The DC area has plenty of Korean barbecue restaurants with tabletop grills. But a new Chinese barbecue spot in Rockville, Hulu Skewer House, is the first of its kind in the region with custom grills designed to rotate and cook meat on a stick right in front of you. The place also features a menu of hand-pulled noodles and other Chinese specialties, two bars, and six private karaoke rooms.
The restaurant is a joint venture from eight longtime friends who were looking to create their ideal hangout. One of the owners, Tina Xue, has family in Northeastern China who owns similar grilled skewer restaurants there. These high-tech tabletop grills have gained popularity in parts of China in recent years, but they’re a total novelty in the US.
“It’s really hard or impossible to find a similar grill out here, so we had to contact one of the manufacturers in China to have them specially made to our standards,” says partner Jonathan Wang, who works in biotech and had experience helping family run Chinese restaurants in Arizona. The grills had to be specially modified with ventilation to meet US standards.
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Diners can choose from a long list of proteins: Angus beef, Berkshire pork belly, and lamb alongside odd bits like chicken heart, pork intestine, or beef tongue. There’s also a range of seafood (squid, fish cakes, garlic scallops) and at least 10 different vegetable options (corn, king oyster mushrooms, okra).
The grills rock the skewers back and forth so that they cook evenly. When they’re done, diners move them to a rack above. The restaurant has utensils designed specifically for removing meat from the skewers, and containers at each table for dispensing used sticks. Two different dry spice blends with cumin and sesame seeds—one mild, the other slightly spicy—are offered for dipping. You can also request a sweet chili sauce.
Beyond the skewers, the opening menu offers pigs ear and green onion salad, thousand-years eggs with tofu, and even spiced French fries. But a big attraction is the Lanzhou beef noodle soup: “I would say we have no competition for this noodle soup around this area. It’s the most authentic hand-pulled noodles you can try,” Wang says.
If you’re overwhelmed by the choices, Hulu offers curated combos for $80 to $105 for two people, which include a mix of skewers, appetizers, the hand-pulled noodles, and dessert. All the ordering is done via a QR code on your phone. The restaurant is still in its “soft opening” phase, meaning they’re troubleshooting service and expanding the menu.
The restaurant also has two bars—one in the main dining room and another in the upper level where you’ll also find the karaoke rooms. (You can also order skewers while you sing, but they’ll be cooked in the kitchen.) In addition to staple beers, a handful of wines, and classic cocktails, Hulu also offers bottle service.
The name Hulu comes from a Chinese anime series about eight characters—an old man and his seven children—just as the restaurant has eight friends as investors.
“Some of us have known each other for over 20 years, and we always wanted to do something together,” Wang says. “Every Saturday night, we all hang out and chill, so this restaurant is really a place where we want to chill and have fun—and also we want to bring the most authentic [Chinese] food to the DMV area.”
The owners already have their eye on expansion, too. They’re looking to open two more locations in Arlington and Ellicott City by early next year.
Hulu Skewer House. 1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville.