Peter Chang had its soft opening over the weekend in an unassuming space in an Arlington strip mall.
Even though it was a soft opening, crowds poured in over the weekend, with waits lasting over an hour at peak times and customers lining up outside the door before the restaurant even opened. Diners couldn't stop ordering Chang's dramatic-looking scallion bubble pancakes, causing the kitchen to have to make them to order by the minute (they ran out of them for about 30 minutes, at one point).
Customers during opening weekend largely stuck to the chef's specialties, including crispy pork belly, dry-fried eggplant and bamboo fish. But the Arlington restaurant has an expanded menu from Chang's other Northern Virginia restaurants, including a section of homestyle dishes reminiscent of Chang's childhood. The restaurant plans to add additional booth seating to accommodate smaller parties (which are now encouraged to share the restaurant's larger, family-style circular tables). They'll do a full renovation in June, spokeswoman Lydia Chang (the chef's daughter) said.
A Rockville location will follow later this year. There's talk of a Navy Yard flagship restaurant as well, but Lydia Chang demurred from giving further details. "That's a challenging one .I'm not sure it's in my picture yet, or in Peter's picture yet. He has a lot on his plate."
The Arlington restaurant is still waiting for some of its furniture to arrive (not to mention its liquor license; Lydia Chang estimates that should take about a month). In the next two weeks, the restaurant will roll out a rotating set of specials, a group of more creative dishes that will change frequently (for example, Chang is working on a king oyster mushroom dish with dipping sauce and cold cumbers, his daughter said). They'll offer carry out as well. The soft opening period continues today, and the restaurant closes Wednesday for a private grand opening party before officially opening again Thursday.