Bob’s Shanghai 66

Bob’s Shanghai 66 is located in a strip mall just off Rockville Pike, near the Rockville metro station. It has been in Washingtonian’s Best Cheap Eats for many years, so I was very excited to finally get to try it.

Bobs Shanghai 66

When we walked inside from the cold at 8pm on a Friday, the dinner rush was just about ending. We were greeted by a genial host who brought us to our table. Upon being seated, we were served complementary tea. The menu at Bob’s is long, but it helps to go in knowing that they specialize in soup dumplings, also known as XLB. You will want to make sure soup dumplings are part of your meal at Bob’s.

We took our own advice on the soup dumplings and also ordered lamb with cumin, sautéed snow pea tips (leaves) and dry noodles with pork. It takes practice to eat the dumplings, because they are twice the size of normal dumplings. They are also filled with very hot broth, so putting the whole thing in your mouth and biting it is out of the question. My suggestion is to gently pierce the top and have a spoon nearby, ready to scoop up the rich, gelatinous, porcine broth.

Bobs Shanghai 66 dinner

The surprise hit of the night was the snow pea tips. Next time we sauté greens at home, this is how I want them to taste. The preparation is simply snow pea leaves cooked in flavored cooking oils. Even when our table was crowded with food, this was the dish we kept coming back to. Also a surprise was that, at $16.95, they were the most expensive dish of the night.

Both ma and la of “mala” were present in the lamb with cumin. I had heard of mala before and knew that it had something to do with Sichuan peppercorns, but I did not know the exact translation until a read a review by the New York Times’ Ligaya Mishan of a restaurant named Sichuan Dry Pot. She explained that “ma” means tingling and “la” refers to heat.  The lamb was not quite as spicy as similar dishes at Peter Chang, but it was full of flavor.  I happily ate the leftovers for lunch on Monday. The dry noodles with ground pork, on the other hand, were unremarkable.  They were not bad, but it isn’t something I would order again.

As we finished our meal, the kitchen staff sat down at a spot near us to enjoy a tableful of their hard work.  Bob’s Shanghai 66 is a good deal in a metro-accessible location in Rockville. We will be back.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Snow pea tips

Address
Bob’s Shanghai 66: 305 N Washington Street Rockville, MD 20850
Closest Metro: Rockville

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Northwest Chinese

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.

Northwest Chinese: Black Vinegar Peanuts, Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

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.

Northwest Chinese Sour Soup Dumplings

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.

Best Bite
Paul: Soup
Marnay: Dumplings

Address
Northwest Chinese: 7313 Baltimore Ave College Park, MD 20740
Closest Metro: College Park

Full Key

Marnay’s Mom was staying with us, so we took her to Full Key in Wheaton on a cold, rainy Monday night. The restaurant is in a busy strip mall on University Boulevard with a number of other popular restaurants.

The place looks dated but inviting, and the staff is busy but friendly. We started out with an egg roll, just to tide us over. The roll was nice and crispy but otherwise unremarkable. We came, however, for Full Key’s iconic shrimp dumpling soup. Both Marnay and her Mom ordered it, while I got to try to try some of Marnay’s. (Don’t think I was going to go to Full Key and not at least get a taste of the shrimp dumpling soup.)

The dish seems simple: Egg noodles in chicken broth with bobbing shrimp, pork and mushroom (and probably some other things) filled dumplings. The dumplings would taste incredible on their own, but they get an added burst of flavor and richness from the chicken broth. The egg noodles, which are snipped by scissors tableside, are thin and allow the dumplings to be the star of the show.

I got the Sichuan (the restaurant’s spelling) Shredded Pork. It came at least 10 minutes after Marnay and her Mom got her food, so the pacing wasn’t great. I think you have to go in with the mentality that things are going to come from the kitchen when they come. There was also only one person servicing the entire restaurant, which was quite busy even on a dreary Monday night. When my food did arrive, it was very hot, so it clearly did come right from the kitchen to our table.

The dish consisted of thin pieces of pork sautéed with bell peppers, carrots, onions and possibly other vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised with how many vegetables were included. I feel like many Chinese restaurants skimp out on vegetables. Here, they felt like they were on equal footing with the pork. The pork was spicy but not mouth numbingly spicy. There was a healthy amount of sauce, although it wasn’t excessive. I would get this dish again.

We also got Sichuan green beans for the table. They were spicy, which I was not expecting. But they had a nice crunch to them, as well.

The part of Full Key that I found the most interesting and unique was the case of freshly roasted pork, duck and chicken displayed by the front of the kitchen. Judging by the amount of times the chef visited the case, I could tell that it was a big deal. When we come back to Full Key, we are definitely going to get some!

Address
Full Key: 2227 University Blvd W, Wheaton, MD 20902
Closest Metro: Wheaton

Dim Sum Garden

We took Amtrak to 30th Street station in Philly on a Saturday morning. When we arrived, we went with Marnay’s Mom to Dim Sum Garden, which is in Philly’s Chinatown. Dim Sum Garden is one of the places that Tom Sietsema went to on his recent trip to Philadelphia.

We had a little trouble navigating the narrow streets of Chinatown with our rolling suitcase, but we eventually found the restaurant. The place was packed—always a good sign. They shoved in a very tight space. To get into and out of our seats, the people next to us actually had to get up to allow us to pass. Dim Sum Garden is known for their soup dumplings. We were excited because we have never had soup dumplings, although we have heard a lot of about them. Dim Sum is still relatively new to us. We weren’t introduced to it until we moved to Maryland since it isn’t that popular in New Jersey.

The three of us ordered what seemed like a lot of food, but which ended up being quite reasonable. We ordered steamed pork soup dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed vegetable buns and sweet red bean cakes. Red bean cakes are one of our favorite treats, and they were as decadent as expected. None of us had had soup dumplings before, so we had no idea how to eat them. One method was to just put the whole thing in your mouth. That was delicious, but there was more broth than I expected! The other method was to pierce the dumpling with a chopstick (no forks at this place) and just use the broth as a dipping sauce. Both methods were good!

The shrimp dumplings tasted extremely fresh, as did really everything at Dim Sum Garden. It’s usually a safe bet to go to a Dim Sum Place on a Saturday afternoon, since that’s when they are busiest. We now have a new favorite in Philly’s Chinatown!

Address
Dim Sum Garden: 1020 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107