In celebration of Chinese New Year (unofficial celebration, since I am not Chinese!), I have been eating a TON of Chinese food. I initially thought D.C. was devoid of any good ethnic food. But luckily, I have been venturing out of the District and discovering the wealth of authentic Asian cuisine in Virginia and Maryland: Korean barbecue in Annandale, Vietnamese bahn mi in Eden Center, and most importantly for this post, Hong Kong style roast duck in Falls Church.
Falls Church, in neighboring Virginia, has strip malls filled with Chinese restaurants on virtually every corner. These restaurants’ featured cuisines cover the full gamut of China’s eight great culinary traditions, ranging from numbingly spicy Sichuan to elaborate Cantonese cuisine. My friends and I were in the mood for Cantonese, particularly for roast duck–a Hong Kong specialty.
Though Mark’s Duck House is the more well-known restaurant for roast duck, we headed to X.O. Taste, located conveniently (and coincidentally) right across the street from Mark’s. X.O. Taste, with its multicolored pastel walls and friendly servers, offers a slightly more pleasant ambiance than its competitor across the street. Though we had to wait almost an hour for a table, the sumptuous feast that followed was definitely worth the wait.
X.O. Taste boasts a vast menu of specials, seafood, noodle soups, and (my favorite) Hong Kong style barbecue. One can get lost in the dizzying array of dishes, so I suggest taking a good look at the menu beforehand–perhaps while you’re waiting for a table.
My friends and I ordered a TON of food since it was Chinese New Year–the waiters actually had to bring over another table just to put our food on! We started out with the crispy spicy pork chop ($11.95; not pictured), which was hog heaven. Thin but fatty strips of pork are dipped in batter and deep fried with red chile peppers and scallions. The outside was crisped to perfection, while the inside just melted away in your mouth and left a salty and spicy flavor.
Next, the highly anticipated roast duck ($9.95 for half, $19.95 for whole) arrived, steaming hot. While Peking duck has crunch skin and is served with pancakes, Hong Kong style duck is a bit greasier and not as crispy, but still delicious. The duck has more of a mollases-ey flavor and soaks up the residual grease and cooking juices on the plate (which, according to one of our dining companions, tasted great when poured over rice).
In keeping with that night’s passion for poultry, we also ordered a soy sauce chicken ($10.95 for half, $19.95 for whole). The chicken arrived (like the duck) on the plate with its head in tact, but that did not stop us from digging in. The entire chicken is poached in a mixture of soy sauce, salt, pepper, ginger, and other spices. Though this is usually not my favorite dish, I couldn’t stop myself from eating the version at X.O. Taste. Served with ginger and scallions mixed in sesame oil, the chicken was moist and flavorful.
We also ordered stir fried spinach ($9.95), jumbo shrimp with walnuts ($16.95), and steamed sea bass with ginger and scallion (M.P.). The spinach tasted fresh and full of garlic (so good). The shrimp and bass, however, were the standouts. The shrimp were big and juicy, and the walnuts that came with them were caramelized to perfection. The steamed bass was flaky and light, and the ginger and scallions really brought out the flavor of the fish.
Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal. But, I still managed to save room for the complimentary dessert: sweet and savory red bean soup.
X.O. Taste is a must-eat for those in D.C. looking for authentic and delicious Chinese food. Plus, it’s perfect for large groups: you can share lots of dishes and the price per person is sure to be pretty low. I will definitely be back again for the sinfully good roast duck and soy sauce chicken, and perhaps try some of the soft noodle rolls or congee.
6124 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22044
Open 7 days a week, 11a-2a