Thursday, October 16, 2008

Its a DC kind of thing...

With all the intensity of the political campaigns and the global economic meltdown consuming our every waking moment, the Devil Dog is in Washington DC this week visiting family and friends and taking in some of the sights. Personally, I have always believed DC to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, with an archetctural style and panache that has long led me to call it the Acropolis on the Potomac, with the Lincoln Memorial doing a pretty damn good impression of the Parthenon. While the iconic images of the Capital, the Mall, the Washington Monument and the usual tourist spots are undeniably amazing, and never fail to leave you slackjawed in its presence there is a lot to DC beyond the usual.

My two favorite restaurants in the DC area is the Blue Duck Tavern in the Hyatt hotel at 24th and M streets, with the absolutely most fabulous crab cakes in the city (Chesapeke Bay backfin crab), and in the Virginia suburbs about 10 miles out of the city is Peking Gourmet, a chinese restaurant that exceeds all limitations of reality. Chinese restaurant you say...well let me tell you a story.

Peking Gourmet began 40 years ago as a tiny one room restaurant, gradually expanded into larger quarters and now occupies most of the building it is housed in. Sometime during the Reagan years it became THE Chinese restaurant of the political establishment, with Vice President Bush being among its most prominent regular diners. When he became President it became a virtual motorcade watering hole, and it never looked back, being a bipartisen magnet for senior Democrats and Republicans alike. Its not the politics...its the food. Szechuan Beef Proper (a deep fried beef with honey, sesame seeds and carrots) is its signature, as is the baby garlic spouts (grown on their own farm in Loudon County) with chicken, and the incredible Kung Pao Jumbo Shrimp.

The joke is the Devil Dog has been coming here since the 70's, long before it was chic, and long before it was consistently rated the best Chinese in the DC area by Zagat. It is still owned by the same family, some of the waiters have been there for thirty years or more, and it never loses its quality or epic atmosphere. For me its just my local Chinese restaurant that got taken over by the big wigs across the Potomac (whose pictures with the owner, Robert, adorn every inch of the walls), but I never fail to eat there whenever I'm in town. Kam Pai...

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