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Desperately Seeking Strip Malls


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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Two recent visits to Al Tiramisu make me wonder: is this restaurant “worth” any more than Sergio’s in Silver Spring or Pasta Plus in Laurel? Not in my book, it isn’t.

What about Yee Hwa? Are there not twenty (literally, 20) Korean restaurants in Annandale that are both better and more authentic? I have not been to Yee Hwa, and so I must pose this as a rhetorical question only.

Can you find better in-town Cantonese cuisine than at Fortune in Falls Church? I don't see it even being close.

Your choice for a good taco or pupusa in-town?

Let's do Bolivian. El Pike in Seven Corners, Luzmilla's in Falls Church, Tutto Bene in Arlington? Where are you going to go in Washington? And what about Vietnamese? Peruvian chicken?

There are several ethnic pockets (Ethiopian, for example), that seem like they've traditionally been more interesing within the city limits, but there are other ethnicities that have more authentic food out in strip-mall hell, in the low-rent district.

When seeking out quality (or authentic) ethnic cuisine in Washington, it seems like you should begin your search by finding out where the ethnic population is concentrated. Convenience to a downtown Metro stop is always nice, but isn't that sort of like going to a Smithsonian slideshow of Croatia instead of dining with a family from Zagreb?

Cheers,
Rocks.

P.S. The following posts have been split into separate threads:

Cafe Poulet (Meaghan)
Woodlands (DonRocks)
Akasaka (wrash)

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For my money, the best Latin American food in the metro area is located just outside my back door in Langley Park (University/ Piney Branch/New Hampshire )

Just 3 examples

1)El Golfo,Flower Ave -- plugged by Tom on his chat. THe Tex-Mex food is good, but try the Peruvian/El Salvadoran dishes.

2)El Gavilan, Flower Ave - Very similar to el Golfo

3)Samantha's University Blvd - Only have had a couple of things here, but they were quite good, especially the Empanadas.

THere are several other Latin American places around this area and a couple of taco trucks that I have seen once or twice. Explore.

PS - There are also two good Indian restaurants in this neighborhood. :lol:

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I posted on eG 3/25/2004:

In the strip mall in front of our neighborhood (Ritchie Center in Rockville) is a sushi restaurant, a Latino market, a Pho restaurant, a Persian bakery, Pizza Hut, an Indian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese carry out, a Middle Eastern market and cafe, and IHOP.

Seen in the Montgomery County edition of The Guide to Montgomery County, Thursday April 22, 2004:

But the possibilities are countless: Consider the Ritchie Center in Rockville where, in one small strip mall, there is Middle Eastern (along with a great Italian gelato), South American, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, a Persian bakery and an International House of Pancakes.

As I said back then, seems someone at the Post had been reading eGullet.

Since the only development in Rockville is strip malls, avoiding strip mall dining here is nearly impossible.

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I'm not sure if the part of the Crystal City strip where Oyamel is located counts as a strip mall, but this seems a good a thread as any* to mention that the Thai place there, Neramitra, is now open. I got takeout there Sunday night, and was rewarded with the best Panang curry I've ever had! I should have given them the benifit of the doubt: I ordered it 'extra spicy', as I tend to, since regular spicyness in Panang curry isn't typically satisfyingly spicy, and most of the 'extra spicy' interpretations I've seen are only a step or so above Gringo Heat. Not so Neramitra! The curry exploded with both heat and flavor! 'Extra Spicy' proved unnessesary, given what the default must have been, and likely ill-advised. :lol: It was almost TOO hot, to the point of overpowering the flavors. The curry was also quite packed full of chicken and veggies, much more so than my standard place here by the office can be sometimes.

If I ever get over there for a sit-down dinner I'll put up a dedicated thread (since there will be more to discuss), but I think Neramitra might be worth a visit if you're in the area. I hope they are going to do well in that location: it was pretty empty when I was there Sunday night.

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I'm not sure if the part of the Crystal City strip where Oyamel is located counts as a strip mall, but this seems a good a thread as any* to mention that the Thai place there, Neramitra, is now open.  I got takeout there Sunday night, and was rewarded with the best Panang curry I've ever had! I should have given them the benifit of the doubt: I ordered it 'extra spicy', as I tend to, since regular spicyness in Panang curry isn't typically satisfyingly spicy, and most of the 'extra spicy' interpretations I've seen are only a step or so above Gringo Heat.  Not so Neramitra! The curry exploded with both heat and flavor! 'Extra Spicy' proved unnessesary, given what the default must have been, and likely ill-advised. :) It was almost TOO hot, to the point of overpowering the flavors.  The curry was also quite packed full of chicken and veggies, much more so than my standard place here by the office can be sometimes.

