Some excellent restaurants are still serving only takeout to keep customers safe during the pandemic. Amoo’s Restaurant in McLean began offering dine-in meals again in September, after I had finalized my list of Best Restaurants. On my first visit, I learned why it’s captured a place in past years and likely will in the future, too.
But put lists out of your mind. What really matters is tahdig. From Laotian nam khao to Spanish paella, the crispy rices of the world are among my favorite dishes. Despite plenty of Persian restaurants in NoVA, menus that mention Iran’s contribution are few and far between, so I was excited to crunch in.
The dish is listed among appetizers, but I ordered mine, topped with gheymeh bademjan, as an entree. The $15 plate is more than large enough to stand up to the task. It comes to the table golden and so crisp that I wondered if their version was actually (gasp!) too brittle. But as the split pea, beef and eggplant stew with its tomato-lime sauce eased its way into the crevices of the rice, it kept just enough of its crunchy character.
I devoured the sizable meal, but there was still work to be done, in the form of the even larger chicken soltani, a combination of two kebabs. My dining partner compared the ground-beef koobideh to meatloaf for its pillowy tenderness, but there were no fillers there, just tons of flavor courtesy of minced onions and spices. No knife is necessary to cut into the buttery chunks of saffron chicken.
I upgraded the dish’s rice to the shirin polo, a pile of basmati bejeweled with saffron-glazed pistachios, almonds, barberries, cranberries, candied carrots and a bit of orange peel. It may not include crispy morsels, but this, too, is a rice worthy of a trip to McLean. In need of aromatic Persian food that’s as visually compelling as it is delicious? This is the place. // 6271 Old Dominion Dr, McLean
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