that I thought had been there forever and that only approximate Chinese food. But we stopped to read some of the reviews and certainly got our comeuppance.
Apparently this Great Wall Szechuan House (there are others in the metro area apparently, tho this one may be the best) was said to serve some of the most authentic Chinese food in the city. The reviews emphasized the Ma La dishes (spicy), and had we not already eaten, we would’ve gone right in.
Because I couldn’t get Ellen to try the place this evening and because I wanted to include this restaurant in this posting, I did what any right minded person would do and stopped in for lunch today.
Ten years wasted.
That’s how long these folks have been there (and for 25 years prior to that it was a Chinese carryout). So I had two small Ma La dishes, a spicy hot won ton appetizer and dan dan noodles (to compare to the restaurant above). Both were good, and the restaurant is not very far from my house. (Apparently ‘Ma La’ means numbing spice-y, and it is. Your tongue is numbed for a few minutes by the ma la oil they use, rather than the pepper corns).
I can’t wait to go back. And in the meantime, I brought home two dishes to try on Ellen tonight.
To read more about this place go here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/great-wall-szechuan-house-washington
Estadio, 1520 14th St NW (between N Church St & N P St) Washington, DC 20005 – 202-319-1404
Speaking of tapas and small dishes, one place we finally managed to get a seat and enjoy prior to the Studio Theatre play was Estadio. Those of you who live in the Dupont/Logan Circle area certainly know of this place. It’s usually crowded and reservations are only taken for large parties and prior to 6 PM, or something like that. But you can sometimes get a place at the bar surrounding the kitchen, and that’s a show in and of itself.
We’ve only eaten there once, but all five or six of the small plates were terrific and some were different than ones we’d had elsewhere. The corn, the foie gras with duck breast, the chorizo and chips, and the Iberico ham were all wonderful. So too the desserts.
Estadio works as a place for just a few dishes and a drink or for an entire meal. Prices are not inexpensive, but the tapas is as good as you get, assuming you can get a seat. Go early.
Yelp’s website review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/estadio-washington
Seasonal Pantry, 1314 ½ Ninth Street N.W., Washington, DC 20001
For something different, you might try this 10 seat, one sitting per night (Thurs-Sats) where chef Daniel O’Brien takes the freshest of local farm ingredients (for which he often barters) and turns them into five or six courses, depending upon what’s available and what he can manage on his very small induction burners. Not every course is an award winner, but enough are quite good, and there’s usually at least one that you will remember (and want the recipe).
You can take over the entire 10 seat table (the table takes up most of this small storefront ‘pantry’) or just share it with others. Reservations open usually two weeks prior to the night of dining, and the menu changes from week to week.
We’ve gone twice, both times with a group, and the evening has been quite fun and delicious. The cost is about $85/$90 (?) per person and includes everything and all the white or red wine you wish.
In addition to the Thur-Sat dinners, there is a market/pantry stocked largely with goods Daniel has made, and there are also sometimes classes and other offerings that change with the season and the interests of Daniel and his friends.
I think there is no phone number, and you have to contact Seasonal Pantry on line: http://seasonalpantry.com/