If I ever get over there for a sit-down dinner I'll put up a dedicated thread (since there will be more to discuss), but I think Neramitra might be worth a visit if you're in the area.  I hope they are going to do well in that location: it was pretty empty when I was there Sunday night.

We had lunch at Neramitra today. Holy cow: They're not joking with the "spicy" designation. At Asian restaurants, I almost always gravitate toward dishes with the "spicy" icon. This time, it was Ka Prow Chicken. I have a pretty high tolerance for heat, but I had to shut it down after making my way through about two-thirds of the plate. The other third, though, is tempting me in the fridge right now.

My wife's pad thai was moist and tasty; grilled pork skewers with a chili sauce and spring rolls were excellent appetizers.

It's a beautiful space, and I hope it does well.

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MM Samantha's is one of my favorites. At least in the SS/Wheaton area, my favorite pupusas, and great other dishes as well.

Also tried El Aguila (16th St. strip mall) the other night. Food was tasty, and the portions were HUGE at good prices. Will definitely have to go back again.

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What about the strip mall that Ray's the Steaks is in on Wilson Blvd. between Roslyn and Courthouse.  ...  Plus, I think there is a Pho place and at least one other.

Only the best Pho place in the DC area...Pho 75 the original (even though they moved down a couple of doors). I first had pho there in 1980 and the quality has only gotten better.

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The suburbs are the place to find ethnic food no doubt since the ethnic communities tend to be centered there (after all it is getting too expensive to live in DC).

On the corner of Georgia Ave and Norbeck Rd (Rt. 28) in Maryland there is a small strip mall with a Thai restaurant, an Italian deli, a Greek/Gyro place, a Korean restaruant and lately a Jamacian restaurant/carryout.

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What about the strip mall that Ray's the Steaks is in on Wilson Blvd. between Roslyn and Courthouse.  In addition to Ray's, there is Village Bistro and Guillo's.  Plus, I think there is a Pho place and at least one other.

Village Bistro. It's only because I was lazy, solo and sick of everything else (except Ray's) that I went tonight, but I promise you, I have never had bad fried oysters there. Tonight among the specials the $9 fried oysters with fresh salsa in beurre blanc sauce were delish! I think it's the batter, the corn meal. I'm not saying their bread isn't industrial or that their wine list is passable. But the people there are damn nice and their fried oysters hit the spot tonight. That's all.

Add their website site to list of most annoying \*/

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Good Bolivian food and bakery at My Bakery. They have delicious soups, home made there every day, if available try the peanut soup. Dishes with potatoes, rice and bread, very filling and inexpensive. It is small, so crowded on the weekends. Also their tres leches cake is scrumptious. It is located in Bailey's Crossroads, on a side street off of Columbia Pike, right after the big chicken place (Compero Chicken??), not far from the intersection with route 7, you can see it from Columbia Pike. Ruth

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Not specifically "ethnic" unless one defines an expansive Mediterranean style as ethnic, but some friends and I ventured out from DC last night to hit te strip malls and revisited the "Idylwood Grill and Wine Bar" in the Idylwood Shopping Center in Falls Church to see if it matched an excellent first visit from a few months ago. It did, and we highly recommend it. Around the table, our tuna and trout were perfectly cooked, high-quality dishes accompanied by a generous quantity of really delicious vegetables; a seafood linguini was expertly prepared and richly flavored; lobster ravioli had a delicious pernod background that brought out the lobster flavor; and a filet mignon was crusty and flavorful. Mrs. dcdavidm's penne chicken pasta had great flavors, but the grilled chicken was a bit dry. Pricing is reasonable for the quantity and quality of the food.

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Today's Road Trip in the Washington Post Sunday Source:

MoCo's Chinatown

Because these stores are spread out along Rockville Pike, many people don't think of Rockville as a Chinatown. So three years ago, a group of entrepreneurs banded together to set up a Chinese-oriented shopping strip on North Washington Street. It is now home to a hair salon, an electronics store, a snack shop and a restaurant. On weekends, it's a great area for people-watching. Bridal parties and orange-haired hipsters hang out at the Beautiful Life Salon, getting makeovers, and long lines of families wait for tables at Bob's Noodle 66.
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Here's a link to the article with it's cartoon map: MoCo Chinatown Map. It's a bit surprising that neither Joe's Noodle House nor the Rockville Metro Station were included, but that's the Post's coverage...

