This year we held a Chinese New Year dinner for our friends, and it required seeking out an Asian grocery store. There, amid the plastic bags full of bok choy, Kevin proclaimed he was “home”—the mountains of greens reminded both of us of the crowded grocery stores in Flushing (a largely Chinese area in Queens) where produce is dirt cheap and it always smells like seafood.
There is nothing on the level of Flushing in Maryland or DC, but Rockville has a pocket of Chinese markets and restaurants that we haven’t had a chance to try yet. We decided to start at Peter Chang, the Rockville outpost of the well-known Arlington spot.
Peter Chang was the chef for the Chinese embassy, and now has a string of restaurants around the DMV (he frequently leaves one restaurant for another in very short periods).
We headed over to Rockville Town Square anticipating a wait since we didn’t have a reservation, but considering the crowd we were surprised it was 45 minutes and not longer.
Once we were seated, we were starving and immediately ordered the scallion bubble pancakes. Hot and crispy, with a curry dipping sauce, they were just what we needed while scanning the menu. The pancakes were huge–one would have sufficed.
Write-ups, reviews, everyone mentioned the dry-fried eggplant so we also started with that—or intended to. They forgot the order so we actually received them at the end of the meal, when we could barely fit more in our stomachs!
To be honest I don’t really understand the hype around these. It is basically an eggplant fry. Skip them.
Now it was time for the good stuff. Szechuan cuisine = spicy, so many dishes were labeled “hot and numbing” or listed ghost peppers as an ingredient. We enjoy spicy food, so we chose the “hot and numbing” flounder with tofu in a clay pot.
Chunks of flounder floated amid tofu chunks and an abundance of red peppers and mushrooms.
This was my favorite dish—flavorful, spicy, the fish tender. Our taste buds did not become “numb,” as the name might suggest, and in fact it was not as spicy as our next dish.
Mapo tofu—tofu cubes swimming in a delicious spicy sauce, making the Tsingtaos we got to calm our palates necessary. I’ve said this before—never neglect the tofu dishes at Asian restaurants, as they are some of the BEST on the menu, as we believed this one was.
Thinking we needed one non-spicy item to balance it out we opted for Grandma’s sweet and sour pork (listed under the Grandmother Homestyle Cooking section). It was a taste of Flushing dinners past—crispy pork (3:1 breading to pork ratio) with steamed broccoli. Fairly typical.
We clearly over-ordered, but no matter since Chinese food makes for the best next-day lunch.
Did Peter Chang live up to its reputation? It was certainly good, reminding us of the non-Americanized Chinese food we eat with Kevin’s family, and is a more-authentic option in an area littered with chains like PF Chang’s. We decided if Kevin’s parents visited, it would be acceptable to take them there.
But is it the best the area has? TBD.
Peter Chang is located in Rockville Town Square Plaza, 20A Maryland Ave. Reservations helpful, but not necessary.