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Posted at 4:25 PM ET, 05/ 9/2005

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.

-- Fritz

By  | May 9, 2005; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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sounds like a flaming scorpion bowl to me.

Posted by: holly | May 10, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Yenching is also excellent if you have a large group. The staff is friendly, the drinks are strong, and the prices are very reasonable.

It's not hip. But it's perfect for a night wih friends.

Posted by: elizabeth t | May 10, 2005 4:19 PM | Report abuse

It is similar to a Scorpion Bowl with flames added -- I'm getting my recipe from my 1947 Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide -- but the recipes aren't exactly the same.

And if there's another Flaming Scorpion Bowl being served in D.C., I'd love to know about it. (I think Luau Garden in Herndon serves a Scorpion, but without the flames.)

And I agree with Elizabeth that Yenching is perfect for a night out with friends.

Posted by: Fritz | May 10, 2005 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Herndon won't be able to light your fire because Virginia prohibits igniting alcoholic beverages, or so one saucy bar maiden informed me.

Pyrotechnics aside, kudos to Fritz's writing style. You're only blogging and you still manage to craft your posts with the same humorous and incisive reviewing skills, we depend upon. Your pithy title could only be further funny, if you had invoked Cash's "Ring of Fire" but then it would not have matched the tone of the peice. (Asian food with tiki drinks, not pepper eating contest).

Reading your reviews is as enjoyable as a flaming volcano minus the headache. You are my D.C. Survival Guide.

Posted by: Jolly GoLightly | May 11, 2005 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Actually, not sure about the VA law - I've had "flaming volcanoes" at Charlie Chiang's in Shirlington on several occasions. Also, Tony Cheng's in Chinatown also serves them - I had my first one there in '97....

Posted by: Andrea | May 11, 2005 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Going out with the ladies on Saturday evening. Considering Oya's for drinks, any other suggestions for lounging, drinks and girl fun

Posted by: rae | May 11, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Andrea -- I'm not sure about it either, as I know I've had (and seen other people have) a Flaming Volcano at Mango Mike's in Alexandria.

Posted by: Fritz | May 11, 2005 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Mango Mikes vs. Yenching

Posted by: Elizabeth T | May 12, 2005 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Mango Mikes Vs. Yenching

I am in the envious position of living behind Mango Mikes, and being a frequent customer of Yenching Palace.

The pro's and con's:

Mango Mikes has an excellent outdoor patio on which to claim a chair or bench or lounge, and spend the afternoon drinking. Prices are fairly high. I do highly recommend the Tiki Shooters.

The big Drink at Mikes is a 64 Oz Shark Bowl. It's a plastic fishbowl filled with blue colored alcohol, mostly rum and pineapple juice. Has a plastic shark in it.

The Shark Bowl is easy to share, but the flavor is eh. And the plastic bowl comes off sort of cheesy.

Mike's has service issues. They are always training some one new, and thus we have had trouble with getting our drinks refilled or food on time. Last time I was there, I had the ribs and was quite disappointed. The chicken sandwich and the shell bowl are always safe. Make sure to ask for the hush puppies.

Yenching does not have the same out door vibe. But the food is much better, the prices are lower, and it's considerably quieter. They have the main dining room, complete with Christmas lights and an unchanged decor, which is fine for small groups. The drinks are well made and inexpensive.

Never have I had a problem with the service- everyone there is universally friendly.

What makes the restaurant is the side room. A large, mostly white room that has not been renovated since Nixon made his China plans, it is ideal for large parties. Not to crowded, no crappy music. But they have a several tables for groups from 6-12, a monster table at the back banquet that will hold 20, and a great attitude about large groups.

Where else on the metro can you get seating for a party of 9 at 8 pm on a Sunday night?

As for the flaming bowl? It was exquisite. The fire, the flames, it's a tiki dream.

Mike's is ok for the patio bar. I go there often because it's in the front yard of my building. But Yenching is the place I host parties and take out of town guests.

Posted by: Elizabeth T. | May 12, 2005 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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