Tag Archives: Baltimore/DC

Padaek, Falls Church, VA

Padaek
6395 Seven Corners Center
Falls Church, VA 22044

The Washington, DC has very few Lao restaurant options, despite the fast growing Asian cuisine scene in the area. So when I was researching Asian restaurants to go to with my friends in Alexandria on my trip to DC a month ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see Padaek as an entry for not only Thai cuisine, but Lao as well. Always one to help introduce other friends to new Asian cuisines, I eagerly asked them if they wanted to try and they were definitely game.

On a Monday night after work we met up and headed to Falls Church near the notoriously difficult to navigate Seven Corners area of Fairfax County. Inside a fairly nondescript strip mall was Padaek, decorated in Halloween themed decor for the then-upcoming holidays.

We sat down and browsed the menu, which included a front two pages of Lao dishes and a back two pages of more familiar Thai dishes. We decided to order a few dishes from the Lao side only and ordered the following:

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Sai Oua at Padaek

  • Sai Oua – This classic appetizer dish of Lao sausage came with sticky rice, lemongrass, dill, and ginger. The sausage was flavorful by itself with a blend of spices that perfectly accentuated the fattiness of the pork. The lemongrass and ginger slices helped to cut that and melded really well with the sticky rice.
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Mee Kathi at Padaek

  • Mee Kathi – This noodle soup was a Mohinga like thick/chowder-y noodle soup with thin rice noodles We got this with tofu and even with the tofu, the dish was immensely flavorful with coconut curry and chili.
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Tom Zaap at Padaek

  • Tom Zaap – This soup had a a nice, subtly sour and tangy tamarind and lemongrass taste. This was refreshing with the pork ribs which were very tender and accompanied by more sticky rice! I do wish it was more stew like than soup like, but nonetheless it was tasty, even as we asked for medium spice (which still didn’t feel too spicy).
Mieng Vietianne at Padaek

Mieng Vientiane at Padaek

  • Mieng Vientiane – This wrap dish consisted of fried catfish and warp accoutrements like lemongrass, ginger, dill, peanut, tomato, cabbage, and a sweet but slightly spicy fermented soybean-pineapple sauce. The catfish was fried perfectly with great crunch but still flaky and tender meat inside. Combined with the fresh wrap accompaniments, the lettuce wraps had both great textural play and flavor combination between sweet, sour, and spicy. I would highly recommend this dish.

All in all, Padaek was a great Lao experience and allowed me to experience some dishes I can’t even find or haven’t even had in the Bay Area yet! I would definitely be excited to go back and try the other Lao dishes and see how their Thai dishes stand out compared to the many other Thai restaurants in the DC area. If you happen to be traveling in Northern Virginia, I would definitely swing by for a great meal.

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Daikaya, Washington D.C.

Daikaya
705 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Mother’s Day one year ago I started this blog in memory and honor of my wonderful mama, who introduced me to the world of delicious food across East and Southeast Asia. Given that this is a one year anniversary of sorts, I was debating on what to write about. Do I write about a restaurant I have already posted about because I would be eating dishes that my mother would love? Do I write about a new restaurant eating dishes my mom would order, but the execution was subpar? Finally, do I write about a restaurant that serves dishes that my mom would be less experienced in, but is just really good?

I opted for the latter because, at the end of the day, my mom was about eating good food around magnificent company and, on occasion, experiencing new things.

Daikaya

A few weeks ago when I was in DC, I had a quick lunch with a friend of mine after touring the NPR building. We decided on Daikaya, a restaurant serving ramen that has a good reputation and was between where I was visiting and where my friend was working. Given Daikaya’s rave reviews, I was ready to see how it stacked up not just to Toki Underground, the previous king of ramen in DC, but to the great ramen joints in Southern California and New York City.

Fortunately we arrived at Daikaya just before the DC lunch rush started crowding the restaurant. Within about 10 minutes we were seated in their modern bar-esque type seating arrangement. We were promptly served water and ordered relatively quickly. I got the spicy miso ramen with chashu and soft boiled egg.

