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After the terrific lunch of rich, sweet fesenjoon and saffron rice I had today, I'd say you could call it Amoo Will Punch You in the Babymaker, and I'd still come back for more.

[People think it's not worth writing "little" posts like this; they're wrong. It takes less than one minute and conveys useful information. Just as importantly, it can trigger a discussion that can explode into something huge.

Everyone, please use Josh's post as an example of 'what to write when you don't feel like writing long.'

Fine: I had the Green Chili Pork with Moros y Cristianos at Cowboy Cafe tonight (figuring some of the kitchen might be Latino) and liked it very much - they also have the Abita Mardi Gras Bock on tap. This morning, I had breakfast at Pho Thang Long (named after me), and for the second straight time, the pho was decent, but not great - it benefitted very much from (translation: needed) some doctoring with the condiments. Last night I had a too-tomatoey lobster bisque (don't believe the "Chef's Special" comment - this is cream of tomato soup with a few chunks of frozen lobster meat in it), Escargots en Croq (baked in serving vessel, laden with cheese), Endive Brabaní§onne (spelling butchered on the menu which leads me to believe this isn't Belgian-owned (*)), and Creamy Parsley Salsify at the decent (not great, not good, not horrible; decent) Sur La Place (Et Voila's overflow option), accompanied by a rich, malty draft of Staffe Hendrik (an 11% ABV quadruple).

(*) I had *no* idea this was owned by the same people who own Mannequin Pis until I Googled the spelling - they're the only two restaurants that misspell THE BELGIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM - Google 'Babanconne menu' (no quotes, no r, no í§) and have a look for yourselves.

In general, I'd rather not write at all than write unforgettably, but I'm certain that the preceding paragraph benefitted people more than it didn't.]

Cracker Barrel. Twice

Slut.

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Too lazy to write longer individual reviews, so a few shorter musings on some recent meals"¦

I am a sucker for fish stews, and if I see one on a menu I'm usually inclined to try it.  So when I took advantage of jury duty recently to splurge on lunch at the bar at Fiola, the Brodetto immediately caught my eye.  What an amazing dish.  Probably the best thing I've eaten in recent memory, honestly.  Two kinds of white fish, one of which I think was smoked, shrimp, clams, and something else I think I'm forgetting, each obviously cooked individually (and perfectly), served in this rich, luscious broth, with toasted breadcrumbs that gave it great texture through to the last bite.  Just a great meal that I can't come close to doing justice with words.  Paired wonderfully with a glass of Vermentino from Sardinia.

Speaking of fish, I've been lucky now to make two visits to the new Fishnet in Shaw.  Both times I had grilled fish sandwiches, first bluefish then salmon.  I'd never been to the College Park location, so what was a revelation to me is old hat to a lot of you.  But I just love how the simple preparations let the (impeccably fresh) fish speak for itself, basically.  Great fries, and the Kolsch they have on tap was paired well with the spicy aioli (just let the skunk blow away first).

By total random chance, we hit up the new Dino on opening night.  Walked away loving the cocktails, the pastas, and the staff "“ so friendly, such good service, and such obvious enthusiasm about the new venture.  Looking forward to many returns here.

When the weather is nice, there are few more pleasant places to spend some time than on the patio at the Garden District (formerly The Standard) beer garden on 14th St.  We've found it's not crazy crowded around lunch time on the weekends"¦you can snag a table, chat with some strangers, drink some German beer, and enjoy quality bbq.  And before the crowds take over later in the day, it's actually quite child friendly.  They are also happy to do takeout.  Garden District still serves the whole barbequed pig head that got some press a while back.  When we were there last, it looked like a couple of tables had ordered it.  I'd like to try that one day.

A recent vacation weekend in New York yielded two meals of note, one disappointing and one surprisingly good.  The disappointment was Betony.  We'd been primed to love this place, but found the food to be hit or miss, and the service cold and formal (I thought I read a recent posting about Betony with completely the opposite impression about their service, which I was going to link to, but I can't find it"¦it's not in the Betony thread).  The best part of the meal was the amuse bouche, which was a simple but delicious carrot soup.  Many dishes showed impressive technique but lacked flavor. "Lobster rolls" were perfect little cylinders of, presumably, lobster meat with crème fraiche, wrapped in pastry and deep fried.  They looked great but all I could taste was the crème fraiche.   I can't point to anything wrong with the short rib or duck entrees, they were both perfectly cooked, but...just boring.  There was just nothing special about them, and at a now 3-star NYT reviewed place that's generating the buzz Betony is, I expect special.

