I’ve raved about Chin Chin Cafe before on twitter, but I think it’s time I gave it a drool-worthy shout out. Wedged between a mom-and-pop bagel shop and a massive Korean grocery store in Ashburn, this little Chinese restaurant isn’t something you’d be able to spot out if you were driving past on route 640. A friend told me to stop by to try out the Thai basil fried rice one day, and I’ve been obsessed since. Chin Chin’s is one of my favorite stops for lunch in the area, because the portions are generous, the prices are a steal and the food is as addicting as P.F. Chang’s (think lettuce wraps and crab rangoons), but are authentic and made by an actual Chinese family. There are a few Thai dishes offered on the menu as well, but the majority of their dishes are traditional Cantonese staples.
1) Thai Basil Fried Rice
I’ve never had anything like this before. Normally you’ll see pineapple fried rice on the menus of your neighborhood Thai restaurant, or regular chicken fried rice at your usual Chinese take out spot–but I have yet to find a place that offers Thai chili and fragrant basil fried rice with chunks of scrambled eggs, scallions, peas and tender slices of chicken that are so soft that it’s hard distinguish between chopped chunks of scrambled eggs. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food (which I’ve been working on…), but I gladly suck it up for this dish.
2) Beef Chow Fun
This is one of my favorite Cantonese dishes! My grandparents make this every now and then, and I’m always the first in line to grab a bowl. It’s a popular dish at the Tai household, so if you don’t eat that first bowl quickly–you probably won’t get seconds! Soft, wide rice noodles tossed in savory brown sauce with onions and slices of pork. This is one of my comfort go-to’s, and when I’m having a bad day–I skip the ice cream and either make this at home, or order it to go so I can enjoy it with a glass of red wine and a few hours of hulu.
3) Fried Crab Rangoon
China’s version of indulgent mozzarella sticks–deep fried wontons filled with mounds of cream cheese and a pinch of crab meat you’ll barely notice. Dip these into a plate of sweet and sour sauce mixed with hot mustard (available from the spice tray at every table).
4) Hot Salt Calamari
This is another cantonese dish that I love. If you have a salt tooth and like calamari–you will LOVE this. It’s basically battered squid, fried and tossed in deep fried garlic, spices and hot salt. This dish is really addicting if you like salty food. I could pretty much eat this all day with a bowl of rice.
5) Egg Foo Young
I’m a little judgmental if I see this on the menu and it doesn’t compare to my mom’s version at home, but the combination egg foo young at Chin Chin’s (a fat omelette of roast pork, chicken, beef, vegetables and shrimp smothered in brown gravy) is definitely something special. You get three patties with a free bowl of white, brown or fried rice for $8.99 which can feed up to four people.
6) Lettuce Wraps
The minced chicken lettuce wraps are $6.99 for about 4-5 wraps. They tastes a lot like P.F. Chang’s famous lettuce wraps, but come in bigger portions. The fried bits of rice noodle and chopped veggies give it the same crunch you get at the popular Chinese-inspired chain, but at Chin Chin’s–it’s the real thing.
P.S. Yes, they also have orange chicken, walnut shrimp, pan fried noodles, salt and pepper steak and all that good stuff. You can see their website here, but there’s a lot more offered at the restaurant than the online menu says.
Chin Chin Cafe: 43930 Farmwell Hunt Plaza, Suite 106, Ashburn, VA 20147; (703) 858-0515; website.