After waiting for about 10-15 minutes, the bowls of ramen came to our table. The first sip of the soup was heavenly, with a perfect amount of spice and salt. As a person who usually eats Hakata style tonkotsu ramen, which can be a bit salty, I was pleasantly surprised with the lightness but also complexity of the spicy miso flavor. The ramen noodles were cooked just right, which was wonderful given that Toki Underground can have a tendency to overcook their noodles. The soft boiled eggs were also cooked just right with the flavors balancing the spice of the broth really well. The chashu was the only disappointment. It wasn’t bad, per se, but could have been sliced thicker as well as had juicier and fattier cuts of pork.

Overall, Daikaya definitely beat Toki Underground to take the title of “Best Ramen in DC” in my book. As for the comparison between Daikaya and ramen shops in LA or NYC? I feel Daikaya was comparable, but I probably need to eat more Sapporo style ramen shops in either city before I can really judge.

In the end, I think my mama would have agreed with my decision on good food and great times with friends. Given that Daikaya also has an Izakaya upstairs, it looks like I will have more opportunities in the future for friends and food, just as my mom would have wanted it.

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China Garden, Arlington (VA)

China Garden
1100 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209

Sorry for the belated blog post. As many of you know, I had an election to help run and it finally came to an end yesterday – with a victory!

In any case, last week I flew to Washington, DC to celebrate the wedding of two of my vary good friends. Since it happened to be a long weekend as well, I decided to invite a number of my friends in DC for some Dim Sum. Since not many of DC’s Dim Sum places are metro accessible, I settled on China Garden, which is a block from the Rosslyn metro stop. This, of course, allows many of my car-free friends to join in on some delicious Chinese food.

I arrived about 20 minutes before my group was supposed to arrive in order to ensure we had a table around the time I had scheduled the brunch. We had a table in about 30 minutes, which isn’t too bad by Dim Sum parlor standards. As we got seated, I quickly realized that many of my friends there were new to Dim Sum (and I am glad that they were willing to try something new, sight unseen!). That, however, wasn’t a big problem as I took over managing the ordering from the food trolleys.

Over the course of brunch we ordered the following items: Daikon cake, Sui Mai, stir fried green beans, pork spareribs, rice noodles with dried shrimp, roast duck, bbq pork buns, potstickers, sticky rice, Singapore style rice noodles, fried eggplant, egg custard tarts, pineapple buns, sesame balls, and vegetable chow fun. I may have forgotten some. Needless to say, this was a lot of food, even for my 8 friends and myself.

China Garden

I didn’t get to eat all of the items as I was partially busy loading the lazy Susan on the table with more items. However, of the items I did eat, most were fairly on point. The daikon cakes were perfectly pan fried, allowing a crunchy exterior with a nice and warm chewy interior. The sticky rice had roast duck in addition to the chicken, which made the flavor marvelous. The Singapore style noodles were also good, with noodles perfectly stir fried and tossed in with curry. The potstickers were also good too, with a skin that was not too thick and a nice crunch from the pan frying. The desserts were all fantastic and reminiscent of what I could get back “home” in Southern California.

However, some dishes were not as great. The sui mai, a standard on how you can measure Dim Sum parlors, were a little dry and a bit dense. It had reasonable flavor, but suffered from a combination of steaming too long and the meat in the sui mai being packed a little too tight. The pork spareribs were also not that flavorful and just seemed like they were steamed with a little pepper and black bean paste to garnish. The vegetable chow fun was overly sauced, making the noodles soggier than usual and drowning out some of the flavors of the vegetables.

As for the service, it was pretty efficient. Tea pots were refilled with hot water at a good clip. People’s glasses of water were also refilled reasonably fast. The bill was pretty good too, coming to about $133 for the 9 of us, which is certainly cheaper than what I would spend if I were to go on a traditional brunch at a restaurant on U or 14th Street.

I am so glad I could introduce a number of my friends to Dim Sum and to eat some of the food I grew up with. Almost all the food was delicious as well, adding to a wonderful experience and weekend in Washington DC. As one of my friends stated after Dim Sum, “Note to self: Whenever Jon Wong asks you out to Asian food, GO”, which definitely made me proud. Now onto my next task, getting my DC friends to taste the delicious Asian food in Rockville, Annandale, and Falls Church.

