The best Chinese restaurant Washington, D.C. has had, ever

by on June 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Panda Gourmet, Langdon Days Inn, 2700 New York Ave., just east of Bladensburg Road, NE, 202-636-3588.

It is in a dump of a roadside motel.  You must of course ask for the secret Chinese menus, as the Chinese-American fare does not appear to be of interest.  They have a special Shaanxi noodles dish, get it.  They have a special Xian dish which you can think of as like a Chinese hamburger, albeit with pork, Rouge Mo.  Get it.  They have the best Dan Dan noodles this area has seen, ever.  Get it.  The best cold Chengdu spicy noodles I have had.  The best cumin beef of any place around.  The spicy fish wasn’t bad, but not up to the other really good Chinese places around here.  In any case this is a top drawer Chinese restaurant and for authenticity it is #1 around of all choices.

You will note it is hard to get here, even with a car.  If you are driving east on New York Avenue, you will be constrained by a divided road, and you need to make a funny U-turn at the sign for The Washington Times building, and go under an unpromising overpass back to a service road, eventually the move will pay off, if it doesn’t feel wrong you are not doing right.

This is some Yelp information here and for the original pointer I thank Don Rockwell.

Daniel Kuehn June 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm

OK that’s the first time I’ve ever felt dirty after reading someone’s driving directions.

Willitts June 20, 2013 at 12:04 am

First comment, best comment.

Chris June 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Your hyperbole is literally killing me

veobaum June 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm

:)

Andrew' June 19, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Next you’ll be going to their house. Buying spring rolls from a guy selling them out of his trench coat.

Andrew' June 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

“Shhh, strange white man outside door again.”
“I know you are in there with the REAL Chinese food!”

Becky Hargrove June 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Tyler, either you are having an especially unique day, or someone has managed to sneak in and write this for you.

David M. Brown June 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

That run-on sentence feels wrong, and I know it’s not right.

Affe June 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm

This is like food sexting. He’s gotten so hot and bothered it all comes out in a rush.

David M. Brown June 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I think of it as like wrong.

Gary June 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Tyler just paid some restaurant owner’s kid’s college education.

Tyler Cowen June 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Not quite, it really is hard to get there.

Andrew' June 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I don’t think he meant you personally!

KC June 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm

It’s Rou Ge Mo, with three syllables, not “rooj moe”

Tyler Cowen June 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm

But not as they spell it…

Wang L June 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Rouge mo is correct, because pinyin does not require spaces between syllables. When it is unclear where a syllable is, in the case of Xi’an, for instance (Xian is a different syllable), the apostrophe cannot be omitted without adding confusion.

KC June 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I don’t really care about the writing. I just meant in how it’s pronounced, in case people were confused going in there asking for “rooj moe”
If they spell it that way, though, my guess is they’re probably used to people asking for it that way too.

Willitts June 20, 2013 at 12:06 am

I’m glad you said it because I was pronouncing it like a French Canadian.

Sbard June 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Wouldn’t “roujiamo” or “rou jia mo” be the more standard pinyinization?

Jimmy June 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I agree, unless it’s some dish other than the one I’m thinking of, it’s supposed to be “Rou Jia Mo.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rou_jia_mo

Jimmy June 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

And to illustrate why it looks weird to spell it “Rouge Mo”, note that “Rou Jia Mo” is pronounced “row jee-ah moo-aw”

Jon June 20, 2013 at 5:48 am

Glad you all posted this, since I only knew of rou mo as something to get over noodles or mashed potatoes. I now really, really miss the rou mo tuo dou ni from Baoding.

And dunno why people keep saying “jia” instead of “ge,” since, y’know “ge-ge” and “ge-da tang.”

Now I miss ge-da tang, too.

And now I’m really hungry.

albert magnus June 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

How does it compare to Szechuan Pavillon or Hong Kong Palace?

Tyler Fan June 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Is this place better than all the Peter Chang joints you used to rave about? Someday I’m going to take a NOVA/DC roadtrip and hit up all these places Tyler loves.

prior_approval June 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Not posted? – A third attempt.

