Dolan

From the moment I noticed Dolan on Google maps, I knew I had to go there. I’ve had Uyghur food once before–in Arlington–and although it was somewhat lacking that time, the cuisine felt like it had potential. I love cultural mashups! Just like how eating Burmese food at Mandalay always feels like the greatest ever combination of Thai and Indian with a little je ne sais quoi thrown in, my thinking on Uyghur food was this: Afghan + Chinese = Delicious! How could it not be? Dolan claims to be “the best Uyghur food in DC” which, even before eating there, I suspected may have been like the way my grandma always referred to me as her “favorite granddaughter.” Her other six grandchildren are boys.

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I invited my friend Amanda to tag along. She lived in Western China and generally knows her shit. About everything. She is also a spicy food enthusiast.

My husband and I arrived early, so we grabbed a drink at the bar. He had their house Old Fashioned, and I had a drink that included vodka and green tea. Their liquor prices were reasonable and the drinks were…about what you’d expect given the price. It got the job done, I guess.

Bonus for Dolan: their restaurant is adorable. Their fireplace and fake lamppost made me feel like I was simultaneously inside and outside in…Paris, maybe? It was very homey and cute.

So, back to the food. What happens when you have two modern, assertive women eating dinner with their accommodating spouses is that the menfolk don’t even need to crack the menu. I might feel slightly bad about steamrolling every single small-plates meal we ever eat, but what can I say? I have superior taste. You’re welcome, husbands. Amanda and I ordered korma chop, pumpkin manta, fried green beans, and the goshnan, which bills itself as “Uyghur pizza.” I crossed  my fingers that it wasn’t actually just pizza and took the plunge.

Without further ado, here is our meal:

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The green beans were oniony and well-cooked but I could have made this at home. I guess I was expecting the incredible Sichuan dry-rubbed green beans we get at Panda Gourmet, and this was just regular green beans. Similar to the alcohol, it did the job. By which I mean that it was green and it was edible. On the right of the photo is the korma chop, which had the semi-numbing spice of Sichuan peppercorns and really well-cooked lamb. This dish was the highlight of the meal for sure. Above those dishes you will notice a tiny bowl of rice. We didn’t need much rice, but it somehow seems more bizarre that they gave us such a small quantity. Why even bother at that point?

The pumpkin manta were alright. I don’t have major regrets about ordering them since they sounded interesting but they weren’t well-seasoned and were generally poorly-constructed for dumplings. They were larger than bite-size, begging to be cut in half, but all the filling fell out as soon as you cut into them as if to mock you. The whole idea was badly-conceived.

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The goshnan looked great and tasted pretty good. It was the first thing that seemed more Afghan than Chinese. Actually, it seemed more like a shepherd’s pie than a pizza, and the pastry crust was soft and deliciously greasy. The meat was good and spiced well.

When we finished these four things, we all agreed that we were still slightly hungry, and, after not being hooked by anything on the dessert menu [side note: two nights without dessert? I don’t even know who I am anymore!], begrudgingly decided to order the lamb kabobs in a last-ditch effort to fill our bellies.

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They were solid. The meat was, for the most part, very tender and flavorful, but the seasoning wasn’t particularly interesting. It was the perfect summation of this meal: fine, edible, and a gustatory snooze-fest. Come on, Uyghurs! Just because China tried to quash your culture doesn’t mean you have to suppress all the flavor in your food. I thought I was going to be transported on a magic carpet ride to a whole new world of flavor but I really just got some bland lamb.

Price: $25 per person, which at least seemed completely reasonable.

Bottom line: Dolan might be the best–or only–Uyghur food in DC. And maybe I’m not an expert on Uyghur food after eating it twice. But I feel like you could do better than this without trying very hard. Step 1: Pick up some actual delicious green beans from Panda Gourmet. Step 2: Grab some kabobs from Shamshirry. Step 3: Profit.

Duke’s Counter

After last week’s sad case of mistaken identity regarding Fat Petes’ applicability to non-drunken situations, and also after last night’s more-expensive-than-we-thought dinner followed by a more-expensive-than-we-thought impromptu trip to Jack Rose, we were eager for a delicious but cheap meal tonight. All of my suggestions were vetoed, but my wonderful husband came upon Duke’s Counter in Woodley Park.

From the get-go, nothing about this was as expected. First of all, it appears that their employee uniform consists of some blue plaid shirt (you can see an example in the picture below!). Secondly, for a place that claims to serve British food and tries to design itself as a London pub, this place has a menu that lacks the heavy bread, meat, and fried dishes typically associated with British “cuisine” (if you can call it that) and instead they serve only gourmet sandwiches preceded by craft and imported British beers and original cocktails. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a banh mi over blood pudding any day. I ordered the Proper Pimm’s cocktail and my husband ordered one of several microbrewed porters on draft. My cocktail was fabulous. I’m a major sucker for spicy drinks, and the ginger beer paired well with the chili flavoring, like a spicy Dark and Stormy.

