It was already a terrific Cantonese restaurant and enormously popular, but despite a line beginning to form for tables weekdays even before noon, Big Wong just keeps getting better. Lunchtimes there is a dim sum menu that is a long list of unusually interesting choices: dumplings Chu Chow style and Shanghai style as well as the more familiar Cantonese style, plus plenty of noodle dishes. You can also order from a pedestrian lunch menu or from the dinner menu, which includes the Cantonese range from scallops or crispy duck stuffed with shrimp paste to deep-fried squid or chitterlings to a full page of seafoods including clams, conch, abalone, crab, lobster, shrimp and whole fish.
In this barely decorated, crowded set of dining rooms, where you might be asked to share a table and you will probably have to wait while your waitress bustles by laden with groaning trays, you can feast easily on $10 to $15 a person. Portions are large, and the concentration is on high-quality ingredients -- jumbo shrimp, fresh lobster meat, bright crisp vegetables -- as well as expert cooking. The chow foon are noodles, supple and flavorful, having absorbed gravy from meats and seafoods well seasoned and smoky from a really hot wok. Seafoods are juicy, vegetables are crisp, sauces aromatic. Big Wong reminds you that Cantonese food is mild and subtle without being dull.
One note on ordering at Big Wong: The Chef's Specialties may not really be the most special dishes. Jade Purse, for instance, is an enormous portion of lettuce-wrapped packages enclosing roast pork and vegetables, but its flavors are diluted. But there are gems hidden among the less-touted pages of menu -- the likes of Salted Chicken, Hai Gar Style, which is extraordinary soft, juicy steamed chicken to dip in a haunting ginger-scallion oil.
At Big Wong the prices are low, the cooking is excellent and you can hedge your bets with a safe dish to accompany your adventures. 610 H St. NW. 638-0116. L $3.75-$5.75. D $8-$15. L, D daily. AE, C, MC, V. Beer and wine.