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I draw your attention to three very different restaurants in very different geographical locations. The prices vary widely, but the tastes at all three are worthy of your seeking them out.

1. Bandolero – 3241 M St. Georgetown, Washington, DC


Bandolero is now scheduled to open May 24 in Georgetown.

With another couple, we had a preview of Mike Isabella’s second venture when he opened a Bandolero’s pop-up in the space recently abandoned by Tackle Box in Cleveland Park.

The good news is that we liked almost all of the dishes we were served. Touted as a “modern Mexican” menu, most of the servings were of the tapas variety, with good twists on some more traditional Mexican favorites.

You can see here what was on the menu when Isabella and his team were practicing on us. I am not clear how this menu will relate to what will appear (their website describes an enlarged menu) when Bandolero opens next week. But if they keep most of the tapas type entries on their new menu, I suspect the restaurant will be a hit.

Beware of the prices, however. We were a bit surprised when our all-inclusive $65 per person menu ballooned by almost $100. True, we enjoyed the margaritas and some of the other specialty drinks, but something didn’t seem right about the bill.

Isabella is the chef/owner of the very popular Graffiato in Chinatown. That restaurant, opened just about a year ago, features largely Italian small plates with emphasis on seasonal ingredients.

Mike Isabella was name The People’s Best New Chief mid-Atlantic winner for 2012.

2. Woodlands Pure Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
: 8046 New Hampshire Ave., Langley Park, Md. 301-434-4202


I may be premature in writing about this Indian Vegetarian restaurant, but I’m sure I’m on to something, albeit about a decade late.

Having lived with a family in Madras (now Chennai) and having returned numerous times to be with them, I have longed for their particular vegetarian cuisine. Technically, the Shah family is from the Gujerat and their food isn’t exactly South Indian. But between what I ate and came to love with the Shahs and what I also enjoyed when they took me to one of the few local restaurants they would frequent, Woodlands, I got to know about dosas, idilis, and sambar.

And now I learn there is a place in this area with the same name, Woodlands. It is a pure vegetarian restaurant and specializes in dosas (they list all 14 of them as dosai). Their menu is much more extensive than just these wonderful crepes, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t know if it’s existence before now. (Hat tip to Indian cooking teacher Edward Hamann for letting me in on the good news.)

I have made one trip to Langley Park/Hyattsville to check it out. Despite having the address and a GPS system, it took me some time to locate it. It’s in a shopping center and the address is only vaguely helpful.

Anyway, a friend who was in the Peace Corps in Nepal has been craving authentic Indian food, and we agreed the DC places weren’t that good. So for lunch the other day, we headed out to the suburbs and eventually made it to Woodlands. They were featuring a lunch-time buffet, something I usually avoid like the plague, but, they had a small dosai along with their other offerings, so we decided to choose that.

We both agreed this food was the most authentic Indian food we’d had in a restaurant in almost 40 years in the US. And the bill came to under $10 for each of us.

Now I have to return to explore the actual menu and specifically their dosas. If the picture above is what I’ll get, you can bet I’ll have more to say about this Woodland’s.

(A phone call to them just now informed me they’ve been in this location about 12 years, and they have no connection to the one in Madras/Chennai. There is also another Woodland’s at 4078 Jermantown Rd, Fairfax, 703-385-1996 which use to be owned by the same owner as the one in Maryland but now is under new ownership. Hamann says the dosas there are quite good.)

, please: My wife Ellen loves dosas also, but she has this thing about places being geographical undesirable, which she defines as being anywhere outside of the DC boundaries (fortunately, she makes an exception for our daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren). She claims if she has to cross a river or a county line, then she wants to end up at an airport.

Any suggestions on how I can get her to go with me to Woodlands?

And if she refuses, are there any takers out there to join me?

3. Il Buco Alentari e Veneria 53 Great Jones St., NY, NY, (212) 837-2622

Since my ‘younger’ daughter has abandoned NYC, I no longer have scheduled places to eat or kin folk to guide me thru the maze that is restaurant heaven in NYC. Fortunately, however, I have a friend, Andrew Rasiej, who is a long-time resident there and who is always good for the latest recommendations.

Once again, on our recent trip to the big city, Andrew took us to a winner, Il Buco Alentari e Veneria. Opened about six months ago by the folks who have a sister restaurant nearby at 47 Bond St., Il Buco, where I think I’ve eaten (Elizabeth, can you confirm this?), Il Buco Alentari e Veneria is definitely a winner.

There are many good reasons to hasten to this restaurant and return to it (it’s also a salumeria market, a bakery, and an enoteca) – the bread, the Iberico ham, the spit roasted short rib, the cacio e pepe pasta, the salt roasted branzino, and the atmosphere, for a start. It feels like a neighborhood, large family place and not one of those fancy white cloth tabled places). Suffice it to say that everyone of the things we ordered were stand outs on their own.

I just came across a NYTimes review which says it all better than I can. The reviewer liked it so much, he wrote a second article a week later identifying five dishes to order.

No restaurant has it all, and tho a casual place, the tables are crowded (they have some communal tables), and the prices are higher than at either of the above two restaurants.

They also have what appears to be wonderful sandwiches at lunch. They’re entire menu is here.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a place in New York, this is a good one.

Sure wish we had places like this in DC.