Monday, January 24, 2011

Astor Mediterranean - Arlington 1/21/2011

Astor Mediterranean
2300 North Pershing Drive
Arlington, VA 22201-1428
(703) 465-2306

Astor Mediterranean is a small local chain with two locations: one in Arlington and the other in Adams Morgan. Several friends decided to have a group meal and after much debating, balloting, cajoling, and vote rigging, we finally decided to go to the Arlington branch.

The Arlington branch is located in a rather dilapidated building which also houses a Army/Navy Career Center and is across the street from an abandoned strip mall currently being demolished by a bulldozer. The interior of the restaurant, despite the neighborhood consisting primarily of rubble, rusting I-beams, and other wonderful iterations of urban blight and squalor, is actually fairly nice. Astor Mediterranean seems to be primarily a takeaway place...a lot of douchy recent college grads in hoodies and sweats were coming in and ordering out, and for some reason they were all wearing cheap flip flops and sandals in 10 degree weather (to each his own I guess). Since Astor is essentially a deli, you order at the counter, receive a ticket, and wait for your ticket to be called. While there is no table service, there are several tables available for sit down, and they even serve the food with china and silverware if you choose to eat in. They also have some flatscreens where you can watch the crawl on CNN when you get tired of talking to your dining companions (i.e., a great first date place! Sure to impress!).

I went up the counter, checked the selections, and decided to order the kufta kabob. Essentially, we are talking about ground sirloin seasoned with several herbs and spices (like a Mediterranean KFC) redolent of the flavors and aromas of the Middle Orient (you know, cumin...maybe some salt). I had no complaints: the meat was well seasoned, had good flavor, and was moist. The rice accompanying the kabob was also seasoned and well prepared. There were some forgettable stewed chickpeas on the side and a leaf of braised cabbage, but they didn't detract, and the main players on the plate more than satisfied. The cucumber and tomato salad with yogurt sauce was also not bad.

Most of the people I dined with had the braised lamb shank which looked big enough for a caveman, smelled even better, and I am sure was delicious. It received plaudits from everyone who ordered it. Other friends had a salmon dish and a vegetarian combination platter, which they both liked. All of these entrees and the sides were less than $12 (mine was only $9).

I'll probably try the branch in Adams Morgan fairly soon, though it is smaller and doesn't have the lovely ambiance of urban decay that this one has. On all counts, I heartily recommend this place.

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