Rockville: The New Chinatown?

Fans of authentic Chinese cooking know this Maryland suburb is home to the area's best dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, and northern-Chinese dim-sum.

A&J Restaurant is known for excellent northern-Chinese dim sum. Photograph Yassine El Mansouri.

Though DC’s Chinatown has no shortage of Chinese restaurants, fans of authentic Chinese cooking head to Rockville—now home to the area’s best Chinese eateries—for plump dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, northern-Chinese dim sum, and other regional dishes.

Dumplings tinged with hot chili oil put China Jade (16805 Crabbs Branch Way; 301-963-1570) on the map. Other plates to seek out in this no-frills dining room include Kung Pao chicken, fried fish with scallions, snow-pea stems with garlic, and—for the adventurous—organ meats.

At the equally divey China Bistro (755 Hungerford Dr.; 301-294-0808), dumplings can be had every which way, but best are the ones stuffed with shrimp and chives, beef and celery, and pork and pumpkin (a seasonal offering). Dunk them in a dip of chili oil and rice vinegar, both on the table for a make-it-yourself dipping sauce.

Northern-Chinese dim sum is the draw at the cash-only A&J Restaurant (1319-C Rockville Pike; 301-251-7878), where bready offerings—flaky 1,000-layer pancake, sesame cakes with beef—turn up alongside dishes such as dan-dan noodles slicked with spicy sesame sauce and fried pork with noodle.

At Michael’s Noodles (10038 Darnestown Rd.; 301-738-0370), the focus is on house-made noodles. Try them in a slow-roasted-beef noodle soup or heaped on a plate with chili, garlic, and dried pork. Other top picks include tender pork buns and salt-and-chili-flecked pork chops.

It’s cash only at Bob’s Noodle 66 (305 N. Washington St.; 301-315-6668), where most plates are family-style generous. The Taiwanese hamburger is really braised pork with bitter greens in a steamed bun. Other good picks are an aromatic chicken casserole and roast-pork-and-sour-mustard soup.

For those who like it hot, Joe’s Noodle House (1488-C Rockville Pike; 301-881-5518) has fiery dishes such as shrimp, scallops, and calamari with sweet pickles and pepper sauce. Tamer but no less delicious are scallion pancakes, pork with preserved tofu and leeks, and bamboo salad.

It’s not unusual to find other worthwhile Asian eateries near a large concentration of Chinese spots. In Rockville, Pho 75 ( 771 Hungerford Dr.; 301-309-8873) serves steaming bowls of the Vietnamese beef noodle soup known as pho, which you can personalize with flank steak, meatballs, offal, basil, sprouts, and fresh sawtooth. Lighthouse Tofu & BBQ (12710 Twinbrook Pkwy.; 301-881-1178) makes excellent Korean soondubu soup, a pepper-laced broth with house-made tofu, a raw egg to mix in, and a choice of oysters, mushrooms, or beef. Other good options include a savory pork-and-kimchee pancake and beef bulgogi with green onions.

This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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