The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Curry Soup, Grapefruit Cocktails
Washingtonian’s food team shares favorite dishes from their past seven days of dining.
Curry noodle soup at Mi La Cay
Prior to its move three months ago to new digs in a Wheaton strip mall, I had always regarded Mi La Cay as a fine, if forgettable, meal out—a make-do for Marylanders who didn’t want to brave the drive out to Eden Center in Falls Church, the epicenter of the area’s excellent Vietnamese dining scene. On the basis of my most recent meal at the new location, I’m reconsidering that position.
The dish I’m still thinking about is the curry noodle soup, served in a tureen of a bowl that could comfortably feed three. Imagine it: hunks of thigh-meat chicken, chunks of stewed pumpkin, crunchy bean sprouts, basil, and a generous tangle of vermicelli noodles in a rich yellow curry that warms the mouth but never singes.
If you’re thinking, “Soup, in this heat?,” think again. You won’t be able to stop
yourself from hogging the bowl, trust me.
The Pamplemousse Presse at Le Diplomate
Does a cocktail count? The Pamplemousse Presse is the perfect summer day drink, as
I found out during a late lunch at the bar this weekend. (Turns out 2:30 is the time
to go if you want to immediately score a bar stool.) Bracing, refreshing, and slightly
bitter, it’s made with Combier grapefruit liqueur and lemon and topped with sparkling
wine.“They’re dangerous,” the bartender said, and before we knew it, one became three
and we were massacring a crème brûlée.
Mahi-mahi tacos at MXDC
This is one of those Proust madeleine things, I’ll admit. But the beer-battered mahi-mahi
mini tacos at MXDC brought me back to the long Friday lunches I used to enjoy with
my coworkers at Pier 66 on the Seattle waterfront. There’s a stand there, right where
the brontosaurian commercial cruise ships drop off their jorts-clad cargo—a no-frills
appendage to a fancy tourist trap called Anthony’s, but far superior in every way.
The hours, if I recall correctly, are tricky, but two slaw-topped fish tacos cost
around $10 and taste great with a cold pilsner in the sunshine. Sitting in Todd English’s
new Metro Center spot, I tuned out the techno-lite soundtrack for a second and was
transported far west and seaside. Even if the Pacific Northwest doesn’t pull at your
heartstrings, you’ll likely love the crunchy-sweet fish nuggets doused in sauce, a
hint of heat contrasting with the pineapple salsa. Extra credit to Mr. English for
the perfect little silver-dollar tortillas. They are strong—no need to double-wrap—without
a hint of mealiness.
Taramasalata at Kapnos
There were a number of standouts among the 20-odd plates I tasted at Mike Isabella’s chef table—not to mention a whole divinely smoky roast lamb—but one that stood out was the biggest surprise: taramasalata. The dip, traditionally fish roe whipped with potatoes and olive oil, can be stiff, fishy, and needless to say, very unappetizing. The version at Kapnos is the opposite. Even with a whole animal in their near future, my fellow eaters couldn’t stop scooping the briny spread onto freshly baked flatbread (Isabella adds steamed cauliflower for creaminess) and topping it with the extra pearls of American sturgeon caviar that crowned the plate. Fortunately you don’t need to indulge in the top-of-the-line tasting to try it; grab a seat at the bar and dig in.