Jump to content

Woodlands, Langley Park and Fairfax - Southern Indian Vegetarian Restaurants


Recommended Posts

I needed some grounding today, so I headed to Woodlands out in Fairfax for some carryout. This is real Indian food, and I'm talking manly-man southern Indian. Not the meatly oolag you sit and nibble on with a Kingfisher and a side of A&D, but the stuff you snort down with a cup of damned tea. Look at this:

$7.25 gets you a Special Rava Masala Dosa. Man oh man oh man this is awesome. Call ten minutes before you arrive because it takes them fifteen minutes to make it. Get your order, and march straight back to your car.

Open the metal container. Notice the beautifully grilled crepe, a cream-of-wheat and lentil crepe, thick, honeycombed, and crunchy in parts. Green chiles are used to enhance the flavor of the potatoes and onions, not to overwhelm them. Try a few bites of everything, admire how deep and cellularly knit these flavors are.

And now that we've gotten that little formality out of the way, take your entire thing of sambar, and dump it on top. Likewise your coconut chutney. Start driving home. Use the plastic spoon - not the plastic fork - that you requested. Start shoveling.

I love Woodlands. Forget the buffet which is interesting but sometimes tired and picked-over. Get fresh-cooked food. Get a dosa. Get this dosa. Try this exact same dish and you'll dream about it later in the night. You'll thank yourself, and you'll come here again-and-again. Do it!

And now if I could figure out what to do with this little thing of Paan I bought. What is this stuff? What do I do with it?

Cheers,
Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love Woodlands.

I always found the Fairfax Woodlands to be the weakest of their locations - the food a little too greasy, the decor a little too nonexistant. Gaithersburg (across the parking lot from Trader Joe's) maintained higher standards of food and service until that location closed last year. Is Langley Park still open?

The special rava masala dosa is quite the flavor bomb, but I usually steer first-timers to the less-challenging paper masala dosa, which adds the element of absurd size. Start with the rasa vada, sort of a fried iddly floating in a cup of rassam.

Also worth mention, Madras Palace in the strip mall behind the strip mall at Rt 124 and Rt 117 in Gaithersburg. Again, vegetarian south Indian, food on a par with Woodlands but not quite up to the standard of Udupi Palace. But for those of us in MoCo it's a much shorter drive than Langley Park or NoVa.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And now if I could figure out what to do with this little thing of Paan I bought.  What is this stuff?  What do I do with it?

Cheers,

Rocks.

Rocks, did you finally figure it out? I've never had paan here, but in India you just pop the whole thing in your mouth and chew it. There are paan-shops all over India--maybe five or six per block--where Indians gather to chew paan and solve the pressing issues of the day. The paan-walla sits in his little kiosk making paan from betel leaves and the various other condiments he has on hand. Walking in the more crowded areas can be like running an obstacle course of red paan spittle-puddles.

Most paan aficianados don't swallow it--they chew it, then spit out the juice. I have a friend there who used to be a heavy paan user. His lips, tongue, and teeth were stained red. He is a writer and would chew paan constantly--it's a stimulent and can be like drinking coffee non-stop. He finally quit the stuff, much to the relief of those around him.

I'm a big fan of Woodlands, as well. For the poster that asked about the Langley Park location, it is alive and well. Excellent buffet, well worth a visit for lunch. The one at Langley Park has a guy who gives you a fresh dosa off a platter, right after you've loaded your plate with other goodies. I enjoy Woodlands more than Udupi, though both have excellent food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was sure I'd tried the Guthi Vanki ($8.95) at Woodlands before, but couldn't remember when - then I looked and saw that I had written this review. While I ordered a la carte last night at the Fairfax location, you can sometimes find the Guthi Vanki on the lunch buffet. Its a standout among Woodlands' curries - it's very unusual to see a Hyderabad-based dish in the Washington, DC area.

Repeat after me: "Special Onion Rava Masala Dosa ($7.25)." You have to say those five words in exact order; otherwise you'll get something different. Woodlands has about fifteen dosai on their menu, some of which are called "Special Rava Dosai," "Onion Dosai," "Special Rava Masala Dosai," and "Onion Masala Dosai."

