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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.4
6.7
$30
Chinese
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Fri 11:30am–9:00pm
Sat–Sun 10:00am–9:00pm

Bar None
Credit cards None
Reservations Not accepted

Annandale, VA
4316 Markham St.
Annandale, VA
(703) 813-8181

Rockville, MD
1319 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD
(301) 251-7878
A & J Restaurant
Tasty Chinese that goes beyond Chinese-American—hooray for that

Even if somebody in your party speaks Mandarin, expect the staff at A & J to be strict about circling. The rule has been instituted to avoid confusion: if a dish isn’t circled on the paper menu, you don’t get it, and verbal ordering is not allowed, even in Chinese. If any kind of “secret menu” exists at A & J, it takes a lot more than native fluency to tease it out.

Which is fine by us: after all, the normal menu is so good that it’s hard to imagine any necessary amendments. In addition to traditional dim sum offerings—available not only at lunch but throughout the day—A & J serves a number of Northern dim sum dishes, which tend to be heartier than their Southern counterparts.

Take, for example, the scallion pancake. Whereas the dish in its most familiar form is served forth as a limp and rather precious object, the A & J version is at least half an inch thick, and must be ordered as a stand-alone plate (cong yu bing). Also not to be missed are guo tie: finger-thick logs of pork, scallions, and spice, rolled into a flour pancake and pan-fried to wonderful goldenness; the result is something akin to a flauta. A serving size of eight seems excessive only before you have your first taste. Afterwards, eight is hardly enough.

The non-Northern specialties at A & J are less spectacular. Steamed dumplings come in a number of varieties (pork, beef, vegetable) and are on par with what you’d see in other above-average dim sum joints. Noodles deliver as expected, although they, along with the soups, are improved with a spoonful from the jar of pickled red chili peppers that sits on every table.

And no visit is complete without the thousand-year egg: the A & J version of this spice-aged, blackened duck egg is smoky and cold, and it’s served in a ring of (much younger) scrambled tofu with sesame oil and salt—one of the more delicious homages to the soybean we’ve seen in the past thousand years or so.

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