Amoo’s Kabob, McLean, VA

Good news for fans of Amoo’s Kabob: they got themselves a tandoor, and are now offering homemade bread for $1 a slice. It’s about 6-8 inches in diameter, round, surprisingly thick (maybe 1/4-inch), evenly charred, and just wonderful.

I suspect many people in Tysons Corner don’t really know about downtown McLean which is going to become a hotbed for independent restaurants in the next 10-20 years. Likewise, I suspect some of the newer residents in downtown McLean (if there is such a thing as a “newer resident in downtown McLean”) don’t pay much attention to the little community of Chesterbrook, home to Amoo’s Kabob.

Amoo (meaning “uncle” in Persian) is an exceedingly humble, polite, gentle man who values his customers, and even goes so far as to bow as a gesture of a respect (and I bow right back at him because he is a great person). His food has always been pretty good, but it’s gotten better in the past year, and last night was the third consecutive meal I’ve had there that I would consider to be excellent. For carryout, this is my favorite restaurant in McLean.

If you go online to Amoo’s menu, go straight to the “Amoo’s Specialties” or “Traditional Stews” section. Every time I go in there, I see a list of hand-written specials next to the register that look even more interesting, and I kick myself for forgetting to ask about then when I call. If you call, and there’s a man with an accent on the phone, that’s Amoo – ask him about the daily specials, and turn yourself over to his recommendations.

Baghali Polo with Mahicheh ($12.99) has become a mainstay of my carryout rotation. Usually served with chicken, this version contains an entire lamb shank, served on the bone – all you need is a fork to gently remove the long-cooked, tender lamb meat. So often, lamb shanks are tough and tire-like; this is tender, perfectly braised, and delicious. It comes with a *lot* of braising liquid – thin, reddish-brown juices that you pour right on top of the lima bean and dill rice (that’s the Baghali Polo part), topping it with the order of thick Mast-o-Kheyar – a yogurt with diced cucumbers which you usually have to spoon out rather than pour. Make sure to ask for the homemade bread when you call; the default is their pre-packaged, paper-thin pita which is just not that good – it is well, well worth the dollar extra (or two, for two pieces) to have that terrific bread with this succulent meal-in-a-bowl. The only knock I have on last night’s version was that there was bit of a powdery aspect to the sauce (undoubtedly powdered spice, most likely chili powder) – this could have been a little better integrated, but I suspect most people wouldn’t really notice and it’s a minor nitpick to be sure.

I can’t raise Amoo’s above Bistro Vivant in the Dining Guide, but it remains solidly entrenched as the number two restaurant in McLean. This gets a little tricky because comparing it to Tachibana is a fool’s errand, and as I type this, I’m wondering if I should raise Tachibana above Amoo’s because, after all, my criteria is “where would I choose to go, if someone else was paying for the meal,” i.e., if price was no object, and I suppose the answer is Tachibana. And as I type this further, I realize I must raise Tachibana ahead of Amoo’s, even though there’s no question in my mind as to which restaurant is the better value – McLean is fortunate to have all three.

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