DCA to Fairfax, looking for one lunch and one dinner with these criteria
I'll be flying into DCA and renting a car to eventually get to Fairfax, willing to detour a bit, but with no real desire of driving into DC proper.
I'll likely be solo diner with focus on food more than atmosphere and service. Alcohol is not a consideration. I'm looking for something unique that's non-chain. Bonus for bold flavors, adventurous ingredients, offal, or standout ethnic, and chef's counter. Or as close to all that as possible.
With time for just one lunch and one dinner, what are your recommendations for me?
I'd hit Curry Mantra on Main Street in Fairfax for lunch. They have a tiny Indian buffet with a rotating bunch of dishes. Everything is fresh and the spicy dishes are actually spicy. Even the iced tea is interesting- flavored with cloves. There are a couple Curry Mantras but I haven't been to the other.
Two places in Falls Church:
Bangkok Golden for their Lao menu. I suggest calling at least 3 days in advance and ordering at least one item off-menu; ask for the som pa (fermented fish) raw. You could also ask for Kao Soi, Lao style. (the difference from the Thai version will be no coconut milk, no sweetener, and spicier).
Nam Kao - Rice Ball Salad.
Larb with liver.
*Grilled pork neck is a must order. This has to be marinated for a long time, and it shows.
Mieng Muang Luang (rice paste wrap) is a very unusual dish because it is a true homestyle dish that you normally wouldn't see in a restaurant.
Moak normai, smoked bamboo shoots warapped in banana leaf.
*Dried pounded fish.
Call first, ask to speak with Chef Seng, you will be treated very well.
*Not on the menu, but almost always availalbe if you ask.
Also, according to her blog, she offers a variety of tasting menues for $25 (!) if you call in advance.
Then for lunch only, there is Luzmilla's, a true hole-in-the-wall for Bolivian food. Open 12 noon to 6pm seven days a week. Get a saltena (must order), humintas, sopa de mani, and a mocochincho to drink. Be careful with the saltena, there is hot soup inside. You have been warned. Aji de lengua is very good here. Bolivians do my favorite preparation of tongue. The enrollado is a cold pickled pork roll with pork, ham, and a kind of head cheese.
You are going to need some serious help here. Even one order is ridiculously large.
Bangkok Golden is very good but I have different favorites. Typically we'll have some sausage (they have sour or non-sour and I prefer the non-sour), some larb (many varieties, including offal that's on a special menu), an orm ( I like the catfish, tilapia, and offal - just remember almost every dish on the menu has a special menu offal counterpart), and fried watercress with shrimp. I actually find the grilled meats cloyingly sweet.
Check out Le Mediterranean Bistro, it's a French/Moroccan restaurant.
There are lots of Peruvian polla a la brasa, middle eastern kebab, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean if you're interested....
These are great ideas. Compiling a list and will research. Thanks! Keep the suggestions coming...
bangkok golden gets my vote.
i always get the thai papaya salad -- very hot --
and the crispy rice ball salad with sausage. if you want spicy, they'll sure accommodate you.
like the fermented fish salad, too.
My meal was rushed due to work commitments and ridiculous traffic in the area, but I enjoyed the rice ball salad and grilled pork neck. Plus, the chef sent out a small sample of som pa, as she was surprised I had heard about it--and probably felt bad when I expressed disappointment that the tasting menu option was gone. The tilapia was in the early stages of fermentation, but was still enjoyable. Thank again for all the help!