A Steaming Plate of Cultural Vibes

Montgomery County Chefs Bring the Homeland Home in Specialty Dishes with Flavors from around the Globe

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Ana Gutierrez Covarrubias

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Commonwealth Indian, Roland Roomi, manager

Tell me about your restaurant’s elegant and richly detailed décor. 

The idea is to make customers comfortable when they enter. They feel like it’s a family place and kid friendly. Our background is gold. It’s an Indian concept: Indians love gold. We have gold in our columns and on walls and ceilings. Then we added crystals and paintings and we put a big peacock on the walls and we included a tiger. The peacock is the national bird of India and the tiger is the national animal of India.

Who is your head chef?

Mohammad Zamin is our main chef. He started cooking at age 10. Then he went to Germany to open a restaurant there. Then he came to the United States about 20 years ago. He is a master in tandoor items and biryanis, along with curries. He is from the northern region of India but he has experience in southern cuisine also. He is a very creative person.  For instance, he created a mogul-style lamb shank dish.  It’s a famous meal for kings and princesses.

Describe the overall concept for the menu.

India is a huge country with very many languages, cultures and customs. We cannot make all the regional food so we went for northern Indian food, with some things from the west also. We decided not to make the food very heavy. We made it simple and we kept the menu simple. 

Photo:  Mohammad Zamin, main chef at Commonwealth Indian, with a hearty bowl of yellow crab curry. The dish incudes a lump of yellow crab with a base of coconut milk, turmeric, curry leaves and other spices.

11610 Old Georgetown Rd, N. Bethesda, MD 20852  commonwealthindian.com

Tally Ho Restaurant, Andreas Vellios, manager

How do you make great pizza?

We use fresh ingredients. We make our dough in house. We use part-skim mozzarella cheese.  We buy the sauce but we add our own spices. We have hand-tossed crust as well as thin crust and gluten free options.

Your dad Pete is the owner. What’s the full scope of his role?

Many people know my dad as the main chef. He’s been doing it since he was 17 or 18 and he’s still doing it today at 67. Being Greek, cooking comes naturally to him.  He was born in Greece and came here with his parents as a teen. He was the first (in the family) to own a restaurant. Now, Pete makes primarily breakfast and he does cook lunch as well. We have a couple main chefs who help with dinner but Pete still develops the recipes on our menu.

How has the menu evolved?

At the beginning, we were just a 10-person diner counter in the back of a pharmacy. We didn’t have pizza. A burger was $.50. As the company grew, our menu grew. The restaurant grew and we moved to the spot we are in now. We added pizza. We regularly add things and take away things from the menu. For instance, we now have egg-white omelets and many other healthy options. In fact, you don’t even have to order off the menu. We can customize.

Photo:  Tally Ho Restaurant manager, Andreas Vellios, says the restaurant’s hand-tossed pizza is a real crowd pleaser. Like everything on the menu, it’s made with fresh ingredients.

9923 Falls Rd, Potomac, MD 20854  tallyhorestaurant.com

 Sisters Thai Potomac, Tharm Neatsawang, general manager

What is your chef’s specialty?

Chef Moo’s specialty is Thai street food and noodle dishes. He worked in Thailand for 30+ years and then moved to the states when his niece Tammy opened Sisters Thai in Fairfax in 2012, and they started to work together. Chef Moo had to incorporate new tastes from the United States because in Thailand, food is a lot different than here. He had to adjust the level of spice and some of the flavors.

What do people in the U.S. love about Thai food?

To me, it’s that Thai food is made to order.  Everyone has the choice to customize their food by adjusting the level of spice or you can add something or get it with a different type of meat. That makes Thai food unique. Also, we have a lot of different flavors in some dishes. We make sure it’s not too spicy and not too sweet. A lot of our food is a little more modernized than traditional Thai food. 

Tell me about Thai desserts.

We offer a lot of different types of desserts. The most popular is mango sticky rice which is pretty well known.  Within Sisters Thai Restaurant Group, Tammy opened Magnolia where she makes Thai desserts inspired by Japanese desserts and Korean desserts. She mixes flavors and added Thai taste too. Chef Moo offers these desserts at Sisters Thai Potomac.

Photo:  Chef Moo of Sisters Thai offers a specialty seafood dish named after a Thai island, called Phuket Island.  It includes shrimp, scallops, squid and crab meat with red curry spice, stir fried with coconut milk. 

7995 Tuckerman Ln, Potomac, MD 20854   sisterscabinjohn.com

Flower Child (part of Fox Restaurant Concepts)

Zack Sleman, Manager of Culinary Standards

How did you become a chef?

I dedicate my love for cooking to my father who is still a chef/owner of his own restaurant. Ever since I could remember, our weekend chores and summer jobs were with him in the kitchen. I earned my Bachelor’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America and later moved to Arizona where I met Fox Restaurant Concepts. Since then I worked in three different concepts and have helped open nine of its restaurants. I started as a prep cook and I’m now the Regional Chef for the DMV and Charlotte, NC. I love what I do!

I see the Flower Child menu is full of healthy grains, greens and wraps. Tell me more about it.

Everything on our menu is made from scratch, using farm-fresh ingredients from close to home. Our menu is extremely diverse, similar to our clientele. We are able to accommodate every type of dietary restriction imaginable. This is in fact who we are and we take great pride in this, as we follow our simple, soul-satisfying mission to spread positively delicious vibes and healthy food.

Why does your restaurant avoid the Dirty Dozen? 

The Dirty Dozen is produce that the Department of Agriculture says is traced routinely with pesticide residue. We purchase these top 12 items organically so our guests benefit from the nutrients within each fruit and vegetable. 

Photo: Zack Sleman, Manager of Culinary Standards at Flower Child shows off a dish called Mother Earth. It includes ancient grains, sweet potatoes with red-pepper miso, grilled portobello mushrooms with charred onions, broccoli pesto, arugula and avocado.

10205 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda, MD 20814 iamaflowerchild.com

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