You may mean Duck Chang’s son – or not. It is very hard to tell at this point, and it isn’t as if this blog cares all that much about the history of NoVa. Nonetheless, for Peking Duck, the place was pretty hard to beat – the cockroaches on the wall being a true sign of authentic Asian quality. (And I mean that sincerely – the duck is supposed to hang for several days, to let the blood drain to enhance the crispiness, which is a major part of Peking duck, if Cordwrainer Smith is to be trusted – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordwainer_Smith

‘Prince Lovaduck had obtained his odd name because he had had a Chinesian ancestor who did love ducks, ducks in their Peking form—succulent duck skins brought forth to him ancestral dreams of culinary ecstasy. His ancestress, an English lady, had said, “Lord Lovaduck, that fits you!”—and the name had been proudly taken as a family name. Lord Lovaduck had a small ship. The ship was tiny and had a very simple and threatening name: Anybody.

The ship was not listed in the space register and he himself was not in the Ministry of Space Defense. The craft was attached only to the Office of Statistics and Investigation—under the listing, “vehicle”—for the Earth
treasury.’ Cordwainer-Smith—Instrumentality-Of-Mankind-14—Golden-the-Ship-Was-Oh!-Oh!-Oh! – might be a filter problem, so the address information has been removed.)

prior_approval June 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Fascinating how the comments are automatically filtered – for anyone wishing to read the short story, add a dot pdf to the end of this string, and a http://docs9.chomikuj.pl to the start ‘/1853349139,PL,0,0,Cordwainer-Smith—Instrumentality-Of-Mankind-14—Golden-the-Ship-Was-Oh!-Oh!-Oh!’

Vali1005 June 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’ve been trying for years now to find out the book with the short stories about Lords and Ladies… I read it in Romanian about 20 years ago, and one story, quite short, about a semi-retired soldier who spends most of his time having his pleasure center in the brain stimulated by a machine, who gets called out of retirement by a Lord in order to quell a revolt on a planet, and he does it from his spaceship with the assistance of just one or two people…well, that story has stayed with me for all this time, but I could not remember the author or the name of the book containing this story as well as the Lords and Ladies stories(all I remembered was that Lords and Ladies were all-powerful figures of authority).

I ordered both his books from Amazon, really looking forward to revisting that universe.

Phil June 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hong Kong Palace is still consistently good in my experience but I will be checking this place out ASAP – I have been seeking good Shaanxi noodles since I had the opportunity to enjoy some at the source in Xi’an.

ArikSharon June 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Wouldn’t it just be easier to move to Los Angeles? San Gabriel Valley is the Promised Land for Chinese foodies…

Robert June 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I wonder how many MR readers will spend a few minutes reading this blog post for each additional meal that ends up being consumed at the restaurant.

Carl June 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Food snobs are annoying. The fact that it looks like a dumpster and is difficult to get to is obviously most of the “appeal”. If you found a restaurant that stank of urine and required an unadvertised bus route to get to, I’m sure you’d like it better.

Natasha Cowen June 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm

That’s what I always say!

Tyler Cowen June 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Yet wife, you sang a different tune after sampling the leftovers…

Barkley Rosser June 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Of course it is in a dump of a roadside motel. This is truly classic Tyler (see my satires on his reviews), :-).

Total June 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

TB June 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Isn’t that the opposite of snobbery? It seems more like food-hipsterism. Or maybe it is snobbery in the form of counter-snobbery, but then what would that make Carl’s post?

MC June 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Hipsterism = snobbery for the non-wealthy

Hope that clarifies things.

dead serious June 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Hipsters portray non-wealth but are secretly trust fund kids. Worst kept secret on the internet.

Willitts June 20, 2013 at 12:09 am

Never eat at a Chinese restaurant that passes health inspections.

Ted June 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Tyler, why take the circuitous route under the overpass instead of a turn onto Bladensburg Road going north, and then hanging a right into the parking lot behind the Checkers and driving to the Days Inn through the various parking lots?

Jeremy H. June 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Yes, this is correct. In fact, you will see a “Days Inn Entrance” sign on Bladensburg just behind Hogs on the Hill (which is just behind Checkers).

But when Tyler said “If you are driving west on New York Avenue,” this was a typo. If you are heading west, there is no problem getting to the Days Inn. Heading EAST you need to use the tricky maneuvers.

Ted June 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

When will Tyler review Hogs on the Hill? I have to think a place named Hogs on the Hill is good.

Jjm June 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm

These are the best comments ever!

In there with the real Chinese food….driving through the various parking lots….unadvertised bus rout…

Hahhahah

MC June 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Seriously, the comments are making me laugh so hard it should be labeled NSFW.

byomtov June 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm

How can you possibly be sure it’s better than the one Theodore Roosevelt favored?

