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Tim Carman Goes on a Gastronomic Safari at Lotte Plaza

Plus, Afghan dumplings at Lapis, Sietsema goes to San Francisco, and mole poblano at Taqueria el Mexicano.

Lapis Afghan Bistro
Lapis Afghan Bistro

Tim Carman stuffs himself silly with international treats at Lotte Plaza in Chantilly. For his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post, he compares exploring the global food riches at this combination food court, mall and grocery store to going on a safari:

"The hunt starts once you wind past the produce section, an international bazaar of fruits and vegetables, their tropical perfume sweetening the air as you skulk by. Three dining targets suddenly pop up, side-by-side-by-side, shooting-gallery style. You’ll come face to face with Chinese barbecued pork, Korean kimchi dumplings and Salvadoran pupusas bulging with cheese and loroco flower buds."

Carman loves the egg paratha and cholue bhature (puffy fried bread) from a Punjabi-style street food vendor. He also can't resist the Indian sweets and Asian French-influenced baked goods, even after eating Japanese eel donburi, Chinese roast duck, shumai dumplings, and kimchi mandu. Really, Carman’s only complaint is that one vendor's kimchi pancakes aren’t crispy enough. [WaPo]

Maura Judkis tries Lapis, an Afghan bistro in Adams Morgan, for the Washington Post's First Bite column. The Afghan owners previously operated French restaurant Napoleon in the space but recently changed the concept to serve their native cuisine.

One staff member is specifically tasked with making the labor-intensive Afghan dumplings. Owner and family matriarch Shamim Popal insists on making the complex firnee, a "silky smooth" cardamom-pistachio custard. Judkis is also intrigued by surprising vegetable dishes like "subtly spiced" okra and wedges of pumpkin. She's perplexed, though, by the portion sizes— several appetizers are actually larger than the entrees. [WaPo]

As part of his search for America's top food cities, Tom Sietsema explores San Francisco's dining scene in lieu of his weekly review of a local restaurant. He concludes the city is setting national food trends instead of following them and decides "eating and drinking are to San Francisco what government and politics are to Washington." [WaPo]

The Washingonian's Tom Kilman goes to Hyattsville to review Taqueria el Mexicano. Owners Barnardo and Clara Vargas get compliments for their "rich and complex" mole poblano. Actually, Kilman likes just about everything on the menu:

Pride in craftsmanship is evident throughout the small operation. The rice is no afterthought, prepared in the morning and left to sit in a pot all day. The quality of meats and fishes is markedly higher than at most of the taquerias in nearby Little Mexico, and the kitchen takes care not to overcook them. The four salsas pop with heat and tang. Best of all, the corn tortillas are made from scratch with masa harina. Note the coarse-grained texture, which—unlike the flat, unvariegated surface of mass-produced tortillas—doesn’t allow sauces to slip through.

Besides the mole, he also recommends the pork adobo, posole, tamales, and sopes. [Washingtonian]

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