Chinatown in DC’s Penn Quarter seems like the obvious place to find authentic Chinese cuisine. But according to Todd Kliman, Dining Editor for Washingtonian Magazine, the best place for gourmet Chinese food in the DC area is Rockville, MD.
Kilman says that many Chinese immigrants first settled in Chinatown in the 1950s and 60s. But since that time, they have gradually been moving into Maryland. Edward Shen, co-owner of Seven Seas restaurant in Rockville, immigrated to the US in the 1970s and opened his Chinese restaurant in 1986. When his wife moved to Maryland from Seattle in 1993, she says, “He called Rockville a Little Taipei, meaning that I can get all sorts of gourmet Chinese food in Rockville area. ...Rockville is becoming a small Chinatown in Maryland, but it has been that way for quite some time.”
There are a variety of Chinese cooking styles in Rockville including Szechuan, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Hong Kong style, and Shanghai style. Some Chinese restaurants will have an English menu with westernized choices and a Chinese menu with more authentic foods like duck blood, frog, ling fish, loofah, and duck tongue. Michael’s Noodles in North Rockville serves two different versions of hot and sour soup, with duck blood in the more authentic version.
Kilman notes that many Chinese restaurants in our area do not focus on elaborate banquet style presentation. But Seven Seas does. The restaurant serves a wine chicken dish presented with a beautiful lantern created out of tomato, jalapeno pepper, golden pepper, cherries, orange peel, and celery.
Kilman also recommends China Bistro (the American name for Mama’s Dumplings), which doesn’t look like much from the outside, but serves many different kids of delicious dumplings. For Chinese baked goods, Kilman speaks highly of the buns at Bread Corner in Rockville. They make barbecue buns, chicken-filled buns, custard-filled buns, and more. For dim sum served daily, Kilman recommends A&J in North Rockville (with another location in Annandale).
Head to Maryland for authentic Chinese cuisine!