Tag Archives: DC

Da Hong Pao, Washington, DC

Da Hong Pao
1409 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

It used to be that if you wanted to get decent dim sum in DC, you would have to venture out to the suburbs. While China Garden in Rosslyn, Oriental East in Silver Spring, or Hollywood East in Wheaton weren’t dim sum parlors of the quality seen in New York, LA, or San Francisco, they were pretty solid and offered DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) residents a chance to eat dim sum without having to travel. That’s not to say that there wasn’t dim sum in the district proper, but Tony Cheng and Ping Pong Dim Sum have suffered poor reputations either because of quality (Tony Cheng) or because of overpriced, bland, inauthenticity (Ping Pong Dim Sum).

But late last year the owner of Yum’s II opened Da Hong Pao next door to their longstanding Chinese American carry out joint. While Yum’s II has withstood the merciless tide of gentrification that has seen 14th Street go from auto repair show and late night carry outs to luxury condos with street level West Elm and JCrew Men’s Stores within 10-15 years, Da Hong Pao is a new, gleaming restaurant look tailor made for affluent yuppie millennials who want tasty, more authentic Chinese food in the neighborhood. Gone is the old Playbill cafe, a dark, very gay restaurant known for its karaoke nights. Now it’s a restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, white tablecloths, and dark wooden chairs. And instead of passable American cuisine, the new restaurant serves dim sum and Cantonese seafood, something the owners could have never done at their carry out next door.

Given the exciting opportunity to eat dim sum in the district (and in one of my old neighborhoods no less), I decided to go with one of my friends when I was in town earlier this month. We arrived about 12:00PM and got seated immediately. While I had expected a clientele ratio that skewed more white, the majority of diners on this weekday lunch ended up being mostly Asian. We took a seat near the window and promptly ticked off items from their dim sum menu and ordered the following (note: they do have a couple carts if you want to experience dim sum “the old school way”):

Dim Sum at Da Hong Pao

Dim Sum at Da Hong Pao

  • Steamed Spare Ribs with Garlic Black Bean Sauce 豉蒜蒸排骨 – The steamed spareribs were perfectly juicy and marinated in enough oil and black bean sauce to provide a rich umami taste without being overpowering. I loved the perfectly cooked diced taro they threw into the dish too.
  • Egg Tart 招牌蛋撻 – When ended up eating these egg tarts a little bit later as they came closer to the beginning. While the flavors were fine, I thought they weren’t anything to write home about. However, I fully acknowledge that it could be because I didn’t eat them hot.
  • Steamed King Prawn Dumpling 超級蝦餃星 – While these shrimp dumplings don’t have quite the finesse of places around LA, San Francisco, or New York, you could tell that they were made in house rather than reheated frozen dumplings. The shrimp was fresh and perfectly portioned, though the skin suffered from being a little too gummy and hard to break apart (or rip away from the steamer with a chopstick).
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Pan Fried Dried Shrimp Rice Crepe at Da Hong Pao

  • Pan-Fried Dry Shrimp Rice Crepe 香煎蝦米腸 – While the rice noodles were decently done and I liked that the soy sauce wasn’t to overpowering, I do wish they had a little bit more dried shrimp and scallions for added flavor.
Boiled Yu-Choi at Da Hong Pao

Boiled Yu-Choi at Da Hong Pao

  • Boiled Yu Choi 白灼芥蘭 – Though it is incorrectly named in English, this plate of Chinese broccoli (which is different from yu choi, though that is offered on the menu as “flowering cabbage”) was great. The leaves and stalks were cut perfectly for edibility, the broccoli was perfectly boiled and dressed with enough oyster sauce to complement and not overpower the vegetable.
  • Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumpling with Fresh Crab Roe 蟹籽鮮蝦燒賣 – We ended up being hungry with just four items so we added a fifth. This siu mai was alright but the pork could have been a little more moist and seasoned for a little more flavor.

While Da Hong Pao is no Dragon Beaux or even NYC Tim Ho Wan, it is a solid place to get dim sum in DC. My friends will assuredly rejoice that there will be no need to metro across the river or to Maryland to wait for a table for dim sum. Instead, they can roll out of bed and saunter down to Da Hong Pao on 14th Street and wait in line as if they were eating brunch at Le Diplomate or Compass Rose up the street.

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Oegadgib, Annandale

Oegadgib
7331 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003

For the second trip in a row, my plans to visit Kogiya, the latest Korean BBQ joint in the heavily Korean DC suburb of Annadale, were foiled. However, it worked out in the end as a tip from a friend and last minute organizing meant that my friends could dine with me at my tried and true Korean BBQ staple, Oegadgib. Prices there are reasonable for all you can eat Korean BBQ (at print, I believe it’s still less than $20 a person) and my previous trips provided good service, decent quality meats, and plentiful panchan.

After a friend and I did a small turnaround to find the difficult-to-locate restaurant, we got a table of 6 and waited for my other friends to arrive. After about 5-10 minutes they arrived too and we promptly got to our all you can eat Korean BBQ feast. Since it was a little late, most of us immediately started gorging on food as it arrived. Needless to say, I took only just a couple pictures. Regardless, here are some thoughts on most of the items that came to our table:

AYCE Korean BBQ at Oegadgib

AYCE Korean BBQ at Oegadgib

  • Kimchi – Oegadgib’s rendition is good, if not exactly different from most of its competitors. They did have both a napa cabbage and cucumber kimchi though. While I generally like the napa cabbage kimchi better, I like the cucumber one more at Oegadgib
  • Potato Salad – average, generic Korean potato salad, though I did like that it was mild and not overly acidic
  • Sauteed Spinach – admittedly, it’s just spinach that’s boiled and flavored slightly with a little garlic, but I just love this panchan as it works well to cut the fat of the meat when I eat it with rice
  • Tofu Soup – my friends LOVED the soup, which I can understand. I don’t think I have found another Korean BBQ place serving tofu soup in a pork broth and it’s a nice refreshing soup to balance the heavy meat
  • Steamed Egg – I love the steamed egg and I think it’s one of the best parts of eating at Oegadgib. Rarely have I seen this at other places and I find the steamed egg goes perfectly well with the panchan, meat, and rice around the table
  • Salad Greens With Dressing – along with the slices of pickled daikon, the salad greens (mainly leafy lettuce) works very well with the grilled meats. It dresses with meat with additional flavor and, along with the daikon, cuts the fat of the meat with a refreshing vinegary sour flavor
  • Thinly Sliced Beef Brisket – Now we get to the meat. For the thin beef slices, they were good though could use a little more seasoning
  • Pork Belly – A little leaner than I’m used to, but it was still delicious and worked especially well with the salad and pickled daikon
  • Beef Steak Cubes – Decent meat and worked well with the rice and the spinach. Nice and tender and was really flavored well with the juices of the brisket and pork belly

As for the service, pleasant and efficient, though maybe slightly less attentive than usual. The servers help you cook the meat, without being overbearing (like Honey Pig). The servers refill your panchan quickly as well as any water glasses. They did seem a little taken aback at first when none of us wanted any beverage aside from water, but it turned out fine.

All in all, not the best Korean BBQ I had, but pretty solid and definitely one of the best in the DC area. The great bonus was that I was able to introduce three of my friends to the wonders of Korean BBQ as well. I’m glad all of them seemed to enjoy their first taste of all you can eat meat deliciousness.

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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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