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.
Since 1987, Seven Seas has served the Washington metropolitan area with authentic Chinese cuisine, featuring a number of entrees that go well beyond the standard offerings. Browse the lunch or dinner menus for a variety of savory seafood selections, such as the fresh squid, sautéed in a black-bean sauce, then garnished with green peppers, onions, and jalapenos ($12.95). Or try the lightly battered shrimp topped with premium walnuts ($16.95). Those leaning toward chicken can keep leaning, eventually falling face-first into the string bean Szechuan, which features minced chicken stir-fried in a light brown sauce ($9.95). With chefs who have experience with Mandarin, Cantonese, Szechuan, Taiwanese, and American methods of cooking, Seven Seas’ massive menu will satisfy even the pickiest of diners. To drink, Seven Seas offers a hodgepodge of Oriental and Californian wines, plus premium sake, such as the Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama ($16), a libation that’s as balanced as a tabby-cat gymnast.
Masala Wok's expansive menu features new Asian, Thai, and Indian flavors to help diners recreate the wondrous lies of Marco Polo, gentleman fabricator. Accompany your stomach's journey down the Spice Road with an appetizer of zesty battered chicken lollipops, an Indian take on wings (four for $4.99, eight for $8.49), before choosing your favorite flavor-corner of the East with a main course. Try a subcontinental delicacy such as the spicy southern curry with red-pepper-bedecked fish, shrimp, chicken, lamb, or paneer in a mustard-coconut sauce ($8.99), or head for steamy Southeast Asian environs with the Thai-influenced spicy basil plate ($8.50 for chicken, $8.35 paneer, $9.50 shrimp or fish). Lock lips with the orange chicken, stir-fried with scallions and carrots in orange sauce ($8.50), or skewer your stomach's overwhelming sense of emptiness with a chicken malai kabob—yogurt-marinated boneless chicken kabobs grilled with cheese, spices, and cilantro and served with rice and naan ($8.99).
If Mighty Khan's Mongolian Grill had a menu that listed every possible combination for its stir-fry creations, it would literally be thousands of items long. That's because the restaurant puts diners in the driver's seat, letting them hand-select and painstakingly interview each ingredient that goes into their meal. Dishes typically get built around top-grade meats and fresh seafood. Then, more than 20 vegetable options further customize creations, as do sauces that Mighty Khan's staff makes fresh daily. When diners aren't feeling creative, the restaurant also provides instructions for building their time-tested specialty bowls, such as the spicy cilantro lime bowl and the mild tangy citrus bowl.
Traditional Asian dishes such as egg rolls, pad thai, and crab rangoon may be among the most popular at Hunan Village, but they represent only a small portion of its menu. Other sections are devoted to chow fun (a flat rice noodle), poultry- and beef-based dishes, and scallops and shrimp. Plus, there are dishes that accommodate vegetarian diets—think bean sprouts and eggplant—as well as Weight Watchers regimens.
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.