Cheap Eats 2015: China Star

Where we go for our favorite spicy and mild Szechuan dishes.

Chef Peter Chang has long since left the roost, but this graying Fairfax restaurant —where he cooked before becoming the vagabond genius lauded at multiple stops across the South—appears to have suffered minimally from his departure. It remains one of the area’s most satisfying and dependable sources of Szechuan cooking. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t have to submit to being scorched to eat well when you eat Szechuan. Some of the best dishes here are more tingling than truly incendiary, such as a preparation of lamb dusted liberally with aromatic ground cumin and chilies, and there are always milder plates—say, cucumbers in garlic sauce—to keep at the ready in case you need them to tamp down the fire.

Cuisine: Chinese

Where you can get it: 9600 Main St., Fairfax; 703-323-8822

Also good: Wontons in chili oil; Szechuan Kung Pao chicken; mapotofu.

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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.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.