How bizarre. You would think that the metro location would be relevant. Perhaps this was written for drivers? Which is stupid because IMO driving on Rockville Pike is a ridiculous way to spend an afternoon.
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Plus, I think there is a Pho place and at least one other.

One of the oldest and still IMHO one of the best. The location they are in now is two doors down from where it originally opened. At one time, that whole stretch of Wilson blvd was "Little VietNam" until urban renewal and urbanization changed the area. The other end of the anchor was Nam Viet in Clarendon, a restaurant that still exists and still serves very good VietNamese food.
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How bizarre.  You would think that the metro location would be relevant.  Perhaps this was written for drivers?  Which is stupid because IMO driving on Rockville Pike is a ridiculous way to spend an afternoon.

The column it appeared in, "Road Trip," which has been running for years, is fundamentally about drives, not metro rides. Anyway, there are some places where driving is just more appropriate than any other means of locomotion. I would say walking on Rockville Pike is ridiculous, not driving. In fact, IMO the congestion on RP is highly overrated and overstated. Even at its most congested, e.g. Saturday afternoon, getting along the Pike is reasonably quick, and WAAAAY faster than trying to walk (which would be, frankly, preposterous).

Those who choose to constantly denigrate motoring, and/or do not own a car, should be happy staying in DC or wherever.

I suspect that the vast proportion of users of the metro stations in Rockville are either coming/going to someplace very close to the station or are locals who drive and park, or ride the bus to the station from their homes.

Excuse me, but I'm driving up to Joe's Noodle for lunch.

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Those who choose to constantly denigrate motoring, and/or do not own a car, should be happy staying in DC or wherever.
I live in Rockville - as a matter of fact, right under the picture from TenRen on the map accompanying the article. We drive up and down the Pike several times a day. I still would not say that motoring around here, say on Saturday afternoon, or during the lunch rush, is an enjoyable way to spend your time. YMMV.
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The column it appeared in, "Road Trip," which has been running for years, is fundamentally about drives, not metro rides. 

Actually, they've been about equally split between car road trips and Metro road trips.

Even though I am one of the great unwashed pedestrians who should just "be happy staying in DC"... Could someone tell me where the Metro stop is on this map? I hear oodles about Joe's noodles, and it's great to think that I could get there without an exorbitant cab ride or, you know, buying a car. <_<

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Actually, they've been about equally split between car road trips and Metro road trips.

Even though I am one of the great unwashed pedestrians who should just "be happy staying in DC"... Could someone tell me where the Metro stop is on this map? I hear oodles about Joe's noodles, and it's great to think that I could get there without an exorbitant cab ride or, you know, buying a car. <_<

Middle Lane and 355. It's on the left edge of the beauty salon picture, a block away from courthouse square.

With normal traffic, it's a 5-10 minute drive to Joe's from the metro station. On Saturday afternoon, it's 15-30 minutes.

Edit to add -- Actually, it's walkable from Twinbrook, the stop before.

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Middle Lane and 355. It's on the left edge of the beauty salon picture, a block away from courthouse square.

...

Edit to add -- Actually, it's walkable from Twinbrook, the stop before.

aka in the little strip mall behind On The Border, just a couple doors down from Yekta kebab.

Darn curious Post map. No Yuan Fu (vegetarian Chinese). No Maxim (grocery).

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I live in Rockville - as a matter of fact, right under the picture from TenRen on the map accompanying the article.  We drive up and down the Pike several times a day.  I still would not say that motoring around here, say on Saturday afternoon, or during the lunch rush, is an enjoyable way to spend your time.  YMMV.

To each his own. I don't think most people enjoy riding metro either, especially during rush hour with all the congestion (ahh.....that word again), smelly people, lack of seats, etc. etc. I'll take a car anywhere, any time, of any day, thank you.

qwertyy--I believe the ratio of metro stories to road stories in the road trip column is more like 20-1, certainly not even. After all, the column's name is ROAD Trip.

JPW--Let's make a bet. I'll give you even money I can make that trip in under 12 minutes at any time. You pick the time and the amount. I certainly agree, however, that the Twinbrook stop is the one to use for a metro trip to Joe's Noodle. Short walk. Today I had two new dishes: N16, Beef Noodle Soup Szechuan Style, and F24, Calamari in Basil Sauce. Both outstanding. It's just very hard to go wrong when ordering at JNH!

