Little Viet Garden

Little Viet Garden, web site, 6783 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, VA, 703-532-1069 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | TripAdvisor | Arl Mag | Ylp]

An offshoot of the quite good, Viet Garden, this place feels a little fresher. The baby clams, the vermicelli, the broken rice, and the caramel fish are all well above average. I don’t think you’ll find any startling revelations here, but if you are looking for a good all-purpose, go-to Vietnamese restaurant, and with reasonable crowds, this is surely one of the main contenders.


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Is there a restaurant bubble?

Mostly not, here is a good article by Maura Judkis. Here is part of the chat with me:

What’s happening is something that some restaurateurs may not want to hear: Competition in an already-tough business is getting even tougher. Cowen has an analogy: “Say you went to Hollywood and you asked, ‘Is there an actors-and-actresses bubble?’?” he said. True, there is an overabundance of aspiring stars who move to Los Angeles with dreams of making it big. They spend money, time and effort investing in their future. But for most of them, it will never pay off. Drama-school graduates know the risks, and still, they keep heading west, because they believe that they are different. With some hard work, they’ll be the ones to make it big. The overabundance of young ingenues will continue in perpetuity.

“You have too many people trying, but that’s going to persist more or less forever precisely because the reward is high,” said Cowen. “The world of fancier restaurants” — and casual restaurants, too — “has become more of a winner-take-all world.”

And how is this for a blasé response?:

There may be plenty of openings, but “the lower echelons of the business, they’re tapped out. You can’t find people [staff],” said Paul Guzzardo, a restaurant consultant and partner in several restaurants, including Leopold’s Kafe . He thinks that indicates a bubble, but Cowen disagrees.

“It has not been a speculative fervor,” Cowen said. “The laws changed, prices went up, some places had to adjust.”

The article is substantive throughout.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Posted in Economics of Dining | Leave a comment

Shenyang bleg

Not too long from now, I’ll be in Shenyang, formerly known as Mukden, and largest city of Liaoning province. It is also the largest city in China’s Northeast. What should I do there, and what/where should I eat? What else do I need to know? I believe Lang Lang is from this city, and the famous nine-hour documentary Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks is set in Shenyang. Note that “Due to the popularity enjoyed by many Shenyang-based comedians, the city is nationally recognized as a stronghold of Chinese comedy.”

I can hardly believe my good fortune at being able to visit Shenyang.

I thank you in advance for your assistance.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Q by Peter Chang

Q by Peter Chang, web site, 4500 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD, 240-800-3722 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Zagat | Washingtonian | DonRockwell | Ylp]

What’s the point of a review? Your visit here will be all about timing. For how long will this place stay wonderful? The menu offers Peking Duck, some dim sum, and Beijing street food with the Peter Chang standbys of cilantro fish rolls, Sichuan chili chicken, scallion fried fish, dried fried eggplant, and so on. So far it’s the best Peter Chang opening I’ve been to, so you certainly ought to try the place, and we’ll see how the trajectory develops.


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A safety net we all can stand behind

While food security has increased in importance globally, the availability of cheap and nutritious meals at hawker centres is particularly central to Singaporean life.

The hawker stalls that serve up traditional favourites such as char kway teow* and Hokkien mee (both noodle dishes), are regarded as a safety net for the poorest as well as a place where all levels of society meet. Politicians are conscious of the need to keep a lid on prices at these stalls.

That is from Jeevan Vasagar at the FT, and the article is interesting throughout. In earlier times, the hawker centres also were conceived as ways of improving public health (easier to monitor than street carts), subsidies to working long hours (quick food on the way home), and a means of making high-density construction, and thus small kitchens, bearable.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments.


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Indigo, web site, 243 K St NE, Washington, DC, 202-544-4777, the hours can vary on weekends so do check. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Michelin Guide | Ylp]

Gujarati food, really! This is probably the most neglected Indian restaurant around, and you don’t even have to go to the suburbs. Everything here tastes real. Do you know that kind of Indian place where the spices taste a little grainy because they haven’t been ground fully to a smooth blend? That is this place. Recommended, and badly needed as well.


