Our Mom Eugenia
Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans taste tests family restaurant Our Mom Eugenia, which sits in a shopping center at the meeting point of Great Falls and Reston. The space “exudes tenderness”; its one large “warm" room is packed with tables and framed depictions of Greek life. The bulk of the menu is shared plates; Gans praised the tender meatballs, and crispy beer-battered zucchini. Techniques are simple, she notes, as are the ingredients, with nothing venturing "into the exotic or newfangled.” The octopus, imported from Portugal, is a hit: Baked in an oven for an hour-and-a-half, its interior turns out “almost custardlike." There are some misses, however. The braised lamb shank lacked seasoning, while "an otherwise-indulgent” moussaka was cold upon arrival. The “finest act” of the night was a special of grilled grouper with a pan-seared crust.
Bethesda Magazine’s David Hagedorn tries Community on for size, and its portions meant for two do not agree with his taste; they require too much legwork on the part of the customers. The lunchtime Reuben ($24), for example, comes with “excellent" corned beef, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on a slice of toasted rye bread slathered with Thousand Island dressing, with four toasted rye triangles on the side. But he wonders, “who wants to deconstruct that messy morass and reconstruct their own sandwiches?” He sums up the dishes at the six-month-old spot in Woodmont Triangle’s 7770 Norfolk luxury apartment building thusly: "Things look good on the outside, and sometimes taste good, but haven’t been thought through.”
Hagedorn had high hopes for the spot, considering owner Mark Bucher is a seasoned restaurateur who founded and sold the BGR burger chain. "Bucher gives highfalutin airs and prices to diner food, which is supposed to be guileless.” Take away the flashy accents, like creamed spinach that arrives in a coffee mug, and prime rib escorted table side on a cart and “what you have is a mediocre bistro, not a diner.” He has one theory about the woeful execution: Chef Todd Harrington (of the now-defunct Central Michel Richard restaurant in Las Vegas) helped create the menu and recipes, but now only a kitchen manager oversees daily operations rather than a chef.
Taqueria del Barrio
Petworth’s self-styled Mexican eatery, from veteran food trucker Anna Bran-Leis, isn’t a hit in Tom Sietsema’s book. The Washington Post restaurant critic starts off by describing the “spirited backdrop” for the “pleasing” empanadas: the dining room gets a dash of color from aqua dining chairs, while the bar features black-and-white Mexican tiles. Two empanadas are featured each day (one with meat, another without); Sietsema says they benefit from a dollop of salsa and a Margarita del Barrio, a house-made cooler spiked with pineapple. But “stray from the product that made DC Empanadas popular, and you’re apt to encounter disappointment.”
The tacos largely lack flavor, he says, while other misses include the “underseasoned” Milanesa torta, “leathery" chile relleno, and fajitas that feature no sizzle from the kitchen to the table; its strips of beef, chicken and bell peppers are “muted" in flavor. One “tender and tasty” highlight is the albondigas, beef meatballs in smoky chipotle salsa topped with cotija cheese and cilantro. Another is a tamale marrying shredded chicken with salsa verde.
Sietsema also hits Stable on H Street NE, a joint project from Swiss-born business partners and chefs Silvan Kraemer and David Fritsche. "Fritsche is the face you see in the long, open kitchen and Kraemer is the charming presence in the dining room." Authentic but subtle design details include Swiss Army blankets that double as cushion benches. And the back room's bar features lofty ceilings that could be spotted in Zurich. The first bite of bread is reassuring (chef Fritsche put in more than a year at the Swiss Bakery in Springfield, Va., “and it shows”). Smoked salmon with an omelet is a “lovely” appetizer, while spaetzle, tinted green with ramps and beneath melted Gruyere, is another first course that could double as a main. Stable’s fried chicken wings are an ode to the owners’ youths and are "explosively juicy.” But dull lamb in a damp herb crust is a big “bore,” while the “spring” risotto proves too heavy.