Atmosphere: Mardarin and some Szechuan cuisine in a friendly setting.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Price Range: Appetizers from $1.70 for two egg rolls to $2.95 for barbecued spareribs; soups from 65 cents for eggdrop for one to $12 for a large combination soup bowl; main courses from $4.25 for chow mein to $16 for whole Peking duck, with most entrees averaging $5.75.
Reservations: Accepted, but not usually needed on weekday evenings.
Credit Cards: Master Charge, Visa.
Special Facilities: Booster seats and high chairs; carryout; parking lot. Patrons in wheelchairs may have difficulty with one curb step up and double doors.
Gracious dining and reasonable prices are a combination not always available to families. Wu's Garden offers both, in addition to some very satisfying food.
The detached brick building on Vienna's main street does not house a garden. Actually the interior is rather unremarkable, bearing the signature of many suburban restaurants, redflocked wallpaper. What lifts the setting out of the ordinary are several interesting curved screens placed strategically around the large open dining room.
Other nice touches are table coverings of starched white linen and warmed plates.
Despite the hint of formality, Wu's Garden is a very good place to dine with children. There is no children's menu, but it doesn't matter. As in many Chinese restaurants, the food is served family style, allowing everyone to sample each dish with a minimum of fuss.
The menu is extensive, but fortunately straightward. It is divided into sections, from appetizers, soups and cold dishes through beef, poultry, seafood and specialties, with brief descriptions of the ingredients and cooking methods used for each dish.
On a previous visit without the children, we tried one of the specialties, Peking duck, which Wu's Garden did well in preparation and in serving. Half a Long Island duck ($8), cooked to a turn, was expertly curved for us at the table. We then rolled slices of the tender meat, pieces of crispy skin and a sprinkling of scallions in a pancake liberally spread with a rich, sweet soybased sauce. Truly a memorable dish.
This time we decided to stick to more familiar food. As difficult as it was, we passed up the appetizers and soups in favor of a cross-section of main courses. An old favorite, moo shi pork ($5.25) was an easy choice, as was chicken with almonds ($5.25). Our older daughter wanted to try Mandarin fried noodle ($4.75).
With the order came a large platter of streaming rice. It formed the staple for our younger daughter, who won't touch anything in a sauce. Her dinner consisted of rice and a few of the a la carte Peking pancakes (15 cents each) we had ordered to accompany the moo shi pork.
Chicken with almonds was the unanimous favorite and disappeared very quickly. Diced pieces of white meat were fried with crunchy bamboo shoots, mushrooms, water chestnuts and peas, generously sprinkled with almonds and smothered in a silky sauce. It was superb.
Almost as good was the moo shi pork, thin strips of pork sauted with mushrooms, bamboo shoots and bits of egg in a rich brown gravy. At first we had it the traditional way, rolled in a pancake spread with a layer of the sweet soy-based sauce. The rather rubbery pancakes, however, did not match the quality of the pork, so we quickly abandoned them.
Mandarin fried noddle was also a hit. Expecting noodles of the crunchy variety, we were pleasantly surprised by the soft ones we were served. They were thinner than spaghetti and tossed with large pieces of beef and chicken, tiny shrimps and bits of scallion.
Wu's Garden has a formidable cocktail menu that offers fancy tropical drinks, sake and an imported beer, Sing Tao ($1.20), which my husband tried and enjoyed. Also available is an oriental wine, Wan Fu ($5 a bottle). According to the menu, Confucius said, "Dining without Van Fu is to eat with but one chopstick."
We finished up with fortune cookies, being too full to sample some of the interesting desserts. Among them were toffee apples, bananas or pineapple for $3.50 -- fruit fried and coated with hot syrup sugar -- and Chinese sweet pie for $4.50.
Our bill, with tax and tip, was $21.21.