Despite living close to Rockville Pike, I had never been to A&J. So Saturday, determined to give it a try, my wife, 2 year old son and I arrived at noon.
First, it's a nice looking little spot, clean, but certainly not a very big space. Every table was occupied, and waiting was uncomfortable, as we were standing right next to people who were trying to have lunch. That said, turnover was reasonable, and I never noticed more than a few groups waiting at any one time.
Second, NO BEER! That might not be a problem for most of you, but I sure enjoy a cold beer with my Saturday lunch, especially if it's Chinese.
Third, the food. There are two menus. One is a very short offering of Chinese breakfast dishes that seemed to be made up of donuts, rice soups, and a few egg dishes. The regular(?) menu is not long either. Page one is mostly noodle soups, many with tendon or tripe or pork chop and maybe one seafood. Page two is dumplings, steamed/baked buns, and plates of meat (spareribs, pigs ear, etc.) The third page had a couple of vegetables, and a lot of bean curd dishes.
We had a bowl of the spicy beef soup with wide noodles. This is a glorious looking dish. The broth is deep, dark brown and smells delicious. In fact, it tastes of little other than salt and pepper. The chunks of beef are from a chuck roast, and very tender. The noodles are thick and chewy and very good. Still, not nearly as flavorful as many phos in the neighborhood. We also had the Hot and Sour Noodles served cold. These were a thin noodle, not at all clumpy, and served with a bracing, sesame oil based sauce. Very good, but not a notoriously difficult dish to prepare. An order of the Smoked Chicken was great; moist, flavorful and not overly smoked. The Scallion Pancake was the best I've ever had, served very hot, it was full of scallion and not greasy at all. The Vegetarian Dumplings were awful, the filling somehow bitter from the shitake mushrooms and the wrapper was dried out and chewy. The standout dish, which was on every table for good reason, was the Pan Fried Pork Dumplings (8 per serving). These are large, like the size of a spring roll. The wrapper is like a good, soft pasta except where it's been very well browned in hot oil. The filling is porky, moist, and perfectly seasoned. These were worth the trip alone.
The total bill, with two sodas (ugh) and tax was $25. Needless to say, there was plenty to take home with us as well.