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Tim Carman Picks His Favorite Chinese, Stefanie Gans Explores 1947

What the critics are saying this week

Bob's Shanghai 66 in Rockville just made Tim Carman’s top 10 Chinese food list.
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The Washington Post’s Tim Carman Thursday released a top 10 list of his favorite Chinese restaurants. He admits the list was “trickier to compile” than he originally imagined, largely because the D.C. area is so saturated with Chinese cooking.

The top spot goes to Northeast’s Panda Gourmet:

“Panda Gourmet sweats the important details — the depth and quality of its chili oil, the texture of its house-made noodles, the potency of its spices — without losing track of other essential Chinese elements, such as saltiness, bitterness and sweetness.”

Joe’s Noodle House in Rockville, where comfort food comes in the form of Dan Dan noodles, Sichuan-style soft bean curd and the cumin-sprinkled, dry-sauteed beef ranks second. College Park’s Northwest Chinese Food, which boasts dishes with “dominant, almost overbearing personalities, many pumped up with garlic, chili oil and woody Shaanxi vinegar,” nabs third place. He calls Great Wall Szechuan House, which rounds out the top five, one of the first Chinese restaurants in the area “to take a chance on authentic Sichuan cuisine”.

Two Virginia spots made the cut: Vienna’s China Wok and Fairfax’s Nanjing Bistro (numbers eight and nine, respectively).

Because not every worthy spot around town can fit neatly into 10 slots, he calls it a “flawed list” — but he doesn’t apologize for Rockville holding down half the list, as “serious fans of Chinese cookery know the suburb is a destination for the country’s rainbow blaze of dishes.”

Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans heads to 1947, a months-old Indian restaurant in Sterling where dishes inspired by South India and beyond take center stage.

“Fried pieces of cod, served fragrant with cumin, are crisp and juicy and will make you rethink fish sticks. It’s a hint that the food here — rice, sauces — is better than the sum of its menu description.”

Another “meaty and tender” top contender: Goat biryani, “a delicious combination of bone-in hunks of goat in a spicy, saffron-spiked sauce.”

Another standout is the Gujrat ki Tadka dal dish with lentils, “an alluring, creamy, saucy affair with slow-building heat.”

The brainchild of expansion-minded restaurateur Asad Sheikh, 1947 is a big space “swathed in deep reds” and “a huge, shimmery wall hanging of the Taj Mahal.” In short, it stands out of the pack in Indian food-centric Loudoun County. [NoVa Mag]

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema took a road trip to Baltimore to review Alma Cocina Latina, a “Venezuelan stunner” worthy of three and a half stars (excellent/superlative).

“The food here is so compelling, I couldn’t wait to return after my initial trip and came back the next night. The second round, beginning with a riff on a Hemingway daiquiri and embracing bison tongue and a fantasy in chocolate, proved as mouthwatering as the first. The tongue, cooked with cocoa powder and glossed with tamarind sauce, supports the chef’s view of his country. Every tender bite is powerfully good.”.”

Plan to expand your horizons in Venezuelan cuisine beyond arepas; “if you’ve never had the pleasure of ravioli de chucho, expect to be dazzled.”

And while “you may think you know crudo, Alma Cocina Latina teaches you otherwise”: a combination of subtle fish, fresh herbs, crisp garnish and creamy heat makes every bite “irresistible.” As for arepas, filled with “traditional to terrific” fillings, a Korean-inspired option will get taste buds “dancing” with its smoked pork loin, green onion kimchi and wild sesame seeds. [WaPo]

FROM THE BLOGS: Been There, Eaten That’s Lori Gardner “discovers something extraordinary” at Owen’s Ordinary in North Bethesda, Hungry Lobbyist satisfies a lobster craving at Fiola, and DC Refined saddles up to José Andrés’ Fry Bar at Fish.