Tai Shan

Once very good, this Chinatown fixture now disappoints.

From March 2005 “Best of Chinatown”

In the late 1980s, when its name was Tai Tung, this Chinatown stalwart enjoyed a brief season in the sun when Mimi Sheraton, then the New York Times restaurant critic, praised its smoked crabs–local blue crabs chopped into several pieces and stir-fried with ginger and scallion in the least amount of oil possible. Truth be told, every other restaurant along H Street's stir-fry corridor served smoked crabs every bit as good as Tai Tung's. But it became the place to go for smoked crabs in Chinatown.

When new ownership changed its name to Tai Shan in the early '90s, the talent of the new kitchen made it one of the top restaurants in the neighborhood: Its meal-in-a-bowl Hong Kong soups, garnished with dumplings or noodles or broth, equaled those served at Full Kee, and its Chinese casseroles and roast duck were competition for similar dishes at Eat First. Alas, the spiritless dishes recently sampled at Tai Shan bear little resemblance to those that earned it several Washingtonian Best Bargain Restaurant awards.

The formerly impressive Cantonese roast duck still has a dark-brown skin, but now it is less than crisp and has too much fat. The wonderful Hong Kong shrimp dumpling soup of the past has been replaced by a bowl of wan broth garnished with flat-flavored dumplings. The flounder hot pot, once the best Chinese casserole in the neighborhood, now disappoints with its inexplicably flavorless pieces of fried flounder.