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The name Secret Chopsticks might have you thinking of General Tso’s chicken or lo mein. But the new Rosslyn eatery, opening today, aims to serve more authentic, healthy Chinese food from a variety of regions.
Executive Chef Robin Li says when he arrived in the U.S., he realized that Chinese restaurants didn’t really offer Chinese food, which is relatively nutritious. Instead, he saw restaurants full of non-Chinese cooks, high-sodium rice, and Americanized versions of the dishes he knew and loved.
“Everywhere I go, I go to Chinese restaurants,” Li says. “So that’s how I got to know the food in Chinese restaurants and I don’t really think that’s real Chinese. It’s American Chinese food.”
Li’s journey to open his U.S. restaurant spanned several years. When living in China, Li worked as a chef in Beijing and other cities. He moved to the United States in 2000 to work with the Navy, where he served as a culinary specialist. Li says he enjoyed his time with the Navy and thought he would stay in the military for a long time, but in 2003, he won a cooking competition that granted him the opportunity to attend The Culinary Institute of America in New York. Completing the program motivated him to work as a full-time chef.
Patrons won’t find MSG or tons of soy sauce at Secret Chopsticks. They also won’t find Western silverware.
Guests can order from either an a la carte menu or from one of four nine-course, prix-fixe tasting menus (including dim sum, protein, tofu, and vegetable options). As the restaurant’s name suggests, the exact dishes in the prix-fixe menu are kept secret.
Secret Chopsticks, 1850 Fort Myer Drive, Arlington; (703) 812-8888; secretchopsticks.com
Photo by Rey Lopez