Washingtonian restaurant critic Ann Limpert says the trek to suburbia is worth it, thanks to chef Jason Maddens’ potato skins topped with sous-vide chicken, mozzarella, and buttermilk dressing and goat-sausage corn dog and the cocktails (she likes the minty bourbon-and-peach refresher). “These kinds of restaurants and this caliber of chef—have until now been in short supply in Ashburn,” she writes, of the Central alum and his “handsome, window-wrapped dining room.” For starters, go with the tuna niçoise salad, which comes with tomato confit, herbed aïoli, and olive tapenade. Grits “beautifully” highlight seared scallops alongside chorizo and pickled fennel stalks. (Skip the underseasoned fried oysters, though, she says.) For the main event, the duo of chicken “shows off Maddens’s split personality” (on one side, it’s a “perfectly roasted” bone-in chicken breast, and on the other, there’s a crunchy fried leg). Meanwhile, the grilled bavette steak — as flavorful as flank — is “nearly upstaged” by a bowl of yuca tossed, Mexican-street-corn-style, with aïoli and cotija cheese. During one trip, she had a “stale-tasting” gluten-free brownie sundae, she notes.
Duck Duck Goose
Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema gives two stars (“good”) to this Bethesda restaurant. He’s instantly impressed by the roasted Japanese eggplant appetizer: “a slender purple vessel for yogurt kissed with lemon zest and accents of scarlet Fresno peppers, breezy mint and pistachios.” The bronzed scallops with Israeli couscous is also a good call. As is the aged duck, accompanied by glazed beets and a beet puree. He's also into the ratatouille with a colorful spiral of grill-singed zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and tomato. He notes its chef and owner Ashish Alfred has quite the resume, coming from New York’s famed French-themed Daniel and the Italian-inspired Lupa. Fish fans should order the branzino, “elevated on creamy white beans and finished with celery leaves,” while the cauliflower “steak” on a smoked date puree should get vegetarians salivating. For lunch, there’s a “terrific” steak sandwich with twice-fried frites “as good as any around” (the rotating soup, salad and half-sandwich for $14 is a great deal, he adds). Misses include the thinly sliced, grill-striped foie gras (“a ringer for a flap of tire”) and the “dull cream puffs and the chocolate sauce” for dessert. A better ending is the two-toned white chocolate pot de crème, made by chef de cuisine Carson Schneider, a Mirabelle alum.
Ethnic Dining Guide author Tyler Cowen brands the McLean restaurant as the “best Chinese food in Virginia right now,” with hits that include spicy fish with potato and lotus root, dan dan noodles, and Chairman Mao pork belly. There’s also a good selection for vegetarians, he says. It’s an underrated restaurant, he decides, complete with a private dining room and a decor worthy of business meetings.
Despite being hard to find in Eden Center, Northern Virginia Magazine contributor Rina Rapuano says “it’s still fairly impossible not to love Kao Sarn.” The “adorably tiny and modern” Thai restaurant gives off an “amazing aroma” of fish sauce, garlic, and fresh herbs, she writes, and chef Arin Lapakulchai makes “well executed” versions of Thai classics during every visit. Winners include chicken curry puffs and a “pungent, spicy” green papaya salad. She also feasted on “outstanding” slices of creamy-centered eggplant stir-fried with ground pork and basil in a garlic-chili sauce. Another go-to order is the spicy Chinese broccoli with crispy pork belly in a rich brown sauce; go with the option of a fried egg on top, she writes.