Judging Restaurants – City Lights

City Lights is located at 1731 Connecticut Ave, NW. Their Web site says:

“Welcome to City Lights of China, an award winning Chinese restaurant conveniently located in Dupont Circle, Washington DC. Established in 1987, the restaurant is committed to providing you with the finest Chinese cuisine, an elegant atmosphere, and a first-class service.

Our menu offers a broad selection of Chinese cooking, from authentic gourmet home-style to tasteful vegetarian dishes. Freshness is our utmost priority when every order is carefully prepared. While our recipe for each dish has been widely approved by customers as well as food critics, our chef will accommodate your very personal taste.”

You can find their menus here.

Any fans?

37 Comment

  • I had such high hopes for this place! …unfortunately, the food was only marginally better then the millions of cheap, greasy (yet sometimes delicious) take out Chinese restaurants DC has to offer. …and super over-priced.

  • I thought this place closed a while ago. Is this a reboot? The old one was there for a while but was pretty bad.

  • This use to be the place to go for Chinese in the late 80’s and early 90’s. You would have to wait for hours. Was there a few weeks ago and its awful now. The entire place is depressing.

    • See I think the restaurant and food have stayed the same. It’s the tastes of DC that have changed. In general Chinese food doesn’t sell like it did in the 80’s and 90’s. Now people want inspired pan-asian cuisine. Sure City Lights could have adapted and added Gyoza and Sushi and Thai dishes to the menu but I kind of like that they just stayed the same. Then again staying the same isnt a strategy that worked well for YenChing Palace. So maybe they should give themselves a chic make over and start selling saki bombs

      • jburka

        Um, no. I ate there in the ’80s. And the ’90s. And the ’00s. And I would love to have a decent plain ol’ Chinese place closer than Meiwah.

        City Lights went down hill when Larry La left. When he opened Meiwah, three chefs from City Lights were partners. The slide continued.

        The last time my husband and I ate at City Lights was a couple of years ago, and we were so disappointed that we haven’t bothered to go back. This isn’t a case of the restaurant not serving the foods we want. This is a case of the restaurant not being worth the time or money.

        • Here’s a good rule of thumb for restaurants in DC: Everything on Connecticut sucks. There are no exceptions to this rule, and most places that people think are exceptions are simply places that people have fond memories of going to on a date when they were 24 and didn’t know the difference between flavor and salt/butter.

          • ah

            Your rule needs some work, because it would eliminate Bombay Club, Oval Room, Equinox downtown, Lebanese Taverna (WP), Ardeo (CP), and Comet Pizza.

          • You know that half those places share the same ownership, right? Bombay Club I will give you if you don’t have time to go to the suburbs for real Indian, but Rasika (also same owners) is better. Oval Room sucks, full stop. Equinox is fauxganic, everyone here should know better. Lebanese Taverna is overpriced — part of my point is that CT rents are too high and therefore there’s always going to be a better place off the strip that caters to a more savvy crowd. Ardeo is not bad but I find the menu to be a laughable mashup of comfort and fussy. Comet is pretty good but off the beaten path for most people.

          • Don’t agree with that at all…

  • really? this is my main delivery place. surprised people dont like it. been using it for over 15 years with no issues. It’s solid, no frills chinese.

      • Damn straight. Been getting delivery from here for 15 years. It’s the only place I now get delivery from and it’s outstanding. Atmosphere to eat there is nothing special but sure beats any other Chinese delivery in NW.

    • I would have agreed with you….ordered from here for years (almost 15)….but have noticed a SIGNIFICANT different in the food for the past year. Skimpy on the meat and veg in dishes. Not same quality….when mentioned to manager….did not care at all and was even kind of rude. You haven’t noticed a difference?

  • Pretty good for the price, but not out of this world by any means. About on par with some of the better places in Chinatown. A solid choice for a casual meal.

  • Oh yeah! This is, in my opinion, the best place for Chinese anywhere near Dupont Circle and has been for decades.

    The staff is ok, certainly not bad, atmostsphere is pretty good, but the food makes it well worth it.

    Without a doubt, the best! Opened in 1987 so I guess they are doing something right.

  • Unfortunately now that I live in NE, they won’t deliver to me, but we still pickup from there. I’ve been getting the sauteed sesame chicken for a decade.

    I’ve eaten there a few times, but I agree it’s a little dingy. Take-out or delivery is the way to go. My other favorites are the steamed mixed vegetables, and for the less-healthy alternatives, crispy shredded beef and crab rangoon.

  • Try Mr. Chen’s Organic Chinese on Connecticut Ave., near the Woodley Park-Zoo stop.

    It is awesome. I think it may have declined a *little* in the past ten years, but for my money, Mr. Chen’s is the best Chinese food in D.C.

    • +1 for Mr. Chen’s.

      Agree with other post that Chinese food seems to have gone out of fashion. Can’t remember the last time I heard of someone heralded opening a new Chinese restaurant.

    • Mr Chens is ok but I really hate it when people give you mexican tortillas in place of asian pancakes when you get mooshu. Also the chances that Mr Chens is actually organic is roughly zero.

    • Yuck! The food from Mr. Chen’s is always too…squishy.

  • Tasty eats as far as I’m concerned. Quick on the delivery (as quick as you can expect in DC) and they’re cool about little extras like more than 2 sets of chop sticks.

    RANT ABOUT MODERN DAY FORTUNE COOKIES: Not exclusive to City Lights, but I’m very irritated by the lack of imagination in modern day fortune cookies. In fact, most don’t offer fortunes anymore. ‘You have a kind heart’ is NOT a fortune. ‘You will have an auspicious year filled with many torrid affairs’ is what I’m looking for. Bring back the cheesy divination!

  • How come Chinese restaurants haven’t taken advantage of American’s tastes for upscale cuisine? I mean, there are very few stylish restaurants that are attempting to update the cuisine, or even to bring it back to its roots (e.g something other than Americanized chinese-american). Chinese restaurateurs don’t seem to realize that American tastes have grown more sophisticated over the last 20 years.

  • The decor is somewhat outdated but I don’t eat there because of the tablecloth. It’s good no-frills Chinese bottom line. They have classic dishes with generous portions, quick delivery with online ordering, and friendly staff.

    Certainly not the spot for a romantic date but for Chinese food, it’s one of the better places in DC.

  • There’s always a line out the door on Christmas, for whatever that’s worth.

  • I heart their sauteed menu… seriously the best way to eat Chinese that is remotely healthy…

  • Here is another shortcut to save time: if it’s Chinese food in D.C., it’s almost surely bad. It seems like other types of asian cuisines (new Vietnamese places in CH, some good sushi, the pan-asian at Kushi) are improving quite a bit in D.C. The noodles at Chinatown Express are OK, but that is about it. Not sure why Chinese is going the opposite direction, but for now, it seems like you need to head to the burbs. And yeah, I tried this place once, two thumbs down.

  • I’ve never eaten here so I can’t say. We eat Chinese food almost exclusively in Wheaton/Rockville areas where there are a number of great Chinese restaurants that serve authentic non-Americanized Chinese food. I’d recommend Paul Kee, Wong Gee, Hollywood East (for dim sum), or Full Kee in Wheaton, and Joes Noodle House, Mama Wok, Bobs 66, or Sichuan Pavilion in Rockville.

    I do agree with others who’ve stated that Chinese food in America has remained largely unchanged and should keep up with the times. Though I believe instead of appealing to a Pan Asian palette, they should focus on expanding people’s exposure to the amazing and tasty variety of foods from China, with an emphasis on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We were in Shanghai and Hangzhou this fall and I was blown away by the modern and stylish restaurants serving the most delicious Chinese food I have ever tasted.

Comments are closed.