My adventurous noodle eater man and I went to Rockville, Maryland yesterday, building our entire afternoon activities around a Top 100 Cheap Eats restaurant, Michael's Noodles. Rockville, as I have noted in past culinary excursions, seems like it's a prime hub for shops-that-Americans like--DSW, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond (where I used three large blue coupons), etc.--but unfortunately also seemed to entertain all DC area drivers who wanted to go anywhere. That means there was an amazingly dense amount of traffic.
After we stopped for halvah at one Middle Eastern grocery and picked up meat pies at a Russian grocery--and endured Maryland traffic--we were ready for food.
It's always an adventure stepping into a top 100 restaurant of any variety, particularly ones on this list. We were greeted--unofficially--by a young boy taking a picture of the art in the entryway; I halfway assumed he must have been a food blogger too, so I felt at ease (he was a bored kid at a multiple-adult dinner, so this was only one of many diversions we saw him participating in). It was a good sign, though; it was loud with lots of families.
We used the Washingtonian write-up as our starting point because the menu was eight pages long with about 30 items on each page. Intestines, duck blood, jellyfish, mustard greens, squid, fish head, and live fish--almost certainly the head too--are on the menu. We started with tea and beer; those choices were easy.
We started with Szechuan wantons, exquisite little gathered-dough packages with a rich meat filling and chili oil and scallions soaked into every little dough rivulet. Proud chopstick users, we couldn't savor them well enough with chopsticks so we broke out the forks. And because they were really slippery.
We ordered dumplings next. The dumpling dough was thick and soft on the inside but crisp and crunchy: nothing like the glorious effects of food that comes out of a fry pan.
I had the dan dan noodles. I had no idea what that entailed but the alliteration was too alluring. Nevertheless, I was still surprised at what it looked like: lightly steamed spinach took up half the bowl and the other half were Michael's homemade noodle covered with dried, shredded pork. I gingerly took a little of each noodles and spinach and put it on my little plate; our waitress soon came over, tsked me, and stirred everything together. Then it tasted good; she dredged up all the sauce at the bottom and coated the dry pork with its sweet sauce.
My co-cheap eats-er demurred on trying my dish as his "would be the star of the show," or something similarly overconfident. He was right: pork, chicken, shrimp, and tons of vegetables were in a thin gravy and floated on top of a nest of crispy, thin noodles. The longer it took us to work our way through his lunch, the more the noodles soaked up the sauce and the better they became.
So, we're one more cheap eats joint down, with about a million more restaurants, calories, and meals (but not dollars!) to go. One could say the same for the photos of leaves I intend to take until they are all gone.