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Posted in DC, H Street NE, Indian, Northeast | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


Ambar, web site, 2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 703-875-9663 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | WaPo | TripAdvisor |NoVA Mag | Ylp]

A true Balkan restaurant, staffed by many Balkans as well. Given its location in the heart of Clarendon, it is remarkable how authentic this restaurant is. I’ve eaten in most of the Balkan nations (Bosnia being my favorite for food), and this comes as close as you could reasonably expect. It is perhaps more Serbian than anything else. The catch is this: how good is Balkan food anyway? You’re not getting Bulgarian summer berries here, or even the very best Ottoman dishes of Bosnia. You’re getting a pretty good facsimile of something that ought to be a little better in the first place. And that is indeed the catch here. I’ll go back, but I am not sure it will become a regular haunt for me.


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Posted in Arlington, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


Arroz, web site, 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 202-869-3300 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | Washingtonian | Zagat | Ylp]

Located inside a big hotel complex (Marriott Marquis), this Mike Isabella Moroccan-Spanish restaurant is far better than you might be expecting. I had (parts of) six appetizers and every single one was excellent. The eggplant and the shrimp stood out, but they were closely clustered in quality. First-rate Moroccan bread, too. I suspect the question is not so much what to get, but when it will run out of gas and collapse into the “only somewhat above ordinary” category. Not cheap.


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Food consumption now has higher entry barriers than does music consumption

Marco Bresba emails me:

I loved your post on how Food has displaced Music in pop culture (March 29)

I’ve been thinking about the topic for years, and I believe complacency is pertinent.

Musical taste (like one’s taste in wine, food, books, etc.) provides a measure of social currency. It’s a way into a clique you want to join but admittance requires work.

Music no longer provides much of an effort barrier. Mention the most obscure band and I can become an expert in a few hours.

This was not always the case. Rewind to 1985: a classmate mocks me with “I bet you never heard of The Smiths.” He’s right. How do I get up to speed and become cool?

None of my radio stations play the Smiths. One channel teases me with a 3-hour alternative block every Sunday. The cool indie store is a bus ride away. And their inventory is spotty. The good stuff is imported form the UK. A domestic compilation is rumored for next year. Until then, would I be interested in the latest Cure single? They have one copy left. Only $9.99. I pick up the NME instead.

I hit a bunch of used record stores. Every second day. Two weeks later, I find one of the Smiths’ less popular singles. At this rate, I’ll be a fan by the time I graduate high school.

In our age of convenience, food still requires long term planning. At least the stuff foodies value. Will anyone care if I order Massaman Curry on Uber Eats? No. In order to become an elite foodie, I have to leave the house. I must shed my complacency in various ways:

  • I accept a 90 mins line-up to nab a seat at a Celebrity Chef Pop Up.
  • I have to befriend an annoying waiter at a hipster party just to find out how to secretly order raw pork at a suburban joint 45 mins away.
  • I worry I don’t have enough referrals to get invited to the newest alternative supper club.
  • I depend on the cheesemonger that only works on Saturdays to point out the best seasonal stinky varieties.
  • I stay up till midnight that one night Pied de Cochon accepts resos for their Sugar Shack months away.
  • I scold myself for not planning my Italian trip a year in advance – my bucket list meal at Osteria Francescana now in jeopardy.

In addition to the reasons you mentioned, food obsession will always hold currency because it still requires plenty of legwork. Music just needs an internet connection.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Street Kitchen

Street Kitchen, web site, 7943B Tysons Corner Center, Ste G21U (2nd floor), Tysons Corner, VA, Tysons Corner Mall I, floor 2, near the restaurant American Tandoor, 571-633-1820 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Zagat | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

A dosa stand in Tysons! It’s not just good for Tysons, it’s really good period. In fact I’ll put it in the top tier of dosa places around. And the Mysore masala dosa is the spiciest dosa I’ve had in this area in years. The sides are decent. I’ve tried the wraps there too, they are OK but not the reason to go. The dosas are excellent, hurrah!


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