September-October 2018 | Food & Drink

A Guide to 10 Out-of-the-Way Ethnic Eateries

Restaurants where diners need to have an open mind and an adventurous spirit

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Thai Taste by Kob

Wheaton

It’s not easy to find Thai Taste by Kob. To get there, you go to the rear of the Hung Phat grocery store parking lot (over by the discarded shopping carts and fenced-in AC units), up an awkward staircase and through an unassuming single door.

 

Thai Taste by Kob’s crispy blanket shrimp (left) and pumpkin empanadas. Photos by Michael Ventura.

 

Inside, you’ll find some of the most authentic Thai cooking in the area.

The cheery, no-frills dining room offers just over 20 seats. The paint is fresh and the lighting is bright. Here, you can order a cold Thai beer while you peruse a broad, almost daunting menu filled with Thai standards and dishes you won’t find elsewhere in Montgomery County.

A server will guide you through the menu, where the dishes are often described in mouthwatering detail. I suggest starting with a seafood appetizer such as the crispy blanket shrimp, the fluffy catfish salad or the fried fish cake festooned with green beans and cucumber relish. That delicious relish also garnishes two sweet potato-based appetizers, pumpkin empanadas and the “Lucky Bag,” a fried dumpling gone to heaven with curry and ground chicken. An array of seasoning, dips and sauces are delivered with most appetizers. Thai Taste by Kob also offers several appetizer samplers that cover all the bases when you can’t decide.

 

“Lucky Bag” fried dumplings at Thai Taste by Kob. Photo by Michael Ventura.

 

While the chef’s noodle dishes are as authentic as you will come across, I find that her stir-fried offerings shine to the eye and the tongue. Plating is a joy, usually with ingredients separated and arranged artfully. The fiery “Kua Kling” and “Pad Kratiem” are stir-fries with your choice of meat, and the eggplant “Pad Ma Kuea” is a star.

The “Thai Taste For You” section of the menu is where you’ll find the lesser-known Thai delights. Lesser known or not, they have always charmed me. Don’t shy away from unfamiliar ingredients—fish ball, crispy skin, heart; let the chef’s thoughtful combinations wow you.

11315 Fern St., Wheaton; 301-942-0288, thaitastewheaton.weebly.com


 

Gemelli’s Italian Market

Gaithersburg

Gemelli’s Italian Market is like stepping back in time, with gentle service, samples galore and a plethora of Italian standards.

 

Gemelli’s Italian Market co-owner Monica Calcagno. Photo by Michael Ventura.

 

I stop at Gemelli’s for the freshly made sandwiches. I am a fan of their bread—the hard roll reminds me of ciabatta, and the seven grain is robust with a nice sweetness. The meats aren’t piled high here, but shine based on their quality. The “Club Italiano” features an herbal tangy pancetta standing in for bacon; the smear of basil mayo adds a summery hint. The “Siciliano” is thick with assorted hams and spicy salami.

 

The eatery’s “Club Italiano” on seven grain bread. Photo by Michael Ventura.

 

Non-meat eaters can join the party here, too, with a number of fine salads and a few vegan and vegetarian sandwich offerings. Both of the cold eggplant sandwiches are wonderfully crafted with well-seasoned ingredients.

For hot sandwiches, I favor the “Manzo,” with roast beef, provolone cheese and tart giardiniera (relish). The sausage sandwiches with homemade sausage, peppers and onions evoke memories of a Little Italy street fair.

Gemelli’s has a good beer and wine selection to enjoy with your meal at the market or to take out.

12169 Darnestown Road, Gaithersburg, 240-246-7674, gemellisitalianmarket.com