Cheap Eats 2007: Hong Kong Palace

You don’t expect to see a woman in a head-to-toe chador carrying a giant bag of Chinese takeout. But this Szechuan restaurant with the Cantonese name makes contrast its strength, tying crunch to creaminess, sesame to spice.

A gorgeous, garlicky salad of Chinese black mushrooms crunches like kelp, a perfect foil for spicy dry beef the servers promote as “Szechuan snack food.” The friendly staff offers enthusiastic and rewarding recommendations: Tea-smoked duck oozes jasmine-tea-scented fat, and a chili-laden fish-and-tofu stew is so good that the busboys wash it down with cans of Bud at a back table.

Cumin ribs are a bit like chugging a Durkee spice rack, and the salt-and-pepper shrimp are forgettable, but the menu is strong enough to make risk-taking pay off most of the time.

Open daily lunch and dinner.

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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 Logan Circle.