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Praise from Three Critics for Afghan Bistro

Plus, the dish on an arepas destination and more reviews

The Smithsonian's soon-to-open museum. [Photo: Official]
Sweet Home Cafe sits in the Smithsonian’s newest museum. [Photo: Official]

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema hits up one of the area’s newest Afghan restaurants, Afghan Bistro, and surprisingly discovers its burger is a hit:

The patty revels in ground beef whose juices transmit garlic, sumac, lemon pepper and paprika to the tongue without overwhelming the meat. A glossy brioche bun endears me more to the $10 dinner.

The food apparently draws fans all the way from New Jersey, despite its modest location in a strip mall. Once inside the packed 50-seat restaurant, diners are transported into "somewhere special," where he observes the staff is clearly "fulfilling their passions" and there’s a solid sense of community.

Among the restaurant’s abundant, authentic, and healthy perks: never-ending bread, rice and vegetables at the table, the meat is halal, the food is free of dyes, MSG, and preservatives, yogurt is used over butter, and there’s not a microwave or deep-fryer in sight.

But diners "risk disappointment" with the salmon (Afghans don’t eat a lot of fish, Sietsema points out), but worse is the "charmless" flatbread that "resembles a cottony baguette run over by a cement truck." (The owner points out he’s looking for another source.) [WaPo]

Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans also reviews Afghan Bistro, calling the food "impeccable."

A "deep, comforting dish" that’s "savory and interesting" is sholah, with chickpeas, mung beans, black and red beans and lots of dill and parsley. The mixed vegetable platter "is missing nothing." The owner, who checks on each table, is "a tall, handsome man" who apparently sold his house to pay for the restaurant. [NoVa Mag]

Silver Spring’s Arepas Pues gets a visit from The Washington Post’s Tim Carman, and he samples several of the dishes influenced by Columbia, Cuba, and Venezuela. He starts by raving about the "blistering" hot sauce — a homemade condiment with a "combination of fruitiness and supernova heat." It’s a riff on salsa rosada, which Colombians slather over everything.

The corn cake he tries, called the reina pepiada, is packed with a creamy avocado-and-chicken salad that "benefits from both very hot pink sauce" and the good, griddled corn shell, "at once thick and crispy."

Among his favorite house-made arepas include La Sureña (a shell wedged tight with grilled chicken, chorizo and avocado) and La de Pernil (roasted pork shoulder with tomato and spicy sauce). Soups are also a "highlight" here, while the "gray meat plates generally suffer from too much heat and too little seasoning." [WaPo]

Sietsema also rolls by Sweet Home Cafe at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, where lines form for the fried chicken and shrimp and grits.

The buttermilk fried chicken was "moist beneath its garlic- and paprika-spiked skin," while the oyster pan roast "gathers tender oysters in a cream sauce fueled with white wine, plus chili sauce and Tabasco for zip and color." Get the barbecue buffalo brisket sandwich, he instructs, which has tender meat slices and a "zesty" peach and jalapeno chutney.

As for the shrimp and grits:

The seafood was what you might expect of a mindful restaurant. Sauteed in fat from tasso ham and finished with smoked tomato and caramelized leeks, the shrimp made a bold statement. The grits, on the other hand, shot blanks and turned stiff by the time I had paid the cashier and found a seat.

There’s also room for improvement when it comes to the "dry barbecue pork, meh biscuits, dry stuffed trout, [and] undercooked collard greens." A better bet, he thinks, is the turkey grillades with fried apples and Brunswick stew. He sums up his meal with a quote on the wall from culinary historian Jessica Harris (who consulted on the cafe): "We have created a culinary tradition that has marked the food of this country more than any other." [WaPo]

FROM THE BLOGS: Yet another writer, DC Dining Guide’s Tyler Cowen, visits Afghan Bistro and crowns it "the best Afghan food" he’s had (he got the Aushak, kadu, and eggplant)...DC Wrapped Dates has a decent experience at China Chilcano.

Arepas Pues

8555 Fenton Street, , MD 20910 (240) 670-8020 Visit Website

Afghan Bistro

Alban Road, , VA 22150 (703) 337-4722 Visit Website

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