When a college classmate told me that Panda Gourmet, a Szechuan restaurant located at 2700 New York Ave NE was really good, I was very skeptical. Yes, it is well-reviewed, but it is located in a weird, remote part of town on New York Avenue, across from the National Arboretum in what’s apparently called the Gateway neighborhood. Surrounding areas are blighted or industrial, and the restaurant itself is attached to a pretty sketchy-looking Days Inn motel. However, since DC (at least the District itself) has a serious lack of authentic Chinese restaurants, I was willing to give it a shot. I read
up on some of the online reviews, in order to help me navigate Panda Gourmet’s extensive menu.
It turns out that the place is not really all that sketchy, once you get past the location. It has the feel of an average Chinese restaurant and feels infinitely less sketchy than a DC-style Chinese Carryout. I ordered the Dan Dan Noodles, the Cumin Lamb and the spicy wontons, all of which were excellent. I expected the food to set my mouth on fire, but the spiciness, while relatively intense, wasn’t so strong as to overpower the flavor of the dishes. The cumin lamb was well-cooked and very
flavorful, but had (unsurprisingly) a very strong cumin flavor to it. The spicy wontons, which were boiled, not fried, were fairly small, and delicious. The Dan Dan Noodles were excellent as well. The service here is the main drawback- it is entirely apathetic and un-attentive. But Panda Gourmet still gets high marks for offering an authentic Szechuan experience in a city that really lacks good Chinese food options.