Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chalin's Restaurant Food Review

Chalin's Restaurant, formerly Charlie Chiang Restaurants (same owners, cooks) is old-school Chinese dining at its best. For years, I had it rated just behind Yenching Palace as the place to sit, relax and revel in affordable, tasty Chinese food. Well, Yenching is gone (replaced by a Walgreen's) so only Chalin's remains atop the list, and my most recent visit only cemented that opinion.

Nestled between the Van Ness-UDC Metro and the sprawling campus, Chalin's has been around for a long time. It's not modern by any means, but that's what makes it so special. For starters, I dare you to go unignored for more than a few seconds, upon entering... the staff here, is definitely on their toes. Seating is comfortable and well-spaced; defiantly homey (right down to the paper table cloths) compared to the P.F. Changs of the area. Service is quick (possibly too quick) but I'd rather hurry than wait forever. Besides, all you have to say is "give me a few more minutes," and voila... more time.

Hot & Sour Soup with Wonton Crackers

Ordering can be a bit perplexing, especially with two menus; but it's impossible not to find something that suits your fancy. Best of all, the prices are downright affordable. Spring rolls & soups for just under $3? Sold! Kudos to our server for nixing an appetizer order for two spring rolls ($2.95) and adding one roll each, to both our dishes (a savings of $.95, but priceless in my eyes.) I ordered a #4 General Tso's Chicken for $8 ($9 with the roll) which comes with a cup of hot & sour soup and your choice of white or fried rice.

General Tso's Chicken with Fried Rice

Chalin's hot & sour soup could easily be the best soup in DC. Make no mistake: It's extra hot and spicy (sodium watchers, beware) but I could eat an endless bowl of it. Crispy wonton crackers make it all the more enjoyable. The vegetable spring roll was delectable too, although I prefer my filling chopped/diced a little more. Fried rice looks bad (molds + rice = not appealing) but tastes very good. Broccoli florets were as green as the hills of Ireland, and the chicken meaty, sweet and zesty (courtesy of the red hot sauce with a touch of dried red pepper.

Water glasses are filled regularly, and even one of the owners stopped by to say hello (she knows my Aunt Nessa.) Atmosphere is calming and almost always quiet... a welcome change from the neighborhood's high-decibel competition. I'm a sucker for fortune cookies, and wish every restaurant gave them away. I won't share my fortune, but I will heartily recommend Chalin's Van Ness haven.