The Washington Post’s Tim Carman heads to Dera Restaurant in Springfield, Va., finding it’s the real deal when it comes to Pakistani cuisine.
Chef/owner Ghulam Rubani’s buffet is “a generous spread of Pakistani-style stews, salads, curries and tandoori meats, some that pack enough chili-powder heat to turn your head into a lighthouse for passing ships.”
The selection is more robust on the weekends, he notes. The haleem is “a silky stew of chicken, lentils and grains ... a punch of Pakistani spice delivered with a velvet glove,” while the long-simmered nihari “offers a meatier take on stew, its intoxicating fragrance somewhat undercut by the plodding, pot-roastlike beef.” The chicken biryani “teases you with its sweet, clove-scented kiss before cutting you with its serrated heat.”
The servers at Dera who push the buffet on customers are respectful and helpful, he said. Be sure to also order off the actual menu, “where the chef has tucked some of his best grill and tandoor work.”
The lamb chops, for instance, “delivers all the bone-gnawing satisfaction you could desire” while the chapli kebabs feature “small bursts of controlled pungency.” [WaPo]
Meanwhile, WaPo’s Tom Sietsema treks to The Greenbrier, the West Virginia resort in the valley of the Allegheny Mountains, and gives it a measly one-star review (“satisfactory”).
The 239-year-old retreat offers 20 places to eat and drink at its peak season, including an outdoor gazebo fed by room service. He sampled half of its eating selections, including the Forum, which “bakes a respectable pizza”; Prime 44 West, “an adequate steakhouse”; and afternoon tea, a “daily sugar rush in the grand Upper Lobby that impressed me not for its confections, but for its weekend offerings of a tarot card reader and a guitar player.”
Most of his meals were at the casual Draper’s, opened in 1990, and the formal Main Dining Room, introduced in 1913.
“It doesn’t take long to find blemishes, food-wise. A snack of clam hush puppies appears to be part of a black pepper promotion ... Attempts to be trendy or broaden horizons result in misfires, such as a black bean soup that has the consistency of a dip and a kale and butternut salad with only trace amounts of the squash and an unfortunate pastry shell of sweet potato mousse. Barbecued pulled pork is too sweet.”
In addition, his Caesar salad was weighted down with dressing, and his pork chop was dry.
Breakfast is the meal not to miss, yielding the most decadent omelet he’s encountered in recent memory. The “Lorraine” is “bursting with ham, bacon and Gruyere cheese and escorted by diced fried potatoes, a crumb-topped roasted tomato and a little pitcher of cheesy Mornay sauce, rich on rich.” Buckwheat pancakes are “tender, nutty in flavor and dusted with powdered sugar,” and the toast arrive in thick napkins with a monogrammed G.
Some “pleasant surprises” include cornmeal-crisped oysters and roasted rack of lamb, next to tasty polenta fries and eggplant caponata. “With entrees averaging $44, however, there’s little room for errors. Too many dishes taste as if the chef is taking a break. And there is precedent for that at the Greenbrier.” [WaPo]
Back in D.C., Rosario is a “an elevated neighborhood spaghetti house,” in Adams Morgan notes Sietsema.
Chef Logan McGear came from Smoke & Barrel but has a resume in pasta (he cooked at a few Italian restaurants in Little Rock, Ark., before D.C.).
The 60-seat spot, inside the former Libertine space, has Arancini Bolognese, which are small bites that Sietsema said taste like a complete meal. Meanwhile a “whimsical Caesar salad presentation” is nestled in a Parmesan basket.
“Linguine tinted black with squid ink comes scattered with mussels and shrimp, their light tomato sauce sharpened with crushed red pepper flakes. Veal can be eaten four ways, one of them as a saltimbocca dressed with sage, prosciutto and Marsala. There’s a saffron-scented risotto, too, meaty with pork cheeks and juicy with diced apple.”
There’s a “meh fried calamari and occasional overcooked pasta” that won’t be confused for the “finery produced by a Fabio Trabocchi” (but neither will the prices, he notes).
Drinks are great, too; try the “refreshing” Italian Greyhound with grapefruit and rosemary. [WaPo]