100 Best Restaurants 2012: Mala Tang

Restaurant Arrivals We're Most Excited About


Szechuan isn’t a cuisine for the faint of sensibility–it’s a triple-barreled assault of smoke, heat, and pungency that excites and numbs the palate. Chef Liu Chaosheng retains all those properties at this East/West mash-up but also brings finesse to his small plates–the best reasons to pay a visit.

The ruby-walled room, with its turned-down lighting and low-key techno soundtrack, feels like the sort of place where drinks are king and food is an afterthought. But few Asian restaurants are as mindful of the details. Hot pot is the focus, and to appeal to Western palates, diners are encouraged to order their own pot–it’s customary to share–and accent it with fish, meat, and veggies. Thinly sliced pork has the depth of flavor of a heritage breed, the prawns are glisteningly fresh, and the vegetables taste as if they just arrived from a farmers market.

What to get: Hot pot with pork, prawns, green-bean leaves, and wood-ear mushrooms; wood-ear mushrooms with chili oil and cilantro; pork dumplings; dan-dan noodles; scallion pancake.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Moderate.

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.