Chef Peter Chang, who speaks almost no English, emerged from the kitchen of his new Rockville restaurant on Monday afternoon with a smile on his face. At first, he came out wearing an orange polo shirt and black pants, but then he walked back into the kitchen and reemerged with a crisp, white chef’s coat to pose for a photo.
The chef, who has built a name for himself by cooking up mouth-tingling spicy Szechuan cuisine, had just opened his seventh restaurant and first outside of Virginia.
The menu features Chang’s signature dishes including dry-fried eggplant, bamboo flounder fish and duck in stone pot. The menu is dotted with chili pepper icons—to warn customers about the spice level of specific dishes. The chef, who got his start in the U.S. cooking at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., has gained a cult-like following of fanatics who appreciate his liberal use of hot peppers.
The interior of the Rockville restaurant will be familiar, at least in form, to those who visited Taste of Saigon, the eatery that formerly occupied the space. The dining room has high ceilings and an open layout. The walls have been painted orange, tables emblazoned with “Peter Chang” have been added and a new tile floor installed.
The restaurant has applied for, but not yet received a license to serve beer and wine in Montgomery County.
Currently Chang is working in the restaurant’s kitchen. Manager Pan Khan, who helped Chang open his Virginia Beach and Arlington restaurants, is assisting with the Rockville opening.
Khan said Chang will be a fixture at the restaurant “until the next one opens.”
During this reporter’s second stop by the new restaurant, around 7 p.m. Monday night, the 80-seat dining room was only about a third full. That was surprising, given the acclaim the chef has received from publications including The New Yorker, New York Times and The Washington Post, which published an extensive profile. Then again, it was a Monday night, a tornado watch was in effect and lightning was flashing across the sky.
Peter Chang Rockville
20-A Maryland Ave., Rockville
Open for lunch and dinner
Scallion bubble pancake
Bamboo flounder fish
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