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June 2004: A & J Restaurant

These stylish northern Chinese dim sum parlors attract a young crowd. The Rockville branch has cinnamon-and-yellow walls and trapeze lighting; Annandale has faux stone and a mural of historic China. Unlike the typical Hong Kong-style dim sum palace, diners order from a menu rather than pointing to dishes on a cart.

Northern Chinese dim sum also favors bready items. Thousand-layer pancake is a many-layered flatbread to tear into hunks and dip in Chinese tea. A sesame-studded rectangle of flaky dough is filled with bits of meat, a sort of breakfast sandwich. You'll find fewer noodle dishes overall, but there is an offbeat take on sesame noodles—spicy and with a shake of peanut powder. Other taste sensations are stogie-size pork potstickers, cucumbers with hot garlic sauce, marinated razor-thin slices of pork and beef, and a wonderfully soothing bowl of steaming pork-and-mustard-green soup.

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