Ambar

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

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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&pizza

&pizza, web site, 705 H St NW, Washington, DC, 202-558-7569 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Ylp]

I was walking from Union Station to about NY Ave. and 11th, and needed to eat along the way. I passed through Chinatown, but to have taken a meal there seemed to me a bit…complacent. I have Chinese food all the time, and at this time I cannot afford to be too complacent. So I thought: what might serve as a radical shake-up for Tyler Cowen?

West of Chinatown, on H St., I saw a gleaming, fast food pizzeria, namely &pizza. Living in my own strange ethnic bubble, I had never heard of it before. In fact I don’t think I have had fast food pizza since I was a kid. “This will do,” and I thought of the anecdotal value I would reap, albeit at the expense of a good meal. For all my hesitation, the gleaming metal of the interior started to exercise a strange hold over my imagination. I walked out once and then back in again.

I ordered a pizza margherita and water for $10, and to my surprise it was ready in two minutes, in a funny box to fit the oblong shape of the pizza itself. To my bigger surprise, it was really, really good. Betraying its apparent origins, it seemed completely fresh, and twenty years ago it might have ranked as the best pizza pie in all of DC. I thought I would just snack on a piece, but I ended up eating the whole pie. It was just the right size.

Funnier yet, the company is a DC start-up (don’t laugh too hard), yet without seeming to do any lobbying of the federal government.

And here is the real news: More Than 50 Couples Have Already Signed Up To Get Married At &pizza.

The next time I will go to one on purpose.

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

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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, web site, Eden Center, 6799 Wilson Blvd., #10, Falls Church, VA, 571-405-6947 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Ylp]

When I go to a new hot pot place, I typically feel it’s going to be a bit more of the same. But this one I enjoyed more than expected. It has a broader selection than most hot pot places and the vegetables are clearly above average. The key to eating well here, in my view, is to opt for the spiciest hot pot broth. You see, they don’t have the typical sauces readily available (though you can pay and beg for them). But if you dip your items into the spiciest broth they offer, the spices come through strongly enough and you don’t need an additional dipping sauce. Note that this place gets crowded and a reservation is probably needed. The service is also a bit uneven, though friendly. Overall this is a plus for the area, worth having in the repertoire. It, along with the newish Thai and Korean places in Eden Center, shows the shopping mall has made a big comeback as an outlet for restaurant innovation and not just a large number of Vietnamese places.

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Bindaas

Bindaas, web site, 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 202-244-6550 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Ylp | Gayot]

From the people who brought you Rasika, this place is more casual. If you go with four people for lunch you can order the entire lunch menu and maybe a few doubles. That is what we did. Everything was quite good, though the median dish was not a revelation. They served some cup thingies filled with avocado (Avocado Golgappa), I thought that was by far the best item and we ordered a few more of those. It is one of the best dishes in town. The two kinds of uttapam were stellar. Nothing was bad. So your first visit here, I say diversify. For later visits, specialize in the best dishes. There is more on the dinner menu, by the way. Overall this place is just Indian snacks, no curries, a very good idea says I.

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Kao Sarn Thai

Kao Sarn Thai, web site, 6795 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, VA, #12, inside, in Eden Center, 703-992-7440 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

This mom and pop is one of the very best Thai places around. The menu is limited, and they have only about six tables and a fairly small space, but it is cooked to southeast Asian tastes. Ask for it spicy. The Yum Woo Sen bean thread salad and the Kao Soi Curry Noodle Soup are especially good. All in all, a significant addition to the repertoire and a big sign that Eden Center is making a significant comeback.

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Posted in Eden Center, Falls Church/Seven Corners, Thai, Virginia | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

San Francisco dining

Mandalay was the best Burmese food I’ve had, probably ever (NB: I’ve never been to Myanmar). Get the noodle dishes and soups, not the meat-based curries. In the Richmond neighborhood.

Angor Borei is very good Cambodian, I enjoyed the pumpkin curry. Then you can walk down Mission and spot dozens of other interesting ethnic places. Along that stretch is Prubechu, the first Guam restaurant I’ve seen (NB: I’ve never been to Guam).

Banana House, Thai food at Kearny and Bush, surprisingly good for such an unfruitful part of town; get the duck salad.

Al’s Place, expensive with one Michelin star, is the best and most original set of vegetables I can recall eating in this country. But when they tell you to eat the salad with your fingers, is that a sign of pretension or lack of pretension? If you have to ask, the answer is pretension. Still, on both the tastiness and originality scale this place ranks highly.

Amawele’s South African Kitchen, serves Durban food more than anything else. Right in the heart of downtown, charming, imperfect, but where else in this country can you get Bunny Chow (NB: not made of bunnies)?

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

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Finnish dining markets in everything

A pop-up in Helsinki, Finland might have just stumbled upon the answer to a question nobody was really asking: How can I order delivery and also go to a restaurant at the same time? Sure, table service restaurants kind of do that already if you look at them from far away — customers enter a restaurant, they order, and food is delivered to their table — but the AmEx-sponsored Take In goes a step further.

With no kitchen, guests at Take In choose from a curated selection of dishes from roughly 20 restaurants via an app called Wolt, the other sponsor of the pop-up. Guests eat their dinner in the Take In dining room. Take In offers bar service, and “hosting service,” helping get orders to the correct table. Guests who just want to drop in for a drink are welcome to do so. While it seems like a concept designed for solo diners, a Wolt spokeperson tells Monocle that the restaurant offers a solution for groups who can’t decide on what they all want to eat. The Take In pop-up started at the beginning of November, and will run through April 2.

Here is the full story, via Steve Rossi.

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

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