Chao Ku is a fast-casual Chinese restaurant located at 1414 9th ST NW. To a large extent, DC is a Chinese food desert. While great Southeast Asian food abounds, most Chinese places are carryouts specializing in wings and mumbo sauce over fried rice (this is a beautiful blend of Chinese food and African American cooking in its own right, but isn’t exactly authentic Chinese food. Most of the restaurants in DC’s meagre Chinatown are touristy and poorly rated. There are, of course, a few diamonds in the rough. Aside from some great Chinese food in the suburbs, Great Wall Szechuan does a mean hot pot and China Boy makes a simple but excellent beef chow fun. Aside from these options, however, Chinese food in the District proper has been limited. Chao Ku is a welcome addition. Chao Ku offers both small plates and more substantial entrees at reasonable prices, in sleek surroundings and with friendly staff. It’s partway in between fast casual and waiter service because there’s a carryout downstairs and upstairs you fill out a card with what you would like to order, and then a food runner brings your food. My friend and I got the pork dan dan noodles and the fried catfish. My friend, who is a Chinese food expert, said that the dan dan noodles were not spicy enough to be authentic, but were still tasty. The fried catfish was excellent, with a generous coating of delicious batter. This place will never be an authentic Chinese spot of the sort that you’ll find in Flushing, Queens, but it does offer a tasty, fresh take on Chinese and Chinese-inspired dishes that are a welcome change from the typical general tsaos chicken and beef and broccoli of American Chinese food. It’s definitely worth checking out!