Cheap Eats 2016: Panda Gourmet

Cheap Eats 2016: Panda Gourmet
Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Good for Groups

It’s in a dingy-looking motel in Northeast DC, and the service—at best!—approaches a sort of gruff efficiency. But you’re not here for niceties; you’re here for the superlative Szechuan cooking, which has a power and zing that none of the remaining restaurants in Chinatown can touch. The whiffs of cumin when you walk in should guide you—to the skewers of lamb that crunch with the fried, fragrant seeds or to an aromatic stir-fry of cumin lamb. Szechuan isn’t one big lip-scorcher—the cuisine has a wide variety of moves, including burgers (sandwiched in crisp rice-flour buns) and noodle bowls—but many of the greatest rewards are in those dishes swimming in vats of red-chili oil, from a starter of pork dumplings to a mouth-numbing tureen of soft tofu and fish that could feed four.

Also good: Mapo tofu; biang biang noodles; cold-steamed noodles; dan-dan noodles; “fiery pot.”

See what other restaurants made our 2016 Cheap Eats list. This article appears in our May 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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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.