I love Chinese food. To be honest I love food in general, but Chinese food has a special place in my heart. It was my first exposure to the continent of Asia and we’ve had a long-standing love / hate relationship. I love what it does to my taste buds, but I hate what it does to my backside.
Given my recent experience with Soup Dumplings in Boston at the Gourmet Dumplings House, I was anxious to find a suitable substitute in the DC area. When I mentioned my latest addiction to my coworker, he was very enthusiastic about knowing where to get soup dumplings. Those were the magic words needed to get me out of the city. I traveled all the way up to Rockville to a place called Joes Noodle House just to sample this delicacy. Once there I was overwhelmed by the variety on the menu; there were easily 200+ dishes to choose from. I couldn’t identify most of the dishes, so I made a pretty bold decision. I told my buddy and his Girlfriend to order whatever they wanted and I’d pay for my share. That was when things got a bit out of control. By the time the servers were done bringing our order to the table there was virtually no room for us to eat.
There were soup dumplings of course, turnip cakes, spicy tendon, friend eggplant, fish soup, seafood noodle soup, and long crispy noodles that we dipped in sweet soy milk . The servers looked at us in disbelief, as we gorged ourselves on our selections. Other patrons pointed at us in awe, shock, and possibly a bit of disgust. I loved it all, but the thing I loved best is that by abdicating the decision-making process everything I tried with the exception of the dumplings was 100% new.
I’ll start with the turnip cakes. I didn’t know what to expect, so I was game to try them. Once I arrived at the table I was sure I wouldn’t like them. They had the look of something that might have a custard like consistency. While I wasn’t wrong about the texture, the flavor was mild enhanced by soy sauce and an oil infused with crushed red pepper. Additionally there was a crispy coating reminiscent of French toast that helped me get past the custard texture. They were tasty, not at all what I had expected, a pleasant surprise to an epic meal.
Next came the tendon. Again not what I was expecting. I love tendon. I get it in my pho whenever I can. So when my coworker recommended it I was completely game. I was expecting tendon, dipped in batter and fried. What arrived at the table was a cold spicy dish. The texture was tougher than I expected, but the flavor was pleasing. I put some of it in my soup and it immediately enhanced the flavor.
Next came the fried eggplant. What can I say, fried anything is good. A healthy dip in soy sauce enhanced the flavor, and the crunchy fried crust made me forget that I was eating mushy eggplant. Tasty, tasty, tasty!
Next came the soups. We ordered a fish soup and cabbage. I took a guess, that this would be similar to the spicy fish soup I had at the Gourmet Dumpling house in Boston. I was disappointed that my guess didn’t pan out, but pleasantly surprised at the delicate savory flavor of the soup that did come to the table. We also ordered a mixed seafood soup that was delightful. I enjoyed mixing the soups together and with everything else at the table. Using the crispy noodle to sop up some of the juices was a throw back to sopping up juices with cornbread down south.
Finally: the soup dumplings. These were not the soup dumplings that I had had in Boston. They were slightly more firm, and the broth wasn’t as plentiful as the ones I had sampled. But they melted in your mouth wonderfully, warming me all the way down to my gut on a particularly nasty day. All in all: Joe’s Noodle House is a winner. Authentic down to the intricate Chinese mural and boxes of peas ready to process sitting on a table close to the kitchen. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are fortunate enough to go with a Chinese native, all the better. My friend was able navigate the menu, making my experience wholly unique.