The Hottest Cocktail in Washington
The Yenching Palace opened in 1955 and it doesn't look like it's changed much since then -- a formal dining room filled with mirrors and Chinese art, and a so-so menu that features standbys like General Tso's Chicken and chewy, cream-filled crab Rangoon over trendier fusion items.
The attraction here is a drink menu that's more suited for a bamboo-covered tiki bar than a neighborhood restaurant in Cleveland Park. About a dozen traditional tropical cocktails are on the list, including a passable Mai Tai and satisfying Navy Grog, served in mugs covered with mermaids, glowering stone heads or traditional Chinese figures.
Couples, though, should skip straight to the Flaming Volcano. A heady mix of rum, brandy and fruit juices, it's served "for two" in a large ceramic bowl that looks a bit like a Bundt pan. Once delivered to your table, the waiter sets fire to a crater of high-test alcohol in the center of the bowl. As flames flicker away, you and your date sip the concoction through comically long straws (about 18 inches) that ratchet up the kitsch factor. Just be warned: You're splitting about 32 ounces of alcohol and mixers, so ordering some appetizers (shrimp toast, dumplings, or the pu pu platter) is a good idea.
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