On Friday night after work, we met at the College Park metro station and walked in the oppressive heat to Northwest Chinese, where we hoped to be greeted by a different (and much more welcome) type of heat. Northwest Chinese is in a strip mall on the edge of the University of Maryland campus in downtown College Park, a little less than a mile from the metro station. The interior of the restaurant looks modern and pleasant, with a soothing waterfall by the cashier’s stand.
We were directed to a seat along the wall and given a laminated menu along with a purple washable marker. You put a “check” next to what you want and then bring it to the front when you’re ready. We checked off the Black Vinegar Peanuts, the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger and the Sour Soup Dumplings.
The peanuts, glazed with Shaanxi vinegar and then topped with cilantro, red pepper flakes and sliced garlic, were addictive. They are the ideal snack to order while waiting on the rest of your meal. Next up: the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger, with ground lamb on a house made rice bun. The rice bun had a crispy, cracker-like consistency. A softer bun would have disintegrated under the weight of the spice-saturated lamb. While the burger had some heat from the cumin and a few flecks of red pepper, it’s a good option for those looking to dial down the heat.
The sour soup dumplings, other the other hand, does not dial down the heat. The initial surprise, for me at least, was the spicy and sour combination. Taking one look at it, I knew it was going to be spicy. After all, the peanuts had prepared me for this mix of flavors. But when I tasted the vinegar, it jarred me a little. Once I warmed up to the incredible complexity of the broth, though, I just wanted to devour it all. We both agreed that the housemade pork dumplings, which had more heft and chew than usual, were the best dumplings we had ever had. As Marnay would say, those dumplings are what all dumplings aspire to be!
All of this food—the peanuts, burger and soup—was $18 before tip. For this quality, we would happily pay much more.
Northwest Chinese: 7313 Baltimore Ave College Park, MD 20740
Closest Metro: College Park