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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.

Time to update my opinion. Recent visits to Madras Palace have been increasingly impressive; the dosas have been consistently excellent, but the supporting items have come up a notch. The sambar was particularly good today - spicy, appropriately thick, and flavorful. We were among the very few non-Indians in the mostly-full dining room. Now that Woodlands Gaithersburg has flown the coop, this may be the best South Indian option in central MoCo, and it remains absurdly inexpensive.

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Time to update my opinion. Recent visits to Madras Palace have been increasingly impressive; the dosas have been consistently excellent, but the supporting items have come up a notch. The sambar was particularly good today - spicy, appropriately thick, and flavorful.
I'm going to try to follow up on this rec this week. Went to Udupi on Saturday night and had a great dosa, ordered some yellow dal on the side that was flavorful (if a bit overly salted)--it really hit the spot. I'm craving some dosa closer to home/work, and Madras may be just the ticket.
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What do you recommend at the Eden Center (in terms of specific dishes, as well as restaurants)? We sometimes get bahn mi from the sandwich shop/grocery store that is in the back left corner, and have found them to be very tasty, almost all the time (occasionally, the bread is stale or ingredients show signs of having sat around for a while, but at $2.50 a sandwich, the risk isn't too great). We've also been to Four Sisters, but with mixed results -- I think the problem is with our ordering, not the restaurant. Since it's a long way out for us, I'd love some more reliable choices!

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What do you recommend at the Eden Center (in terms of specific dishes, as well as restaurants)? We sometimes get bahn mi from the sandwich shop/grocery store that is in the back left corner, and have found them to be very tasty, almost all the time (occasionally, the bread is stale or ingredients show signs of having sat around for a while, but at $2.50 a sandwich, the risk isn't too great). We've also been to Four Sisters, but with mixed results -- I think the problem is with our ordering, not the restaurant. Since it's a long way out for us, I'd love some more reliable choices!
Wow! what do you like for Vietnamese? I like the "pancakes" (my Vietnamese friend's name for them), Pockets of what look like rice paper filled with unknown (to me but extremely tasty) bits of goodies (they look like semi-transparent ravioli). Cover with a generous splash of fish sauce, chase around on the plate with chopsticks, eat...(Thang Long in the eastern end of the center -- last entrance before the jewelry store closest to the discount place), broken rice, barbecued pork at the little mom and pop place in the western end of the new section just across from the jewelry store beside the travel agency). True mom and pop restaurant. Like eating in your grandmother's kitchen (if your grandmother happens to be Vietnamese). The one great thing about Vietnamese food you have already discovered, it's not really expensive. Be brave, go to the little places (make sure they're filled with people happily eating), enter, pick up a menu and point. Go for it. You'll find lots of things you like and if you don't know what they are, you won't bring any preconceptions to lunch. Go explore, eat and enjoy.
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What do you recommend at the Eden Center (in terms of specific dishes, as well as restaurants)? We sometimes get bahn mi from the sandwich shop/grocery store that is in the back left corner, and have found them to be very tasty, almost all the time (occasionally, the bread is stale or ingredients show signs of having sat around for a while, but at $2.50 a sandwich, the risk isn't too great). We've also been to Four Sisters, but with mixed results -- I think the problem is with our ordering, not the restaurant. Since it's a long way out for us, I'd love some more reliable choices!

There's a little banh mi stand inside the mall that is very good and of course dirt cheap. The proprietor is a very nice lady, who might show you a picture of her daughters.

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What do you recommend at the Eden Center (in terms of specific dishes, as well as restaurants)? We sometimes get bahn mi from the sandwich shop/grocery store that is in the back left corner, and have found them to be very tasty, almost all the time (occasionally, the bread is stale or ingredients show signs of having sat around for a while, but at $2.50 a sandwich, the risk isn't too great). We've also been to Four Sisters, but with mixed results -- I think the problem is with our ordering, not the restaurant. Since it's a long way out for us, I'd love some more reliable choices!

Our family prefers Viet Royale, next door to Four Sisters. The kids like the "fondue" -- thin-sliced meat dipped in flavored got vinegar and then rolled in rice paper. I like everything. Try the lime soda.