Jonathan June 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Is Rouge Mo the same thing called a stewed pork burger @ Xi’an Famous Foods? http://www.xianfoods.com/menu.php?c=2

Tyler Cowen June 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm

It is similar, yes…

enlightenedduck June 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Have you tried Grace Garden in Odenton? Zagat gives it a 28 for food…

Andrew' June 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm

For someone who has trouble pulling off a multivitamin, I like knowing people like this exist.

Bill June 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm

You mentioned their secret Chinese recipes….

Next week they will be serving these same secret Chinese dishes in the NSA cafeteria. Don’t know how they got the recipes.

Don’t ask, Don’t tell.

PFC June 19, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I would be interested to hear what you have to say regarding PF chang’s. Regarded with disdain by your average asian-american, I feel that it is really underrated due to its chain-nature. They have some really flavorful dishes cooked well, with great coatings.

asdfasdf June 20, 2013 at 9:42 am

Stupidly salty and sweet (can be applied more or less to everything there)

JWatts June 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

So it’s not just me.

alex June 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

i just looked at the pics of the rou jia mo and it looks weak. the meat did not look properly seasoned. i will have to try it though to judge properly.

Willitts June 20, 2013 at 12:11 am

Let us know how the Ja Jiang Mein is.

Chris June 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

Tyler – Curious if you’ve heard of or tried this place Thai Siam in Arrington, VA. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard about it plenty.

Richard Mason June 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Here we are. It’s 6:30. The restaurant-bombing Marginal Revolution crowd doesn’t appear to have shown up yet. It’s just us and two blonde Chinese girls.

Richard Mason June 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

The food was indeed very good.

Barkley Rosser June 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I have never been to P.F. Chang’s, but Tyler’s once fave Peter Chang has lost his cool due to also turning into a chain, just opening his fourth restaurant in Fredericksburg after ones in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Williamsburg. I just got to the one in Richmond, which is mighty good, but the legend is gone.

This does not mean that this new place is just high on his list because of its obscure newness. I have not been there, and maybe it really is the best Chinese restaurant in Washington ever. But, the Peter Chang’s in Charlottesville and Richmond are both very solid and better than most of them in the Washington area.

middle aged vet June 20, 2013 at 10:27 pm

For out of towners – this place is near the arboretum (wonderful display of almost every tree that can flourish on the southern end of the Great North Woods that stretches (in its south of Canada expanses) from just this side of the Minnesota-Dakota border (top left) to the higher mountains of the Carolinas and Georgia(bottom right); it is also near the controversial and dystopian Peta humane society Island for Lost Toys in the form of rejected pit bulls, an economic, social, and moral tragedy which Tyler has never written about, afaik. One of the defining moments in my lifelong attempts at assessing human beings was figuring out (or realizing) the implications of why my poor little adopted terrier mix had to suffer the terror of being walked back and forth past the cages of all those poor angry barking pit bulls on the day I met her and on the fourth day after that when I adopted her. (I actually adopted two terrier mixes, but only one seemed afraid walking down pit bull row…)Back to the neighborhood, I don’t think it is a safe area, in general. Finally, I have been to 3 restaurants that TC has called the “best” at something (Ethiopia twice, Korean-French and pizza repeatedly). 4 someone who does not claim to be a chef, he seems to really know what he is talking about.

Alan June 21, 2013 at 5:00 am

This is the post in which Tyler admits that MR is not read by young attractive women.

Dani June 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Went there tonight and just wanted to say thank you. A great find and close to home for me.

Joseph June 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Tyler, thanks! Went there last evening, really the best Chinese food ever ate. I love the Liang Pi!

JRPtwo June 23, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Tried it tonight–thanks Tyler. I agree it’s authentic, based on my limited experience of a couple of trips to China.

LemracDC June 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

Went there yesterday and actually ate the recommended food. Frankly, it was gross. Super-greasy, gloppy and over-seasoned. Our entire family of 4 sweated cumin for 6 hours after eating the cumin beef. Dan Dan noodles left a weird effervescent tingle on our lips and tongue, and not in a good way. Only saving grace was that they served Stella.

NOTE – true story – while we were eating, the 3 waiters on staff sat down at a table across the room and tore in to a Domino’s pizza.

Victor Chief June 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I must concur with LemracDC, we had the plates recommend in the article and they were all pretty bad! The amount of cumin in the cumin beef was enough to knock out a horse. Oil was dripping off of everything. Very crude cooking technique. Maybe the writer has this place confused with Panda Express at Dulles airport? The food is no better.

