Joe's seems to be a right of passage for every D.C. chowhound, so last night my wife and I made the pilgrimage to Rockville and were very impressed. Rarely mentioned in the postings about this small, strip-mall store front (almost directly across the Pike from the Container Store--"Joe's" does not even appear on the signage), is the wonderful staff and service.
It works like this: You choose from about a zillion items on the menu, all labeled with letters from the alphabet followed by numerals. You go to the front counter with your order. There, a woman who speaks fluent English types it into the computer. You either pay up or start a tab. You hardly have time to get back to your seat before the food begins to arrive. In fact, it's hard to fathom how the kitchen manages so many menu items. Of course, it was a fairly slow night. (On the other hand, this place is so good, it's hard to imagine why it is ever slow.)
They even brought a small bowl of noodles for our 5-year-old daughter, who can't get through a bowl of wanton soup without a few noodles.
We used previous Chowhound postings to help us order. From appetizers, we loved the shredded radish, the leeks with pork and the crispy squid. We were less anamored of the rabbit, not because the flavor wasn't great (it's spicy with a pungent, seasoned oil that is truly Szechuan), but because it contained too many tiny little bones.
Since we were joined by a couple that is not so adventurous, we didn't go too crazy with the entrees. But even the more traditional items showed real craftsmanship in the kitchen. For instance, the Kung Pao chicken seemed to shimmer with a brightness of flavor we had not experienced before, and the orange beef consisted of what seemed to be large slices of chuck that were crunchy on the outside yet still tender and oozing flavor on the inside.
We were shocked when the bill for or meal--four appetizers and five entrees, plus a few beers and two bowls of soup for the 5-year-old--came to only $72.
Can't wait to go back.