A Look Inside Q by Peter Chang, the Celebrated Chef’s Flagship and ‘Masterpiece’

Restaurant opened in Bethesda on Saturday


Peter Chang in his kitchen

Joe Zimmermann

The day before his flagship restaurant was set to open in Bethesda, Peter Chang patrolled his kitchen and seemed to perform any and all tasks that needed to be done.

He instructed his staff, prepared dishes, carried plates and cut up meat. Chang wanted everything ready for the restaurant that has been his longtime personal project, something he was especially proud of.

“It’s a flagship for a reason,” Chang said as his daughter Lydia Chang, the business development manager for the restaurants, translated for him. “It’s [my] masterpiece.”

Q by Peter Chang, opening Saturday at 4500 East West Highway, has a menu of 45 items ranging from signature Peking duck appetizers to hot pot dishes and Szechuan Kung Pao Chicken. About half of the items are made from new recipes created by Chang, while the rest of the menu features favorites from his other Virginia and Maryland restaurants, including one in Rockville.

The interior of the restaurant and its kitchen (above). Peter Chang looks over the menu.

The Bethesda restaurant’s name is short for Qijiang, which means flagship in Mandarin Chinese. Chang was born in the Hubei Province in China and now lives in Bethesda.

“He guarantees that every item on the menu, you’ll find something you like,” Lydia Chang said. “Basically if you’re a big Chang follower, you need to try every item on the menu because they made their way through the finals.”

Chang, a two-time James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic, has built a reputation with his spicy Szechuan-style cooking—and dishes at his Bethesda restaurant will be even spicier.

Lydia Chang said some of her father’s “cult followers”—there are enough of them to make his idolized status the subject of a New Yorker profile—have been complaining for years that he could go further in making his food even more authentic and not “watered down.”

Chang isn’t holding back at Q, his daughter said. While his other restaurants feature three levels of spiciness, the new restaurant’s menu has items that are up to the fourth or fifth “pepper” and are much hotter than his previous offerings.

Still, not everything is spicy, and the menu features a number of nonspicy traditional Chinese dishes as well.

Sammi Li, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, said the restaurant’s modern look, with its high ceilings and open atmosphere, is meant to pair with the traditional food being served.

The 8,000-square-foot space seats 140 to 160 people and features a bar and a party room—though those won’t be ready until sometime around the June 2 official grand opening.

The dining area and bar. Below: the exterior of the restaurant. Credit all photos: Joe Zimmermann

In addition to fame from his cooking, Chang has become known for his somewhat peripatetic lifestyle. He left a job cooking for the Chinese embassy to start cooking at a series of restaurants across several states for short periods before he settled back in the Maryland area.

His daughter said he will be cooking at his Bethesda restaurant often and joked that he won’t be leaving anytime soon.

“He will stay here for the next half a year,” she said. “I don’t want to stretch it, but I’ll make sure that happens.”

Q by Peter Chang will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Email info@qbypeterchang.com for reservations.

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