TooSso Pakistani in Sterling
TooSso is in a strip mall near Dulles Town Center and has a tiny menu which seems to be lunch-oriented. Most dishes are either rolls in an excellent thin roti or bowls over rice.
I don't know much about Pakistani food, but it was delicious, aggressively spiced, and we will go back for more. This was much hotter than Shiney's in Annandale.
Reshmi Kebab ($4), which is a ground spiced beef in roti.
Zeera Aloo bowl ($4.50), a spiced potato dish over rice
Biryani bowl ($7), Biryani chicken over rice
Pakoras ($2)-vegetable fritters
The pakoras were actually the real standout. Vegetables were shredded thicker than in most Indian versions I've tried and the batter was the lightest I ever recall having in a Pakistani or Indian version. We were really blown away by how delicious this version was.
This is an order at the counter sort of place, with movies being projected on one wall.
They have some weekend specials, including a Pakistani breakfast for $5.
A skinny fridge holds some interesting canned drinks (the Pakistani cream soda is bright green and has "cream soda flavor" ) and there's a soda fountain, but they appear to be booze free.
I have been to TooSso a couple of times. My assessment of TooSso is that it is so-so. It is definitely better than a lot of the other Pakistani options nearby, but that's not saying much since those places are oily spicy grease pits of heart burn.
TooSso serves food that is nicely spiced (not aggressively in my opinion), less greasy than other options (all Pakistani food is going to be a little greasy for some people), but IMHO not salted well enough. I am big on food being well seasoned in all ways, including salt, so that is disappointing.
Their biryani tastes most like a home cooked Pakistani biryani, and not like the dreadful oily stuff at the other places.
Their nihari is reputed to be inconsistent...in the local Pakistani community, this is what everyone says about TooSso, that one weekend the nihari is good, next weekend terrible.
The two attractions that many Pakistanis go far are not actually the bowl dishes...TooSso serves a selection of unique (for NoVa) snack foods that in Pakistan are typically available at street stalls. The two main ones are the dum ka qeema roll---seasoned ground beef served in a whole wheat flour wrap, and the bun kabaab---a shaami kabaab (beef and channa daal seasoned and ground together, then shaped in a patty, dipped in egg, and pan fried) served on a bun with tamarind chutney and raw onions. Both of these are good, but need a sprinkle of salt. They do not keep salt on the table and you have to ask for salt.
TooSso has some very good in-house made South Asian desserts. They make their kulfi (like ice cream) and it is quite nice. They have an amazing falooda-kulfi, rose syrup, holy basil seeds, and arrowroot jelly noodles which is kind of like a cross between a shake and a sundae. If you are the type of person who likes to try new and exotic things, or if you are familiar with falooda but haven't had a good one in a while, TooSso is worth checking out just for their falooda.
Many people also like TooSso because the decor is contemporary and evokes nostalgia from Pakistani diners with features like milk canisters as stools and so on. It is not like the kitschy and dingy Pakistani alternatives in Sterling-Herndon-Chantilly.
TooSso unfortunately has a reputation of mediocrity for many Pakistanis in the area, but it is still popular simply because it is better than any other of the close by options. It has the potential to be better but has put people off due to poor service (long waits for simple orders, limited seating, owner chatting with friends and serving them while others wait, unbussed tables, etc.) as well as food that is good but not fabulous, and sometimes inconsistent.
I hate Pakola (the soda in the green can) but once again, if you like exploring, why not give it a try? Go to TooSso for something different, a Pakistani menu that is not available at any of the other Pak-North Indian places nearby, and food that is better than the other Pakistani places. Go for a qeema roll or a bun kabaab and have a faloodah after. Also, the biryani is not bad. It would make a good stop on a lunch hour rotation. It's not a bad place, it's just not spectacular, which is why I never wrote about it on the board before. (I usually post about finds or search to see if others have checked them out.)
We were not crazy about the bright green cream soda, but it was interesting. I liked the almond milk and cardamom drink. We will have to try the faloodah next time--I was tempted by the pictures.
Our biggest challenge will be that the spicing is too much for the chowpup, who doesn't like heat unless she's at Hong Kong Palace.
In addition to the nihari, they have halva poori for breakfast on weekends. It would be a late breakfast, like a brunch. It is a deep fried white flour flat bread, a "halva" (like a pudding) made of semolina fried in oil/ghee and sweetened with sugar...very heavy but can be delicious if made well, and spiced chickpeas, which you are probably familiar with (like channa masala). You eat the puri with both the sweet halva and the spicy chickpeas.
Just wanted to update that my husband brought home the halva poori weekend special breakfast/brunch for us to try this weekend, and it was really really good. (I should correct myself above when I said poori is just white flour, it is white flour and semolina based.)
The deep fried poori comes with halwa, the semolina pudding. It looks very oily but I assure you that it is supposed to be that way. It also comes with potato curry and chickpea curry. The potato bhaaji is seasoned mainly with chile and nigella seeds. Chickpeas were cooked in a browned onion masala. Yum. Bhaaji and chholay nicely chile hot while not being overly spiced with powdered masalas, just right. Poories were soft and crisp at the same time. I don't have this often because it's really rich and fattening...meant to sustain farmers who work with their bodies all day. But next time anyone is up for something different for a weekend brunch, I'd definitely recommend this place for the halva-poori.