The delight of the trip was lunch at a casual Indian street food restaurant called Thelewala on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.  The food here is superb (but be warned, incendiary), and a great bargain.  I think my favorite was the bhel puri, an enormous serving of puffed rice, chickpeas, potatoes and onions seasoned throughout with chutney and formed into a perfectly geometrical cake on your plate.  When you're paying $5.50 for a meal you don't expect a beautiful presentation (or much more for that matter) but that's what you get, actually.  A great little place, and it's open very late.

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Let's see here - I've been trying to eat out less lately, but a couple of quick hits:

ASHBURN area:

Kapao is a new-ish place on Waxpool Road, with a big sign out front: "GENERAL TSO IS DEAD. LONG LIVE GENERAL KAPAO!" Though I don't usually order General Tso chicken, I got the General Kapao plus dumplings with a friend. The dumplings were exactly what I was craving, filled with chicken so I didn't feel as guilty, and the General Kapao chicken was big hunks of all-white meat, well cooked, with a perfect amount of batter. It was a great lunch.

(That's the same place where in a previous visit I was picking out the little red peppers and one of the cooks told me I should try them, as he marinates them in wine before cooking them. I did try them, and now it's the only place I don't pick them out.)

Chin-Chin Cafe is my usual stop when I go get my haircut (therefore I'll be going there again today). I've always gotten the same thing - kung pao chicken (though I've gone from fried to white rice) and sweet and sour soup. The soup can be hit or miss, though even on a miss it's still my favorite in the area, and the chicken is pretty solid though I always feel guilty about my breath afterwards. (Actually I only feel guilty towards my barber, a little Vietnamese dude down the strip mall from Chin-Chin, not my coworkers.)

ARLINGTON:

El Paso Cafe continues to be the same. They've revamped the menu some and took off one of my favorites (the carne asada steak) but it's okay. Not great. I wouldn't go out of the way for it, but it's okay. Service can still be hit or miss, though it's usually very friendly.

DC:

Javi at the Passenger seems to be doing more specials recently. Last night was lamb chops with wheat pilaf, and it was very tasty. I also ate at Eat the Rich on Sunday night - a dozen oysters, the soft boiled egg, and the fries - and it was, as usual, delicious.

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I stopped in at Eden Kitchen (from the owners of Pho Factory) in Eden Center for lunch on a Saturday.  The place was fairly busy with large families.  I had pho with beef, and asked them to serve the beef on the side.  I then dumped the beef into the pho at the table. The beef is so thin that it cooks in the broth making it more tender than when it's cooked in the kitchen. I thought the broth was flavorful without an overpowering dose of anise.  In looking at what other tables were ordering, I'm more incline to come back and try the other soups like Bun Bo Hue (spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup with pork knuckle and pig's blood cubes), the fermented fish broth noodle soup, and bun cha (Hanoi style grilled pork with vermicelli noodles which I am still searching for to remind me of how good it can be).

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I stopped off at the Sate food truck today.  It's good, real good.  I don't know if I would recommend it just for the Sate, but the beef rendang is excellent.  I've had rendang where it was a wet curry with lots of sauce at most restaurants here. I much prefer the dry curry I've gotten in Malaysia, where the coconut milk is cooked down until it breaks and the oil glistens on the meat.  This was the dry kind of rendang.  I don't think it had enough grated toasted coconut in the curry, and possibly it was a little spicier than I liked, but the style was perfect.  And given the humidity outside, standing and waiting to order for 15 minutes left me as sweaty as if I were on a corner in KL. 

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I stopped off at the Sate food truck today.  It's good, real good.  I don't know if I would recommend it just for the Sate, but the beef rendang is excellent.  I've had rendang where it was a wet curry with lots of sauce at most restaurants here. I much prefer the dry curry I've gotten in Malaysia, where the coconut milk is cooked down until it breaks and the oil glistens on the meat.  This was the dry kind of rendang.  I don't think it had enough grated toasted coconut in the curry, and possibly it was a little spicier than I liked, but the style was perfect.  And given the humidity outside, standing and waiting to order for 15 minutes left me as sweaty as if I were on a corner in KL. 

