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Restaurants & Bars

Al Ha'esh in Rockville - Report

Steve | Mar 13, 201702:50 PM

This new place my very well be the area's only Israeli restaurant, my only frame of reference being Etzel Itzik in Miami.

Five Chowhounds gathered here and had a blast. This is very much a fun place to go as a group. Just as at Etzel Itzik, they start you off with about nine or so salads. Here they are dainty, served in very small bowls, but you can always ask for more at any time. We had carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, pickle, beets, red cabbage, baba ganouj, chickpeas, olives, and chopped tomato. The carrots and the beets stood out for me. The others were all finely prepared. You also get some very pillowy pita, nothing great as I prefer mine toasted/charred.

The gold here are in the side dishes, a couple of which can be had as a main course. The merguez is as good as it gets. Totally a must order, tightly packed with a very nice sauce. It was a very generous order, and it looked great too. The felafel were ideal for their crunchy exterior and fluffy interior. The okra is also superbly done. Another dish you can get as a main corse is grilled eggplant, which was very simple but oh-so-good. A whole eggplant is smoked, and then cut in half with a light tahini sauce ladled on the inside. Excellent.

The boneless branzino is nice though unexciting. The fish here is not a bad way to go.

Turkey shawarma is dry. Don't bother.

Where the kitchen really falls down is on grilling meat. The lamb kabobs were fairly tasteless, and they simply don't know how to grill them, with no discernible char. We also got grilled sweetbreads, and they too seemed terribly plain and worthless. A while back they were a highlight at an Argentinian place we went to, well charred and with a nice smokey flavor. Here, they were inert.

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