Nue Elegantly Vietnamese

Nue Elegantly Vietnamese, web site, 944 W. Broad St., Falls Church, VA, 571-777-9599 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | WaPo | Arlington Mag]

Sort of fusion, sort of fancy, way too loud. I quite liked the salad and the asparagus soup, but the coconut rice struck me as too bland and also a little too sweet. Somehow this is just not my kind of place. Some will like it, but for me the price + noise = value proposition just isn’t there.

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Truong Tien

Truong Tien, web site, 6763 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, VA, Eden Center, inside the mall, the back end far from the road, 703-216-2868 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | WaPo | Reddit]

The best Vietnamese place around right now (Nov. 2023). Everything seems to be quite good, many Hue dishes as well. Get the little scoopy things that you dip in a sauce. Good Seven Courses of Beef, a smaller version. Good pho. It’s just better than the other places, and somehow it reminds me more of the Westminster Vietnamese places in Orange County, CA. Note it is small and fills up early. Let us hope this harkens the end of “the great stagnation” in Vietnamese restaurants in northern Virginia.

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Joon, web site, 8045 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA (in that strip mall right next to the Tiffany’s), 571-378-1390 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | Washington Post | Arlington Mag]

One of the very best places around, for any cuisine. The kabobs are OK, but the real stars are some of the side dishes. Get the cucumber salad, especially if the pomegranate seeds garnish is in season. They serve best Mast-o-Moseer I ever have had, use it on the bread and on the meats. A friend of mine called the Cherry Rice “the best rice I’ve had, ever.” That order is a must. Very good fesenjan, and also pistachio soup. I haven’t yet had the $150 duck dish for six, but probably it is very good? The best desserts I’ve had in any Persian restaurant. Not outrageously priced, but not Mom n’ Pop prices either. It gets loud on Saturday nights, but other times a very good place to sit and talk. Definitely recommended.

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Ceibo, 2106 18th St. NW, 1st Floor, Washington, DC (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Eater]

Uruguayan comfort food, very enjoyable. I quite liked my Milanesa, stuffed with ham and cheese, the bread, and the olives. Not cheap but also not expensive by today’s standards. Yes they have steak. Small menu but appealing all around. Good service, not too loud. Let’s hope that the young eating clientele of the neighborhood is up to supporting this place…

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Amazon drivers’ urine packaged as energy drink, sold on Amazon

The drink had all the hallmarks of a beverage sensation. Striking design, bold font, and the punchy name Release. But inside, each bottle was filled with urine allegedly discarded by Amazon delivery drivers and collected from plastic bottles by the side of the road.

That didn’t stop Amazon from listing it for sale, though. Release even attained No. 1 bestseller status in the “Bitter Lemon” category. It was created by Oobah Butler for a new documentary, The Great Amazon Heist, which airs on Channel 4 in the UK today.

Butler is a journalist, presenter, and renowned puller of stunts—he’s probably most famous for turning his shed in a London garden into the number one ranked restaurant on Tripadvisor. The Great Amazon Heist begins with him infiltrating an Amazon distribution center in Coventry with a hidden camera and speaking to workers who complain of foot and back pain, potentially dangerous working conditions, and near-constant surveillance. Butler spends his first day unloading a baking-hot truck with no working fan or air conditioning.

Amazon spokesperson James Drummond says “nothing is more important” than employee safety and well-being and that the company provides protective clothing and footwear and has “dedicated health and safety teams on site.”

Butler happens to be present during a hiring spree at the Coventry warehouse. At the time, workers were trying to gain union recognition, and the GMB union has since accused Amazon of deliberately hiring hundreds of extra staff to scupper the vote. Amazon denies this.

He is recognized within days and so resorts to interviewing delivery drivers, who tell him that they’re penalized for slow deliveries to the extent that they have to urinate in bottles because they don’t have time to find anywhere to stop for bathroom breaks.

Drivers urinating in bottles has been reported in the past, but what wasn’t known is that some claim they also get penalized for having those urine-filled bottles in their truck when they return to the warehouse. (Drummond denies this and says Amazon drivers receive reminders to take regular breaks on the Amazon Delivery app). To avoid penalties, they end up discarding the bottles by the side of the road. Butler searches the roadsides near Amazon warehouses from Coventry to New York to Los Angeles and more often than not strikes liquid gold.

