Gharer Khabar in Arlington - Report
This is a tiny bangladeshi spot on Lee Hwy in the same strip as Caribbean Grill. Surrounded by dilapidated storefronts, it stands out with its pretty colors and attractive sign. There is another Bangladshi place called Deshi Spice in the same strip.
Gharer Khabar has no printed menu, just a few items scribbled on a chalkboard, though the selection doesn't change.
The key item here is the mughlai paratha, a flaky bread stuffed with egg and scallion. Do not miss this. It is $5 for a very big portion.
I also tried the 'vegetable' which is aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower), very good. Both curries I tried, goat and beef, were good. The food comes out very hot and fresh. A meal of the mughlai paratha and the vegetables will be a ton of food for $8 including tax. Counter Service.
Just wanted to add that they do change up some of the chalkboard menu from time to time. Order the chotapri ( I think that's how they spelled it), a simple chaat of yellow split peas or lentils tossed with raw onion and cilantro, and some very delicate and flaky pastry crisps. A touch of tamarind sauce is added. ($3).
Along with the muglai paratha, a simple and very good meal for two.
Finally made it there yesterday. Raja is the husband who runs it and we talked for a good 10-20 minutes while my food was prepared.
First, the mughlai paratha - if the place were open for breakfast I'd have this nearly every day (I don't think it's a good business model for them - just saying how good this dish is). I got everything to go, so I snacked on this dish on the way home. And at home. And....
Second, I got the goat biryani. flavorful as all get out. Wonderful dish. On the spices, I said not to dumb it down, and for Marty's account I wonder how close our experiences were. There seemed to be two kinds of peppers/chilies in there. One was green, full bodied, small and cut in half. The other were slivers of some red chili or pepper. Both had a good taste and both had spice. The briyani itself did not have spice, but since it's layered at the end (as opposed to the pullao), that may be the reason (just guessing).
He did speak about the dry fish. And while I was there two ladies came in to order the dry fish among other things.
He also said they had a chutney similar to Reston Kabob. I was supposed to get some, but I think the failure was on he and I both (wrapped in conversation).
He favorably mentioned Charcoal Kabob, fwiw. We had talked about how India isn't one thing (like China, Mexico, US, etc). He said he wanted to open a true Bangladeshi place - tired of going to NYC for such food.
For anyone new to this thread, there's a decent enough dining area, and it's a very inviting place. GO. SOON.
This is very promising. The mughlai paratha is very good, indeed (but note that there is meat inside, too -- beef, I believe). Easily enough for three/four people for an appetizer.
Chicken biryani also very good, as was the goat curry. Best of all was the channa dal, not on the menu. All of this and a couple of other, small items, too, for about $20. One of the best deals in town.
I have a nagging sense, however, that perhaps this place, like other Bangladeshi spots I've tried, is going to have issues with spicing. My experience has been that even though it's very homey fare, this cuisine can be transcendent when there's the right mix, and volume, of spices -- or that was the case, anyway, at the long lost Mina's in Queens, one of the most magical restaurants I've been to in the past few years. But that it's a very difficult, complex balance to strike.
Last night, everything was very tasty -- as I said, a ridiculous bargain by any standards -- but I was yearning for just a bit more revelation in the spicing, something that transforms the dishes out of the ordinary. That's obviously not what the chef (the wife of the couple) was shooting for, however. Don't know if it was because we were Anglo diners or because this is how she usually cooks the fare; but I had the distinct sense there was more lurking there there than met the eye (or tongue). Definitely a place where I think they'd be amenable if you asked them to provide "authentic" spicing -- they're really very nice, and aim to please.
Having said that, here's the rub . . . . Although the dishes were not very spicy, there were a few chilis in the mix, which provided a nice background buzz, and . . . the two people I was dining with both had a rather shocking awakening when they (presumably) ended up with a pepper directly on their tongue (they looked to be in the habanero family), something that caused a slow and intense burn over many minutes! If the food had generally been very spicy, they probably would have been prepared for it -- but it came out of nowhere. I really hope they don't "tone it down" for the non-Bangladeshi eaters -- if anything, it needs more (or more complex) spicing -- but perhaps it could be better integrated, so that it's not all-or-nothing in any particular bite. (Having said that, I'm woefully ignorant of this cuisine, so perhaps I'm way off base here. Feel free to chime in.)
re: Marty L.
Thanks for your detailed reply. I am surprised about the meat in the muglai paratha.
I agree with everything you said. It's all good, and an outstanding bargain.
I didn't get the impression that they held back for me or would change the spicing unless someone asked, but I don't know for sure.
There was a thick piece of bark (from some kind of plant) in my goat curry that I didn't recognize. Maybe someone else knows what it might have been.....
re: Marty L.
Sounds exciting! Gharer khabar means home food in Bangla :D (I did a development internship in Dhaka some years ago and can speak a bit of Bengali :D)
What about a hound meet up there for some Bengali food?
Just scoped out their reviews on Yelp! and saw they have foochka (Bengali style pani puri), borhani (like a spiced thin lassi), tehari (like a pullao) and shaami kabab...would like to know if they have any classic Bangladeshi fish dishes on the menu, also. Must go soon!!!