Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tous Les Jours Korean Bakery - Annandale VA

7219 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
Tel: (703) 914-0000

We would be remiss if we didn't tell you about this amazing bakery, where we stopped after lunch at BonChon Chicken last weekend.

A standalone tiny structure just a few steps from BonChon, is the Tous Les Jours Korean Bakery that wows you as soon as you walk in.  Entering the tiny store front, it is impossible to resist being enveloped by the variety of deliciousness emanating from shelves and shelves of powdered goodness as far as the eye can see. 

Modern, clean, simple decor is utterly inviting. 



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BonChon Chicken - Korean fast food in Annandale, VA

7215 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
Tel:(703) 914-1415

The first time we tried BonChon Chicken Wings was at the Northern Virginia Magazine's Chicken Wings NoVa Wars.  They were so flavorful, so perfectly baked and the spicy wings were way out of this world terrific, that we just had to follow our taste buds to their Annandale location.

BonChon is a modern Korean fast food joint with several large TVs and a full bar in the heart of Korea Town in Annandale.  Its staff is all young Koreans, though our waiter seemed to be so brand spanking new, our service was quite underwhelming. The bright spot in the service area was a server named Israel, who not only served most of our food, but also refilled our water and asked if everything was ok.  Kudos to Israel!

Though their website seems to be down for quite a while now, one of the nice things that BonChon offers is a calorie count of all its dishes, including wings. The wings are not cheap; they are about average at $1.30 per wing, regardless whether you get a mix of wings and drumsticks, drumsticks only or boneless strips. We got the ones were remembered as being fantastic - Soy Garlic and Spicy. Definitely worth the visit!

Looking around, most everyone in the restaurant was feasting on piles and piles of wings. Needless to say, come here for the wings. The other stuff was...  well, it wasn't nearly as good as the wings.  

The banchan served along with our food at BonChon consisted of sweet cole slaw and mild crunchy pickled radish cubes. Eaten alone, they were bland. But when snacked on in-between the fiery or garlicky wings, they gained a lot more appreciation!

The two entrees we ordered, pictured and described below, were good. Korean food doesn't skimp on flavors, so almost anything you get will be good.

But BonChon Chicken is all about the WINGS, and this is definitely a reason to return!

Oh, by the way, an added bonus was that you do not walk out of the restaurant smelling like the kitchen.  This is not a Korean BBQ place where you leave wearing the smell of all the food on the menu. It is a bright and airy restaurant with great exhaust, large windows and modern furniture.  There is just really no reason not to check it out. 

 Complimentary sweet cole slaw and the mildest crunchiest pickled radish we ever tasted

 Medium Combo of 10 bonessless chicken strips - 5 Soy Ginger and 5 Spicy $12.95

 Bull Dak entree - spicy chicken stirfried with rice cakes in fiery sauce topped wth thinly sliced scallions and melted cheese, served with steamed white rice on the side $12.95

Chicken Katsu entree - breaded chicken cutlet served on a bed of steamed rice, drizzled with "katsu" sauce and spicy mayo $11.95

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bollywood Bistro - Contemporary Indian Cuisine in Great Falls, VA

9853 Georgetown Pike
Great Falls, VA 22066
Tel: (703) 865-0450

We've heard lots of positive reviews of the year-old Bollywood Bistro, so we invited our friends to join us for dinner at this Safeway shopping strip in Great Falls this past weekend.  

Bollywood Bistro impressed us at the outset with its welcoming modern decor that bridged the old and the new styles of India. True to its name Bistro, this is not a fancy traditional restaurant with mahogany deities and a 10-page menu. Rather a short-and-sweet selection of well-known favorites that not only burst with flavor, but they are also served up by a most accommodating and friendly staff.

Our waiter, Jude Lopez, was all the personality of the restaurant. Originally from Goa, he was incredibly helpful and charming, suggesting specific dishes and explaining the intricacies and differences in flavors typical to Northern Indian, Southern Indian, and Goan cuisine, which was very much appreciated.

The unique decor offered an ambiance of both intimacy and hospitality. Dim lighting in no way sacrificed the feeling of cleanliness, defining a calm and pleasant mood for a wonderful dinner.

Our food, pictured below, can be summarized in one word - delicious. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly presented, all in all terrific.

We will definitely be back to Bollywood Bistro!  Thank you for a great dining experience!

 Wonderfully crispy and delicious Samosa $4.95

Tallest Samosa we've ever seen

 Creamy wonderful lobster bisque $6.95

 Perfectly baked Kesari Chicken Tikka $13.95 and Delectable Fiery Chicken Vindaloo $13.95

 Mouthwatering Lamb Kabob $15.95, a vegetable medley by request $10.95, creamy Makhan Palak $10.95 and delicately tasty Garlic Naan $3.50

 Don't you just love these veggies?

Almost too pretty to eat

 Ceiling a-la-Medici

Modern, intimately-lit clean and welcoming dining room

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Myanmar Burmese cuisine - Falls Church, VA

7810 Lee Highway
Falls Church, VA
Tel: (703) 289-0013

Like you, my mother taught me that if I have nothing good to say, best not to say anything at all. So, at the risk of being impolite, I am still going to post this blog about our experience at Myanmar restaurant a few days ago. After all, the purpose of this blog is to inform our readers about local area restaurants.

We ate here once before, about 8 years ago. My husband said he is never coming back, but all this time later I could not remember whether I liked it then. I wanted to return to Myanmar - how bad can it be?  After all, I love ALL Asian food! BUT this recent experience has forced me to modify that statement to ...I like MOST Asian food.

Still reading? Thank you!

Myanmar has been the flagship establishment for about 15 years in a tiny - really tiny, and dilapidated - really dilapidated, strip mall on the very lengthy and winding Virginia road - Lee Highway. There must be people who have had good meals here, for it to have lasted this long, right?

On this dining escapade back to Myanmar, my husband refused to have any part of it, per his initial experience. So, I brought along 4 of my unsuspecting, yet adventurous pals. We were led through a dark small empty dining hall to a very bright (70s' fluorescent lights) small dining hall with only one other table being occupied by a family with a screaming toddler, who was periodically rolled outside in his stroller and rolled back into the restaurant when he quieted down.

For starters, we ordered two salads and the samosas. One of the salads was the Green Papaya salad, the other one was... something else. But in reality, the two were practically indistinguishable to the point that even our non-Burmese waiter - he identified himself as Indian, and we identified him as providing terrible service - anyway, our waiter got the salads mixed up, that's how similar they were. Both consisted of some kind of shredded vegetables, smothered in a greasy mayo-like dressing that had a hint of peanut sauce. It was not quite like any papaya I've ever tasted.

In a recent issue of The Washington Diplomat, Michael Coleman, a seemingly kind soul, was very easy on Myanmar, calling it "downtrodden-looking" with "subtle" flavors and "slow and indifferent wait staff." That's pretty spot on, except with all the negativity in Mr. Coleman's review, he still somehow managed to enjoy some of the dishes. He suggested the fish soup called Mohingar, which I ordered, since usually I love soups, especially fish soups. Basically, it was a pile of mushy rice noodles, a boiled egg, and some kind of a thick fishy broth that had an absence of any flavor at all. The two dry lime wedges and the 3 half-stalks of fresh cilantro that came a-la-pho on the side, hardly enhanced the flavor.

My last dish was the Vegetable Curry. Let's just say... it had vegetables, including one of my favorites - Okra. As for the other entrees, I don't exactly recall the chicken dishes that my friends ordered, only that all of them were swimming in chili oil. The chicken was swimming in chili oil, not my friends. As you can see in the photos below.

There were actually two things that I liked about Myanmar, and you'll never guess what they were:

One is the Jamaican Ginger Beer. In a Burmese restaurant. Nonetheless, it was bottled, imported from Jamaica, and it was very good. 

And two.... wait for it.... when we complained that one of our chicken dishes took nearly 40 minutes to come out and suggested that they should not charge us for a dish that took so long to be served, the waiter brought out the actual owner. She did comp us the meal, to her credit, although she could care less about the fact that our water glasses were never refilled, etc. AND she said something that was music to an Asian food lover's ears - THIS RESTAURANT IS ABOUT TO CLOSE! It is being bought by someone who may turn it into a South American restaurant.

That's certainly welcome news! Maybe now I will be able to once again say that I love ALL Asian food. I know there are several other Burmese restaurants in the Northern Virginia area.... should we go see if they are any different? Please tell me that not all Burmese restaurants are as bad as Myanmar.  ALL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS ON THIS TOPIC FROM OUR READERS WILL BE WELCOMED!!!

Fortunately, we still managed to enjoy our evening with friends with great conversation.

 One of the salads, makes no difference which one, since they were indistinguishable

 Mohingar fish soup with mushy noodles and tiny side of dry lime wedges and cilantro

 What the soup looks like when it's all put together

 Communal rice bowl and something swimming in chili oil

 One of the chicken dishes on top and vegetable curry on the bottom

Monday, September 28, 2015

Busara Thai Cuisine - McLean, VA

8143 Watson Street
McLean, VA 22102
Tel: (703) 356-0056

We've been driving past Busara for about a dozen years now, planning to eat there at some point. We've heard positive feedback from everyone we know who has eaten there. So, finally, this summer, we convened a group of about 10 friends and ventured to Busara!

Those of us, who love Thai food, have a saying that "there is no such thing as bad Thai food." And that is true of Busara, as well.  We most certainly had a great meal overall. The service was cheerful and efficient; the menu is standard with a half a dozen Daily Specials listed on an announcement board at the entrance; everyone enjoyed the food. But, as it is with anything in life, the most important thing about a dinner is the company! To this end, we had great conversation and lots of laughs over wine and food we enjoy. We could have easily had the same nice experience in any of the dozens of wonderful Thai restaurants in this area, which is to say that there wasn't anything that really stood out about Busara.

