Along the tree-lined Washington Boulevard that cuts through Lyon Park, among quaint red-brick homes and tiny strip malls, some of which have seen better days, one place stands out. It’s simply hard to pass Sibarita and not take notice.
The little stand-alone building, one could even call it a shack, is brightly painted and strewn with strings of multi-colored lights. A sculpted lion is perched on the roof. Peeking out from behind the many cars packed into the restaurant’s small parking lot are tiki hut tops, each attached to a table on the adjacent patio offering outdoor seating. Diners are greeted inside by a furry black couch set into a life-sized cow statuette that rests next to the bar, then ushered back into a compact dining room. Bird figurines and metalwork trinkets jut out of terracotta-toned walls. Each table is covered in a colorful woven cloth. This place is bold, and the Bolivian food it serves follows suit.
A hearty menu of rice, potatoes, and meats galore awaits diners who let piqued curiosity give way to a visit inside the restaurant. At the very start, diners can load up on starchy eats. The house “fat fries” are a fixture of many dishes on the menu, thick-cut planks of fried potato. For an appetizer, the fat fries are served in the Fritura Huankaina ($6.95), mixed with slices of lettuce, coated in a mild cheese-and-yellow-pepper sauce, and then topped with boiled eggs and black olive slices. The lettuce and olives impart a cool and tangy lightness to an otherwise heavy dish.
An entire side of the menu is devoted to somewhat lighter fare, with sandwiches, salads, wraps and the like, most costing less than $8. But the meaty platters that Sibarita offers beckon, the dishes divided on the menu by which scrumptious meat will be their focus.
The popular Bolivian dish Silpancho ($11.99) tops the beef offerings. The breaded and fried meat in this dish has been pounded thin, nearly as thin as the steak knife used to break into the heap of rice and fat fries that the beef blankets. A side of pico de gallo, spiked with little bits of hot pepper, accompanies the dish. The server advises that the chopped vegetable medley is meant to be mixed with oil and vinegar and placed atop the meat, which already boasts two fried eggs with ready-to-run yolks. The savory meat, made crispy by its light breading, and the rice and potatoes get a bit of tomato, onion, and pepper with each bite, adding variety to a dish that doesn’t skimp on savory flavors.
While the single-platter portions are quite generous at Sibarita, there are some dishes offered that are meant to feed a group, like the Pique Macho ($39, and recommended to feed four). In its solo version ($14.50), it’s still a mountain of food stacked precariously on the plate. Juicy pieces of meat and mildly spicy discs of chorizo are sprinkled throughout a platter of fat fries, boiled egg, and uncooked vegetables like tomato, red onion, and (most menacingly) jalapeno, chopped in thick slices with its potent seeds still attached.
When it comes to drinks, Sibarita offers an assortment of popular beers, including Corona and Dos Equis, which are part of its “progressive happy hour,” so named because the drinks on special and their prices change depending on the date and time. Those who visit at the right time on the right day might even snag their favorite brew for $2. There are also homemade juices, like the spiced peach drink mocochinchi and the surprisingly light peanut juice chicha de mani.
The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” offers wise advice, but sometimes the cover and the contents do match up. The Sibarita cover is attention-grabbing, and the food proves that it should be grabbing the attention of curious diners looking for quality Bolivian eats.
Sibarita is located at 2716 Washington Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-276-1050 or visit sibaritarestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Tuesday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Thursday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.