The Kowloon Restaurant
1105 H St., NW. 638-4243.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Atmosphere: The Chinese combination of plain surroundings and fancy food.
Price range: From old stand-bys of fried rice, chop suey, egg foo young and the like at $3.50 each, on up to a whole chicken dressed for the occasion at $18.
Credit cards: American Express, Amoco Torch Club, Carte Blanche, Diners Club International, Master Charge, Visa.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. High chairs and booster seats available. Street parking relatively painless most evenings.
Depending on whom we asked in Chinatown, what had arrived was the Year of the Ram, the Sheep or the Goat -- but for the four of us at the Kowloon Restaurant, it would be the evening of the contented pigs.
When it came to rooting around a table-load of food, we would stop at nothing -- for it was all too interesting to ignore. Here's a plate-by-plate description of our strenuous wok-out:
We were seated in full view of a red flag of the People's Republic, this banner having been draped on one of the bamboo-design-wallpaper-and-lino-leum-flagstone walls. On another wall of this otherwise plain room was a large framed color photo of Vice President Mondale and the proud proprietor.
Even before the colas and beers could be ordered, our 9-year-old daughter found her two favorite words on a Chinese menu -- egg rolls, two for $1.50. Her 12-year-old brother found one of the same words, along with a third, for his soup -- egg drop, at 75 cents.
The two of them, using their noodles, then established diplomatic relations for trade reasons: one roll for half the drop. Each party respected the terms of this treaty, and communiques were warm.
Much warmer, though, was the hot and sour soup, $1.25, set before my wife. It has a delayed fuse -- when you first swallow a spoonful, nothing much happens. But about 60 seconds later, the mouth is a furnace.
If you can take the heat, however, this is a memorable concoction of golden needles, wood ears, snow peas, bean curd and that old Chinese special ingredient, No-How.
My $1 wonton soup was swell, too -- a broth with boiled wonton -- and once I shoveled in some of the crisp water noodles from a bowl that had accompanied our soups, things really started looking up.
For those small fry who tend to be chicken-pickers, the Kowloon prepares poultry every which way, starting with chopped-and-boiled and seasoned-with-soy-sauce at$4. For the timid there are also many simple pork or beef offerings in the $4-to- $5 range.
There's a list of family dinner combinations, too -- assorted entrees served with wonton soup and egg roll -- that run from $12 for two people to $36 or $45 for six. But we chose to choose from the "Kowloon Suggestions" page.
Crabs are big on our daughter's hit list these days, and her choice of deep fried crab with spring onion and ginger, $6.50, stole the show: a one-foot-long platter piled with crabs that had been fried in a buttery-brown-and-gently-gingery sauce.
She got cracking immediately and did her level best to finish up, but had to call on eager volunteers for assistance.
Moo She Pork (usually we see it spelled Moo Shi, but women's lib is changing a lot of things), at $6, was our son's selection. It is shredded pork, cooked with soy sauce, eggs and other secrets, with a roll-your-own stack of four thin pancakes.
To this my wife added Subgum Wonton, $6, a total of eight two-bite, crisp wonton encircling a mixture of lobster meat, roast pork, chicken, bok toy, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, shreds of mushrooms and those teenyweeny cobs of corn.
If you think that's some mix, consider Gow Bar, $6, which was what I did. It is sliced lobster, chicken, roasted duck and pork, blended with hearts of Chinese vegetables, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and those dollhouse corn cobs, all in a light sauce.
I confess to having pushed aside a few unfamiliar items, but everything I recognized tasted just fine. This probably isn't a kiddie dish, though.
Dessert is a simple matter at the Kowloon, since there doesn't seem to be any. At least when four fortune cookies showed up, that was the message we got.
Our host was most gracious, going out of his way to befriend the children. Our bill for this abundance was $34.46 plus tip -- no dim sum when we considered the bounty. That figure could easily be shaved, too, by not succumbing to so many temptations, or by sharing. In any event, the Kowloon cares about its food and its families.