This is Argyn's blog. I comment on topics of my interests such as software, math, finance, and music. Also, I write about local events in Northern Virginia, USA and all things related to Kazakhstan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cafe Assorti review

There's this new cafe in Arlington VA, called Assorti. It's on 1800 Wilson Blvd. The owners are from Kazakhstan, so the local Kazakh folks treat it as the first Kazakh restaurant in the area. The owners don't seem to advertise it as Kazakh though :)

It's a lovely place, very neat spacious and bright. It reminds a little bit of Cosi cafes. The menu is filled with dishes you would find familiar if you ever lived in Kazakhstan. Note, it doesn't mean that these are all Kazakh dishes. Kazakhstan is populated with people of many ethnic origins. Hence, its kitchen is really a mix of everything from "Russian-French" Beef Stroganov to Korean Khe. There are distinctly regional dishes like Manty and Samsa. Again, I won't call them Kazakh necessarily, but Kazakhs treats them as theirs.

Kazakhstan is a big country. There are subtle differences in food cooked in different regions. For example, southern food is more spicy and central Kazakhstan's has more emphasis on meat. Some Kazakh won't consider dishes as lunch meal if they don't have substantial amount of meat in them :)

So, if you are used to food in particular region of Kazakhstan, you may find Assorti's cooking... suprising, sometimes :) For example, above mentioned Samsa was different from what I came to expect from it in Almaty. Btw, I saw something called Samosa in Lebanese place, and it looked somewhat similar. It seems that Assorti's cooking is closer to Central Kazakhstan's.

On the other hand, they probably made changes specifically for US market. For example, above mentioned Manty in Central Kazakhstan usually have a lot of fat in them. Or at least, that's what I'm used to. We used to put enormous amounts of pure lamb's fat in manty. That wouldnt fly in USA indeed. Not healthy :) Assorti's Manty were lean, no fat at all. They didn't have pumpkin either, which is Ok for many Kazakhs too.

I tried also Rasstegai and Pirozhok with Cabbage, Russian (?) dishes, both were fine, and exactly as expected. They have Kompot and Kisel, fruity soft drinks. Kompot was good, I'll try Kisel next time. Their Crepes (Blini) with chicken were excellent and a portion was sufficient.

It maybe a little challenging to choose the right amount of food for dinner. The portions sizes vary widely, e.g. Pirozhok is really small. I try to be on a safer side, therefore, as usual got myself overloaded with food.

I think they have outstanding bakery. That's what I've heard from people who know better than me in cooking. I tried Napolen cake, it was good and had a very familiar taste. Tea was in tea bags. Ok, it was rther high end, not Lipton :) Still... I'd love to get "Kazakh" tea though.

Overall, I like the place. It's definitely going into my favorite eating list in DC area.


Nurzhan said...

What about prices? I've heard that it is kind of expensive place, especially for students.

Argyn said...

It's certainly not a cheap place like McDonalds or Taco. Main dishes are $8-$10, starters are $2-3. Dinner without drinks will be $20-$30. I think that for its quality prices are reasonable. You'll pay about the same in Cosi and more in Zaytinya.

Konstantin said...

Well, well. Next time you go to Assorti give me a call, since I live just couple of blocks from there. Will discuss amortization issues.

Argyn said...

How about lunch on Monday? I have a couple of questions on stats

Masha said...

I went there twice already. Really like this place.Very nice people and service.Good spot,tasty food(they have the best pastry...everything looks and tastes yammy).Prices are affordable(lunch/dinner can be $15-20 without drinks)Family friendly place! I love it!

Can not compare Cafe Assorti with Cosi,no way! Different level in my opinion. I would recomend this place to my friends.

Masha said...

BTW,they have a parking place also!

Argyn said...

Masha, some of their food is a bit disappointing, particularly "manty". To be honest I didn't like it at all. Cakes are great though.

Masha said...

In my opinion,"manty" just oversteamed. Also,we eat them with hands,these are kind of big...other then that they are good especially with the pink sauce.
My favorite cake is the Royal cake!!!Delish!!!
Planning to visit this place again with my american family! )))

SaidaSmile said...

Well, I have been there and I love the place:) It reminds me of warm and peaceful home country Kazakhstan:) Will definitely go back again and again...:D