Fans of Chinese hole-in-the-walls will go gaga over Little China Cafe in Palisades, tucked as it is into a basement space along MacArthur Boulevard. Traverse the brick steps into the front door and beyond, where simple wooden tables and a low roofline make for cozy dining. The slightly confined space may be the primary reason most eaters call ahead for deliver or takeout, but when lunch specials come in well under $20, it’s hard to quibble over décor. The usual assortment of Chinese fare – much of it given an Americanized turn – populates the menu, from pan-fried dumplings and fried rice to moo shu pork, Cantonese-style fish fillets and the Happy Family, a mélange of roast pork, chicken, shrimp, scallops and beef, among other things.
Celebrities and politicos alike—including former residents of a little place on Pennsylvania Avenue—flee from the District to the Virginia suburbs for one thing: Peking Gourmet Inn’s peking duck. Founder Eddi Tsui decided to make the bird the centerpiece of his eatery way back in 1978, when the Falls Church spot first opened its doors. To set his peking duck apart, the chef eschewed store-bought hoisin for his own recipe, perfected his homemade pancakes, and even began growing his own jumbo spring onions. Prepared tableside, the meal is truly this spot’s—and perhaps Falls Church’s—claim to fame, and even made an appearance on the The Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”, where it was interviewed by chef Duff Goldman. Though the duck has stolen Peking Gourmet Inn’s spotlight for the past three decades, the chef's other dishes still manage to hold their own. Items like sea scallops sautéed with roasted garlic, peking-style lamb chops, and singapore rice noodles round off the menu of Northern Chinese specialties, which also includes tried-and-true standbys such as szechuan beef and chicken chow mein.
Many American Chinese restaurants serve exactly that—Americanized Chinese food. But not Sichuan Pavilion. Okay, so the menu does feature a seemingly endless list of the usual suspects––kung pao chicken, mongolian beef––but even the least discerning eye will catch a difference on this menu—specifically, a section labeled “Authentic Entrees.”
It's from this corner that DC restaurateur Casey Patten orders his favorite Chinese dish in the city: chicken with hot dry peppers. As he told Eater, Sichuan Pavilion's chefs punctuate this flash-fried, predominantly dark meat dish with Chinese chili and Sichuan peppercorns, creating a potent punch that, like a kiss from an exceptionally handsome jellyfish, "leaves the best tingly burn." Coincidentally the website did some investigation of its own at Sichuan Pavilion a month or so later, when contributor Mary Kong left with one important takeaway: order the mapo tofu. A spicy black-bean, tofu, and pork dish, Kong dubbed this Sichuan classic one of DC's "10 Chinese Dishes Real Chinese People Eat".
Meiwah is a distinctly Chinese American eatery found in downtown Washington DC. This highly-rated restaurant consistently ranks among the city’s best, thanks in part to a huge, eclectic menu that features all of the classics. But unlike the typical Chinese place, Meiwah also has a wide range of fresh seafood and lamb dishes, as well as “Atkins-Friendly” chicken dishes that are bread-free. Food is served by attentive wait staff in intimate dining spaces on two levels, with design details that include colorful, themed murals and paintings as well as a set of 19th century wood and metal doors. These features give some Asian character to the restaurant, which is otherwise modern and sleek.
Every year, Ching Ching Cha founder, Ching Ching, spends several months exploring different tea regions in China, Taiwan, and Japan. The resulting bounty keeps Ching Ching Cha stocked with more than 70 different kinds of tea, as well as various products, including tea-related accessories such as teapots, teacups, and tiaras. Inside the Chinese teahouse, sunlight streams from skylights onto rosewood tables and chairs that provide a cozy setting for prolonged sips during daily tea times, when customers can enjoy the drink with tasty tea snacks including homemade dumplings, coconut tarts, and almond cookies.