Peter Chang Opens Tapas-Style Chinese Restaurant NiHao in Arlington

Find soup dumplings, Sichuan specialties, baijiu cocktails, and more.

Chinese tapas at NiHao. Photograph by Stacey Windsor.

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NiHao. 1550 Crystal Drive, Arlington. 

The DC region’s most famous Chinese chef, Peter Chang, is going tapas-style with the Sichuan-centric cooking at his newest restaurant. NiHao, which also has a location Baltimore, opens in National Landing this Thursday, May 9 with small plate versions of dan dan noodles, kung pao chicken, and sliced pig’s ear in chili oil.

NiHao’s 70-seat dining room. Photograph by Stacey Windsor.

Co-owner Lydia Chang, the chef’s daughter, says the restaurant will bring back some of her dad’s throwback dishes, like a cold “husband and wife” tripe-and-tendon salad with chili oil, sesame seeds, and crushed peanuts. “That’s a very classic Sichuan recipe, which dad hasn’t put on his menu in maybe 10 years. Back in the day… that’s what people know him for—things they couldn’t really have outside of China.”

Chicken noodle soup at NiHao. Photograph by Stacey Windsor.

There are also new dishes like mala-spiced pork ribs that are braised then fried and served with stir-fried potatoes. And dumpling lovers will find plenty of options—from Shanghai soup dumplings to pan-fried shrimp-and-chive dumplings. But Lydia says one of her personal favorites is an Amish chicken soup that’s slow-cooked overnight then served in a Chinese urn with a side of wheat or rice noodles. Desserts go both Eastern and Western: vanilla roll cake with seasonal fruit jam or a sticky rice cake with caramel syrup.

NiHao’s bar opens up to a small patio. Photograph by Stacey Windsor.

The 70-seat restaurant will have an indoor-outdoor bar, which will serve cocktails named after ’80s and ’90s Chinese movies. Baijiu, a clear Chinese spirit similar to Korean soju, is incorporated into drinks like “A Chinese Odyssey” with tequila and green peppercorn or “Lust, Caution” with mezcal and vanilla vermouth. Tea-infused spirits and Asian ingredients like lychee and five-spice also make their way into cocktails.

Maketto chef-owner Erik Bruner-Yang is a minority partner in the restaurant. Lydia says they’ve gotten to know each other through events over the years: “We talk about trends and how we’re seeing the Chinese food evolving in the US. We’re bouncing ideas back and forth.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.