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I'm going to try to follow up on this rec this week. Went to Udupi on Saturday night and had a great dosa, ordered some yellow dal on the side that was flavorful (if a bit overly salted)--it really hit the spot. I'm craving some dosa closer to home/work, and Madras may be just the ticket.

A little late joining in on this thread, but wanted to add my two cents about Madras Palace and then ask a question of the folks here.

First - on Madras Palace - I don't think I've ever eaten better Indian food in a restaurant anywhere in the States. My family is Indian, and though we originate from the Bengal area, we're big fans of South Indian food. I work close to Madras Palace and used to live up in G'town. Madras Palace has been a frequent place for lunch and dinner ever since they took over the location from that pizza joint back in the late 90s. I brought my parents to this place and it was the first time my mother has ever been enthusiastic about Indian restaurant food. Usually nothing is good enough for her. High praise, indeed.

Second - I usually steer away from Indian restaurants because I'm tired of the same old North Indian cooking. A Passage to India in Bethesda has a menu that seems really interesting, though, because it highlights foods from different regions of India. Has anyone been there and ordered dishes from the Eastern side of India? If so, what was your opinon of them? Did they taste substantially different from the same old, same old chicken tikka, etc?

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Second - I usually steer away from Indian restaurants because I'm tired of the same old North Indian cooking. A Passage to India in Bethesda has a menu that seems really interesting, though, because it highlights foods from different regions of India. Has anyone been there and ordered dishes from the Eastern side of India? If so, what was your opinon of them? Did they taste substantially different from the same old, same old chicken tikka, etc?

It's definitely one of the best in the area - check it out here.

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Second - I usually steer away from Indian restaurants because I'm tired of the same old North Indian cooking. A Passage to India in Bethesda has a menu that seems really interesting, though, because it highlights foods from different regions of India. Has anyone been there and ordered dishes from the Eastern side of India? If so, what was your opinon of them? Did they taste substantially different from the same old, same old chicken tikka, etc?
Passage to India was the site of a DonRockwell dinner and the food highlighted the 4 geographic regions of India. All of the food was excellent (and way too much for one person to eat). Monica Bhide (I hope I spelled her name correctly) is the one who organized the dinner and, not to repeat myself, but it was great. Everyone there that night left full, happy and impressed with the food.
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A Passage to India in Bethesda has a menu that seems really interesting, though, because it highlights foods from different regions of India. Has anyone been there and ordered dishes from the Eastern side of India? If so, what was your opinon of them? Did they taste substantially different from the same old, same old chicken tikka, etc?
I haven't had a chance to compare PTI's regular menu with the regional dishes from our May DR dinner, but hope many are available. From the Eastern/Bengali course I preferred the Kosha Mangsho Shorshe over the Bata Maachh - its mustard hit me as a single note that overpowered the fish. The evening was a blur of spice (among other things), but a great introduction to regional Indian food not found elsewhere in DC - it's worth checking out.
Chef Sudhir Seth’s Menu DINNER MAY 7th, 2006

NORTH - Punjabi

Chicken Kabab-3 ways (tandoor grilled chicken in three different marinades)

Shalgam Goat Curry (goat curry cooked with turnips and turnip greens)

Paneer Simla Mirchi (low-fat pressed Indian cheese with bell peppers)

Pulao/ Kulcha (rice pilaf and freshly baked onion breads)

Garlic-Chili chutney; Onion-Yogurt chutney

WEST - Parsi

Patrani Machhi (cilantro marinated fish filet, wrapped in banana leaf & baked)

Murgi Dhansak (ceremonial Parsi specialty- chicken, vegetable and lentil stew)

Dhansak Rice (star anise and stone flower flavored rice pilaf)

Aloo Hara Pyaaz (red bliss potatoes with scallion greens)

Mango chutney; Peanut/Sesame chutney

EAST - Bengali

Shorshe Bata Maachh (fish filet simmered in freshly ground mustard)

Kosha Mangsho (lamb cooked with cumin, coriander and cardamom)

Chorchori Torkari (medley of vegetables with Bengali 5 spice tempering)

Steamed Basmati (long grain fluffy rice)

Tomato chutney; Date chutney

SOUTHERN - Kerala

Kunjhe Varuval (shrimp sautéed with roasted spices and coconut flakes)

Kozhi Ishtoo (British influenced south Indian chicken stew)

Payar Thoran (stir fry beans with curry leaf and mustard seeds)

Kachil-Ethekka Kalan (yam and raw banana in n a seasoned yogurt sauce)

