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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

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

Features Kid-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Arlington, VA
1100 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA
(703) 525-5317
China Garden
Delicious dim sum and authentic cooking satisfies even purists

In your quest for “authentic” Chinese food, you should follow several rules of thumb: 1) go where the Chinese people go; 2) eschew restaurants that don’t use MSG (thanks, 1980s, for that bout of unfounded hysteria!); 3) bad service = better food. China Garden, perched on the second floor of an office building in Rosslyn, satisfies all of these requirements; from the busloads of Chinese tourists who gather outside every weekend, to the cantankerously efficient service, this is the real deal. And it’s not even ugly and dingy!

The best time to visit China Garden is on the (very packed) weekends, when trolleys meander around the cavernous restaurant in a Cantonese dim sum service. There’s such a plethora of dishes that it’s virtually impossible to see all of them during the course of one meal, and the food is well-executed and a real bargain. Look for the slabs of pan-fried taro and turnip cakes, which are commendably mushy, starchy, and studded with pieces of fatty pork. Char si bao are those delectable marshmallowy buns of rice flour filled with sweet cubes of stewed, tender pork. Siu mai and other dumplings come with a kaleidoscope of fillings, each pleated carefully into thin and chewy wrappers, and all bursting with tasty, hot juice when bitten.

Rarer dishes are equally successful. Tiny clams taste almost pickled in their sharp black-bean-and-scallion sauce. Salty and a tad bitter, they are reminiscent of the bar food served in Asian karaoke joints. Deep-fried sesame-encrusted pastries are filled with grainy sweet-lotus paste and will sink like a stone in your innards. Help digestion along with chrysanthemum tea, floral and delicate and served with rock sugar lumps.

A word of warning to those with dietary restrictions: plates are unlabelled, food is often unrecognizable, and it is only after much cajoling that your surly server will divulge the main ingredient in a dish—and even then, who knows? Dim sum is like reaching into a bag of diamonds and scorpions; it’s very rewarding, but not for the sensitive.

Dinners and weekday lunches are every bit as delicious and authentic. If you know someone who loves to declare that there’s no good Chinese in DC, take them here, feed them a pig knuckle, and suggest they get over themselves.

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