Grand Mart - Centreville, VA
This is an ethnic supermarket; primarily hosting Asian ingredients & foods, with a small foray into Hispanic choices & an even smaller foray (& pricey) section for regular American goods.
I do a LOT of ethnic cooking at home, & for the most part, stores like this tempt me like a sugar-addicted child in a candy shop. But at the same time, they also give me the heebie-jeebies. Popped in here Monday afternoon for a few things our local supermarkets don't carry (Hot Sesame Oil & Szechuan Chili Bean Paste to be exact), but of course I also felt compelled to bring home a few more selections as well.
Upon entering, one is immediately hit by an unpleasant smell. It dissipates once one gets well inside, but I'm not sure if it actually dissipates or if perhaps you just get used to it.
The produce all looked clean & fresh, tremendous variety (they even had Durian!), & the prices were irresistible. Picked up 6 long stalks of Lemon Grass for $.21, a full POUND bag of Bean Sprouts for $.99, 4 heads of Baby Bok Chow for $.62, etc., etc. At our local supermarkets, the above would have cost me at least triple. Also bought several bags of different dry lentils for making Indian dals, as well as the two items I had originally come in for.
The aisles of sauces, pastes, oils, rices, & other dry goods are very well stocked. I'd find it difficult to believe that I wouldn't be able to find whatever it was I needed for any Asian dish. The "hardware section" is dominated by pricey electric rice cookers, with the rest being, frankly, cheap imported junk (although I did pick up a small 3-tier bamboo steamer for cooking dim sum snacks). Meat department also looked fresh, clean, & well stocked, as did the various frozen food items. They also sell prepared/cooked food to go, but that section was closed, so can't comment on that.
The biggest problem at this place is the seafood department. While I enjoyed perusing the huge variety of fish presented on beds of ice in open-air chests, nearly everything looked a bit on the tired side, which is definitely not a good thing - for seafood in particular. In addition, they have a wall of tanks in which they supposedly have "live" items for sale - live fluke, lobster, Tilapia. . . . Definitely brought my gag reflex into play, as the tank waters were cloudy, & nearly everything was obviously DEAD. Dead lobsters, cloudy-eyed belly-up Tilapia, etc., etc. It was absolutely impossible for the guy behind the counter (or whoever manages the seafood dept.) not to notice this. They obviously don't care, which can't help but make one wonder about the provenance of the other fish & shellfish on display.
They were in the midst of doing a fair bit of restocking while we were there, & everyone working had the countenance of indentured servants. The young lady manning checkout obviously hates her job as much as the rest of the staff. Not a smile in sight. We were flinching as she slammed & lobbed our more fragile items around while ringing them up.
Bottom line: Good place to stock up on unusual produce & pantry items at more than reasonable prices, but steer clear of the seafood & don't expect a lot of courtesy.
Yeah, I used to go to that GrandMart. The produce selection is indeed very good. But once the Lotte opened in "downtown" Chantilly I had no reason to go back to GrandMart. The produce is just as good, the seafood is very nice, and they also have a huge selection of Indian foods. Also, it's very clean.
That GrandMart does have some good meat -- flank steak, etc. -- at reasonable prices.
Interestingly, I happened upon another Lotte in Ashburn last week, and was not as impressed. It was very clean and attractive, but just seemed too much like a regular American supermarket (Which it no doubt replaced in that space).