You may miss Mr Chen's when you're getting off the Woodley Park Metro station. It's a dinky little basement restaurant, sandwiched between the brightly-lit Jandara Thai and a Mediterranean restaurant. As you descend downstairs, your nose is greeted by the smell of bleach, not grease. Inside, there are booths along the sides of the room, with smaller tables. This restaurant is open until 10pm, and they do delivery and take-out. While the "organic" part in their name is dubious at best (the menu notes that organic vegetables and meat are based on "availability"; however brown rice available upon request), this place is without a doubt, one of the better Chinese restaurants in the city. One thing you will notice in DC is that for the past decade or so, more and more Chinese restaurants are moving to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Chinatown? Ha! I can count on one hand the amount of good Chinese restaurants in Chinatown! But anyway, I digress...
The advantage of Mr Chen's is they offer their entrees in two sizes: small and large, so it's great for small groups or large parties. The small sizes are good enough to feed two people. A party of two can feast well on (at most) three [small] dishes, with leftovers to spare. Anything beyond that is overkill. They also have a decent lunch combination that will give you more food for your money. Service here is attentive, and the staff speak English well, so you don't have to worry about language barriers.
While I haven't eaten everything at Mr Chen's, here are a few dishes I did enjoy:
Beef with Broccoli
This dish wasn't very inspiring. It was good but in contrast with the other dishes I've tried, it ranks as "meh". I gave our leftovers to a homeless bum we befriended named Reggie. If you are staying in the Union Station area, maybe you'll see him.
A good choice entree for an organic restaurant, the Buddhist Vegetables are crisp and sliced into neat portions, perfect for picking up with your chopsticks. If I remember correctly, this had tofu, onion, green bell pepper, baby corn, onion, and mushrooms, stir-fried in a light brown sauce. If your mom calls to check up on you, tell her you've been eating your veggies. You'll get bonus points if you say they're organic.
Chicken Fried Rice
Okay, your stereotypical Chinese food. One thing you will notice is that food here is light on oil and all the vegetables are very fresh. The chicken fried rice will actually have chicken in it, and here they actually cut the chicken into thin, pinky-sized pieces. It's cooked with egg, onion, peas, and carrots. This dish, along with Buddhist Vegetables, is one that I order regularly.
Crispy Fried Eggplant
I don't eat eggplant unless it's fried. And of course, everything tastes better fried. This is a good alternative for vegetarians looking for something similiar to sweet and sour meat variants. The eggplant is sliced into pieces about a third of your hand, lightly coated in tempura batter, and tossed with a sweet and sour/garlic sauce. Tart, not too sweet, crispy. This dish does not make for good leftovers due to the fried eggplant going soggy.
My boyfriend got this the last time we visited.
Me: Did you like it?
Him: Yes. I like eggdrop soup :)
Hot and Sour Soup
I don't think it's too hard to mess up hot and sour soup, but some places go heavy with the hot. This was a good balance between the two. I am not a fan of spicy foods but I don't mind a little heat, which this has. My 13-year-old brother enjoyed it, too.
Kung Pao Chicken
If you've read reviews on other food sites, such as The Washington Post or DCFoodies.com, they'll praise the Kung Pao. When we ordered it, you had to try to find any Kung Pao. It was swimming in a sickenly sweet sauce. Not very spicy, either. Maybe we got a bad batch.
One of the first dishes my friend Dave and I tried. I think it was overshadowed by the awesomeness of the Crispy Eggplant. We didn't hate it. I think it may have used the same sauce as the Eggplant so the flavors start to run together, but I may have that mixed up with General Tso's Chicken, which has a similar sauce.
I struck gold with this dish. The beef is cut into thin strips, flash-fried and served with scallions (green onion). Very crispy with a light sauce--less sweeter than a General Tso's sauce, I'd imagine. I've had this dish at other restaurants and the strips were always soggy with sauce. I had it again at some other point, but the beef wasn't as crispy, so I'm not sure if this will be a repeat dish for me.
I didn't like this so much. The soup was a dark yellow urine and murky. There were two large wontons in it. I don't think I finished mine.
Well, that's my review in a nutshell. I'll be sure to add more dishes as I sample them!