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Tim Carman Embraces Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge in Laurel

Plus, reviews of Dumpling Queen, Smokehouse Live and Centrolina.

Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge
Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge
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In lieu of his regular review this week, Tom Sietsema goes to Los Angeles as part of his search for America's top food cities. He finds the restaurant scene lacking in traditional fine dining options but the diversity of cuisines there, from Mexican to Iranian, is unmatched. [WaPo]

After Tim Carman's readers bombarded him with dining suggestions in Laurel, he drives to Maryland to try them for his $20 diner column. He dines with one Laurel resident at Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge. He’s confused to find Sri Lankan dishes on the hybrid Indian-Thai menu, but then learns the owners hails from a region near the South Asian country. The egg curry with Ceylon paratha is the standout dish there. Carman writes:

"The flatbread, a coiled and crispy round, was the Sri Lankan equivalent of laminated dough; each buttery length of paratha served not just as an eating utensil but also as a complement and counterpoint to the cardamom-and-coconut-milk curry. The bread-and-sauce combination proved so addictive I ignored the two hard-cooked eggs, a pair of nerds at the prom."

Also in Laurel, he enjoys meals at Curry Leaf, Pasta Plus, Tampico Grill, Saritas Chicken and Restaurant and Olive on Main. [WaPo]

Todd Kliman reviews Dumpling Queen in Chantilly for Washingtonian magazine. Despite the name, he thinks the dumplings at its parent restaurant, China Bistro in Rockville, are superior. Instead of ordering dumplings or their Chinese-American dishes, the critic urges diners to go with a group and try lots of small plates:

"if you want to taste what’s authentically exciting, you need to cast your glance elsewhere—toward, say, a big bowl of cold sesame noodles ($7.95) slicked with a smoky, pungent chili sauce and white sesame seeds. Nor do you want to miss the noodle bowls, among them a tureen of well-extracted beef broth ($8.95) packed with thick noodles, slices of tender beef, and hunks of tomato. If you have a large-enough group, or you don’t have to return to work, consider a plate of battered fried ribs ($14.95)...—dusted with garlic and chilies." [Washingtonian]

Warren Rojas tries Smokehouse Live in Leesburg for Northern Virginia magazine and favors the huge selection of smoked meats over the sides. He writes:

"House pork belly... steals the show in a self-styled bahn mi composed of unctuous piggy, fiery Sriracha mayo and cooling cabbage slaw stuffed into a crusty baguette. Beef shoulder is lean; a thin ring of fat surrounds an otherwise muscular cut that should sate aficionados of traditional roast beef."

Other favorites include the "melt-in-your-mouth" brisket, buttermilk-soaked turkey breast, smoked chicken and beef short ribs. Rojas also likes the pea-real onion salad, whiskey-dill pickles and casseroles for Sunday brunch. [NoVa]

Don Rockwell goes to chef Amy Brandwein's Centrolina in CityCenterDC. The octopus dish exceeds his high expectations, and he also loves the salt-roasted beets and ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard and shredded beef. He writes:

"This was my introduction to Centrolina, but was also about the fifth restaurant where I’ve enjoyed Amy’s cooking, and she keeps getting better. There was nothing about this meal that I wouldn’t recommend, and the only reason I wouldn’t get things a second time is because there’s so much else to try here."

He also loses a game of pool at Bedrock Billiards in Adam Morgan. There’s no food there— just beer and pretzels. [DR]

THE BLOGS: DC Wrapped Dates says Momofuku CCDC is unimaginably tantalizing...District Brit thinks Peking Gourmet Inn is worth the drive...Bitches Who Brunch can't wait to go back to Bar Deco.

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