As reported a couple of weeks ago, Ward 5, specifically, the area close to Costco along New York Ave, was said to have the “best Chinese food” in the City at a restaurant called Panda Gourmet. Although Tyler Cowen is pretty trustworthy on his food reviews, many folks who actually live in the community needed to test this place out for themselves. If it held true, this could become a neighborhood gem. If not, we would have to pretend it didn’t exist (which is what most people initially thought until the Urban Turf and Tyler Cowen’s reviews).
Six of us ventured out to the restaurant, which is situated in the bottom of the Days Inn along New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE. It sits off of the street behind the Checkers and Hogs on the Hill. When we arrived, around 7:30pm, the restaurant was pretty empty (although it did start to get more and more people as we dined). After we were sat, our waitress handed us two menus: the first was laid out as any menu, with a selection of American-style Chinese food (think: General Tsos, etc) and another section that had more Szechuan cuisine. Our eyes immediately went to the Szechuan section. The second menu was in all Chinese but only had three items on it any way, so the waitress explained them to us. We placed our appetizer orders: egg rolls, egg drop soup, sweet and sour soup, spring rolls, butterfly shrimp, Dan Dan (also spelled Den Den in their menu) Spicy Noodle with minced pork, and two items from the Chinese menu: Shaanxi noodles and the Rouge Mo (they look like larger english muffins stuffed with pork).
After all of that, we questioned whether or not we really even needed entrees but we knew we had to try them. I mean, the fate of whether or not this would become our go-to neighborhood Chinese restaurant was on the line. So each couple ordered one dish and they were: Shredded Pork with Hot Garlic Sauce, Beef with Cumin, and Rice Noodle Combo.
So, what was the group’s opinion?
Let’s start with the negatives so we can end on a really good note: slow service, no really good condiments (hot mustard in packs only), and no real bar (although they have alcohol). The least favorite dish (and this will differ with Tyler’s assessment) was the Shaanxi noodles, which didn’t have much taste. (One really negative was the Days Inn patron eating one table over who continually coughed, made noises and went out of his way to annoy us — he knew what he was doing — but I can’t hold the restaurant responsible for that guy).
Everyone’s favorite appetizer (and possibly the best all around) was the Den Den Spicy Noodle with Minced Pork. They were fantastic, and several of us believe we could make a meal on that alone. The best entree was the Beef with Cumin. It was spicy and had a lot of flavor. Overall, all of the dishes were really good. All of it.
Without a doubt, we all agreed that we would be back. It is definitely a neighborhood go-to gem. Can I say it’s the “best Chinese food” in the City? No, but only because I cannot say with certainty since I’m not really versed as well as Tyler is in the Chinese food scene (side note: if you ask me the best Chinese in the region: Peking Gourmet in Falls Church – hands down).
Oh, and the price. The six of us ate all of that food with a couple beers for a total bill of less than $20 per person. Definitely #GoodWard5News