Okay, at least going for a taste of Peter Chang’s hot and numbing Szechuan cooking doesn’t quite require a day trip, as it does for his restaurants in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Williamsburg.
Chang—the former Chinese Embassy chef who decamped to cook at a string of restaurants throughout Northern Virginia and became a cult sensation trailed by a gang of eaters no less obsessive than Deadheads—has opened Peter Chang’s China Café in Fredericksburg, a little less than an hour from DC without traffic. It’s the closest he’s come to the District since leaving his Fairfax restaurant, Szechuan Boy, in 2006.
If your idea of Chinese food is beef with broccoli or you’ve simply grown tired of too many fine-dining meals that taste the same, then consider a visit to Chang’s world. All the dishes that brought the chef renown are here: golden fingers of cumin-laced fried fish in a bamboo basket; a head-clearingly spicy mapo tofu; a scallion-flecked fry bread that puffs like a balloon and turns every head in the handsomely appointed dining room.
Chang divides his time among his four restaurants, so if you want to be guaranteed the master’s presence—and the exactitude and detail on the plate that his being in the kitchen brings—then call ahead. But even when he’s not around, this is still a tasty getaway.
This article appears in the September 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.