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Monday, July 9, 2012

Kohinoor Dhaba - A Delicious Dive in Arlington, VA


I'm going to be brutally honest. When my husband and I pulled up to the tiny, cracked and crumbling parking lot of the even tinier dilapidated building that houses Kohinoor Dhaba (and a nail shop), we almost turned around and left. My husband looked at me with pure terror, and I calmed him down by reminding him that the reviews on UrbanSpoon were high. We were taught a lesson by K.D. that should have stuck in first grade, "Don't judge a book by its cover." I am so pleased that we were so wrong about this restaurant.

K.D. is on the second floor and in the heart of the industrial side of Arlington, VA. There's a bus depot, several large warehouses, and homeless men who've come to own their respective begging corners. The area isn't high-class, and if you are expecting hoity-toity dining, go ahead and drive away. But, if you like amazingly good food and don't mind a dining room the size of a large bathroom, then walk up those green carpeted steps and enter Kohinoor Dhaba Indian Restaurant.

They feature a $10 all-day buffet that includes steamed basmati rice, Butter Chicken Curry, Fish Curry, Tandoori Chicken, multiple vegetable curries, simple iceburg and tomato salad, fresh chile peppers, and sauces. An order of naan, two giant triangles per person, comes with the buffet too, as does all the ice water you want. If you prefer a bottled beverage, you'll pay more.

I'm not a big buffet person. I find the food tends to be old and stale. But that's not the case with K.D. They replenish their trays frequently and the kitchen turns out high-quality, full-flavored curries that don't all taste like they came from the same masala spice mix.

We ordered a side of potato-pea samosas. Two giant samosas are only $3.50. What a deal. The manager brings them to your table within five minutes of ordering and then takes the time to bring you the tamarind and mint chutneys that accompany the fried pastries. They were hot, crispy, oily and delicious, just how I like them.

My husband only likes my Indian cooking. He is picky and a bit of a whiner, so when he told me he loved this place, I knew we'd struck gold. We came back a week later with our two sons, and both of them loved the tiny restaurant. My oldest even ordered another side of samosas for the road.

I stole a menu on my way out and see that they offer a bevy of freshly made curries, ranging from Vindaloo *(they spell it Vandalu) to Mughlai style cuisine. I'm eager to try their Lamb Rogan Josh, (meaning lamb cooked in its own luscious fat.)

I want to add that a day or so after our first visit to K.D., we visited a much fancier Indian restaurant in Alexandria that had a larger dining area, a full wait staff, white clothed tables and reimagined, modern Indian cuisine. We hated it. It was expensive. It too had raving reviews, but when I looked at the clientele, it was all preppy-Americans who probably didn't know the first thing about real Indian cooking.

K.D.'s customers are a mix of all kinds, even those from the sub-continent. My rule of thumb is that if people from the country are eating at a restaurant, the food must be good, and most likely authentic.

We will be back to enjoy the food at Kohinoor Dhaba. Hopefully, you'll give them a try too.

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