I believe this is the truck by the folks at Satay Sarinah. Or, at least, they have a truck.

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Work trip back home = many old favorites!!!

I hit A&J, Pupatella, the Lickety-Split at Eve, Ravi, and Jason's (Artisan Confections) with nary a miss amongst the set. Miss them all already - again!

Also tried Brabo and Red Rocks in Old Town. Brabo was rather excellent, with interesting, very good food (foie gras mousse and rockfish - both decadent but light enough for a heavy summer night), service, and atmosphere, and Red Rocks is no Pupatella in the pizza dept, but has quite fine vegetable and salad dishes.

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Metro made me late (very) in arriving at my destination to watch the USA-Germany World Cup game today, so I had to stand through the whole game and had no time to order food at the sports bar after the game before heading to my haircut appointment. (Here I thought I had all my timing down just perfect.)

I ended up eating food from at the Au Bon Pain in the food court at Pentagon City.  I wanted something remotely healthy.  So, for $5.15, I got two hard-boiled eggs and about a cup of what they called "Wheatberry Waldorf Salad" from the refrigerated case.  This did not resemble any Waldorf Salad I've ever had.  There were 6 or 8 chunks of Granny Smith apple and what appeared to be some mininiscule fragments of walnut.  I love wheat berries, though, and that's what this mostly was, along with a citrusy dressing.  Satisfying and remotely healthy and quick and cheap.

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Work trip flying through IAD (I was actually in PA all week, from which there is basically nothing to report) = predictably great eating on both ends of the trip (edited for clarity  :))

A&J, Pupatella, Ravi 2, Pad Thai, and Amphora. Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum (friendly!), and convenient, as expected. I miss home (Don, I live in Southern California now!)

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The usual misspelling is "miniscule", so you get points for creativity. The actual spelling is "minuscule", which, as Don will attest, is an appropriate characterization of my membrum virile.

[i'll leave this stand because you put some creativity into it, but don't you dare pick on our Membership Director!]

Work trip through IAD = predictably great eating.

A&J, Pupatella, Ravi 2, Pad Thai, and Amphora. Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum (friendly!), and convenient, as expected. I miss home!

Sundae, I don't understand this. Assuming IAD = Dulles, what does that have to do with these restaurants - I might be having a memory block, but did you move?!

(Aside from that, did you notice Ravi's (somewhat) new chaat house?)

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The usual misspelling is "miniscule", so you get points for creativity. The actual spelling is "minuscule", which, as Don will attest, is an appropriate characterization of my membrum virile.

Wow.  I'm amazed that's all you could find.  I arrived at the sports bar at noon and had watched 2 World Cup matches by the time I posted that.  I must have ignored the annoying spell-correct that comes up on the my screen whenever I'm typing.

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Big Buns:  Big Buns makes me so happy. Fish salad was fantastic although pass on the pickled tomatoes..maybe pickled food should only be enjoyed in winter.  Chocolate malt: yum.

Suki Asia:  Why don't more people go here. Change that. Don't go here: The line is too long as it is.

Daily Grill: not as bad as you think it's going to be

Marcel's: underwhelming...maybe my expectations were too high.

National Zoo: Can the Indian Museum people please put a food place in the zoo? Please?

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We haven't dined out much lately.  Having an elderly dog does this to a household.  Mostly it's been lunches and the occasional weekend dinner out.  One quick one has been Lighthouse Tofu in Annandale for a quick, cheap bowl of soondubu.  This is our benchmark. This weekend, we were out shopping in Fairfax at Super H and decided to have lunch there at their Evergreen cafe.  Prices were higher than I recall, about the same as Lighthouse.  Fortunately, quality was also about the same.  Barbara enjoyed the Kimchee Soup. It had a pleasant sourness to it, probably from vinegar, vaguely reminding me of a hot sour soup in that way.  I had the Soondubu (AKA Tofu Stew).  There was a fair amount of small shrimp and mussels in the soup, and I found an egg yolk at the bottom of the bowl, so you can either stir it in or let it poach and then pull it out and break it over your rice.  We also had the seafood pancake, again an excellent treatment with larger slices of squid and some small shrimp.

