The New World Bistro has quickly established itself as part of our regular rotation. We went with two more couples for dinner on Friday. We all ordered off the special Mardi Gras menu, which limits the use of this review somewhat -- evaluations of more regular menu items (I especially recommend the Egyptian sweetbreads) will have to wait. But everyone was satisfied with the meal, which featured the fresh ingredients and big flavors that characterize New World at its best.
We started with a round of drinks -- New World makes very good cocktails and has some interesting taps. Of particular interest is the fact that Chatham Brewing makes a special IPA for New World, which is superb.
We did the appetizers family-style. We had stuffed oysters three ways and a fried oyster cocktail for the table. No individual could try anything but everyone was pleased by the agreeably briny oysters inventively prepared. I regret not being able to try the oyster and artichoke soup; I may have to try to make that myself.
For the main course, three of us had a nicely spicy jambalya. As is often the case at New World, vegetables take a more central role: compared to the classic recipe, the New World version has less shrimp and sausage and added okra(more common in gumbo) as a replacement. To me, this is a good thing, although since okra is an acquired taste others' mileage may vary. Certainly, if this was a regular menu item it would go toward the top of my list. Another diner had a beautifully blackened catfish with (I believe) a remoulade sauce, for which he had very high praise. Another diner had the vegetarian version of the jambalaya with seitan. Finally, the only friend to order off the regular menu got the Vietnemese salad (based on noodles, greens and cabbage) with tofu added. Given my severe nut allergy I can't vouch for it, but she was impressed.
The atmosphere of the meal matched the quality of the food. Being a larger group allowed us to avoid the worst part of the New World experience (the number of cramped, tightly-spaced two-tops), and the always-friendly service was remarkably efficient for a packed Friday night house. We'll be back for a review of a more representative meal, but New World remains one of the best combinations of price and quality in the capital region.