Moby Dick, McLean

I’ve been going to the McLean Moby Dick for over twenty years, and it took until long after their expansions (there are now seventeen DC-area locations) for it to show any signs of wear, but for the past few years, it has been in noticeable decline.

They still have their weekday lunch specials which feature one long-cooked Persian dish each day, and on Wednesdays it’s the Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjan ($7.99), long-braised cubes of beef with yellow lentils, a cylinder of eggplant, onions, tomato sauce, and spices served with basmati rice, a small tub of Must-o Kheyar, and a half-slice of their namesake bread (which stopped being puffy, like Moby Dick himself, quite awhile ago; it’s now as flat as a pancake).

I’d rather a casserole be too mild than too seasoned, and this Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjan was mild to the point of blandness – I resisted reaching for the salt shaker, but it needed seasoning badly, and the yogurt on this particular day was quite dilute; it is sometimes thick and rich, even in current times.

The McLean Moby’s always asks for the last four digits of your phone number when you call, and I’ve been using the same digits for twenty years (even though that phone number has long-since been retired). “Ten minutes?” the gentleman asked. “I’ll be there in five,” I said, but then it took another twenty to get the order. From recent experiences, the McLean location does not begin preparing your order until you arrive and pay, and on this day, my ticket was stuck in back of a long queue – I waited long enough to finish an entire glass of Diet Coke, get a refill, and wait some more.

There is a “Tips” jar here, and I generally put in a dollar, but today I had no cash, and there’s nowhere for you to enter a tip on your credit-card receipt. Might this have sped things up? I don’t know, but I would have left something if I’d had the chance.

With the onslaught of Amoo’s, just up Old Dominion Drive in Chesterbrook, my visits to Moby Dick have become more sporadic, and on this day I was reminded why. Still, at $7.99 for a fairly large platter of food, of very good quality except for the seasoning, the lunch specials here are well-worth exploring if you haven’t tried them. I understand I’m being a bit hard on Moby’s here, but that’s only because I knew it in its glory days – considering there are seventeen locations, the quality is still high.

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