For some reason A&J has become our brunch of choice. Pan fried dumplings, scrambled egg in rolled up crepe, pressed tofu with cilantro and peanut salad, marinaded spicy cucumber, and sometimes the scallion pastry, pigs ear, or spicy wontons.  It's all good, and if you need more spice or savor, add some soy sauce or hot pepper from the jar on the table.

Speaking of hot peppers...

I had stopped in next door at Wiseguys for a slice.  Crisp-tender pizza crust, but a little too tender, really needs some chewiness to it, but otherwise straight on good Noo Yawk style pizza. I asked the cashier if they sold beer, and she said you had to go next door.  So, after I ate my slice, I headed next door to the Carving Room for a beer.  And after a beer, I decided I was still peckish and asked about the chicken wings.  The bartender described the honey harissa as being a mixture of harissa sauce and honey, sort of sweet-hot, as opposed to the chipotle BBQ which was smokey-spicy.  I ordered the honey harissa wings, and they were the hottest wings I have had in a while.  The honey helped adhere the pepper sauce to the wings.  I've enjoyed the spicy pleasures of Joes Noodle House and Hong Kong Palace (they know to give me the heat), and I don't know that I've ever had anything as spicy as these wings.  They were tasty, but truthfully I'm thinking they went overboard in spicy.

Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church has been serving steamed, then fire-roasted artichokes, for $8 or so for 3 halves. It's served with an aioli sauce, and is perfect for sharing and nibbling on while having a beer or two.   I don't know how much longer it will stay on the menu.  For me, I like eating artichokes, but I don't like fooling with them at home, so it's perfect for a snack and a break from shopping.

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There's probably a better place to put this, but I had family in town over this long weekend, and we had multiple restaurant meals. Dinner Friday at Villa Mozart in the City of Fairfax. Dinner Saturday at Fiola Mare in Georgetown. Lunch Sunday at Maple Avenue Restaurant in Vienna. Dinner Sunday at Curry Mantra on Main Street in the City of Fairfax. Dinner Monday in the lounge at Marcel's in the West End.  Not everyone was at every meal, but my sister and I were at every one. Which one would you guess we agreed was the best meal of the lot?

Go on, guess.

.......................................

Got it yet?

.....................................

Yes, it was Curry Mantra on Main Street. I've eaten there several times before, and it was always at least okay, but last night it was shockingly good, and I don't know how to account for it. We had pappadums to start, which I doubt they make there, but the green chutney they came with was vibrant and exciting. For our meal we ordered mixed tandoori grill, which was pieces of chicken, lamb, spicy lamb sausage, and shrimps, all beautifully spiced with some sort of residual saucy goop, all of it wonderful except the shrimp, which were kind of tired (but there were only two of them); the sausages bordered on incendiary, but managed a sort of subtlety all the same. Lamb saagwala exuded extravagant but precise spicing; the spinach was what you'd dream of, not the baby-food-textured spinach you get in many Indian-restaurant spinach dishes, but still recognizable spinach, with cubes of chewy but wonderfully tasty lamb. Yellow daal was a brilliant side, again, quite piquant but not merely hot-- with richly textured spicing and a silkiness to the lentils. Garlic naan was crisp around the edges, elastic and chewy, a little oily, and with wonderful garlic flavor: Obviously right out of the oven, it was certainly the best naan I ever ate in my life. This restaurant never performed like this on previous visits. I guess the really good cook rotates among the branches, and was in this one last night? One thing we all agreed was that on previous visits we erred in ordering mediocre but very filling appetizers, which diminished the dishes that followed; but those dishes were never as good as these.

All of our other meals were good. It was the first time at Fiola Mare for all of us, and we all had mixed feelings about the place, the service, and the food, although I certainly ate some great food that night. Villa Mozart was its usual quiet, competent, smoothly excellent self, still one of the best restaurants in the area. My sister and I had dinner alone in the bar/lounge of Marcel's, and I mean alone: we had the entire room to ourselves for the evening. I didn't look into the main dining room, but from the sound of it they were doing pretty good business, but we were in blissful solitude and quiet in the lounge. The food was solid, top-notch work as always, and the service is what one has come to expect from the over-all best restaurant in the city, which I consider it to be. The wine prices continue to be brutal, though. We had a lovely bottle of Mas des Bressades Costieres de Nimes Rosé, a wine I've been enjoying for years. They currently have it at Calvert Woodley for $9.99. On the list at Marcel's it's $50.00. That seems a bit extreme, 500% of retail.

