Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Prices: Dinner for two with appetizers and drinks costs about $30, including tax and tip. Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express.
It's hard to find a Chinese restaurant in this price range where the food is as dependable and the dining room as pretty. Walk inside and you feel as though it's something of a special night out.
Peking Pavilion doesn't look anything like most Chinese restaurants -- it's simple and crisp, with restful hues of cream and green, crisp white tablecloths with lovely fresh flowers, patches of blond wood. A Scandinavian tea room could move in tomorrow and feel at home.
At heart, though, the Pavilion is a modest neighborhood place, and that's what you should expect in terms of the food. By "dependable" we mean likable, not exceptional.
We've never had a dish here with too much oil or a dish whose vegetables weren't bright and crisp; we've never had a bad dish (aside from the soups, which are blah).
On the other hand, none of the food has really excited us; but when most of the dishes cost less than $7, it's a price we're willing to pay.
The dumplings here are good, fried brown and crisp on one side with a dash of ginger in the meat.
Spareribs are okay, leaner than most. Fried chicken wings are plain, with utterly no seasoning, but moist and crusty and fun to dunk.
For main courses we recommend, first of all, duck: Peking Gourmet Duck, for instance, small tender chunks tossed with spring onions in barely sweet sauce, and traditional Peking Duck. If the meat were cooked just a bit less, this would be one of the best Peking Ducks in the Washington area, for the skin certainly ranks among the best -- beautifully trimmed and wonderfully crisp.
One of the best dishes we've had is often considered an afterthought: spicy eggplant. At a lot of restaurants, the eggplant is mushy and greasy, but Peking Pavilion serves it in slabs, still slightly firm, with big, tender slices of pork and those delicate black mushrooms that look like collapsed umbrellas.
Also try some of the noodles, perhaps pan-fried Peking style, with plenty of chicken, beef and shrimp in a roasty sauce.
Other pleasant possibilities: Hunan Gourmet Beef, tried and true Moo Shi Pork, Pork Peking Style with a little garlic and lots of shredded vegetables, and Jumbo Shrimp Imperial with broccoli and snow peas in a light, subtle sauce.
Actually, this is the kind of dish that Daniel finds soothing -- "refreshingly bland" -- but that Barbara complains is boring. Don't order Peking Gourmet Scallops, though, unless you like the taste of bottled barbecue sauce; that's what comes to mind.
If we lived close by, we'd get to know Peking Pavilion better and learn which dishes it prepares best and which are better forgotten.
More neighborhoods could use a friendly, pretty little place like this.