Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 P.m. Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 9:30 p.m. Available for carryout food and banquets on premises. All credit cards. Accessible to people in wheelchairs. Free parking.
When I was growing up in Washington, the only Chinese restaurants with family prices were the cramped Cantonese places in downtown Chinatown and a converted house just over the District Line in Silver Spring where we waited on the front porch for carryout chow mein.
There seemed to be no middle ground between these modest eateries and the elegant Yenching Palace. But there is today, and thehe paradise restaurant in Rockville is one of the best examples of Chinese cuistine in the suburbs.
Located in Congressional Plaza next to Jay's Designer Fashions and two shops down from Magruder Grocers, the Paradise is neither cramped, noisy nor tacky ' yet it retains the same extended-family feeling of a Chinatown establishment.
The food is quite good, the portions filling and the service attentive.
The restaurant, with 30 tables and booths in the main dining area, has a tasteful, simple decor: Panaled and papered walls, red carpeting and Chinese lanterns.
Arriving on a Friday night, we decided to relax with a Polynesian drink, those spiked punches served in ceramic coconuts and kon tikit tumblers. My banana daiquiri ($1.75) arrived in a large planter. My husband chose the passion ounch ($2.20) and my sister drank the pina colada ($2.25).
The waitresses, young Oriental women with soft accents, paid special attention to my two children, adorning their soft drinks with fans and paper parasols. When my 2-year-old daughter cried, a waitress quickly calmed her with a saucer of marachino cherries.
With the drinks came the Chinese equivalent of fritos - a bowl of egg noodles, freshly fried to a crisp. They disappered quickly along with the drinks.
The paradise menu features a $2.85 "special dinner combination" ($1.85 at lunch time) that includes everything from soup to fortune cookies and a choice of chicken chowmein, roast pork egg foo young, pork with bean sprouts or king po gai ding.
Other full course dinners range in price from $3.70 from the sub gum pork mein to $6.95 for the Chinese steak.
The children shared the special dinner combination, $2.95 plus $1 for the extra plates. They finished the won ton soup in minutes, with my 4-year-old putting the bowl to his mouth for the last drop.
The fried rice, interspersed with vegetables and bites of chicken, was a delight. The egg roll was crisp and lightly fried. Even though the children split a portion, the large serving of chicken chow mein was too much for them to finish.
My sister choose a full course dinner with an entree of moo goo gai pan ($4.15) - chicken, mushrooms, water chestnuts, Chinese cabbage and other vegetables. Her main course was delicious, especially the chicken - triangles of white meat, pan fried, won ton style.
My husband ordered the mish mosh, one of the "chef's specialities" priced at $5.95. His plattee included chaunks of crab, lobster, chicken and pork with snow peas and bamboo shoots served on soft, pan fired egg noodles.
I chose the moo shi pork ($4.25), a sort of Chinese burrito, a tissue-thin pancake filled with spiced, shredded pork and vegetables. At the Paradise, the pancakes are served separately from the pork mixture, and you roll your wown. Unfortunately, the four pancakes stuck together and in pulling them apart, one shredded. Nevertheless, the rolled pancakes were delicious.
For dessert I had a bowl of lichee nuts (85 cents), my husband ordered ice cream (55 cents) and the children and my sister selected the fortune cookies that came with their meals.
The waitress included a fortune cookie for everyone, but the messages were disappointing - bland maxims like "no one knows what he can do till he tries." Also among the five cookies, two of the fortunes were repeated.
We remained at the restaurant nearly two hours, and the service was so well-placed that the children never grew restless. The bill for three adults and two children totalled $26.94 plus a $4 tip.