Anyway, I have praise for all of these restaurants, but single out Curry Mantra on Main Street for the highest praise. I couldn't have been more impressed, and my companions absolutely agreed. I wish there was something comparable in Foggy Bottom.

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My mom was in town last weekend. Friday after picking her up at BWI we went to Vin 909* in Annapolis for lunch. Saturday after my daughter's swim lesson in North Bethesda (a/k/a Rockville) we went to K Pot for KBBQ. Too full for dinner. Sunday we had crabs (with various other fishies and sides) at Harris Crab House on Kent Island. Too full for dinner. Monday we had breakfast at Parkway Deli.

*I'd been to Vin 909 for lunch one other time a couple of years ago. I enjoyed myself, but I don't remember a lot of details. This time I thought it was fine, but I didn't really get the hype or the long waits at dinner. (Lunch is the time to go if you don't want to wait!) Our pizza was supposed to have crab on it, and there was very little crab. Also a weird squiggle of aioli -- not sure how I feel about aioli on pizza (the menu said there would be aioli, but I don't think I really processed that before we ordered). Luscious heirloom tomatoes, though. The much hyped butterscotch pudding was meh -- not as rich and flavorful as I would have expected. $5 glasses of wine at lunch!

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I'm loosely considering this where did you dine and drink. Only sit-down meal since pandemic (15 entire months, wow): Belga, outside on Barracks Row. We were there on a Tuesday and their delivery (whoa with the supply chains) is Wednesday, so they were out of some things. The service was super spectacular and very helpful and friendly. Accounting for the outages and the particular quirks of dining outside on Barracks Row, it was just nice to have a meal out. They truly couldn't have been nicer. The fries were excellent, as was my husband's pea soup. The soup was fabulous.

Otherwise, it's been coffee shops for takeout and bars: Tunnicliffs, Mission, and the Pug. At Tunnis, all of the Sunday regulars were there so it was time warpish. At Mission (before a Nats game) I stayed downstairs so as not to be around a lot of people but had to go through the full gigantic 2nd floor bar for the bathroom because the ground level ones were full. I told my friend it was like jumping into the deep end of the pool. That was a LOT of people. It reminded me of Jasper's in Greenbelt at peak time. (Don?)

The Pug was empty when I went in near opening time. I drank beer, took in the entire space, listened to music, and I swear I felt 25 years younger. Given that the pandemic aged me by 15 years, I took 10 years of aging off just by going in here. :lol:

 

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I had two meals recently that were extremely disappointing, but I’m not going be naming names during the pandemic. 

Anyway, a truly great chef, now working at a bustling restaurant in residential Dupont, seems to have his hands tied, and I can’t recommend any of the four savory dishes I had, including the vaunted chicken; the service was fantastic, however.

Up Connecticut Avenue near Politics & Prose, I had one of the most disenchanting meals I’ve had in the past year. The appetizers arrived before the wine, and the entrees arrived while we weren’t even halfway through the appetizers - and the only positive thing I can say about the meal is that the lettuces were of good quality. When I asked our server who was running the kitchen now, I was stunned to hear the answer: “Pretty much no one.”

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Building on Don's comments above, I'll advise you to avoid damn near everything on the Haikan meun except the Ramen.  That's probably not shocking for a Ramen joint but I wasn't up for a giant bowl of Ramen so I ordered some apps off the menu that went from meh (the smashed cucumbers - - I make a much better version at home and A&J makes an infinitely better version) to inedible (the calamari - - it looked and tasted like unseasoned deep fried rubber bands and I left 90% of it on the plate).  The one saving grace was from the Specials menu - - the seared salmon.  It was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

It was only after I ordered and ate/didn't eat the apps that I noticed they had half portions of Ramen on the menu.  D'oh!  That's what I was looking for the whole time!  I ended up ordering a bowl and it was very good.

Summary:  Order Ramen at a Ramen place.     

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