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.
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.
His entrées may be named after animals, but chef Tai keeps his Chinese cuisine absolutely free of meat. He uses imitation meats to craft standout dishes such as pumpkin chicken, kung pao squid, and shredded pork. As if to emphasize his passion for natural foods, Tai cooks only with pure vegetable oil and refrains from flavoring his dishes with MSG or dark magic. These restrictions sometimes force him to get creative, but the results are delicious whether he’s using soybean protein to make chicken or transforming white yams into baby shrimp and squid.
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.