Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great Chinese in Rockville

I was sitting with a group of people the other day and one of them mentioned that they were headed to China in the near future and that they were looking forward to the food.  Another of the group mentioned how "real Chinese food is totally different than what we have here." "You can't get the real stuff unless you go there," declared a third.

That instantly got me riled up into a food-nerd tizzy because that particular declaration is a total load.  A load which it will be my pleasure to dispel right now in this post.

I've shared this list of excellent Chinese restaurants in Rockville with lots of folks and I've never been told that any of the recommendations failed to meet either expectations or standards.

To be clear, I've not been to China but those who have will certify these spots as being virtuous in their authenticity.

Here's List of Great, Authentic Chinese Food In Rockville, MD:

A&J Chinese Restaurant, across from Best Buy on Rockville Pike serves great Northern-style dim sum.  Saturdays and Sundays are packed with Chinese families enjoying rich, spicy soups with house-made noodles.  There are small plates packed with cold-sliced pork and beef, smoked chicken, pig ear, thousand year egg with tofu, and steamed pork buns.  For veggies there are cucumbers in spicy garlic sauce, tangy pickled cabbage, mixed veggies with baby corn, wild mushrooms, setan and soy skins, and soy beans mixed with cooked greens.  Fried pork chops and chicken thighs are crispy, salty, savory and served with rice and powerfully-pungent mustard greens.  The best part?  It's super cheap.  Like $10 per-person cheap.

Joe's Noodle House, along the side of the strip mall across the Pike from the Container Store, has been considered a top Sichuan-style Chinese restaurant for years.  Their mapo tofu is fantastic - spicy and numbing.  Their salty-spicy fried squid with garlic and jalapeƱos is the best around! They offer a dish called "crispy squid lips."  If you can show me the lips on a squid, I'll give you five dollars.  Joe's also offers a nice frequent buyer program for those who pay with cash.  Totally worth your while.

China Bistro, near Montgomery College, makes spectacular dumplings. Really, these things are ridiculous.  Ji Cai, beef and celery, shrimp and chive, Mama's Special...all of them unique and rich and steaming hot.  Served with a vinegary soy sauce and "hot" (that ubiquitous jar of chiles in oil with the cute little spoon and lid) they are hot and juicy.  You can try not to eat too many of them, but trying doesn't help. You're going to waddle out no matter what. The cold mixed vegetables, soy skins and cucumbers with garlic are great small plates to keep your dumplings company.

Sichuan Jun River Restaurant, formerly Sichuan Pavillion, makes remarkable Sichuan-style food. It's located just outside of Rockville Town Center's north end.  If spicy is your thing, this is your place.  Their General Guan's Chicken makes General Tso's seem about as spicy as a bowl of rice. This is another super place to get authentic mapo tofu and their deep fried spicy tofu is tip-top, too.  They also do some very special stuff with vegetables, especially in the Stir Fried String Beans with Ya-Cai, a pickled mustard green stem, which delivers a surprising burst of salty, intense fragrance.  You should eat here. You should have been eating here for years!

Bob's Noodle 66 is super-authentic Taiwanese.  They have a great lunch special featuring two entrees and a soup/stew for about $25 and it's got plenty of food for two people.  The menu's got a pretty steep authenticity curve in that you won't find much that feels familiar to the American palette - I LOVE that aspect of this place.  There's stuff like jelly fish, loofah (sponge), and stinky tofu.  The menu's got a steamed fish in wine sauce which is light and sweet.  Their soups and stews are very good, too. Service can be spotty, but get past that and you're in heaven.

East Pearl, across from Wintergreen Plaza is, apparently, Hong Kong.  Try the roast duck, the walnut shrimp, the spicy shrimp dumplings, string beans, and the spinach.  The sliced boneless pig knuckle is wonderfully porky and is served with crispy pickles. Their hot pots - lamb in a deep brown sauce with water chestnuts and one with salt-dried fish and tofu - are unique and strong in flavor.  There's a long list of hot and cold appetizers and many Chef's Specialties, all of which seem appealing and each that I've tried have been delicious.

Silver Fountain in Aspen Hill makes great dim sum.  They've got excellent versions all the standards plus some dumplings that you won't find in most other places.  Their chicken feet are tender and flavorful.  If you decide to try them anywhere, do it here.  The Lo Mai Gai is a gem of glutinous rice with bold inclusions of duck and sausage. It gets busy, so get there early or be prepared to wait. Order off the menu for solid Cantonese favorites.

Tony Lin's, in the same strip mall as Sports Authority, is known by most as a great place to get solid American-style Chinese food.  What most people don't know is that they have an authentic menu, too!  Go in, order items off the American menu to be safe and then order an item off of the authentic menu to be adventurous.

Also, for great Chinese teas, try Ten Ren Tea in Wintergreen Plaza.

Did I miss your favorite?  Share it in a comment!