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.
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.
At Cee Fine Thai Dining, chefs assemble stunningly arranged plates of authentic Thai fare, separating meals and sauces for an interactive dining experience, or arranging disparate components in an artful stack to create a new twist on a familiar dish. This culinary runway show honors Thailand's cooking traditions at every turn, earning kudos from the Washington Post for serving "food that tastes as good as it looks." Flavors such as sweet yellow pineapple complement the spicy red sauce of a roasted-duck curry, and tableside clay pots throw aromatic steam diners’ way to announce a mélange of shrimp, mussels, and rice. Whether enjoyed on the patio or amid the dining room's ripe orange walls, luscious desserts including key-lime pie conclude meals on a tropical note. The restaurant also hosts live music, wine tastings, and cooking classes, helping diners liberate inner chefs and pent-up running men.
Within a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, Yen Cheng serves contemporary Chinese dishes among a variety of settings, from fresh dining-room tables and carry-out containers to steaming buffet trays. Waiters ferry specialties such as crispy shrimp drenched in spicy Hunan sauce and Sichuan crispy beef sautéed with with carrots and celery. Items rotate daily at the 10-course lunchtime buffet, where soups, appetizers, and diverse entrees allow diners to practice spinning an unending parade of plates atop their chopsticks.
Duk Wo's sleek, casual confines are adorned with Chinese calligraphy, small black booths, and a lively sushi bar. Warm up tongue buds with an order of chicken lettuce wraps, served on a bed of vermicelli and infused with delicate spice, sautéed chicken, and peppers ($6.95 for four, $8.50 for six). The half peking duck is a house specialty, seasoned and slowly grilled until the skin is crispy, and then served with five pancakes, spring onions, and plum sauce to quiet the enthusiastic quacking of hungry stomachs ($14.95). Take a delectable dip with an order of shrimp with lobster sauce, an all-swim of water chestnuts, mushrooms, green peas, and carrots in an egg-white lap pool ($8.95 or $10.95). Sushi is served on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the roll library includes classic titles such as spicy tuna ($4.50), as well as novel bundles such as the eel-topped tempura fantasy roll ($8), a favorite of the Loch Ness monster. Check out the full menu of non-sushi nosh here.