Excellent Hunan Chinese in Northern Virginia

I’ve been known to go off in search of great dumplings and dim sum when I travel (even here in the States).

And living in the DC area I’m blessed with some generally very good Asian foods. My favorite Thai in the area remains Elephant Jumps. You can’t go wrong with anything Vietnamese in the Eden Center.

But most of the Chinese seems to taste the same, there are decent carryout places that fill a niche (I’m not sure what niche, exactly, but a niche) but very few Chinese places that reach the heights of the Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in the area.

For good Sichuan there’s China Star.

And when I lost power at the beginning of the month and stayed out at the Hyatt Fair Lakes I discovered some really good Hunan — 100 Degree Chinese Cuisine (and by ‘discovered’ I mean that I consulted my boss’ ethnic food guide for nearby restaurants).

I went back this weekend to see if it was a fluke, and I can say I really do recommend checking out the place if you like good Hunan food and find yourself in the Northern Virginia suburbs.

And I do mean the suburbs. The place is in a shopping center beneath a dentist, there are three dentist offices out of 5 upper level shops. It’s next door to a Subway. And the place is anchored by a Harris Teeter.

Enter and it’s almost exclusively Chinese clientele. The acoustics aren’t great, so the restaurant can be a tad bit on the loud side even when it isn’t full. Service from the wait staff is good, the owner through is very gruff.

They bring out pickled cabbage and peanuts to begin.

The owner came out with the waitress while we ordered, I asked for the pork and chive fried dumplings, the twice cooked pork, the baby octopus with pickled red pepper, and another dish with a radish rub that they were out of. The owner was impatient and suggested a new dish, a pork belly and green vegetable stem of some sort. I was skeptical. He insisted. I relented, not wanting to offend.

The dumplings are good. Not as good as at Lam Zhou Homemade Noodle in New York, but some of the best I’ve had in DC. A bit too doughy perhaps. And in need of the soy dumpling sauce that’s provided, they aren’t juicy enough on their own. But still delicious.

The octopus is spicy, a vinegar chili oil sauce and with peppers and black mushrooms. Interesting flavors and textures. The rice here is even very good, by the way.

Next up was the dish not on the menu, the other entrees were $12.95 and $13.95 but this one was $17.95. I was feeling a bit taken and bullied, until I tasted it and it was excellent. This will make me eat my veggies any day.

My favorite dish, a repeat from the last visit, is the twice cooked pork. The cabbage was savory and bitter, the sauce sweet and spicy.

Reactions to this place are all over the map. It seems that folks who are used to takeout Chinese are disappointed — not because they can’t get that, but because they can and they do (the menu is way too expensive and has many ‘staples’ and then they don’t understand what the hype is when the beef with broccoli or sesame beef isn’t any better than down the street from their home and is more expensive too.

Go for the authentic choices, don’t expect stellar service, and you won’t go wrong here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s the TASTE, the photos don’t do justice, and by authentic I mean authentic flavors not “the way the dishes look in China, outside of the big cities”

  2. Gary, doesn’t look authentic. Maybe you should dine with a Chinese next time. 😉

  3. The dough of the fried dumplings looks too thick. It is supposed to be thinner. In China, dough-related food is more common in the north and rice in the south (roughly divided by the Yangte River). Therefore, it is usually more likely to find good flour-dough dumplings in a Chinese restaurant of northern style rather than the southern. The $17.95 dish looks like stir-fried garlic scapes with preserved pork.

  4. I would recommend some good authentic Chinese restaurants if u happen to stop by Nebraska.

  5. Gary,

    For authentic, Northern China style dumplings, try China Bistro in Rockville next time you’re around the area.

  6. I never realized that you worked for Tyler Cowen…I just read his food book, its great (and sounds like that place fits the ideal)

  7. “I consulted my boss’ ethnic food guide”

    Funny coincidence, I’ve been an avid reader of both Marginal Revolution and your blog for years and I never realized the connection.

  8. When I saw this post, I thought, “Tyler Cowen.” As I read, I thought, “Tyler Cowen, Tyler Cowen, Tyler Cowen.” I did not know you worked for him though. Interesting.

  9. Ha! My office is near IAD (next to the employee parking lot, no less) but my Chinese co-workers were ecstatic about 100 degree hot when it first opened, and managed to drag me down there at one point.

    It’s a bit far from the airport for a quick lunch, but I found it quite good. It’s the first restaurant that I’ve been to that has a white people’s menu and Chinese people’s menu. I ordered cumin lamb off the Chinese people’s menu, and found it quite good. I had no idea that it would end up featured on your blog as “authentic food.” (Note to self: Fried food with a sugar sauce is not real Chinese.)

  10. Gary, if you ever head to Richmond please visit Peter Chang. Delicious and authentic Szechuan food!

  11. @Ellen – he became famous about 6 or 7 years back for his cooking at China Star, which isn’t the same as it was but is still good

  12. You work for Tyler Cowen, how cool! Totally agree about Elephant Jumps and will try this one out as I drive by that HT probably 5 times a day.

  13. Wait, you really work for Tyler? That’s pretty random that two blogs I read regularly, on completely different subjects, wound up having such a connection.

  14. Thanks for sharing. My family had a nice lunch and we loved eggplant in spicy garlic souce. Twice cooked pork is my favorite and while it was excellent it was heavy/oily. Its dumpling were good but too doughy too. Only disagreement is baby octopus dish. While my daughters like it much my wife and I thought it was average.

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