Sambar (toor dal ‘pigeon peas’ and eggplant cooked with tamarind & asafetida)

Lemon Rice (lemon flavored rice with cashews and curryleaf)

Idiappam (steamed rice and lentil string-hoppers)

Vendakkai Pachadi (crisp fried okra in a yogurt dressing)

Inji-Puli (Ginger-Tamarind chutney)

Milagapodi (crispy tart chilies)

Appalam (lentil wafers)

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First - on Madras Palace - I don't think I've ever eaten better Indian food in a restaurant anywhere in the States. My family is Indian, and though we originate from the Bengal area, we're big fans of South Indian food. I work close to Madras Palace and used to live up in G'town. Madras Palace has been a frequent place for lunch and dinner ever since they took over the location from that pizza joint back in the late 90s. I brought my parents to this place and it was the first time my mother has ever been enthusiastic about Indian restaurant food. Usually nothing is good enough for her. High praise, indeed.
So, I went to Madras Palace yesterday for lunch. Although I love dosa, I don't get to eat them very often. So, the tone of this report is largely going to be compare/contrast with Udupi Palace, where I had an mysore masala dosa on a Saturday night roughly 2-3 weeks ago. (It's been too long since the time before that that I had a MMD, so I just don't feel as though i can compare to a general sense of what it should be like, and am not S. Asian, so haven't had them in India or prepared in a home.)

I ordered mysore masala dosa off the menu yesterday after perusing the buffet and deciding I didn't feel like the 'eat all you can' mentality that can be encouraged by a buffet. Plus, I was in the mood for the MMD and wanted to do a bit of a head to head comparison. The MMD at MP was greasier (not sure if that was due to the pancake or the filling or both) The 'pancake' (don't know formal name for it) was bigger, but there was less filling. The pancake was also thicker and chewier than at UP, and had less air bubbles in it. I'm not sure how to describe it exactly, but the pancake at UP had air bubbles almost like in injera--as though there was something that had fermented in the batter (although there was no taste of yeast-based fermentation to it, I'm not sure how to describe it). The potato filling at MP had significantly more onion in it, and less other spicing (although other spices may have simply been crowded out by the very strong onion flavor). Additionally, there seemed to be (based on appearance and flavor) little to no chutney on the MMD at MP. I much preferred the filling at UP--the flavoring was more complex and allowed the basic flavor of the potato to shine (which I know sounds ridiculous, but a potato really can have a nice flavor). I preferred the sambar (rasam?) at MP to the sambar at UP--it was thicker, more peppery and more flavorful.

The service at MP was fine. The waiter certainly didn't give me the attitude of, 'you're going to order off the menu when we have all this food sitting on the buffet and my infirmed mother is going to have to get out of her sick bed to prepare you this specially?' that I've heard described at other restaurants when one chooses not to eat the buffet. They never checked in to see whether I liked the dish, nor did they refill my water glass. But, I did a bit of order, snarf down food and bolt, so I didn't give them much of a chance to do any of those things.

Neither MP nor UP was busy the times I went to each, so I don't think that the comparison of the MMD is unfair in that regard. Certainly, one was lunch and one was dinner, and that might affect the outcome.

My bottom line--I thought MP was fine. Although it's closer to my home, I think I would rather drive the extra distance to UP for dosa because their filling was far superior IMHO. I like both the more delicate and the thicker/chewier pancake, so the pancake differences don't really sway me in either way.

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Is there a separate thread for Village Bistro? I couldn't find it, but if so, feel free to move this post...

I'd walked past it a gazillion times but today was the first day we went there for lunch. I'd remembered seeing a review, I think in The Onion, emphasizing the quality of the specials. While my coworker next to me got the mussels for an appetizer (and I split them with him) he went with the blackened chicken sandwich - as did about half the table - and I went with one of the lunch specials, the lobster ravioli with rockshrimp and something else.

The mussels were good. I'd hesitate to say "great" but then again, I don't know if I've ever had mussels that I'd say that about. They were tasty enough and a big enough portion in the bowl.

The lobster ravioli was fan-fugu-tastic. It was in a slightly spicy cream sauce, and after I finished off the rockshrimp, corn, and other vegetables and the raviolis, I grabbed some of the fairly decent bread and sopped up about half the sauce with it.

I really need to go to the gym now! It was a bit expensive for lunch but worth every penny. And not only did they quickly accommodate 9 people without reservations but they also split the check 9 ways without being asked nor adding a service charge. Man. I'm fat and happy right now.

