Looks like a chain, yes, but it’s the antithesis of prefab. Here’s how you can tell: Pluck one of the noodles from your bowl with your chopsticks. See the way one end is thinner than the other? That’s a good thing, evidence of the imperfect hand of the maker, as opposed to the uniform stamp of a machine. We like them any which way, particularly when they’re tossed in a rich peanut-sesame sauce along with crunchy batons of cucumber and carrot. Or doused in a zesty stew of ground pork, bean sprouts, and mustard greens; hit with smoky chili oil; and blitzed with ground peanuts. The dumplings are good, not great, and the smaller plates can be hit-or-miss (a braise of short ribs and sweet potatoes is one of the surest of sure things). That just tells you to build around the noodle bowls. There’s Tsingtao, but even better, you can knock back a couple of beers from local breweries DC Brau and Port City.
Where you can get it: 1200 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring; 301-585-6678
Also good: Pork-and-cabbage dumplings; shrimp-scallop-and-water-chestnut dumplings; spicy pickled bamboo shoots.