Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Dish: Wontons with Red Hot Sauce at Joe's Noodle House

While the décor isn't anything to write about, and the service, while efficient, is minimal, it's the best Szechuan cooking in the DC area that keeps me coming back again and again to Joe's Noodle House in Rockville.

A perennial cheap eats lister, Joe's, which is located in a nondescript strip mall on Rockville Pike, has scores of devotees to back me up on this claim. Like a lot of Chinese restaurants, the menu is large and can be a bit overwhelming, so take my advice and 1) bring a friend who likes to share, and 2) when it doubt, ask for recommendations.

I’m still working my way through the menu, but so far there’s been many standouts – beef noodle soup Szechuan-style, chopped leeks with pork, garlic and black beans, salty crispy squid, and cellophane noodles with ground pork, just to name a few. However, it’s the wontons with red hot sauce that I have dreams about. They arrive at the table piled atop one another in a bowl, sauce on the bottom, just waiting to be mixed together into a slippery, delicious mess. The pillowy dough is delicate and gnocchi-like in texture, the pork filling is juicy and tender, and the rust-colored sauce is smoky, salty, and singes your lips just as you hope it would. No matter how many times I go or how many dishes I order, the red-hot wontons are always included, and often the star of the feast.

Just remember that whether sitting down or taking out, you order and pay first at Joe's. The cash register in the back has a large sign hanging above to inform you, but many a first-time visitor (including this one) has missed it.

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