From there, it’s laughably straightforward for Butler to get Release listed for sale on Amazon, with very few checks and balances in place to ensure the product he’s selling is safe and legal. “Releasing the drink was surprisingly easy,” Butler told WIRED. “I thought that the food and drinks licensing would stop me from listing it, so I started it out in this Refillable Pump Dispenser category. Then the algorithm moved it into drinks.”

At one point, he’s even contacted by an Amazon representative ready to handle the packaging, shipping, and logistics through the Fulfillment by Amazon program. (No members of the public were actually sent driver urine; instead Butler corralled a group of friends into making the purchases.) When he saw the product listed for sale, Butler felt “initially really excited and found it very funny,” he says. “Then when real people started trying to buy the product, I felt a bit scared.”

Drummond says this was a “crude stunt” and that the company has “industry-leading tools to prevent genuinely unsafe products being listed.”

If there’s a theme to the documentary, it’s that it’s remarkably simple to outwit one of the world’s biggest companies. For his next trick, Butler gets his nieces—aged 4 and 6—to purchase products that are only intended to be sold to adults. In at least four cases, legally required age verification measures were not in place at either the point of sale or delivery. By placing orders with voice control through Alexa, the girls were able to order knives, saws, and rat poison to their front door. Some of these packages were delivered to Amazon lockers, making it physically impossible for the delivery driver to check whether the person receiving the item was an adult.

“Customers must be 18 and over to use Amazon services unless a parent or guardian is involved,” says Drummond. “The majority of products purchased by Channel 4 do not legally require age verification, either at the point of purchase or delivery. Four products were categorized incorrectly, and we have now addressed this.” He says Amazon takes its age verification responsibility “extremely seriously” and that it uses trusted global ID verification systems for bladed items and verifies age on delivery.

The final part of the program turns its attention to Amazon’s taxes—the company has been criticized for using complex but legal arrangements to reduce its overall tax liability, such as running sales through a subsidiary in Luxembourg. Butler interviews Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who argues that Amazon benefits from public infrastructure and should therefore pay its fair share to fix Britain’s crumbling roads. Butler buys pothole filler on Amazon. Knowing that Amazon processes returns based on the weight of the incoming packages, he sends back buckets of sand to get his money back—attempting to shield himself from legal liability for fraud by running everything through a shell company in Belize.

The Great Amazon Heist doesn’t tell us anything particularly new. (Drummond says the documentary is a “heavily distorted picture of our processes and operations that do not reflect the realities of shopping with or working for Amazon.”) But placing all of these elements alongside each other in an hour of television paints a stark picture. Drivers and warehouse workers put up with the conditions because they have no choice. Dangerous products were listed and sold to children with no checks in place. Byzantine structures shield the company from local authorities. According to Amazon’s mission statement, it “strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.” The Great Amazon Heist portrays a company that simply doesn’t seem to care.

Amazon drivers’ urine packaged as energy drink, sold on Amazon

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La Tingeria

La Tingeria, 626 S Washington St, Falls Church, VA 571-378-1593 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | Restaurantji]

Hey, this place is really good! Maybe the Mexican of choice in NoVa right now (Fall 2023)? And cheap. But note two features of the place. First, they have very few dishes – mainly tacos, quesadillas, sopes, and tortas. I would say that is a plus. Second, there are only two tables and a few extra seats. So go early, most people do take-out anyway. Most of all, they deliver on what matters, my favorite is the birria tacos.

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Chaatwala, web site, 1050 Elden St., Herndon, VA, 888-504-9666 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Restaurantji]

Mumbai snacks, this place really “sings.” Downright yummy, excellent Indian sandwiches too. Don’t expect a normal menu of curries, this is snacks and chaats all around. My favorite is the Papdi Bhalla Chaat, with lots of yogurt and pomegranate seeds, but overall the menu is quite consistent in quality. Definitely recommended.

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Sari Filipino Kusina

Sari Filipino Kusina, web site, 6920 Braddock Road, Annandale, VA, 571-395-4055 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | Roadtrippers | NoVA Mag]

An excellent choice for Filipino food, even if you think you don’t much love Filipino food. The dishes here are actually tasty. Most of all, I recommend the Sinigang, beef brisket (or pork) in a tamarind sauce, with green beans. The milkfish is very good, with kale cooked in coconut milk, and the sweet tocino is another highlight. The general orientation here is Filipino barbecue, but the dishes are careful enough and sophisticated enough to transcend that genre. This is also a great place to bring kids, as they have a separate “coloring station” on one side of the place set up for them. Recommended.

