In search of authentic Szechwan Chinese grub in the D.C. area? Make your way over to Peter Chang asap.
Not to be confused with the more well-known U.S. franchise P.F. Chang’s… Peter Chang is named after its owner, Mr. Peter Chang, an award-winning chef who made his claim to fame cooking for the politically elite at the Chinese Embassy in D.C.
Eventually, Mr. Chang left his position at the embassy to freelance as a chef at various restaurants throughout Virginia, Atlanta, and Tennessee – the real and inspiring story behind his departure from the embassy via the Washington Post here.
It’s only been in the past couple of years that he’s returned to D.C. region to establish two restaurants in Arlington, Virginia and Rockville, Maryland with plans to open a flagship in D.C. proper in the future.
^^ Toiya (Charles and my cousin) & Ocie (Charles’s best friend since the 6th grade)
I originally heard about Peter Chang from my girl, Tia, who raved about his food from a dining experience she had at his other restaurant located in Richmond.
A couple weeks later, while brainstorming ideas for where Charles’s best friend, Ocie, should celebrate his 30th birthday – I suggested Peter Chang and after a quick google and review of the menu, dinner reservations were made for his restaurant located in the Rockville Town Center.
It’s funny because even though we had looked at the menu beforehand, our actual approach to ordering was highly influenced by the plates we saw our waitress bring out to other tables. I’ll elaborate more on that later.
^^ Rubbing the chopsticks together to get rid of woody hangers
We approached dinner “family style” and started off with the Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls and Pan Fried Pork Dumplings. Both appetizers got a thumbs up from everyone at the table.
My fave out of the two was definitely the Fish Rolls which literally popped with saucy cilantro flavor in my mouth every time I took a bite. Did I mention I love cilantro? Because I do, do, do.
As we were eating our apps and catching up on life with each other, we noticed our waitress bring a plate of air balloon looking bread things to the table across from us and were immediately intrigued.
We flagged her down and asked discreetly, “What is that they ordered over there?”
She replied, “Scallion bubble pancakes.”
Us, “Can we have an order of that?”
Her, “Sure. Coming right up.”
Behold. The scallion bubble pancakes in all its voluptuous glory…
The only way I can describe the taste of the pancake once they were deflated and ripped into edible pieces was that it tasted like a doughy version of a saltine cracker. It was good. Different but good.
The dipping sauce that came with it, however, was very different. The sauce was green and had a light, barely there tangy flavor that was also kind of musky at the same time if that makes any sense. It left me feeling unsure because I kind of liked it but then I didn’t. But then I liked it.
It was definitely a moment that had me all introspective in wondering if my inability to determine whether the sauce was good or not had to do with that fact that I’ve never had real Szechwan cuisine before… So I kept on dipping the pancake bread in the sauce to see if my tastebuds would acclimate and they did. The musky green sauce grew on me over time.
If there’s one thing I can say about the service at Peter Chang, it is that the turnaround on ordering food to having it delivered to your table is very quick.
Before we were done eating the pancakes, our orders of Chicken Fried Rice and Grandma’s Sweet and Sour Chicken arrived along with four bowls of rice and a refill on beverages… Our table was packed with food but we made it work and dove in.
Amidst all the grubbing, we became distracted once again when our waitress brought over a huge plate with a whole fish on it to a table on the other side of us.
We all looked at each other with big eyes that asked, “Are you full? No? Ok, Let’s order that fish thing too.”
Decision made in the literal blink of any eye, we called the waitress over and ordered “that fish meal you brought to that table over there” a.k.a. the Boneless Whole Fish with Pine Nuts.
10 minutes later. This is what arrived at our table.
^^ From the side.
^^ And up close.
The type of whole fish? Tilapia.
The meat’s texture? Intricately carved and perfectly crisp on the outside while hot and flaky on the inside.
The sauce? A “special red sauce” and that ish was indeed special. ‘Specially good!
The surprise? The fishhead. I’ve never eaten fish with its head present before and while I appreciated it as a form of ornamentation, my sister in law (who I texted a pic of the whole fish meal) responded back saying, “Oh no. I would never eat that. I can’t eat fish that actually looks like fish.” lol
Overall? The whole fish was definitely everyone’s most favorite dish for the night.
As dinner came to a close, it only made sense for us to dare Ocie to kiss the fish head in honor of his birthday. And to our surprise, Ocie actually did it haha!
Would you kiss the fish head?
Happily full of food and with a bill that surprisingly didn’t break the bank, Charles and I have definite plans to visit Peter Chang again. Next time at the Arlington location since it’s closer in proximity to where we live.
Interested in letting your taste buds go Szechwan at Peter Chang? You can find more info on his restaurant’s website for the D.C. area here.
If you do end up going, let me know what you think.
Or heck, let me know beforehand and if I’m free, I’ll meet you there. :)
With that said, I wish you a Happy Friday! May your weekend be filled with happy moments and more importantly, yummy food!