Recite these words to your server - Special Onion Rava Masala Dosa - and they'll know what you're talking about. I had it again last night and it's BY FAR the best dosa I've ever eaten. As an individual food item, I'll put this on a par with Max's falafel, Komi's mascarpone-stuffed date (ok well maybe not that), KBQ's pork ribs - just order it and you'll see what I mean.

Cheers,

Rocks.

NB - It's amazing we didn't have a Woodlands thread before now - I split the above posts off from here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lunch at the Langley Park location again. I eat here about once a month with a girl friend, and it's never disappointed me. We try to get there shortly after 11:30 when everything is fresh. It does require a 2-hour nap afterwards, so I save the trip for my days off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been to Udupi Palace many times, and finally ventured across the intersection to try Woodlands last weekend when I was craving South Indian food. I ordered the poori bhaji and paper dosai. My friend ordered the special vegetable curry because she insisted we needed some vegetables. (C'mon, in South India, potato is a vegetable. :()

The pooris came out hot and puffed perfectly, and the potato was tasty, if just a tad mushier than I would have liked. The paper dosai was excellent and surprisingly ungreasy even after it cooled. The special vegetable curry was, to me, less appealing - the curry gravy had a sweet undertone (coconut, I assumed) that I didn't like, but then I prefer North Indian vegetable preparations for the most part. My friend loved it though, and when I heated up the leftovers the next day I mixed it with a little more rice to tone down that flavor a bit and it was quite good

Along with the accompaniments (rice, sambar, raita etc) we had a table full of delicious food with enough for leftovers.

The dining room is very spare and pretty devoid of decor, and perhaps is a little less inviting than the booths at Udupi. (Not that Udupi is anything special either in that department.) My experiences with the food at Udupi have been just as good, however, so maybe I'll just split my business between them. A stop next door at Subzi Mandi grocery for bags of Indian snacks is required too.

I do think Woodlands is much better than Amma Kitchen in Georgetown and Saravana Palace in Fairfax, which are the only other South Indian restaurants I've tried around here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been to Udupi Palace many times, and finally ventured across the intersection to try Woodlands last weekend when I was craving South Indian food.

This takes the classic Maryland vs. Virginia argument ("unwilling to venture across the river") to the next level. :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This takes the classic Maryland vs. Virginia argument ("unwilling to venture across the river") to the next level. :(

:P I drive my car like twice a month. I'm just not that skilled a driver, and the NH / University intersection just intimidates the hell out of me. Next time I will have to figure out a route to Woodlands from DC that does not involve making left turns or U-turns. It may involve driving several miles out of my way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/6/2009 at 6:00 PM, sacrilicious said:

:( I drive my car like twice a month. I'm just not that skilled a driver, and the NH / University intersection just intimidates the hell out of me. Next time I will have to figure out a route to Woodlands from DC that does not involve making left turns or U-turns. It may involve driving several miles out of my way.

Go north on New Hampshire Ave all the way to the beltway, take the exit for the outer loop, but stay in the acceleration/deceleration lane, and loop around a second time to go back south on New Hampshire Ave (i.e., take the northeast and northwest portions of the cloverleaf).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Woodlands is one of the places I take friends visiting from cities that don't have the great restaurant variety we have here. The lunch buffet last Thursday was the same as it ever was - fresh, diverse, inexpensive, and satisfying.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Woodlands is perhaps the only Indian restaurant I've walked into and immediately had a flashback to India. Maybe it's the worn, dingy decor. Really it was the smell (and I mean this in a good way!). My adventures in India have all been in South India and the spices used in S. India are somewhat different to N. Indian cooking. Since Woodlands is all about S. Indian veggie cooking it was that subtle difference in food smell that did me in.

What follows is what NOT to order at Woodlands....especially for a party of two.

Assorted appetizers - For two people, this was way too big and consisted primarily of fried Indian snacks. After splitting vada, samosa, pakora, bonda, we were already stuffed and hit a fried food wall. All was tasty, nicely fried, chutneys were great, but only order if you have a larger group or a big appetite.