Chops June 25, 2013 at 8:47 am

I went to Panda yesterday as well, got the recommended dishes, and loved it. This is close enough to my Capitol Hill office that colleagues and I might make it an occasional lunch spot.

Agreed with LemracDC – the Dan Dan noodles give off a weird mouth tingle. It’s fascinating, but I wouldn’t want that for my whole meal.

The Flounder in a Bowl of Fire was amazing: it looks like it will be burn-you-up spicy, but it’s actually deeply savory with some amazing peppercorns in the broth. Wow. The Rou-ge Mo was a fave with my crowd.

Service was friendly and terrible. The waiter was nice and pleasant and had no idea how to wait a table. We had to ask for serving utensils, chopsticks, bowls for soup, bowls for soup for the half of our table he forgot the first time, and (fittingly) the check.

Chops June 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

Oh, and the Cumin Lamb was even better than the Cumin Beef.

jone boyd June 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

the Rouge Mo and Liang Pi are really good as what we ate in Xian 3 years ago.

Berck July 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Tyler: Thanks!

This place was amazing. I have never, as far as I know, had truly authentic chinese before. Without Tyler’s recommendations, I would have gone into this place and ordered the General Tso’s chicken. Well, without tylers recommendation I would not have driven 45 minutes to eat at a Chinese restaurant located inside a Days Inn in the first place.

We walked in and were presented with two teacups, two sets of chop sticks and some menus. The first page of the menus had american and chinese-american fare. Things like “fried chicken and french fries”. I flipped to the back of the menu which has a list of 60 “Szechuan Chef Specialties”. On the list, I found Dan Dan noodles, but nothing else Tyler mentioned. His post mentioned that I, “must, of course, ask for the secret Chinese menu.” I have no idea what the hell I would do with the secret chinese menu, but I didn’t want to point randomly at it, afraid I would wind up with fish eyeballs. The public chinese menu had items like fried pig ears, several pork tripe dishes, chicken feet, a half-dozen frog dishes…. I wanted to order some frog, but my coworker was not going for it. I ordered for both of us, asking first for the Dan Dan noodles, then trying trying to pronounce Rouge Mo, then pointing to Tyler’s blog post with my phone. The waiter said, “Ohh..” and ran over and grabbed what was, apparently, the secret chinese menu. It was entirely in chinese, but had one picture on it, which was a white bread-like blob with meat it, which he pointed to and asked me if that was what I wanted. Yes, exactly that, I told him, with no real idea. tyler said “chinese hamburger” so that seemed right. I then asked for the cumin beef, which tyler also mentioned, but wasn’t on the Szechuan menu, and he nodded and wrote it down.

The Dan Dan noodles came first. Just, amazing. It’s spicy, hot, red sauce with noodles. It tasted like nothing I’ve had before. We ate every drop of the sauce and all the noodles. Next, the Rouge Mo showed up, and it was basically a pulled pork sandwich in an english muffin. It, too, was amazing. The pork was very tender, and the spices used were intense and like nothing else I’ve tasted. Then came the cumin beef, which, at a glance, looks like every beef dish you get at a chinese restaurant. Some bits of meat, peppers, onions. But, holy cow. Cumin dominated the flavors, but there were so many more spices. It was genuinely spicy, with lots of red pepper. The beef was covered in spices, and the vegetables had been sauteed perfectly with the beef. Usually vegetables at “chinese” restaurants are undercooked and flavorless. We were fighting over every sliver of onion and bell pepper. There were a few slices of garlic, which were fully and cooked and absolutely delicious.

Since the Dan Dan noodles and Rouge Mo ended up being appetizer-sized, we were able to order another dish. When the waiter came back, I told him we loved all of it, and wanted a recommendation for some more authentic chinese food. He suggested the cold Chengdu spicy noodles, which were one of the other things Tyler had mentioned. I’m guessing that the guy has seen a steady stream of geeky white people in the door lately ordering all the same things, and figured that if we liked those 3 things, we probably wanted the other things the other weird white people ordered. The chengdu noodles were also amazing. Not unlike the Dan Dan noodles, but with a hint of bitter, much more sweet, and some sour. And cold. I liked that the Dan Dan noodles were hot, and I felt that cold noodles were not as exciting, but still loved them. Anyway, absolutely amazing, and if you’re anywhere near DC you should go here.

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