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East Pearl, Rockville

East Pearl
838-B Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Apologies in the delay in writing. I certainly had a great road trip with plenty of great Asian food along the way, which you will get to read in the coming days.

East Pearl 1

The first stop on my DC to Denver culinary adventures led me to Rockville, Maryland. Rockville is a suburb of Washington, DC, that has a sizable Chinese population and some of the best Chinese food in the Mid-Atlantic. I was browsing through the July 2013 copy of Washingtonian which highlighted a number of Rockville Chinese restaurants. While I had eaten at most of them, one of them stuck out as a place I needed to try: East Pearl. Serving homestyle Cantonese food, I was intrigued and it became the first restaurant I had to go to on my trip.

During the last day I was in DC, my cousin and I decided to eat lunch at East Pearl. Located in a 60s style business park/strip mall, it wasn’t the easiest place to find. However, coming in we were treated to a nice and bright modern Chinese restaurant. We were promptly seated, given menus, and served tea and water.

While there were a number of different and interesting options on the menu, we opted for two noodle dishes and a vegetable to keep our lunch light and simple. We ordered a stir fried rice noodle dish with shredded pork, a beef brisket and wonton noodle soup, and a plate of garlic stir-fried pea sprouts. In about twenty minutes, our food came out piping hot and we were ready to eat.

East Pearl 2

The stir fried rice noodles came out first and the serving plate was gigantic. It certainly could feed a family of 4-6 alone. The taste itself was pretty good. While most stir-fried rice noodle dishes can be gloopy, clumpy, and oily, the noodles here were prepared very well with only slight clumps. The pea sprouts came next and my cousin and I both agreed that this was the best dish. It was very simple, but the way the garlic and pea sprouts were stir fried was simply delicious and pea sprouts with a perfect texture that struck a right balance between crunchy and soft. The beef brisket and wonton noodle soup certainly stood up on its own as well. The noodles were cooked just right, the wontons were plump and juicy, and the beef brisket was tender. The broth was a little salty and a little too beefy, but certainly nothing that would detract me from ordering the dish again.

Service was prompt as well, with water and tea refilled routinely and servers being accommodating without overwhelming. The portions were definitely large and generous. The amount of food we ordered could reasonably feed a family of four, and I took a considerable amount for leftovers (which I sadly could not eat given the lack of microwave in my Pittsburgh hotel room). The bill came to around $40 total, which may seem pricey for two, but our order certainly could have fit a family of 4-5.

Overall, it was a really great meal and I am continually impressed by the newer and better offerings Rockville continues to produce. I would say that my favorite Chinese restaurant in Rockville continues to be the vaunted A&J (which serves Taiwanese and Shanghainese Dim Sum), but East Pearl certainly gives A&J a run for the title. I will certainly return again the next time I am in DC.

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Mother’s Day Tribute

As my brother and his girlfriend know, I originally wanted to start this a year ago with the idea of having a blog dedicated to Chinese food in Orange County and San Diego. Specifically, I wanted to focus on Orange County as it has a growing Chinese food scene with the explosive development of Chinese restaurants in Irvine and the rest of the 949. Given such an increase in quality Chinese food, but with a dearth of blogs covering it, as most of them focus on LA/San Gabriel Valley or San Diego.

However, I had several events in my life that pulled me away from the project. I got a job in New Mexico working to elect Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. Then my mom had a cardiac arrest and eventually passed away in October. Finally, I moved to Denver to work for a nonprofit. Needless to say, a project focusing on the fabulous Chinese food of Orange County had to be shelved temporarily.

Now that I have settled down a little bit, I have decided to relaunch this blog as a tribute to my mom for mother’s day. My mom loved all types of Asian food, especially Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese and it would seem appropriate to write this blog on behalf of her memory.

Of course, now that I live in Denver we will have to shift the focus from Orange County to Asian places across the country that I have and will be eating at. A lot of the focus will be in Denver, where I live now, and Southern California, where I visit a few times a year. However, from time to time I’ll also write about the Asian food I have eaten in places where I lived before, like Baltimore, and visited, like New York City. I hope this will be a tribute that would make my mom proud.

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