Arlington, VA 22207
Tel: (703) 538-6688
Now we know why Peter Chang has a cult-like following of foodies. It is difficult to walk out of his new restaurant in Arlington without thinking that this is the best Chinese food you've had in the DMV area, or maybe ever.
The new digs in the Lee Harrison Shopping Plaza are unpretentious and been packed since opening day. This is definitely the place to go outside the one's usual General Tso's Chicken to savor what real Chinese Szechuan food is about. If you live anywhere near the 7 locations of Peter Chang's restaurants in Virginia and Maryland, we highly recommend that you run, don't walk, to the phone and make reservations.
Here is a list (and pictorial illustration) of the food we ordered family-style, so that we could try as many dishes as could possibly fit into our stomachs. Let me just say from the beginning that a wonderful person in our party researched the most recommended dishes, and we went with those. It ended up being a fantastic combination of something for everyone, and everything delicious.
#5 Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls with a very light duck dipping sauce (2) $6
#6 Scallion Bubble Pancake with a light curry dipping sauce (6) $8
#21 Dry Fried Eggplant (one pepper!) ($10)
#26 Bamboo Flounder Fish (one pepper!) ($12)
#28 Grandma's Steamed Ribs with Rice Flour (one pepper!) ($10)
#29 Crazy Beef with Ghost Chili (five peppers!!!!!) ($10)
+ Dan Dan Noodles with Beef (not on the menu, but we ordered and they made them)
#43 Golden Mountain Chicken (one pepper!) $15
#54 Szechuan Style Stir Fried Hotpot with Chicken (three peppers!!!) ($13)
The runaway nearly unanimous favorite for our group of eight was the Bamboo Flounder. If your adroitness with a menu carries over into the kitchen, you can try cooking this at home. Washington Post offers a recipe for Chang's Bamboo Flounder. If you cook it, they will come!
The Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls and the Steamed Ribs were excellent. The Dry Fried Eggplant seems to have gotten a lot of press. At first we were skeptical, but ordered it anyway. What a nice surprise. Almost like thick French fries that were delicately fried on the outside and moist and fleshy on the inside.
We asked for the Ghost Beef to be brought out last, so as not to overpower the other less spicy dishes, as it had five peppers. This was a good call. Its smoky sauce was deliciously spicy.
In retrospect, it was great to have had several orders of the Scallion Pancakes come out first because not only did their mild flavor whet our appetites and prepare our pallets for the stronger dishes to come, but they also lingered throughout the meal to be a bread-like accompaniment.
The biggest disappointment was the Dan Dan Noodles. One of the folks in our group, who lived in Georgia and has eaten these at Chang's Marietta restaurant, said that these taste quite different. Hard to say why that is, but these were not up to the taste standards of the rest of our meal.
Lastly, we were ready for dessert. And here is the thing - Peter Chang doesn't offer any! We read in one of the yelp reviews that Chang's Golden Mountain Chicken has a slightly sweet taste, so when dessert is unavailable, what can you do, but order more chicken. This was perhaps also somewhat of a disappointment. It would have been more aptly named Golden Mountain Fried Batter, as there was certainly only a hint of chicken, so it was not our favorite.
Overall, what stood out most for us, undoubtedly, was that each and every dish had a specific and unique character. There was no overlapping or duplication in either flavors or textures. Even if cilantro was used in two dishes, they still tasted very different and unique.
Every dish we ordered wasn't a hit, but some were amazing and most were runners-up to amazing. It is quite possible there are people out there who have tasted all of Chef Chang's dishes, and those who are most certainly making it their goal to do so. We can easily fit into the latter category, as it is worth our while to go on this discovery path to find more amazing Chang creations.
The pictures below represent the order in which our dishes were served.
Appetizer #6: Scallion Bubble Pancake
Appetizer #5: Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls
Hot Appetizer #28: Grandma's Steamed Ribs with Rice Flour
Hot Appetizer #26: Bamboo Flounder Fish
Grandmother's Menu #54: Szechuan Style Stir Fried hotpot with Chicken, can also be ordered with Beef, Pork or Shrimp
Dan Dan Noodles with Beef
Hot Appertizer #21: Dry Fried Eggplant
Hot Appetizer #29 Crazy Beef with Ghost Chili
Chef Specialties #43: Golden Mountain Chicken