But most of the Chinese seems to taste the same, there are decent carryout places that fill a niche (I’m not sure what niche, exactly, but a niche) but very few Chinese places that reach the heights of the Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in the area.
For good Sichuan there’s China Star.
And when I lost power at the beginning of the month and stayed out at the Hyatt Fair Lakes I discovered some really good Hunan — 100 Degree Chinese Cuisine (and by ‘discovered’ I mean that I consulted my boss’ ethnic food guide for nearby restaurants).
I went back this weekend to see if it was a fluke, and I can say I really do recommend checking out the place if you like good Hunan food and find yourself in the Northern Virginia suburbs.
And I do mean the suburbs. The place is in a shopping center beneath a dentist, there are three dentist offices out of 5 upper level shops. It’s next door to a Subway. And the place is anchored by a Harris Teeter.
Enter and it’s almost exclusively Chinese clientele. The acoustics aren’t great, so the restaurant can be a tad bit on the loud side even when it isn’t full. Service from the wait staff is good, the owner through is very gruff.
They bring out pickled cabbage and peanuts to begin.
The owner came out with the waitress while we ordered, I asked for the pork and chive fried dumplings, the twice cooked pork, the baby octopus with pickled red pepper, and another dish with a radish rub that they were out of. The owner was impatient and suggested a new dish, a pork belly and green vegetable stem of some sort. I was skeptical. He insisted. I relented, not wanting to offend.
The dumplings are good. Not as good as at Lam Zhou Homemade Noodle in New York, but some of the best I’ve had in DC. A bit too doughy perhaps. And in need of the soy dumpling sauce that’s provided, they aren’t juicy enough on their own. But still delicious.
The octopus is spicy, a vinegar chili oil sauce and with peppers and black mushrooms. Interesting flavors and textures. The rice here is even very good, by the way.
Next up was the dish not on the menu, the other entrees were $12.95 and $13.95 but this one was $17.95. I was feeling a bit taken and bullied, until I tasted it and it was excellent. This will make me eat my veggies any day.
My favorite dish, a repeat from the last visit, is the twice cooked pork. The cabbage was savory and bitter, the sauce sweet and spicy.
Reactions to this place are all over the map. It seems that folks who are used to takeout Chinese are disappointed — not because they can’t get that, but because they can and they do (the menu is way too expensive and has many ‘staples’ and then they don’t understand what the hype is when the beef with broccoli or sesame beef isn’t any better than down the street from their home and is more expensive too.
Go for the authentic choices, don’t expect stellar service, and you won’t go wrong here.