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Just read Tyler Cowen's Discover Your Inner Economist recently and there was a chapter discussing how to find the best restaurants.

Tyler is a long-time proponent of the "suburban strip mall" theory of finding good ethnic eats. In fact, he may have invented the theory. He certainly has always had lengthy descriptions of it in the various editions of his "guide to ethnic eats" in the DC area. It boils down mostly to the rents that recent immigrant families who want to open restaurants can afford. There are few of them in NW DC (9th street being an exception) because it's the big money boys who covet those spots, to make more money not to serve good food, and they have driven the rents out of reach.

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Tyler is a long-time proponent of the "suburban strip mall" theory of finding good ethnic eats. In fact, he may have invented the theory. He certainly has always had lengthy descriptions of it in the various editions of his "guide to ethnic eats" in the DC area. It boils down mostly to the rents that recent immigrant families who want to open restaurants can afford. There are few of them in NW DC (9th street being an exception) because it's the big money boys who covet those spots, to make more money not to serve good food, and they have driven the rents out of reach.
Good summary John. Here's Prof. Cowen's extended version in a 2006 WaPo column.
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Is there a separate thread for Village Bistro? I couldn't find it, but if so, feel free to move this post...

That single shopping center has Village Bistro, Pho 75, Ray's the Steaks, Guajillo, and Ray's Hell Burger.

I challenge anyone to find a single strip mall that can beat that lineup...

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Their grilled chicken was pretty good and came with a sweet chili sauce and a smoky tamarind sauce. I didn't care for their shrimp panang. An order only had 6 medium sized shrimps in a sauce that resembled Maesri brand curry paste. Nothing wrong with Maesri brand curry sauce, but I can easily make it at home for a fraction of the cost. The drunken noodle was well seasoned and not clumpy. The portion size was smaller than other Thai places since they place the noodles on a bed of cabbage for volume.

This is an interesting comment about the Maesri brand curry paste. I suspect a LOT of mom-n-pop ethnic places in the burbs use store-bought sauces - e.g., I can think of about 2-3 Indian restaurants in the entire DC area that make homemade pickles; all the rest come from a jar, not that there's anything wrong with that. I went to Bombay Club fairly recently, and was dismayed that their chutneys seemed to be all purchased.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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This is an interesting comment about the Maesri brand curry paste. I suspect a LOT of mom-n-pop ethnic places in the burbs use store-bought sauces - e.g., I can think of about 2-3 Indian restaurants in the entire DC area that make homemade pickles; all the rest come from a jar, not that there's anything wrong with that. I went to Bombay Club fairly recently, and was dismayed that their chutneys seemed to be all purchased.

I think the Indian place in Arlington, on the corner of N. Glebe and N. Washington, which is in the Comfort Inn, gets EVERYTHING from a can or jar. I went once (when we moved into the neighborhood) and thought that it tasted like Costco Indian.

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I have two candidates worthy of note.

On Franconia Road, about halfway between Springfield Mall and Van Dorn, there's a little strip mall with Sampan Cafe and Mediterranean Gourmet Market. Both are on top of their respective cuisines -- I happen to think that Mediterranean Gourmet Market is the best Middle Eastern food in northern Virginia. At the other end is a pizza and sub shop owned by Iraqis that is considered top notch.

Then there's Brookfield Plaza on Backlick, which has some of the best eats in Springfield. In Brookfield Plaza there's Chutney, Sahm Oh Jong, La Hacienda, Bombay Buffet, Spring Garden and (drum roll) Tippy's Tacos! Across Backlick Road in another strip mall is Le Beldo Bakery and Tokyo Inn, just half a block up from Delia's. Farther up Backlick about a quarter of a mile is the original Five Guys, right across from Aabshaar, which is the best Pakistani food in the area. I can parachute into this area with $25 in my pocket and eat like a king all day long.

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I think one of the more diverse strip malls is right in Alexandria, at Edsall Rd & Van Dorn (Van Dorn Shopping Center?). I was struck by how many options were available when 2 families went into separate restaurants right next to each other, offering different cuisines. I can't attest to the quality of some of those places, but certainly, I had good experiences at Thai Lemongrass & Savio's.

