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It takes a lot to get me to Virginia for dinner. But having just gotten back from Taiwan, I was very interested in dining at Secret Chopsticks, a new authentic Chinese restaurant in D.C. Chef Robin Li is from mainland China, and has introduced an exciting menu at Secret Chopsticks that features a series of tasting menus and an a la carte menu.

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Upon sampling several of dishes at Secret Chopsticks I found that Chef Li utilizes many of the flavors and ingredients popular in China including tofu, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, fermented black beans, mushrooms, and goji berries.

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All of these ingredients were incorporated in my tasting menu which started with a simple clear soup with enoki mushrooms and goji berries. The soup was followed by delicate spinach and mushroom stuffed dumplings that are bursting with so much flavor they don’t even require a sauce.

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Next was a trip of tofu dishes: chilled housemade cubes of tofu topped with a spicy sauce, tofu that is frozen then brought to room temperature so that it fully absorbs the vegetarian XO sauce (a wildly flavorful sauce made with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chilies, rice vinegar, and several other ingredients) that it is soaked in, and braised tofu skin that is chewy and savory.

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The heartiest course was comprised of wonderfully dense and meaty abalone mushrooms served alongside purple rice. Typical of China, the portions were small and did not include a lot of rice or noodles, although that is what we Americans often associate with Chinese food. Secret Chopsticks provide the opportunity to sample authentic Chinese food in an upscale setting, so the next time you are in Arlington you know where to go.

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