China Star

China Star, web site, 9600 Main Street (Route 236), Fairfax, VA, 703-323-8822 (in the same shopping center as Kinko’s and Cinema Arts Theatre) [Don Rockwell]

Update March 26, 2014: See updated review of China Star here.

Update March 25, 2014: The former owners have opened a new place in Chantilly, 88 China Restaurant.

Update July 18, 2012: They have new owners, we are all starting from scratch here. Most of the dishes are worse, the braised fish actually is better. We’ll see how it evolves.

Juyongguan Great Wall under Stars, by Tim Wang

Juyongguan Great Wall under Stars, by Tim Wang

Great Szechuan if you know how to order properly. Get the spicy dishes and the specialties of the house. The Szechuan chili chicken has to be seen to be believed; get it on the bone. Get the sea bass with pine nuts and the crystal shrimp. The dried fried green beans. The Szechuan preserved fish. The Szechuan scallion fried fish, which goes well with the chicken with leeks. Don’t forget the salt and pepper eggplant. Get the dishes you have never heard of. Watch what everyone else is eating. The daily specials usually are excellent. The ordinary “Chinese” dishes here are quite unexceptional, avoid them. This can blow the roof off your mouth, they have four categories: normal, spicy, very spicy, and numbing. That should be all you need to know. For a fresh look at Chinese food, visit this place. I go back, and back, and back.

Update February, 2010:

China Star is my favorite Fairfax restaurant and it’s the #1 restaurant for GMU blogger lunches and debates (though one of us hates it; can you guess which one? We make him go nonetheless). It’s also where we take job candidates, at least the ones we respect. Even though Chang is now gone, the restaurant remains superb in the hands of his successors, who have kept many of his original recipes. Some people claim they get better meals when I go there to eat with them. It’s so close to our house that sometimes Natasha and I walk there. They know us well and are rarely surprised by our order. For two, our default is the braised fish and Sichuan chili chicken, on the bone of course. Scallion fried fish is a must for larger groups. John Nye likes General Kwan’s Spicy Beef there. They have real kung pao shrimp.

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10 Responses to China Star

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  3. Hobnobblog says:

    China Star

    We tried China Star after reading Tyler Cowen’s description, although we tend to eat more Cantonese than Szechuan. Come here if you like spicy food, although they do have less-spicy dishes, too. The scallion chili chicken is excellent. You can…

  4. A. says:

    The cold beef appetizer with cilantro in it was very spicy but very good!
    Also worth trying is the lamb in hot pot (I believe it’s under the specialties section of the menu). It had seasoning that I’ve never had at a Chinese restaurant before and seemed heavily spiced with cumin. The meat was also very tender and actually crisped along the edges as it sat in the hot pot. Wonderful!

  5. Dom says:

    China Star is still really good but I miss the “Chinese People’s menu” choices offered by the original chef.
    They used to have this pork bun that was kind of like a Chinese-flavored little pork burger stuffed inside a bun…not an American bun, the kind of chinese pork bun that is completely encased in dough, no open top and bottom.
    Man, those little sammiches were KICK-A**!!!
    And China Star doesn’t serve ’em anymore.
    Which is awful, ‘coz I have no clue where else I can get them!
    Maybe a drive to Rockville – – perhaps Bob’s 66 or Joe’s Noodle has them…

  6. Ani says:

    Tyler,
    New Beijing II on Lee Hwy in Fairfax/Vienna, just west of Prosperity Blvd. and Lee, is the only place I’ve seen locally in No. Va. that makes either Fried Rice or Mi Fun (Rice stick noodle) with XiangZhang…fragrant chinese sausage, a real fave in Taiwan.
    These are the only items I order here…I’ve tried a number of their other dishes and they’re typically lackluster.
    But the chinese sausage fried rice and chinese sausage mifun is TASTY.
    It’s the sausage. They make a big deal about the quality of their rice, and their rice is good and fragrant, but it’s the sausage that makes the dish.

  7. Evan says:

    For China Star, my personal favorites are these:
    -Steamed Flounder (Item # E18): DELICIOUS whole whole flounder…a HUMONGOUS flounder…split in half with ginger and scallion fixin’ on top. This is one DEE-LISH serving of fish! Be careful to remove all the bones, though.
    -Crab Meat with Tofu (Item E22): QUITE tasty. Not much crab, a lot more tofu, but still enough crab flavor to make the whole thing great. Mix it up with the special steamed white rice they serve, it’s GREAT that way.
    BTW, the “special” steamed white rice is my description of it. If you ask for “special” white rice, you’ll confuse them. What I’m trying to convey is that, I dunno where these guys buy their rice but it’s among the BEST, most fragrant, nuttiest tasting steamed white rice on the planet.
    -Sauteed Vegetable of the Season (Item H12): We usually get the you cai (pronounced “Yo! Tsai!), similar to Chinese broccoli, comes with LOTS of fresh sliced garlic on top.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Went this weekend. The scallion fried fish was one of the best Chinese dishes I have had outside of China. The Sichuan chili chicken was delicions and/but not close to “numbing.” Dried fried green beans tasty but greasy. Salt and pepper eggplant was a big disappointment — hockey pucks of fried batter with minimal veg. Service was super.

  9. Pingback: Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide » Blog Archive » *The New Yorker* writes up Peter Chang and *China Star* - All food is ethnic food.

  10. Doug Herbert says:

    The “numbing” on the menu at China Star isn’t a reference to the heat level, but identifies dishes in which “ma” (Sichuan peppercorns) are used. Ma isn’t a true pepper, but a type of tiny dried citrus fruit. It has a unique “numbing” effect, but is the type of heat as measured on the Scoville scale.

    So you could get a “numbing” dish and order it either normal, spicy, or very spicy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper

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