Cheap Eats 2015: Peter Chang

Where we go to get Chef Chang's sought after dishes.
Cheap Eats 2015: Peter Chang
Pan-fried pork belly with a generous amount of chilies. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

The question with the great Chinese chef Peter Chang used to be: Will he stick around? Chang was notorious for opening a spot and vanishing soon after. These days, as he commands an empire of seven restaurants throughout Virginia and now Maryland (plus a splashy, ambitious venture possibly coming to DC’s Navy Yard), the burning question has become: Is he in the kitchen? Changians, a devoted band of followers who trail his moves like Deadheads, have been known to call in advance of booking a table to discern his whereabouts. Is there a payoff to his being on-site? Definitely. Such dishes as his scallion bubble pancake (puffed up like a paper lantern when cooked properly) and dry-fried eggplant are lighter and defter, though with expansion has come an inevitable diminution of what’s known as ma la—the magical, mysterious combination of numbing spice and hot peppers that has ignited many of the chef’s best Szechuan dishes. If Chang’s not in, you still will likely eat better than at 90 percent of the Chinese restaurants out there, though you may be left wondering what all the hype is about.

Cuisine: Chinese

Where you can get it: 2503-E N. Harrison St., Arlington, 703-538-6688; 20-A Maryland Ave., Rockville, 301-838-9188

Also good: Cilantro fish rolls; cumin lamb chops; flounder-and-cabbage soup; mapotofu; tofu-and-fish balls.

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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.