Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Closed Tuesdays.
Atmosphere: Classical warmth.
Price range: From $4.75 for stir-fried fish roll to $16 for Peking duck. Most entrees are in the $5 range.
Credit cards: All major ones.
Special features: Entrance and dining room quite narrow; tables are close together. Booster seats. Carryout. Parking on nearby streets. Korean dishes available. Special to The Washington Post
Nearly every neighborhood has its favorite Chinese restaurant, and the quiet strip below Clarendon is no exception. Although Ya Shue Yuan is almost undistinguishable from other nearby establishments, there is nothing ordinary about a small restaurant that on a cold rainy evening manages to fill all its tables.
The walls are lined with attractive pieces of Chinese art and poetry, although the decor is certainly not fancy. If food is your primary goal, however, Ya Shue Yuan is ready to delight you.
Because of the children, the waitress advised us against the spicier Korean specials on the back page, but next time we'll taste some of those dishes. Except for one entree, we stayed with the restaurant's starred Szechuan offerings.
Without any request from us, the waitress decided that our choices would kindle too much fire and so served everything Szechuan mild. Her decison gave the children greater pleasure, but left several dishes too tame. So if hot-and-spicy is your inclination, be sure to let your waitress know.
Our daughter thought egg rolls and fried wontons ($1.50 for each) might make an adequate supper. That was before everyone assisted her and before she sampled the entrees. Amazing how her appetite improved!
Both appetizers were cooked perfectly, but were swimming in a pool of grease. Draining the grease would have made both appetizers more appealing.
We also ordered a cup of hot and sour soup (85 cents), which came brimming with mushrooms and bean curd. The pungent taste came through successfully.
Dinner included some unpredictable adventures, but our son's gargantuan appetite allowed some flexibility. He ventured beyond his standard beef and scallion favorite to try chicken with almonds ($5.25).
Although he thoroughly enjoyed the dish with its bite-sized pieces of chicken and nuts, I found it bland. He eventually applied a duck sauce that gave a sweeter flavor to an otherwise successful dish.
Dried shredded beef ($5.25) was a delightful combination of beef, carrot and onion strips with a sprinkling of red chilis to keep you awake. The sauce, although quite mild, was a perfect blend of tastes.
The shrimp with peanuts ($5.50) was an adequate portion in which the ingredients were nicely blended, the blush of color accented by a scallion topping.
The evening's most outstanding dish was a vegetable: hot spiced eggplant ($3.95). The cooked mashed vegetable wasn't much to look at, but the aroma from the steaming dish convinced even the children to try some. Unfortunately, the grease problem also affected the eggplant, but hardly destroyed its pleasant, well-seasoned taste.
With more careful attention in the kitchen, many of the good dishes could become great. Ya Shue Yuan is still a wonderful addition to any neighborhood. Even our fortunes were positive!
For $30.83 including tax and tip, four of us enjoyed a treasure to remember.