Restaurant review

Chang Chang restaurant review: Peter Chang’s DC debut is worth the wait


Pitcher Ong is a human ping pong ball, bouncing from table to table at the new Chang Chang at Dupont Circle. For a moment, he tells a group of diners that the ribs they eat are popular in Shanghai. Another, he’s at my table, introducing me and friends to one of the most extravagant duck preparations around. Best known locally as a pastry chef but a veteran of kitchens across the country, Ong is perhaps the most overqualified waiter in Washington.

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If you must ask about the name of the restaurant, you are probably new to the food scene. Chang Chang refers to celebrity chef Peter Chang, 59, and looks to the future by acknowledging the contributions of his daughter, co-owner Lydia Chang. Chang Chang follows the flag bearers Mom Chang in Fairfax, named in part for the Lisa family matriarch, also a chef, and Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda in an empire that now has 12 mid-Atlantic dining halls and a in Stamford, Conn.

The family’s last restaurant opened in October, initially offering take-out only – and from then on, the best Chinese take-out in town, a bar certainly low but a joyful event. The chicken in a roaring kung pao order is not only plentiful, it tastes clear on its own; buying D’Artagnan’s Green Circle free-range chicken helps. Jumbo pearly prawns topped with snow peas and sparkling asparagus – briefly blanched, then finished in a wok – balance the pink with the green, soft with crispy surf and sweetened with a light mixture of chicken broth and egg white ‘egg. Shipped in boxes, this food deserves gift wrapping. Sure, dry-fried cauliflower slumps the moment its lid is removed at home, but the seasoning is what blast-furnace fans have been waiting for.

What took the Changs so long to open in the District? Ong points to the owners’ loyal suburban fans, who eat early, show up in groups and prefer restaurants with parking. “DC isn’t made for that,” Ong says. Even so, Chang Chang packs them. Lunch, consisting of the same dishes as on the “Chang Out” (take-out) list, provides a great excuse for nearby workers to head back to the office. The dinner, featuring more elaborate concoctions, brings together what Ong calls “the fun crowd” and Lydia Chang, 35, the “foodie” labels.

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While I love munching on Changs’ greatest hits at home, including mapo tofu and bamboo fish, I love the thrill of novelty in the dining room, where the varied menu, dubbed “Chang In “, is divided into categories. : appetizers, small plates, vegetables, large plates, etc. Adored as Peter Chang is for his Sichuan creations, “he’s restless,” says his daughter, always eager to open new places to eat and offer dishes that exceed what the master is. famous for.

No other Chang restaurant serves pork terrine, for example. The “bite” is actually seven racks of pork fashioned from braised pork feet and shoulders, topped with aspic and topped with crispy watermelon radish and Asian pear. Drizzled with a mala piquant vinaigrette, the dish makes the taste of Canton close.

Opposite in all respects, but equally succulent, the spring rolls stuffed with dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms, hen of the woods and oyster mushrooms — a forest of mushrooms and vermicelli rolled up in a crispy batter and accompanied by an emulsion of Chinese vinegar, ginger, garlic and white pepper designed as a nod to Hong Kong diners’ favorite Worcestershire sauce. Chef Simon Lam, 33, snatched from Nihao in Baltimore and of Sino-Vietnamese origin, had the good idea to offer lettuce wraps, allowing diners to protect their fingers from hot cigars before dipping them in what is presented as wo sauce. (Better yet: mint shiso leaves to wrap the kitchen’s crispy-edged sliced ​​pork belly.) Another veggie to remember is star eggplant, tossed in a wok with fermented soybeans and chili peppers. to make it all smoky, and laid out in her bowl with green onions and these look like white clouds but are actually clumps of tofu foam. Some like it hot – and cold. Enter the eggplant-tofu duo.

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“I love sugar,” says Ong, the talent behind the Walnut Shrimp, which eschews the usual cloying glop. Marinated in wine, the seafood is lightly breaded, fried and glazed with condensed milk, orange juice and chopped nuts. The result: a velvet coat for delicious prawns.

Changians, as the chef’s devotees are called, may spot a familiar name or two on the menu, but chances are they are upgraded versions of past recipes. Here is our old friend, the lamb chop with cumin, its elongated kick of turmeric, coriander and black cardamom, and how the lamb is backed up by kabocha squash and lemony yogurt. Lisa Chang, 61, is synonymous with the airship-shaped scallion bubble pancake she created in her native China about 30 years ago. In Chang Chang, the show, swollen with steam, floats in the dining room on a treasure of scallops, prawns and fish balls with golden curry, an Ong touch. (Once pierced and deflated, the bread makes a sensational mop for whatever hot sauce he thought of adding.)

Do yourself a favor and ask for the “4 way” duck the moment you sit down. The dish is cooked to order and takes 45 minutes to arrive at the table.

No offense to the duck platter, low and slow roast of a beautiful pink color, but the rest of the feast captures my attention. Do not mistake yourself; the sliced ​​duck, aged for three days before being smoked with cedar and tea and massaged with five spices and other enhancers, speaks to the succulence. Sip the broth that slides across the table, however, and you might swoon in the wake of the ginger, onion, and various parts of smoked duck that are as restorative as a walk in the autumn woods. (The foie gras dumpling in the cup is almost redundant.) Dig into the nearby puff pastry pie, dusted with powdered carrot tops, stuffed with forbidden black rice and shredded duck confit, and marvel at how Ong , its creator, combines cultures and cuisines. The pie tilts both biryani and bastilla. The $120 price tag might scare you off; keep in mind that the spread, including a crispy spicy duck wing, is more than enough for six people (and any leftover sliced ​​duck makes great sandwiches the next day).

One of the prints at the end Brothers and sisters at the Line hotel was Ong’s dessert list, especially his fancy domed cakes. The pastry chef prides himself on not repeating recipes, so no domed cakes at Chang Chang. Yet her latest creations are no less delightful. You’ve never had a goat cheesecake quite like Ong’s, all goodness and lightness, built with lemon sponge cake and almost hidden under thin slices of plum. Then there’s a yellow dagger of passion fruit pie – the pucker you crave after a sumptuous meal – topped with spiced meringue baguettes. As full as you are, ask for a cookie plate, if only to experience the affinity hot chocolate has with hot peppers.

It all sounds wonderful. Here and there, however, slips show this.

The prawn toast tastes like an appetizer from China – the flavor is perfect, but the texture is soggy. Lean braised ribs sweet at the expense of sour. Lydia Chang says she loves a minimalist space. But Chang Chang’s dining room is too understated for my tastes, dressed up with little more than large round tables in the front and more alcove seating in the back. It’s as if the owners rely on “the fun crowd” to liven up the restaurant at night.

And that’s what they do, aided and abetted by Peter Chang. Despite his status, he has no problem carrying bags of takeout and occasionally stopping to smile at his seated audience. Ditto for the non-stop pastry chef, everywhere. Who knew that one of the city’s top tour guides worked at one of Washington’s most exciting new restaurants?

1200 19th St. NW. 202-570-0946. Open: Indoor dining room for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Take-out times: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Price: Small plates $16-$25, large plates $26-$120 (for duck to share four ways). Sound check: 75 decibels/Must speak in a high voice. Accessibility: No entry barriers; ADA compliant restrooms. Pandemic protocols: Masks for staff are optional; all workers are vaccinated.