Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Atmosphere: Bright and cheery.
Reservations: Accepted but usually not necessary.
Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
Special facilities: Booster seats, accessible to wheelchairs, carryout and catering, free parking.
The four Cheung brothers, who worked as waiters, cooks and bartenders in Washington area restaurants for the past 16 years, decided late last year to try their luck with a restaurant of their own.
It's a blessing they did, for the China Village is a winner in every sense of the word: it has fair prices, attentive service, large portions and that certain ambiance that makes or breaks eating out.
Our family discovered the 90-seat restaurant just after it opened and we've been hooked ever since, slowly working our way through the 84 entrees, 16 appetizers, eight soups, six desserts and specialty dishes that arrive seasonally. Considering that our 8-year-old and 4-year-old aren't particularly happy wih Chinese food (they being the original burger and pizza kids), the Village has scored a real coup.
The fun begins the moment you walk in the Village, where a visually appealing room unfolds in silvers and golds, with lovely detailed graphics tastefully placed in the room, pleasant lighting and an overwhelming sense of cleanliness throughout. One of the four Cheung brothers is always on hand to seat you.
During our recent visit with a friend and her two hungry kids, we labored long and hard over the myriad selections.
First came appetizers, every one a jewel: crispy hot and delectable egg rolls ($1.80) for the kids, a crab meat asparagus soup for two ($3.95 for a serving that proved enough for the three adults), and crab rangoon ($2.85), crispy fried fritters stuffed with delicate crab meat.
The asparagus soup was outstanding, a fine broth swimming with crab meat and lobster bits swam, laced with flecks of egg white and topped with sliced spring onions. It was a treat for the adults, even if the kids were unimpressed.
Entrees consisted of kang pao beef ($5.95), a heaping plate of hot spicy beef loaded with spring onions, peanuts, bamboo shoots and chopped broccoli. It was a first-rate version of this contemporary favorite.
Kang pao chicken ($5.75) was similar to the beef dish: large, flavorful and not too hot. In fact, for a restaurant that says it specializes in Hunan and Szechuan cooking, the spicing is fairly mild.
Crab meat broccoli with mushrooms was a giant mixture of crab meat, vegetables and those big half-moon mushrooms imported from Asia, a bargain even at $7.95.
Even this jewel paled beside the special dish of the evening: fish Szechuan style ($9.95 for us but priced according to market), a whole fish flown in from China that has to be tasted to be understood. It's a white fish, delicate and fresh with a pungent sauce laced with diced pork, salted vegetables and bamboo shoots. And there was enough to satisfy three adults whose mouths watered at the smell of it.
Dessert was plain and fun: some ice cream ($1), some fresh fruits ($2.50), a fried banana ($1.50) and tea. But even more enjoyable was the goings-on at a nearby table, where the chef brought out a whole duck ($15.95) for a big party of adults. The chef tossed it about like an old football, skillfully slicing off the good meat, and all the while one of the Cheung brothers kept up an hilarous commentary to the delight of everyone in the hall.
Naturally we couldn't eat all the food we ordered; the kids trooped out to the car looking like fugitives from a gold fish store robbery, so laden were they with leftovers.
The tab for three adults and four kids, including beer, wine, soft drinks and tip, came to an unusually high $75. But we ate leftovers for two days and know enough not to order so much next time.