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Grand Cata at Mosaic

Grand Cata at Mosaic, web site, 8298 Glass Alley Unit 100, Fairfax, VA, 571-378-0684. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google]

Chilean and Argentinean, in part a shop for fine wine but excellent food as well. The best empanadas around? First-rate tuna pate. Very good grilled cheese sandwiches. That sort of place. Lots of charcuterie board. More of a sit-down snack site (two tables and a counter) than a full restaurant per se, but you can definitely eat a full meal here and go away very happy. They also have a Chilean choclo dish, I will try that next time.

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How to eat well in Sri Lanka

Food here is excellent, but eating well involves some counterintuitive advice.

For one thing, there are few “undiscovered gems” along the roadways. It is just not a thing here, and several Sri Lanka residents have confirmed this to me (one person suggested there used to be lots of them, but they have faded). During my extensive road travels, I saw many many closed, empty, or otherwise deserted roadside restaurants. The open ones had few or no customers. So don’t put a lot of time into searching for them. You will do just fine eating at the obvious restaurants, including hotel restaurants.

Often breakfast is the best meal, as you can sample hoppers and string hoppers. If they will cook a hopper for you with an egg (and spices) inside, do that. Think of it as a spongy carbohydrate turned into a kind of crepe. The egg inside should not be overdone, but the woman cooking it for you has done this 7,834 times before, so probably it will be just right.

When you get string hoppers, it is all a matter of composition. Put the right spices, sauces, and sambals on top. Ask for assistance. The quality of the string hoppers varies only marginally, it is really all about your skills at composition and at asking for aid.

Hoppers and string hoppers are pretty much always very good. You want to keep on ordering them. And yes, food in Sri Lanka is somewhat of an exercise in repeated monotony, but it is a very appealing repeated monotony.

Vegetables in Sri Lanka are first-rate, and if you visit the vegetable markets in and near Dambulla you will come away impressed. If you are served just ordinary broccoli or cauliflower, without spice or garnish, it will be as good as anywhere.

The best vegetable to eat Sri Lankan style is the green beans. Never turn them down. Overall, Sri Lanka is one of the very best countries for vegetarians or vegans. You’ll see many other kinds of curry, such as with jackfruit or manioc, and they are not bad, but once you have tried them you will be returning to the green beans.

The lentils are consistently superb, arguably better overall than in India, though in fewer styles. Keep on ordering them.

Thou shalt not refuse any curry served with cashews in it.

If you are at a buffet, sample any item that has a small green leaf in the sauce. Sample any item with an unusual name, with “tempered cowpeas” being one but not the only example.

Beware of buffets designed for Russian or Chinese package tourists, though usually there will be hoppers or string hoppers somewhere to be had.

Coconut roti is a wonderful snack, but you should not eat too many of them, either at once or across the course of a lifetime.

There is the usual array of tropical fruits, high in quality, though to be frank most of them bore me at this point.

Both pork and bacon are excellent (and common) in Sri Lanka. The pork is much better than the beef. So far I’ve had better luck with shrimp than with fish, though I don’t feel I’ve cracked the cultural codes yet for seafood. Some love Sri Lankan crab, but I haven’t had the chance to explore that direction.

Western-style baked goods are by no means a total disaster here, and it is not a mistake to try them. The high quality is supposed to stem from the earlier Portuguese influence, at least if you can believe llama Chat.

Aqua Forte, in Galle, is a Michelin star-quality Italian restaurant with affordable prices. The chef is from Trentino. The cured raw fish with pistachios is one of the best courses I’ve had in years.

In Colombo, Monsoon is a good Asian fusion place, get the beef rendang. Shang Palace is a good Chinese restaurant.

In sum, you can eat very well here at great prices and booking doesn’t ever seem to be a problem. You do need to be willing to double and triple down on some items, but don’t worry — you’ll like them!

Addendum: The perceptive reader will note I have covered only the food of southern Sri Lanka. That is also the part of the country — by far — that you are most likely to visit.

How to eat well in Sri Lanka

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution
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