IF YOU'RE weary of champagne brunches or breakfast in bed congee may be the cure for your distress. While not particularly common in area Chinese restaurants, it is an inexpensive, stick-to-the-ribs starter that can be eaten while waiting for another din sum cart to roll by, or as a whole meal. It is a refresher course in the art of simplicity.
The following restaurants serve congee with meat and seafood to flavor them, along with individual touches. Locally, conge is usually served already mixed with condiments and accompanied by fried dough for dipping.
Chinese Castle, Takoma Park: The varieties on the menu are beef, cup-da (pork stomach and liver), seafood (squid, scallops, shrimp, ten-choi (squid, beef, pork stomach and peanuts) or pork strips. But you can request any condiments that are in-house, and it's served every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The congees range in price from $2.25 to $3.50. 916 East-West Highway. 891-3960. Open 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday -Sunday.
China Garden, Bethesda: Eight condiments are premixed in this $2.75 bowl: pork tripe, fresh pork and tripe, sliced fish, shrimp, beef, chicken, roast duck or assorted pork with a thousand-year egg. 4711 Montgomery Lane. 657-4665. Served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, holidays.
China Garden, Rosslyn: Pork strips, seafood (jellyfish, squid, shrimp and fish filet) and pork and a thousand-year egg are the condiments here, ranging in price from $1.25 to $2.95. 1931 N. Moore St. 525-5317. Served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday only.
Kowloon: The $1.50 bowl is made with a thousand-year egg and sliced pork. 1105 H St. NW. 638-4243. Served Sunday only, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Szechuan: Beef ($2.25) and pork tripe ($2.75) are the two accompaniments here. 615 I St. NW. 393-0131.Served 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.