For the past year, this nondescript Chinese-American restaurant right across from Ballston Metro has been serving a Chinese-language menu of Dongbei regional specialties. This may be the only place in the area you can sample this type of cuisine. Dongbei is Northeastern (Dong = East, Bei = North) cuisine, which is known for their dumplings, pancakes, and simple, hearty stews.
I translated a bit from the online menu, took some advice from Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Food Guide (he visited the place a while back), and had assistance from the very friendly manager.
They started us off with four or five small plates that came gratis. Roast peanuts, a shredded root vegetable, marinated bean sprouts, and a sweet version of kimchi. All simple tasting and highly enjoyable.
We then had pancakes (these came out as crepes slathered with a salty hoisin wrapped around romaine lettuce), a sticky bun stuffed with red bean paste (served with honey), scrambled tofu with scallions, tofu skins stir-fried wtih ginger, garlic, and hot peppers., and a homemade noodle dish of zha jiang mian (noodles in bean paste sauce). The homemade noodles were excellent, though I've had much better versions of the sauce. Next time, I will try their other homemade noodle dish, served as soup noodles.
For 'main courses' we had a dish labeled as red-braised lamb, which was very different from the faintly sweet Shanghainese version. This was served as a sweet and sour soup. We also had pork riblets served with Italian flat beans, and an eggplant and potato stew. The stew was simple and tasty, and the beans were delicious, nicely flavored by the pork, though the pork itself was uninteresting.
The highlights for me were the two tofu dishes,
It wasn't a great meal, but it was pretty shocking to find this cuisine available at a restaurant I though was doomed to serving General Tso's Chicken.
Next time I will try the steamed dumplings.