Below, we've listed most of the food we enjoyed at Busara along with photographs.

Most of the restaurants we review are either your basic ethnic dives or small Mom-and-Pop spots, so they rarely have the luxury of time to engage in social media or any interenet presence at all.  Their default approach to longevity is food excellence and a reliance on word-of-mouth and media, including food bloggers, like us. Of utmost importance is real estate - location, location, location.

Busara seems to be half-hearted in its online presence: It has a website, which is difficult to find - it doesn't come up on a google search!, and a Facebook page that has been inactive since September 2014, over a year. A simple google search produced nothing on the first page that actually led directly to this restaurant, but rather the typical popular review sites, like yelp, trip adviser, opentable, and a menu hosted on a third party site. Surprisingly, the menu that the restaurant itself provides at its host stand, and we picked up after dinner there in July, provides a website address that is actually wrong!

On occasion, such as this, when there is little information readily available online about a restaurant we are reviewing, we reach out directly to the manager / owner, let them know that we are reviewing their restaurant and ask them to kindly provide us with additional details to include in the review for our audience / the restaurant's customers.  This is exactly what we did with Busara, with some surprising results.

We easily got a hold of the manager, but whereas usually the restaurant is happy to speak with us, even briefly, in Busara's case, the manager, who did not identify himself, was quite curt and unfriendly, seemingly not interested in publicity. It is quite rare for us to experience what seemed to be almost an attempt by a restaurant manager to drive away interest.

The manager told us that there indeed is a website - www.busara.co (not busara.com, as listed on the restaurant's literature).  We informed him that - fyi - for some reason it doesn't come up on a Google search, he responded, that's because we don't use google. Huh? The website itself is actually quite snazzy, so it's a shame that it is so challenging to find. On the website itself, all social media icons are disabled!

In any case, we will not spend more time writing about a restaurant that doesn't seem to be interested in being written about.  We will say that it has a great location (perhaps the key to its success) just steps away from Tysons Mall, next to the famous landmark event destination J.R.'s Stockyards Inn, likely with a dedicated clientele among the numerous businesses in the area. It has a large parking lot, convenient for meeting for lunch or dinner.  Busara has been in this location for 20 years, which is a great achievement, and has another location at Reston Town Center open for 15 years, which we have not visited.  It has nice modern decor and a pleasant atmosphere with light background music.

Would we seek out Busara next time we want to have Thai food? Doubt it. We would rather go to Rabieng, Tara Thai, Bangkok Golden or any of the endless Thai options available in this area. However, in the Tysons area, for people who opt for the more "upscale ethnic dives," Busara is quite a good choice.

 Distinctive entrance from the restaurant's parking lot

 Specials are listed as you enter the restaurant, with a view toward two smaller dining rooms with large windows

 Two bright side rooms allow for the feel of a smaller restaurant and are light-filled

 Modern and spacious main dining room, great for business meetings, dates, family meals, or large groups.

Duck Rolls Appetizer - Roasted duck, green onion, cucumber wrapped in a thin spring roll skin and deep fried with a sweet sauce $7.50

 Crispy Springrolls Appetizer - Cellophane noodles, cabbage, carrots, celery and Hu-Nu mushrooms served in chef's special sauce $5.95

 Papaya Salad Appetizer - julienned green papaya, roasted peanuts, string beans and tomato mixed in a spicy lime dressing $6.95

 Soft Spring Rolls - Steamed rice flour rolls stuffed with crabmeat, port, egg and vegetables served in chef's special sauce $5.95

 Gai Sapp Kapow - Minced chicken sauteed with basil leaves, chili and garlic over jasmine rice $10.95 - for a nice twist, ASK FOR A COUPLE FRIED EGGS with this (or any!) dish

Shrimp Bikini Appetizer - Black tiger shrimp wrapped in a thin spring roll skin and deep fried, served with delicious sauce $6.95 

 A chicken curry dish, can't recall exactly which one at the time of writing this blog, but it was great, like all the other food at Busara

 Pattaya Seafood - Shrimp, squid and scallops sauteed in a roasted chili sauce with scallions, onion, mushroom and sweet basil leaves $15.95

 Spicy Garden Vegetarian Entree - Sauteed mixed fresh veggies in a spicy bean sauce $10.95

 Pad Woon Sen - Cellophane noodles stir-fried with shrimp, pork, mushrooms, egg and veggies, served with rice $12.95

Busara Drunken Noodle with Chicken - Sauteed with Basil leaves, chili and garlic, served with rice noodles $12.95

Spicy Seafood Fried Rice - Festival of seafood stir-fried with rice, basil and chili $13.95