When you’re scanning the menu at Red Parrot Asian Bistro, alarm
bells might start to sound in your head. Thai chicken satay next to Indian
curries and Korean barbecue? Sushi rolls stuffed to the max with cream
cheese, then deep-fried? But the restaurant—a spinoff of siblings in
Baltimore and Hanover, Maryland—can be surprising.
Take the music, which is unexpectedly cool, veering from the
Local Natives to Deerhunter, and the friendly server who looks like a
college student but is unusually well versed in Asian cuisine. Then
there’s the vast menu, uneven but peppered with hits.
You could eat well just grazing among certain starters: puffy,
light, and well-spiced vegetarian samosas with a terrific cilantro dip, a
chili-stoked green-papaya salad, and cool Vietnamese summer rolls. Best of
all are the soft, pillowy buns filled with roast duck—these reminders of
New York’s Momofuku are as delicious as they are trendy.
Although the hefty sushi rolls might take traditionalists
aback, creations like the Fancy Dragon Roll—filled with shrimp tempura,
then wrapped with avocado and sweetly glazed eel—and the
yellowtail-stuffed Dynamite Roll actually work. (Just watch out for any
maki with mayonnaise sauce, which is globbed on with a heavy
Bigger plates are erratic: Wide rice noodles tossed with beef,
onions, carrots, and tomato pack a curry punch, while pad Thai falls into
the trap of being overly sweet. You’ll find a good Korean bibim
bap—the meal-in-a-bowl featuring rice, pungent kimchee, beef, and a
fried egg. But the Korean beef called bulgogi is wanly flavored
despite its sizzling, smoky presentation. And an Indian-inspired green
curry is watery and light on chicken.
Still, order carefully and there are pleasures to be had in
this sprawling Ballston dining room. In fact, we’ll take another round of
those duck buns.
This article appears in the July 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.