I work in Chantilly. In my worldview, the town’s Lotte Plaza, on Metrotech Drive, is basically the center of the universe. Don’t believe me? Just look at the businesses that radiate out in the Sully Place Shopping Center and a bit beyond, an embarrassment of global riches ranging from Peruvian Don Churro to Vietnamese Banh Mi Kim Lan.
So far, one of the best that I’ve tried is Charcoal Chicken, an Indo-Pak restaurant that leans more on the spicier Pak flavors. I went in planning to try the eponymous Charcoal Chicken, actually the restaurant’s take on tandoori chicken. But when I got talking to the counter staffer, I was swayed. She rhapsodized about the Lahori-style fish. And really, I can get tandoori chicken anywhere. Pakistani fish? Not so much.
Made with Southeast Asian swai, the filet is coated in spices, dominated by whole cumin seeds, but not the chickpea flour that I’ve had on the dish before. It’s a cleaner, lighter version that isn’t weighed down by breading, but remains crispy outside and moist within. The lady at the counter was right. But she didn’t warn me that I might also become hooked on the spicy chickpeas and cooling yogurt-mint chutney that come with it.
Meals are on the spendy side for Casual Friday (the fish is $15), but so much food comes with the meals that it’s worth it. I’m talking in particular about the huge, buttery sections of naan bread included with every dish. It was especially a treat with the chicken karahi I tried, a Pakistani stew in tomato and onion gravy that’s topped with ginger, jalapenos and cilantro. I wrapped each piece of chicken and its toppings in the soft bread and delighted in an ideally balanced bite. Chicken or fish, the folks at Charcoal Chicken know how to craft a spicy dish that’s far more nuanced than a mere slap of heat. If you love spicy food, this is a restaurant to add to your list. // 13969 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly
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