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Tim Carman Loves All the Veggies at Lapis in Adams Morgan

Plus, reviews of Taqueria El Mexicano, Compass Rose's Bedouin Tent, SER, and Social Oyster Bar.


Tim Carman goes to Lapis for a full review in the Washington Post. He awards the Afghan restaurant in Adams Morgan two and a half stars. Owners Zubair and Shamim Popal are highlighting the cuisine of their homeland. Carman is pleasantly surprised by the emphasis on vegetable dishes. He writes:

"The 16-bean Afghan 'risotto' is more stew than velvety rice preparation, a distinction that will help you revel in the fragrant dish without making unwarranted comparisons. Speaking of such, Lapis’s sabzi...has just supplanted Indian saag as my go-to spinach dish. Tomatoes make repeated appearances here, none better than in a dish called buranee banjan, in which eggplant slices are layered with sauteed tomatoes and topped with garlic yogurt and a sprinkle of dried mint."

As for meats, he prefers those from the grill over the stews. He also recommends the beef mantoo dumplings. The desserts, flavored with rose water and cardamom, are a little too floral for his personal taste. [WaPo]

For his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post, Carman goes to Taqueria El Mexicano in Hyattsville mole poblano is the dish to order. Carman writes:

The taqueria’s mole is as dark as crude oil, coating the chicken leg and breast in a shimmering sauce built from Mexican chocolate, bananas, nuts and several dried chilies, including pasilla, guajillo and ancho peppers. If the chicken arrives overcooked, don’t sweat it; you’ll be too busy deciphering the sweet, spicy, earthy, nutty flavors contained in this bottomless mole.

He also recommends the marinated grilled pork blackened served with Mexican rice and charred green peppers and cactus paddles, the carne asada, and the fajitas. The tamales and chicken chilaquiles have execution problems. Carman also warns diners to specifically ask for the homemade tortillas, or else they’ll get the packaged variety. [WaPo]

For his First Bite column in the Washington Post, Tom Sietsema dines one Moroccan food inside the Bedouin Tent at Compass Rose. Sietsema describes a "leisurely parade of dishes that would look at home in Rabat." He writes:

"Go slow with the thin eggplant fritters, sparked with preserved-lemon yogurt, that launch a meal, and the hearty harira soup, thick with chickpeas, that follows. Such caution requires great restraint, but the hours ahead pack in a shredded carrot salad sharpened with harissa and sweetened with raisins, and two tagines: one featuring fish, another meaty with braised lamb neck."

The experience must be reserved in advance. The meals happen three times a week for $70 a person (it's $30 more with drink pairings) for up to six guests. [WaPo]

David Hagedorn files a review of SER for Arlington Magazine. Seafood shines at the Spanish restaurant, especially in dishes like the tender Galician-style octopus, shrimp sautéed in red chili flakes, mussels seemed in tomato sauces, and tuna belly. The restaurant also serves a special, hard-to-find dish. Hagedorn writes:

"Percebes (gooseneck barnacles) are a delicacy in chef Zubikarai’s native Basque region. Freshly steamed and wrapped in a cloth, they look like prehistoric bird claws crossed with tarantulas... Pull the claws off to reveal small tubes of flesh enclosed in casings...and you’ll find that no dipping sauce is necessary (nor is any offered). The briny, salty crustaceans taste utterly and wonderfully of the sea, though their yield is meager considering the $22 price tag." [Arlington]

Laura Hayes dines at Social Oyster Bar in McLean for Arlington Magazine. The restaurant opened without much fanfare in November, but she says it’s time to take notice thanks to dishes like raw oysters served with tom yum mignonette and pork belly served with edamame, oyster mushrooms, and chestnut puree. About the rest of the food, she writes:

"For entrées ($23-$30), both the crispy-skin duck breast and the rockfish were without fault. Though the server did not ask for a preferred temperature, the waterfowl came out textbook medium-rare with confit potatoes, pear slices, butternut squash purée and a candied fennel relish so piquant I wanted to tuck it in my cheeks for later. The rockfish rested on top of celery root purée and a savory mix of mushrooms and Swiss chard." [Arlington]

Tyler Cowen visits Kingsway Cafe of Laurel. The Nigerian restaurant makes a few accommodations for American diners. He writes, "The fufu comes in the form of a big lump, and is perhaps not as moist and juicy as one might ideally like. The vegetables have real flavor, and the goat is…bony." Despite the hiccups, he enjoys the dinner but admits the cooking needs improvement. He wouldn’t mind going back, but unfortunately it’s not the Nigerian restaurant of his dreams. [TC]

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