Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The secrets restaurant servers won't tell you

Courtesy WTOP
Reader's Digest compiled a list of more than 50 of these dining-out secrets.  Check them out HERE (WTOP link) or HERE (Reader's Digest link).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shamshiry Restaurant - Persian Food - Vienna, VA

8607 Westwood Center Drive
Vienna, Virginia 22182

(703) 448-8883

We stumbled into Shamshiry almost by accident.  Our destination was iThai (previously reviewed); however, Shamshiry sat appetizingly next door across the lobby from what was once a circus headquarters (really - more on that later).  Shamshiry is one of several exciting dining establishments in hub of office buildings off of Westwood Center Drive near the octagon-shaped Sheraton Hotel off Leesburg Pike in Vienna. 

We’ve never had the opportunity to dine in Tehran or Baghdad, but if we did we imagine it would be pretty close to Shamshiry.   The dining room filled with those perceived to be Persian clued us in that this is authentic and traditional Persian cuisine.  We started our Persian venture with a Shirazi salad.  The artistic menu (read it on their website) noted:  “There is an Old Persian saying that it takes four people to prepare a salad: A generous man to add the oil, a stingy man to add the vinegar, a wise man to give the right touch of salt and pepper, and a fool to mix it well.”  The salad was not your traditional lettuce, onion, tomato, and ranch dressing variety, as some exotic greens mixed helped round out the starter. 

We enjoyed the Chelo Kabob Barg – a charcoal fired skewer of Filet Mignon medallions. The filet was served with saffron rice and homemade flat bread.  A small container of sumac which is a middle-eastern spice resembling a brown powder added a nice exotic flavor.   We also had the Chicken Tandoori, which was very good.

After seeing a milky beverage being served to some diners at the next table, we had to ask the server what was being served.  She explained but also offered us a taste of the beverage.  She brought us a small serving of this cold white beverage called Doogh.  The menu explains:  “This delightfully refreshing yogurt drink is very popular in Persia. It is always on hand at home to serve to family and guests. OK, it was not for us, but well worth the sample.

From Shamshiry’s website, a poem by Omar Khayyam which sums up our experience (especially being seated with a heart’s darling):

"If one may have a loaf of the flower of wheat, a two-
Maund jar of wine*, a thigh of mutton, seated with
A heart's darling in a ruined place - that is a pleasure
That is not the attainment of any Sultan."

* Often Doogh (the milky-white beverage we tasted) street vendors advertise their wares by replacing the “jar of wine” with a “jar of Doogh.”

As mentioned earlier regarding the circus’ headquarters.  It’s a shame they’ve moved out, but this office building was once home to the northeastern Headquarters for Feld Brothers Entertainment, the group that brings Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus from town to town.  They’re floor-to-ceiling murals of clowns, trapeze artists, tigers, big tops, horses, etc was so much fun to gaze at through the large glass windows.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Panjshir, Falls Church, VA

924 West Broad St.
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 536-4566

One of our old time favorites is still going strong.  No pretense, no higher ambition, just plain good Afghan food with great hosts and excellent service.  For those who are interested in factoids, Panjshir catered a large party hosted for President Hamid Karzai in Washington when Karzai first became president. But more importantly, the restaurant is always filled with regular people having freshly grilled kebobs on flat skewers, succulent pumpkin with yogurt sauce, scallion dumplings with minced lamb and other delicacies from Afghanistan.  It is a small restaurant with a cozy setting, clean and welcoming atmosphere.  Panjshir has been open at this location since 1985, no small feat.  When the Bankgok Blues surprisingly closed down next-door last year, Panjshir continued to stay strong, and that’s a testament to its goodness.

We ordered 2 appetizers – Bulanee Gundana (lightly fried dumplings stuffed with scallions and ground beef) and the Sambosa Goshti (deep fried dumplings with ground beef, chickpeas and parsley).  The sauces served with the appetizers were fantastic – one yogurt sauce and one spicy green sauce, which was very flavorful and we asked for seconds on the sauces.  Went great with rice and would go great on anything.

The wait staff was very knowledgeable about the food.  Pleasantly, even the waiter that is not Afghan definitely knew the food and made excellent recommendations.  This is not surprising for Panjshir because it is a family-run business that is truly run like a family with the warm atmosphere.

 Our entrees included a Kabab E-Murgh, which is a tender and flavorful chicken kebob served with saffron rice; a Samarooq Palow, which is tender, flavorful chicken cubes and mushrooms served in a stewy saucy dish with yogurt sauce; and a Vegetarian platter with any choice of 3 dishes selected from the vegetarian menu with saffron rice.  In our case it was eggplant (Banjan Chalow), spinach (Sabsi Chalow), and pumpkin (Kadu Chalow) – a perfect combination of salty and sweet.  All entrees came with a sizeable section of Afghan bread that is topped with black sesame seeds.  Entrees were also preceded by a nice garden salad with a homemade mustard-based dressing.  We finished off the meal with a tasty cardamom tea.  Portions were a “just right” amount and at about $20 per person (total bill) were reasonably-priced.

Panjshir is a place we have visited many times and will continue to visit and recommend to our friends.