Thanks to a little trouble with my phone’s memory device and a frustrating day of terrible wifi connection, this photo is all I can salvage.
The New Dynasty Chinese Restaurant is at 2020 P Street, NW and is a small, cozy Chinese restaurant that doesn’t just sell “Chinese” food; it also has a range of Southeast Asian “hawker” dishes such as Pad Thai and Indonesian Beef Fried Rice. It is an 18 minute walk away and a personal weekly destination, usually with Reza or Shiying or both. Students with a valid Student ID, such as our GWorld card, will be able to get a discount and a free drink or soup of the day. Reza prefers the Chicken Corn Soup while Shiying and I favor the Hot and Sour Soup.
To most of you, this restaurant would probably not be significant enough for a blog post. However, New Dynasty is a very significant part of my DC experience.
To start off, the food is good for Southeast Asian standards. We don’t fuss about how amazing the food may be. We’re hungry, the food is edible, it satisfies our taste, the quality and quantity is consistent and it is cheap. Coming from the food-heaven-island of Singapore, I’ll give it a 7.5. Some of you will give it a lower rating because we come from different backgrounds.
The first time I wanted to visit New Dynasty, I was with my dad. We were new to DC so we didn’t venture enough to have visited this place. We usually ate at Mehran’s which was clearly halal. New Dynasty is Halal, but the reviews on Zabihah were not updated and did not reflect a solid Halal vibe. My dad was suspicious. Also, he had to leave and we didn’t have time.
I finally visited New Dynasty the week after orientation after Friday prayers at the Islamic Center, before we discovered alternative venues for Friday prayers much closer to Ivory Tower. I was with Reza at that time. We did not order the student meal because we were not aware of the deal. It was still an affordable $7, and it was the first time we had non-fish protein. Reza had kung pao chicken and I had beef with broccoli.
I remember how I was so thankful for the meal; almost close to tears. I was still new to DC and we had a hard time with getting Halal food. A week ago with my dad, sometimes we only had bread and bananas. This was way before we had any Muslim friends to chauffeur us to Halal eating places. (Even if we did, it wouldn’t be as cheap as this). I was on a budget. This was good food. In addition, the food reminded me of home.
Ever since that first visit, we have been bringing friends to this place. Some became regulars, like Shiying. Some follow us occasionally like my roommates and the other Singaporeans. It’s not “great” food, so it doesn’t appeal to everyone. We often visit after a trip to Safeway or Dupont Circle.
Each visit, the dining area will have guests from Malaysia or Indonesia – diplomats, military personnel, officials, people from the embassy. Each time, we will be introduced to new guests (we are the most frequent customers now). I would smoothly speak Bahasa to the Indonesians, and a formal version of Malay to the Malaysians. Sometimes I will sneak some Arabic into conversations with the waiter who speaks Arabic. Other times, I will just listen and try to understand what Arabic-speakers (from all over the world) using different dialects say. There are rare times where I even hear Italian, a language I picked up here in DC after a simple conversation with the barber I managed to sustain for 5 seconds, with words I learned from a game, perked my interest. Other than the Exchange Student Orientation, this is the most “international” place I have been to as a participant-observant – partly because it is so near the embassies.
It’s not a pretty place. It’s not a 5 star restaurant. Yet, it resonates with me. It’s my favourite place to eat because I see myself in the ambiance. I am not “from here”, I am simple and appreciate simplicity and, like the owner of New Dynasty, I like to speak to people using their respective native languages even if I am terrible at it.
Do visit, if you have the time. You might like it. They deliver as well.
At the moment, emotionally, it is hardly comfortable to miss home and have exams and papers due. It occupies my mind. To add, I am anticipating missing DC and my friends here as well. I am torn between wanting to go home and yearning to stay just a bit longer. I see the wisdom of only needing to pass my classes. I’m really grateful to only have a few final exams at the moment.