With every place he's opened in Fredericksburg, Glen Allen and other Virginia towns, Peter Chang has been teasing those devoted Changians who transformed the former Chinese Embassy chef into a certified cult figure via their obsessive stalking/dining at Chang's pit stops in Fairfax and Alexandria in the mid-2000s.
For years, in fact, their obsessiveness has been the narrative backbone of the Peter Chang Story, the pursuit practically as important as the cuisine itself.
This weekend, those early NoVa adopters will no longer have to hop in a car to find the master chef's food. Pending final inspection, Chang plans to return to Northern Virginia on Saturday with the soft opening of Peter Chang, the restaurant, in the former Oriental Gourmet space in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. The restaurant will be Chang's sixth in Virginia since partnering with Gen Lee in 2010. The Web site is already live, even if the eatery isn't.
The Arlington restaurant, however, will not be a fast-casual concept, as previously reported, but a full-service operation. Its regular menu will be exactly the same as others in the expanding Chang empire, although its seasonal and chef specialty menus will be pared down.
Chang and Lee had initially toyed with the idea of launching a Peter Chang Wok in Arlington, because the kitchen is so small there, but opted to wait on the fast-casual concept. Instead, the partners will debut their counter-style business in downtown Virginia Beach, where they already have a full-service restaurant. The owners have already acquired a former paint store on Virginia Beach Boulevard and plan to open Peter Chang Wok there in late May. They've budgeted $500,000 to convert the shop into a fast-casual establishment offering about 15 entrees and a few appetizers.
Over in Arlington, Chang and Lee finally secured a lease last week and have taken possession of the Oriental Gourmet space. Over the next few days, crews will replace carpets, spruce up the 100-seat dining room and switch out the equipment in the kitchen. The renovation budget is set at $400,000, Lee says.
"We threw away all the equipment for brand new units" in the kitchen, Lee says. Chang and his cooks apparently need more BTUs to fire their commercial woks.
"If you want to go to war, you need the best," Lee says. "That's the way we think about it."
If the upgrades pass inspection, Chang and Lee will open their doors in Arlington at 11 a.m. Saturday. It will be the first time Chang has worked in a Northern Virginia kitchen since he left China Gourmet/Szechuan Boy in Fairfax in 2006 and headed for Marietta, Ga.
Chang and Lee still plan to open their Rockville location by April 15.
Peter Chang will open at 11 a.m. Saturday at 2503 N. Harrison St., Arlington, in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center.