Staff Picks: Chinatown Express 746 6th St NW, (202) 638-0424

Some of what Yelpers have said about Chinatown Express is true: It’s cramped, dingy, and crowded, and the servers seldom smile. There’s also the large, unlidded fish tank and the butcher/noodle-making station, both of which are located in the main dining area and give the first floor its harbor-market odor. Oddly enough, these are good reasons to go to Chinatown Express. Unlike the glitzier H Street joints closer to the arch, there’s no fancy décor to authenticate the experience—just a never-ending pot of jasmine tea and good food. While tourists often make the mistake of ordering takeout selections like orange chicken, General Tso’s, or some other 24-hour, high-fructose abomination, the trick to eating well at Chinatown Express is to order family-style noodles, seafood, and some greens, and have everyone in your party serve themselves from the plates at the center of the table. Shun familiarity and make a coordinated tablewide order that looks like this: two orders of steamed pork dumplings, one plate of fried noodles with chicken, one medium order of cuttlefish, and a plate of sauteed yu choy. Along with the complimentary white rice, the pickled garlic-and-scallion sauce, and the constant threat of catching an elbow in the face from a quick-moving server, this is enough food to leave five people stuffed to the gills and slightly mystified about what just happened.
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