Peter Chang, the acclaimed Sichuan flavor master behind a growing culinary empire across Maryland, Virginia, and Connecticut, is about to unveil big changes at his inaugural D.C. restaurant. Chang Chang debuted in Dupont last fall with separate dine-in (“Chang In”) and carryout (“Chang Out”) operations, with little dish overlap for each. But starting Wednesday, September 27, Chang Chang does away with the dual menu model in favor of just one (1200 19th Street NW).
Following customer feedback, lunch and dinner menus at Chang Chang showcase more familiar favorites from the famed chef’s sprawling portfolio (his eponymous collection of Peter Chang restaurants, Bethesda’s high-end Q by Peter Chang, Baltimore’s hip NiHao, and Eater 38’s Mama Chang in Fairfax). Chang collaborated with Chang Chang’s newly named chef de cuisine Daican Tang to debut items like spring rolls stuffed with shiitake mushrooms from Chang’s Amish partner farm in Ovid, New York; shredded chicken with sweet bean sauce with pancakes; braised pork belly and lobster tail, and more. The two-page fall/winter menu is double the size, covering categories like cold apps, small plates, bites, vegan, soups, seafood, poultry and meat, and noodles and rice.
Chang, a 2022 James Beard Award finalist for outstanding chef, continues to put his signature stamp on the centerpiece of Chang Chang’s menu: traditional Peking duck from his home province of Hubei. The tea-smoked, 48-hour preparation requires a special request in reservations and comes in half or whole portions.
Chang Chang’s condensed menu makeover comes ahead of a big expansion year for the family-run company. Lydia Chang, who oversees the expansion of her father’s restaurants, tells Eater that Peter Chang McLean will debut in two weeks, and NiHao will open near Amazon HQ2 by the end of the year. Throughout 2024, the DMV suburbs will welcome two new Peter Chang restaurants — one in Montgomery County (637 N. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg, Maryland) and another right off the Dulles Toll Road (13325 Fairfield Ridge Avenue, Herndon, Virginia).
At each high-volume Peter Chang, “we want to provide convenience and comforting Chinese food that’s easy in and out,” says Lydia Chang. “You can bring a family of four or five and spend $30 to $40 per person but still have extra meals with all the leftovers.”
Chang Chang 2.0 represents the largest menu revision in the brand’s history, and some fall dishes are designed just for dining in across the sleek, 180-seat space. A pan-seared branzino presented in a bubbling hot plate keeps cooking tableside alongside starchy veggies like lotus root and potatoes. “If you like something that’s spicy, that is one to order,” says Chang, pointing to its three-chili pepper menu moniker. A second whole fish option (Mandarin branzino) arrives de-boned with a sticky sweet-and-sour sauce and theatrical broccoli floret in its mouth.
Chang Chang’s new multigrain seafood soup is also best suited for sit-down service. The warming bowl of seasonal shellfish, red mung beans, and quinoa is “very hearty and healthy” and fit for this rainy weather, she says. Another fresh way to start is an order of fried beef steak rounds with sweet and spicy sauce.
Meanwhile, pint-sized NiHao opening across the Potomac will “reintroduce the market to ‘Chinese food 101’ — the basics with a lot of flavors in it,” she says. Think stir fry orders, takeout-friendly seafood fried rice, and hot and sour soup with duck (1550 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Virginia).
“We figure there’s a lot of Amazon hires that may not be familiar with the area and we wanted to offer something approachable there,” she says.
Right across the street, JBG Smith’s open-air Water Park complex makes its anticipated debut next week with 11 restaurants and bars.