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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Daily 11:00am–1:00am

Features Kid-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards None
Reservations Accepted

501 H St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 289-2059
Li Ho
Some of Chinatown’s best noodles, served in just the right tiny dump

Like most excellent, authentic Asian restaurants, Li Ho looks like a hole. Crouched at the caboose of H Street, its storefront is absolutely tiny. On dingy walls, calendar girls from the mid-’90s vie for space with handwritten signs that make no sense. Metal troughs of dubious sterility hold your food; just about everything is stained to some degree. It looks and feels like the more permanent version of a street cart.

The kitchen, too, is magnificently sloppy. Some pots and pans are turned into makeshift steamers, and crates of eggs and sticky bottles of sauce perch above huge cast-iron woks over high flames. It’s a kitchen where the chefs use one giant knife and a pair of chopsticks as their only tools. That’s all they need.

Pork buns here are magnificent. Five plump, fluffy clouds of white are hot from the steamer and when torn, let out wisps of savory-sweet vapor. The dough’s faint sweetness complements the lightly-spiced, tender pork encased inside. They taste like they could have been made in a grandmother’s kitchen, and at just five dollars, they may very well be the best deal in the city. Singapore noodles are stir-fried by the bale with slivers of crunchy cabbage. They’re glassy without being too oily, and gently-scented with yellow curry. Somehow, they’re even better when heaped on vinyl plates from the dollar store. Make sure to order them freshly made, and not from the steam trays where they’ve been sitting for who-knows-how-long.

Some dishes at Li Ho are not as good as elsewhere. Though dumplings are filled with delightfully tender and flavorful pork and seafood, the skin is so thick it overpowers it. Barbecue spare ribs are all gristle and fat and not enough meat (hey, authenticity isn’t always great—sometimes it’s born of a poverty of availability, not popular delight). But you can hardly find better noodles in the area.

Definitely finish your meal here with a bubble tea. It’s creamy and strongly flavored, with ideal, chewy pearls. It will cap off a superb meal at this brilliant little Chinatown underdog.

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