The cuisines covered, based on my faulty memory, are:

Chinese (Ho King - carry-out place)

Italian (Savio's Italian- family-style and has gebaby's approval)

Japanese (Akasaka Japanese)

Kabobs (Kabul Kabob House)

Salvadorean (El Salvadorean, I think)

Thai (Thai Lemongrass)

Vietnamese (Pho-something)

Something to remember in a pinch, in case you're out there. Yes, I realize there are other options, such as the Mediterrean Bakery, but certainly, there are a lot of choices in one-centralized location, which is what is neat to me.

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I think one of the more diverse strip malls is right in Alexandria, at Edsall Rd & Van Dorn (Van Dorn Shopping Center?). I was struck by how many options were available when 2 families went into separate restaurants right next to each other, offering different cuisines. I can't attest to the quality of some of those places, but certainly, I had good experiences at Thai Lemongrass & Savio's.

The cuisines covered, based on my faulty memory, are:

Chinese (Ho King - carry-out place)

Italian (Savio's Italian- family-style and has gebaby's approval)

Japanese (Akasaka Japanese)

Kabobs (Kabul Kabob House)

Salvadorean (El Salvadorean, I think)

Thai (Thai Lemongrass)

Vietnamese (Pho-something)

Something to remember in a pinch, in case you're out there. Yes, I realize there are other options, such as the Mediterrean Bakery, but certainly, there are a lot of choices in one-centralized location, which is what is neat to me.

Chantilly Park Center just west of 28 on 50 in, oh you can figure it out, has: Thai Basil, Picante! The Real Taco, Minerva, and Rawal Kabob, plus Sully's for good ol' bar food. Plus right across the street in a newer plaza is Pho 98. Good eatin!

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I think one of the more diverse strip malls is right in Alexandria, at Edsall Rd & Van Dorn (Van Dorn Shopping Center?). I was struck by how many options were available when 2 families went into separate restaurants right next to each other, offering different cuisines. I can't attest to the quality of some of those places, but certainly, I had good experiences at Thai Lemongrass & Savio's.

The cuisines covered, based on my faulty memory, are:

Chinese (Ho King - carry-out place)

Italian (Savio's Italian- family-style and has gebaby's approval)

Japanese (Akasaka Japanese)

Kabobs (Kabul Kabob House)

Salvadorean (El Salvadorean, I think)

Thai (Thai Lemongrass)

Vietnamese (Pho-something)

Something to remember in a pinch, in case you're out there. Yes, I realize there are other options, such as the Mediterrean Bakery, but certainly, there are a lot of choices in one-centralized location, which is what is neat to me.

I used to agree with this assessment. About 20 years ago, Savio's was a special place, with a Tunisian chef who knew what he was doing. My most recent visit, about 3-4 years ago, was a turn off, and not just because of the cockroach that ran across the table.

And the Afghan place used to be special, among my faves at the time. Right now, the only credible food in this plaza (in my opinion) is the palindromic Akasaka and Thai Lemongrass. But 20 years ago, this plaza was top-notch.

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I used to agree with this assessment. About 20 years ago, Savio's was a special place, with a Tunisian chef who knew what he was doing. My most recent visit, about 3-4 years ago, was a turn off, and not just because of the cockroach that ran across the table.

And the Afghan place used to be special, among my faves at the time. Right now, the only credible food in this plaza (in my opinion) is the palindromic Akasaka and Thai Lemongrass. But 20 years ago, this plaza was top-notch.

At one point more than a few years ago I ate at a nice Malaysian place in that Van Dorn Mall. The times I've eaten at Akasaka I've really enjoyed it, sit at the small bar if you can and speak with the Chef.

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Al-Zaytoun in Woodbridge is very, very solid. Pakistani/Afghan food executed beautifully, with fantastic customer service. They have a buffet for the timid (or the really hungry), but you can also order from the menu, and they do everything in-house.

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I sometimes feel like the Springfield-Burke-Lorton-Franconia stringer for the DR news.

In addition to the places covered in this thread so far, I believe we have neglected that fine little strip mall up Backlick Road where Gamasot resides, on Hechinger Road. There is also a mighty fine Hispanic place on the end, a Peruvian chicken place and Vietnamese place, all very good, and all within walking distance of an El Grande.

To my earlier posts, we can add another outpost of Ravi Kabob in the Brookfield Plaza farther down Backlick, and we can add Franconia Pizza to the strip mall down Franconia that includes Mediterranean Gourmet Market and Sampan Restaurant. This latter strip mall is right across the road from Rice and Noodle, a credible Thai place that is on my short list of places to try.

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