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We had a hard time with the appetizer round. There were a lot of interesting things listed but we were trying to keep it cheap and light. Turns out we shouldn’t have been concerned with that….BECAUSE NEITHER THING WAS POSSIBLE. We ended up ordering the spicy hummus. How could hummus possibly cost $11? This is why:

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It’s like the entire produce department at Wegman’s with a baseball-sized ball of hummus, which was a miraculous blend of creamy hummus and chimichurri. The naan had the texture of a memory foam pillow and was so warm and soft that it was hard to stop. Sadly, I didn’t get to finish my carrot binge because our sandwiches arrived.

When I had ordered my sandwich, the El Trasero with a friend egg on top, our server said, “Huh. I’ve never had someone order an egg on that sandwich before.” Then I felt weird. Why did he tell me that? Was he trying to discourage me? I felt defensive, like I had to back up my menu selection. I doubled down on it. I’m glad I did.

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El Trasero is spicy pulled pork with a tart, crunchy celery slaw and arugula, served on a ciabatta roll. From the first bite, it was heartbreakingly good. And you know what? The fried egg was perfect on it, so fuck that plaid-shirted naysayer. I let him know he was wrong.

My husband had the cubano, which was surprisingly cheesy, topped with creamy avocado, and filled with perfectly cooked, thin-sliced chicken schnitzel. Despite the absolute deliciousness, we both had trouble finishing just the first half of our sandwiches, and we packed them up along with the rest of the crudites.

Price: $30 per person, but you’ll have lunch for the next two days.

Bottom line: Duke’s Counter is a winner. Next time we are painting pottery, we will forego Fat Pete’s in favor of this place, which is just down the street. I can’t even imagine how good this would taste if I were drunk.

Special thanks go to my husband, without whom I would have never tried eating fried eggs, much less putting fried eggs on my sandwiches. He’s also responsible for introducing me to dipping my fries in mayo. Thanks, babe. You da best.

Sunday update: Just ate half of my leftover sandwich. Goddamn, that sandwich was good.

Fat Pete’s

Fat Pete’s is a Christmas Eve tradition for us. Well, first getting wasted while painting pottery. Then Fat Pete’s. We weren’t able to go two weeks ago on account of vacation and we had to finish some painting projects this afternoon (beware the large serving plate and the perfectionist engineer husband), so I was excited to mozy over to Fat Pete’s afterward. By 7, I was starving.

We decided to share the 3-meat platter, which comes with two sides. We got sliced brisket, smoked turkey, and pulled pork with collard greens and mac and cheese. We didn’t get anything special to drink because 1) they don’t have particularly special beers, 2) We’d already had two bombers to drink at pottery, 3) I’ve had Fat Petes’ DC Hurricane before and only barely lived to tell the tale, and 4) You’re not here for the fancy drinks, you’re here to eat a goddamn pile o’ meat.

And then, we waited. And waited. And waited. All while the servers brought out tray after tray of smoky meats and fried friedness. Realistically, we probably didn’t wait that long, but it always feels like a long time at a BBQ place because your food is supposed to come immediately, and also when you need something in your belly besides alcohol. Finally, it arrived:

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The collards are soft, bitter, and smoky; nice oniony flavor. The cheese sauce on the mac is thick and creamy in an addictive way. The sliced brisket was hit-or-miss: I was happy because I prefer the drier pieces generally. It had a nice smoke ring and solid bark, but maybe could have used more seasoning on the outside. There were fattier pieces too, but my pit-master husband holds brisket to an unattainable standard, so he was slightly disappointed. The smoked turkey was…weird. Maybe I expect a drier texture from cooked turkey? It was moist and all, and not to the point of nasty slimy deli meat turkey, but sort of reminiscent of it? Perhaps this is my fault. If I didn’t want turkey, why did I order turkey? I don’t even like turkey.

The star was the pulled pork, which was moist and porky. Definitely more my speed. For my sauce review, I will say this: Fat Pete’s has variety. I do not recommend the white sauce which is basically just mayonnaise. Where are we, Minnesota? No, you’re better than that. The vinegar sauce is thin but fine if you’re a Carolina kind of person. The mustard sauce is strong and yummy; it was great on the brisket, although I don’t recommend it for the turkey unless you want a risk a PTSD flashback to your brown bag lunch from elementary school. The mop sauce is very savory and interesting, but not interesting in a way that made me crave more. You can’t go wrong with a suicide of their sweet sauce and spicy sauce, though. Throw some mustard in there if you’re feeling crazy. This is a great complement to all meats.

Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: I think Fat Pete’s tastes REALLY GOOD when you’re at least a 7/10 level drunk. You’re not? Then get your ass in the car and drive to DCity.