January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants
Look past the grubby stripmall exterior--this is some of the best Szechuan cooking in the area.
Reviewed By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli
Comments () | Published January 24, 2007
Cheap Eats (2010)
Joe's Noodle House
Address: 1488-C Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: 301-881-5518
Neighborhood: Rockville
Cuisines: Vegetarian/Vegan, Szechuan, Chinese
Opening Hours: Open Monday through Friday 11:30 to 10; Saturday and Sunday 11 to 10.
Nearby Metro Stops: Twinbrook
Price Range: Inexpensive
Dress: Informal
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Needed
Best Dishes Pork dumplings; vegetable buns; chive pockets; scallion pancakes; wontons in red sauce; bamboo shoot salad; cucumber salad; whole steamed fish with scallion and ginger or sour-cabbage and chilies; noodle soups with beef or pork-and- radish; Szechuan strin
Price Details: Appetizers 95 cents to $6.95; entrées $4.95 to $10.95.

No. 78: Joe's Noodle House

It’s a truism of Chinese restaurants that the more disoriented you are, the more likely the food is to be authentic.

Joe’s has institutionalized disorientation with its system of ordering: First you secure a table—if there’s one to be snagged; often as not, there’s a line out the door. Then you look over the menu and decide on your choices. It’s no easy feat, with more than 200 dishes to consider plus a separate vegetarian menu; the variety of styles (Szechuan, Cantonese, Korean, and more) and preparations (noodles, pickled dishes, whole fishes, stir-fries, soups, even breads) is daunting. Only now, after your head is swimming, do you go to the counter and place your order.

That doesn’t end the chaos. The food often arrives in a happily haphazard manner (two, three plates at a time). But with the food comes clarity and focus, as the intensity of the cooking forces you to concentrate on the dishes at hand: a whole tilapia topped with pickled vegetables; slices of garlicky pork with chives; pickled long beans with minced pork; a deep-fried baton of bread; minced pork with black beans, sliced garlic, and chives; delicate rice cakes with pork and mushrooms; tender shrimp with edamame in a light Cantonese sauce.

Blessedly free of cloying saucing, packing heat when appropriate, and full of complexities, these dishes offer an intriguing contrast to the genericized Chinese-American cooking that predominates today.

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Posted at 11:51 AM/ET, 01/24/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews