Chief Peter Chang. Photograph by Andrew Propp.
DC diners have a long history of pursuing famed Hubei-born chef Peter Chang in places near and far. They first followed his feisty trail in the early 2000s, when the former head of the Chinese Embassy toured Northern Virginia and beyond. And then the dedicated “Changians” helped build his and his wife/co-chef Lisa Chang’s empire, now in a dozen dining venues, including nine eponymous Peter Chang restaurants, the upscale Q by Peter Chang range of Bethesda, the cozy Mama Chang in Fairfax and the bustling NiHao in Baltimore. .
District diners will finally have lucky number 13: Chang Chang, which will open in Dupont Circle this fall at 1200 19th Street, Northwest. The two-in-one concept – split between a modern restaurant and a Chinese take-out restaurant, each with separate menus – takes over the former Mai Thai space. Local firm Nahra Design Group will style the 200-seat dining room, bar and garden patio.
“We have adapted to the pandemic business model,” says Lydia Chang, her daughter and business partner, of the parallel restaurant and takeout operations, which will operate in separate areas and have minimal menu crossover. “We know there is huge demand for Chinese take-out products and some Peter Chang signings. But we also want to highlight new flavors on the restaurant menu and focus on quality and seasonal dishes.
Chang-Out, as they call the take-out/delivery arm, will feel more familiar to Chang’s faithful. Lydia says hits are to be expected: spicy kung paos, basil chicken, dry-fried eggplant, the list goes on. Lisa Chang, the family’s pastry and dim sum chef, will offer her scallion bubble pancake and other creations.
Chang-In, the full-service operation, will explore the seasonal cuisine of New China. The Changs have brought in rising star Chinese-American chef Simon Lam to run the kitchen. Lam started at sister restaurant NiHao in 2020 and helped the dining room earn a spot on Squirethe list of “America’s Best New Restaurants”; he previously worked at José Andrés’ China Chilcano in Las Vegas and DC. Lam will work in tandem with the Chang family as well as longtime chef and collaborator Pichet Ong. Menus are still in development, as is the bar program, which will focus on baijiu – an earthy Chinese liquor – and spirit-infused cocktails.
Lydia Chang, an only daughter born in Wuhan, her family’s hometown, rose through the ranks of her parents’ business. At 34, Chang is a partner and co-owner of Chang Chang and other restaurants, and the group’s business development director. The name of the new spot not only winks at the dual concept, but also at two generations of talent.“He is passing the torch,” Lydia says.
So how is it going in the family business? “Let’s just say that both of my parents are restless, persistent and very hardworking. I get a lot of that work ethic from them. At the same time, they give me more opportunities to grow. I would say it is mutually beneficial [partnership]. But the most important thing is that we are a family, so everything we do benefits the restaurants.
Chang Chang. 1200 19th Street, Northwest.