Sunday, December 8, 2013

Moving Day: from Pakistan to Peru

I won't be eating Berlin anymore -- or at least not regularly -- as we have up and moved (back) to DC. I happily admit that this project helped me to discover some corners of Berlin that I wouldn't have otherwise seen and some really interesting and in a few cases really delicious restaurants. This isn't the place to weigh the merits of Berlin vs. DC, but each city has some good things going on. In the almost seven years I lived in Berlin, the food scene changed a lot and improved in many ways. Still, I don't believe it's a great food town and I'm not sure it's building a solid foundation (ie, one based on it's own traditions vs. those borrowed from Brooklyn or LA or ....). Great "ethnic" food is a real dark spot in Berlin's food scene and a real bright spot in the DC food scene. So if nothing else, continuing this project picking up where I left off (with P for Pakistan) should be a lot of delicious fun. I should move to a different blogging address and maybe I will, but mostly writing for my own amusement with mainly my parents for readers.....I lack the motivation to do it just yet. In the past month I've managed to enjoy a Pakistani and Peruvian meal. My little offspring is turning into a real champion eater (on some days/of bread products), but he limits my restauranting to some extent, as well as, my recording these the details of these meals are fuzzy....I wish I could tell you if we ate at Ravi Kebab I or II, but no matter as they are almost next door to each other. We got the Ravi kebabs (lamb) and the okra curry daily special. The kebabs came with rice, curried chickpeas, and naan. The meat and bread are cooked to order, making this not quite fast food joint and it is cash-only, so not the most convenient place either, but the food was very good, if not quite life-changing. The main shortcoming of the kebabs - less than top-quality meat, is hard to avoid in "ethnic" restaurants (although this is notably and increasingly less true in the US (vs Germany) where "ethnic" cuisines are increasingly available in fine(r) restaurants). The okra curry, however, was really good and I regret not having ordered the vegetable yogurt curry. Note to self: next time focus on the daily vegetable curries. While Berlin has a few Peruvian choices, there aren't more than a handful of Peruvians, so the restaurants cater primarily to Germans. Not the case in the DC area. We picked Huascaran Restaurant because of it's relative proximity to home and because it offered more than rotisserie chicken (despite the fact that so-called Peruvian chicken is a big DC-area thing and often delicious; we were in the mood for something more). Huascaran has a good vibe. It's not very big, but on Saturday night most of the tables were full. The place has a good, warm atmosphere with the exception of the two televisions tuned to a Spanish-league soccer match and a college football game. The owner is clearly present in the dining room and nobody minds a loud, if-jolly infant sprinkling waffle crumbs everywhere. The food, alas, is less amazing. We really liked the ceviche - nothing revolutionary, but refreshing. It's served with a chunk of sweet potato and big choclo, unexpected but a good chaser for the dish's heat. We also shared papas a la huancaina and a papa rellena (a potato dumpling of sorts, stuffed with minced meat). Both were edible, but sort of blah. We also shared a seco de carne, basically a beef stew with a good hit of cilantro and the cabrito (goat). Both suffered from the old cheap meat problem. Sigh. There is a dessert case with alfajores (sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche) and a few other treats. I love alfajores and this is the only bad one I've ever had. The filling was somehow tasteless and the cookies, while appropriately crumbly, tasted of margarine and fake vanilla. Still, I liked something about this place - the vibe is warm and you do feel transported to another place for a little while. I'd go back and try one of the soups or wait for summer and return for the ceviche. Ravi Kebab 350 and 250 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington Huascaran Restaurant 3606 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria