Quick Bites: Cafe Aurora and Bangkok Golden in Northern VA

Cafe Aurora kitcha fitfit

So…you’re landing at DCA National Airport (is it known by some other name?) without time and desire to go into DC proper, but still wanting two decent, interesting meals. Where to go? I chose Cafe Aurora and Bangkok Golden.

Cafe Aurora in Alexandria offers a combination of Eritrean and Italian food (history buffs will know the connection), and best of all has some lesser-known items for breakfast, like fu’ul and fatta and, well, French toast. My breakfast would be Kitcha Fitfit, which at first glance looked like an Italian pasta dish, but is actually homemade Eritrean bread pieces that are marinated with flavored butter and red pepper, then mounded high on the plate. It’s at once mushy and chewy, and quite filling. I paid an extra dollar to get beef added to my order. The dish comes with yogurt, which you pour over the pile to cut some of the spicy flavor, though it’s not terribly spicy to me.

I was really hoping for some Eritrean or Ethiopian coffee, but it was Italian on offer. Still, going after the breakfast rush (it’s a small restaurant, but it might be busy only on weekends) makes this a relaxing place to linger, as I did in catching up with a friend.

Bangkok Golden fermented fish

I was especially excited to have dinner in Falls Church at Bangkok Golden, though this was layered with challenges of being a solo diner without a lot of time (and fighting incredible traffic in the area). Sadly, Bangkok Golden recently did away with chef tasting menus, so I had to cobble together some sampling on my own. This meant two dishes, plus a bonus as the chef heard I wanted to try the Som Pa (fermented fish). The tilapia was still in the early stage of fermentation, but I got a good idea of the sour, funky flavor that would develop. Combined with the pieces of chile, garlic, and ginger, this dish was right up my alley.

Bangkok Golden nam khao

Bangkok Golden has both Thai and Lao menus, with Lao being where I wanted to be. Next up I ate Nam Khao (crispy rice salad) with some sour sausage added. Scoop some into a lettuce leaf and eat like a wrap, with the rice texture particularly interesting. Good flavors, again.

Bangkok Golden pork neck

Finally, I enjoyed Grilled Pork Neck, which wasn’t on the menu but available by request. The meat has good flavor from its marinade, and there’s chile sauce to add heat and flavor. The dish comes with a basket of sticky rice. The menu mentions broccoli and an accompaniment, but no sign of that in my order.

I’d love to return to Bangkok Golden with a group. There’s so much more of the menu to explore, and while we have a couple of restaurants with Lao dishes in Seattle, they don’t offer the diverse dishes that those close to Bangkok Golden are lucky to enjoy.

Cafe Aurora on Urbanspoon

Bangkok Golden on Urbanspoon

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