Monday, January 23, 2012

A & J Authentic Chinese ~ Rockville, MD

If you have not already taken notice of a trend in the restaurants I often frequent, I am a lover of all Asian cuisine. The best thing about living in the DC metro area is all the wonderful options we have available to us. In reality, we take it for granted. Never did I realize this more than when I was visiting my in laws in blue collar town, and they were happy they had found one decent Chinese, Mexican, and Afghani restaurant. Here in DC, the options are endless.

I had been hearing whispers of this authentic Chinese dim sum joint with a very unusual name. A & J’s is located in Rockville and Annandale. Very small with spartan d├ęcor, this is a place for hard core enthusiasts of real Chinese cuisine. I went there with the explicit plan of trying a multitude of dishes, which here is easy to do since they are small plates at inexpensive prices. Dim sum is like Spanish tapas.

My choices were thus:  
  • Wonton soup Shanghai Style (Ground pork and vegetable wonton)   
  • Chinese style fried pork chop on rice
  • Braised pork on rice with a braised egg
  • Pan-fried pork dumplings/potstickers
  • Steamed pork bun
  • Steamed beef dumpling 
  • Steamed pork hock with special seasonings
  • Cucumber salad in hot garlic sauce
  • Sliced pork ears with hot spiced seasoning

Wow, that was porkerific. Chinese food does center a lot around pork. If you have special dietary needs, such as keeping Kosher, this place would probably not be the most satisfying.

The wonton soup was OK. The wontons themselves were fabulous, the broth was a bit eh. I could not quite tell you what was off about the broth itself. ALL of the dumplings/potsticker/buns were truly amazing. If Chinese dumplings are your thing, then A & J is your new mistress.

The braised pork with braised egg was also yummy. The egg was the most surprising, as I have never had one before. It was brown in color, but do not let this deter you. It tastes like a hard boiled egg, period. I was also thrilled with the pork hock. Subtle nuances of flavor swimming in a well seasoned broth. The meat and skin perfection.

Another surprise was the cucumber salad. This was, in my opinion, the only spicy item on my plate. I did not order this, they simply brought over a serving for me to taste. I have never tried cucumbers this crisp. The sauce was spicy, but fresh with subtle sweet undertones. Their plan to hook me on this item definitely worked.

By far, the only really disappointing item was the pigs ear. I was hoping for chewiness, but they sliced them in a way that the cartlidge was present in every bite, and it was served cold. I am sure it is a perfect example of the dish, it was just not what I expected. 

This is the kind of place you go to to step outside your comfort zone and try new flavors. You will find that once you start stretching your palate, you want to do it again and again until the ordinary no longer feeds your cravings. What fun can be had when that happens….

Contact Information:
1319 Rockville Pike (The location I ate at)
Ste C
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 251-7878

4316 Markham St
Annandale, VA 22003
(703) 813-8181

A & J on Urbanspoon

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