About Panda Gourmet
|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.”