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A&J: good "real" Chinese at amazing prices

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A&J: good "real" Chinese at amazing prices

PoolBoy | Oct 1, 2004 09:17 PM

A & J Restaurant (Rockville Pike, Rockville) has been mentioned on this board before, but not in a while. Wife and I occasionally visit, and always leave amazed at what a great value it is. This evening, for example, we ordered 5 dishes (they are on the small side), and our bill was less than $17.00.

If you go, here are a few must-haves, in my view:

-- Spicy Sesame Noodles with Peanut Powder. They'll ask you what kind of noodles; say "the homemade ones." When you get the bowl, mix everything together to make the peanut sauce. This is truly delicious.

-- Cucumber and Garlic salad -- slices of pickling cucumbers and garlic in a sweet yet very spicy-hot dressing.

-- Scallion Pancake -- a lot of places have this, but A & J's is my favorite: Flat, salty, fried goodness. Sprinkle it with soy sauce and enjoy.

-- Beancurd skin with edamame and greens -- served at room temperature, it is broad "noodles" made from bean curd, tossed with the vegetables. A good, mild-yet-flavorful dish.

I like the panfried pork dumplings, too, but be warned that you get 8 large finger-like dumplings per order.

Not everything is good. The sesame bread is rather boring. And none of the chicken dishes have been to my liking. For example, I tried the Chinese-style fried chicken this evening. It appears to be dark meat that has been smoked, then fried, which sounds interesting. But the taste, well, perhaps it was smoked in an asphalt factory.

Uninformed ordering can be a risk (and not all of the wait staff are helpful), but at these prices (approximately $2 - $5 per dish) it is fairly easy to experiment. The dishes tend to be small, and though some (like the sesame-peanut noodles or the pork dumplings) could be full meals in themselves, a good rule of thumb, I think, is to order two dishes per person.

When you sit down you are given a paper menu and you order by circling the menu numbers of the items you want. (By the way, A & J's menu is not nearly as extensive as the one down the street at Joe's Noodle House.) You are given jasmine tea, which is very good. You have to ask for water. Dishes come out as they are made.

This place is certainly worth a visit, and I'd be glad to get others' opinions of some of the other dishes.

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