Hong Kong Palace

June 2006 Cheap Eats

The array of Cantonese cuisine at this Falls Church restaurant, much of it esoteric, makes for a meal that feels like an adventure.

Pale-pink walls with Chinese-red accents suffuse the place in a rosy glow, while an oversize photograph of Hong Kong by night is almost as riveting as the tanks of lobster and tilapia.

The menu careens from the mundane–think moo goo gai pan–to the marvelous, earthy spareribs and kidneys in casserole. There's also a board full of specials written in Chinese on red slips of paper. Agitate for a translation or you might miss a gem like the golden oyster omelet or dry-sautéed slices of beef crusty with five spice and bits of fried shallot and green chili.

The unexpected usually trumps the conventional. Think chow fun (wide noodles) in an oily (in a good way) and slightly spicy black-bean sauce with fried rounds of battered grouper or the house special chicken that's been steamed tender. Salt-baked items like pork chops or oversize shrimp with heads on are crowd pleasers.

Casseroles also triumph. Try one with stir-fried oysters, ginger, and scallions or with lamb and dried bean curd. There are dishes devoted to shark's fin, abalone, and sea cucumber, but these likely will blow the Cheap Eats budget. And at this find, you don't have to eat expensively to eat well.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.