D.C.’s Most Valuable Restaurants

A&J

1319 Rockville Pike, Ste. C, Rockville; (301) 251-7878

VALUABLE FOR: Delicious Chinese small plates with no attitude (and it’s cheap)

This cash-only strip-mall gem is a pleasant reminder to look past Rockville’s boring chain restaurants. An ideal Sunday-morning destination for a full-on Northern Chinese-style brunch, A&J is best arrived at with an empty stomach and no prissy attitudes about ordering only for yourself, since everything comes family-style. Kick off with a bowl of piping hot dan dan mien—thick noodles dressed with a spicy sesame sauce. The steamed pork buns are fluffy clouds with a satisfying umami bomb of swine at the center. For more of the other white meat, order the tubular pot stickers. Griddled golden on each side, they crackle when you bite into them to reveal a core of juicy ground pork. Dip them in soy sauce if you prefer, but like most dishes here, they pack enough flavor to stand alone.

Read my three other picks – Sundevich, Negril, and Middle Eastern Cuisine – and the rest of the rundown over on the Washington City Paper site now.

Photo by Premshree Pillai on Flickr.

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Get Sum: Getting on the Dim Sum Bandwagon

20110120-dimsum-450Omelets, waffles and French toast are standard brunch fare, but there’s no need to resort to such obvious options. Enjoying Chinese dim sum (a variety of bite-sized dishes) on a wintry Sunday morning is a nice way to mix up the weekend tradition. Eats come as small plates and are served family style, which means everyone can eat what they want and try something new. Plus, you won’t have to spend five agonizing minutes deciding whether you want the bacon or the sausage links.

A&J
Tucked away on the lower level of an unassuming Rockville strip mall is some of the area’s best dim sum. For 40 years, this cozy, cash-only gem has specialized in eats of the northern Chinese tradition. Start off with a bowl of the dan dan mian, a mix of spicy sesame sauce and your choice of rice noodles (the wider, ribbon-y option is best). Move on to a sesame biscuit split open and packed with roast beef or a quartet of steamed pork buns. To keep things cool, order a bubble tea filled with tapioca beads in flavors such as guava, honeydew melon and coffee.

» A&J, 1319-C Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-251-7878.

Read about my other three suggestions – Oriental East, Mark’s Duck House and Ping Pong Dim Sum – on the Express website now.

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