City Paper is not for tourists
The Dish: Lebanese Fried Rice
Where to Get It: Unconventional Diner; 1207 9th St. NW; (202) 847-0122; unconventionaldiner.com
What It Is: To make a multi-textured dish, Chef David Deshaies combines two sets of rice. He sautés one batch with carrots, onions, and a bevy of spices and fries the other to a golden crunch in a deep fryer before tossing it with curry powder-dusted fried lentils, slivered toasted almonds, raisins, and fresh parsley. The bed of rice and lentils is then crowned with a trio of falafel spheres, dollops of whipped hummus, cucumber and jalapeno infused yogurt, and a handful of radishes seasoned with sumac and lemon juice. Deshaies calls it Lebanese fried rice.
The rice itself is heady and aromatic from the spices. The raisins add a note of sweetness, the lentils bring richness and earthiness, and the almonds have crunch and nuttiness. Unconventional Diner makes its hummus and falafel in-house, which will be evident from your first bite. The hummus is luscious and the fragrant falafel bursts with bold notes of cumin, garlic, and coriander.
The Story: Deshaies says he has a fascination with Mediterranean cuisine and loves to take traditional dishes, like Middle Eastern mujadara, a classic rice and lentils dish, to a new level. By cooking his rice in two different ways, frying the lentils, and adding lemony radishes and plump raisins, he was able to take the flavor profile up several notches from his original inspiration.
Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: This is not the kind of fried rice you get as a side dish in a Chinese restaurant. Each bite of this fried rice dish is a flavor bomb, and the combination of lentils and falafel give the dish a heartiness that vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will appreciate.