Malai Kofta - Cottage cheese dumplings in a rich creamy sauce. And they are not kinding about rich and creamy. I shudder at what the calorie content is for that sauce. Again, very tasty, but with a stomach full of fried Indian snacks eating a bowl of cheese dumplings and creamy sauce was too much!

Mysore Masala Dosa - I would put ordering a dosa in the MUST order column. And this thing is huge, like the size of home plate huge. It didn't even come rolled up like one usually sees dosa, it was literally folded up like home plate. And it was good.

Everything we had was in the good to excellent range...we just didn't order wisely. Next time a more balanced approach will be in order.

btw, make sure you check out the counter in back with the cash register. There is a bowl of ziplock bags filled with Indian snacks ($3 each).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did Woodlands's Fairfax location close? The website lists, under "locations", only the Langley Park place.

I was there several weeks ago (twice in a row), but have nothing more recent than that. Special Rava Masala Dosa still the best dosa in the Washington, DC area. I'm putting my rep on the line - try it and see. Use liberal amounts of the coconut chutney for a dip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was there several weeks ago (twice in a row), but have nothing more recent than that. Special Rava Masala Dosa still the best dosa in the Washington, DC area. I'm putting my rep on the line - try it and see. Use liberal amounts of the coconut chutney for a dip.

It appears that the Fairfax Woodlands now has a separate website, so perhaps there's been a split in ownership as well. The website lists their hours for "dinner" and "lunch buffet". Is the buffet the only choice at lunch? I'm looking for a place to have lunch with my mother in Fairfax or Vienna on Sunday, July 1, before heading to the Barns at Wolf Trap for a 3 pm performance of Don Giovanni, which, it can be plausibly argued, is the greatest opera ever written. I'm dying to try the dosa you put your rep on the line for, but I wouldn't think dosai would do very well on a buffet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, not all are in Laurel, but within an acceptable drive. My current lunch rotation (I'm only out that way about 4 times a month) includes:

Pasta Plus

RG's BBQ Cafe

Pho 88

Da Rae Won

Taqueria La Veracruzana

I tried Gourmet Shish Kebab a couple times...once good, once not so much. 

What other Indian options, btw? I tried Sapphire off 197 a couple years ago, and have seen no reason to go back since.  Are there others worth checking out?

And if you think Laurel is a restaurant wasteland, try finding anything worth eating in Upper Marlboro.  3 years in, and I'm still searching.

Woodlands in Langley Park. south Indian food with a few more common staples. Dosas! Great lunch buffet. (I went today). It is the only restaurant my DC friends will come to my neighborhood for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Woodlands in Langley Park. south Indian food with a few more common staples. Dosas! Great lunch buffet. (I went today). It is the only restaurant my DC friends will come to my neighborhood for.

As an ex-Laurel resident and *huge* fan of Woodlands, I can safely say it's sort of a long way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone know where the corporate headquarters for Woodlands is? I called it an "English Chain" because (believe it or not) I stumbled across one in London while walking around the city (and I'm nearly certain it was the same restaurant), but I think it might be based in India, and I'm guessing it's a franchise, not a chain. Could someone ask a manager next time you go?

Whatever it is, it is wonderful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Woodlands Indian restaurant review: A vegetarian menu that deserves to be close to your heart - The Washington Post

Oh no! this is tragic, this one really hurts. I love, love the buffet, the vibe was great -- people who didn't know each other saying hi, giving newbies tips on how to eat things, i I don't know why but it always felt a bit like a community center to me, and the food was so good. I think the ultimate compliment to the quality of the food is that one time we went to brunch the people sitting at the next table were relatives of mine from new jersey who had been returning back to jersey--which has the best indian food in the us--and stopped for brunch on the way out because they liked it so much. i haven't gotten much carryout from there lately, but need to change that. They, and their buffet, must return! (maybe they could just have the buffet in jewel of india? ) and thanks to Tim Carman for reporting this, even though  I was so sad to read it. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...