Tim Carman ventures to Woodridge to try Nido for a full review in the Washington Post. He awards the restaurant two stars. He loves pretty much the entire cocktail list, as well as the "succulent" rib-eye. But some of chef Aaron Wright’s interpretations of Mediterranean dishes are a bit heavy-handed. Carman writes:
"Wright’s approach can sometimes border on busyness, blurring the focus of a particular dish...That carpaccio? The shiitakes threaten a hostile takeover with their wooden personality. A small plate of roasted cauliflower double dips on sauces, pairing the florets with both a lemon-caper aioli and a romesco. The sauce overload lends the dish, as delicious as it may be, a kind of pub-grub character."
Carman also notes a few problems with the service like waitstaff who can’t answer questions about the wine list and inattentive bartenders. Overall, though, he thinks the full-service restaurant is a welcome addition to a neighborhood of mostly take-out joints. [WaPo]
Emily Codik dines at Los Hermanos in Columbia Heights for this week’s $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. It may look like a simple counter-service restaurant, but she discovers many of the dishes, like the tostones (fried plantains), are made to order. She writes:
"Ask any Dominican about the best pairing for those tostones, and the answer almost always will be another item on Los Hermanos’ inconspicuous menu: bistec encebollado, a thin, lime juice-marinated steak amped up with onions and Dominican oregano... A salsa verde, bold with fresh jalapeño and vinegar, is the last touch, a welcome fiery hit for dipping the plantains."
Another fact she learns— the Compres family who owns the restaurant also operates a busy catering business. They regularly feed Dominican baseball players visiting Nationals Park or Camden Yards. Also, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a big fan of their empanadas. [WaPo]
Becky Krystal reviews Earls Kitchen + Bar in Tysons Corner for the latest First Bite column in the Washington Post. She’s perplexed by (and maybe even a little suspicious of) the chain’s "Cheesecake Factory-like" menu of global dishes like tacos, bibimbap, and sticky toffee pudding. After trying an "unpleasantly oily" chimichurri skirt steak, she manages to find a few gems among their offerings. She writes:
"On the other hand, diners everywhere should be happy to receive the roasted corn and poblano cheese dip, a gooey starter with a leg up on ordinary queso thanks to the accompanying ancho-salt-dusted Navajo fry bread." [WaPo]
Todd Kliman files a review of Alsaray in Springfield for Washingtonian. Although it claims to cook simply "Middle Eastern cuisine," there are a few hard-to-find dishes on the menu. He writes:
"The menu glances at Lebanon but leans toward Egypt, including in two dishes you won’t find anywhere else: kibdah iskandarani($7.95)—in which slices of fried liver are tossed with chilies and lemon—and kushari ($7), a comfort food bringing together lentils, chickpeas, and sticky fried onions atop elbow macaroni, rice, and a splash of hot sauce....It’s meant to be scarfed, not picked apart."
Alsaray also does top-notch versions of familiar dips and salads like baba ghanoush, hummus, tabbouleh, and foul. The pickled eggplants stuffed with garlic, hot peppers, and lemon are also worth a try. [Washingtonian]
Warren Rojas, who was the food critic when Northern Virginia magazine launched 10 years ago, revisits a few restaurants that were featured in their first cover story. Most have closed since then, but he still managed to dine at six restaurants and write mini-reviews of each. He finds both good and bad dishes at Guarapo, Il Radicchio, The Majestic Cafe, Neisha Thai, and Shamshiry. Little has changed at most of these spots although Neisha Thai has changed locations.
The star of the collection is Carmello’s, where owner Alice Pires has streamlined the restaurant. Rojas writes:
"Way back when, patrons were obliged to pledge allegiance to one style of cooking (Italian cuisine) or another (Portuguese dishes). Today gourmet offerings—a universe of options ranging from oysters Rockefeller to saltimbocca bathed in Madeira cream sauce—live side-by-side sans obstruction...But the paelha Valenciana—featuring tender mussels, meaty scallops and zesty chorizo all swimming in an intoxicating seafood broth—absolutely blows people away." [NoVa]