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.
Spring Garden's unassuming exterior and no-frills decor don't hinder it from being a neighborhood staple. That's because the restaurant prefers to let its food do all the wowing. In the kitchen, chefs whip up more than 100 different dishes that are sure to satisfy almost any craving—whether it's for something spicy, something sweet, or something vegetarian. They simmer tender scallops in garlic sauce, and they tuck slices of beef into bowls of red curry. Sweet-and-sour sauce slathers pork, and noodle get pan-fried, stir-fried, or sautéed with hot chili peppers for an extra kick.
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.
As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
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".