A Vegetarian Find in Rockville (MD)

Okay, so it’s well off DC’s beaten tourist track, but this little gem will be worth the trek for hard-core vegetarians.

Yuan Fu is a modest, plainly-decorated Chinese restaurant tucked away in a tiny strip mall in suburban Rockville, MD. It’s so well hidden that the casual motorist will whiz by without even knowing its there. Pity, because this 50-seat establishment whips up some impressive vegetarian cuisine.

If you think eating vegetarian means depriving yourself, think again. This is vegetarian cuisine designed with meat-eaters in mind. A goodly portion of Yuan Fu’s menu is given over to faux meat dishes created by doing strange and wondrous things to gluten, tofu, and tofu skin. Gluten becomes “beef” and “pork,” tofu doubles as “chicken”, and tofu skin masquerades as fish. As odd as it may sound, the results are impressive and beautifully presented. A section of the menu is given over to full-color photographs of some of the more mouth-watering offerings.

The General Tso’s Chicken was rich and spicy while the Sesame Chicken was smooth and subtly flavored. In both dishes, the texture was remarkably chicken-like. More traditional vegetarian selections are also quite good; Asparagus with Black Mushroom was a standout. The Vegetable Lo Mein was the equal of anything I’ve tried elsewhere. When I visited, a special sizzling rice cake soup welcomed in the Chinese New Year.

In addition to being completely vegetarian, Yuan Fu prides itself on using less oil that the average Chinese restaurant. In fact, there is a special Non-Fat section of the menu offering such delicacies as Steamed White Jade Rolls.

Prices are modest, with no entrée costing more than $11. Many are in the $7 and $8 range. Lunch is even cheaper, with entrees around $5 and $6.

As I mentioned, Yuan Fu is out of the way. The easiest way to get there is to take Exit 35 off the Beltway and head north on Route 355 through Bethesda. Wisconsin Avenue turns into Rockville Pike. Once you’re in Rockville, be on the lookout for First Street. Yuan Fu is just past First on your right, near Wendy’s. If you pass Century Ford, you’ve missed it.

Yuan Fu is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. A lunch special is available from opening to 1:30 p.m.

Telephone: (301) 762-5937 or (301) 762-5938