Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant - Falls Church City, VA

232 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 533-8233

In a small strip mall in Falls Church City, Pho 88 is not to be missed.  It is a low-key Vietnamese dive with large windows brightening up the the restaurant's plainest of plain decors.  Like most ethnic dives, the ambiance isn't the draw here. It is the food in Pho 88 that definitely makes it a neighborhood favorite.  Pho 88 serves up reliably delicious food to a steady stream of clientele for lunch and dinner.  We have been here several times over the last few years and have enjoyed our meal every time.

Our lunch today was no exception.  Their spring rolls served with peanut sauce were rather bland, but they were fresh and delicious.  Pictured here are spring rolls with shrimp and spring rolls with tofu.  A few drops of hot sauce brings them to perfection.  We typically get the Pho with chicken that comes in a "small" bowl for $7.95 or a "large" bowl (slightly larger than the "small") for $8.95.  The Pho is aromatic, flavorful and plentiful.  Don't worry if you don't finish the whole bowl, of course you can take the rest home. Pho is better the next day anyway!

Don't forget to order the Vietnamese iced coffee with sweet condensed milk for the extra kick.  Just lift up the aluminum press, stir it up with the long tea spoon, pour onto the ice and ENJOY!

During peak hours the service can be a bit slow, but that does not detract from the great experience and the DELICIOUS FOOD.  

The parking lot in the back of the mall can be packed during the weekdays, but usually you can find a spot, and in the evenings it is generally easy to park.  Note their website says they are CLOSED TUESDAYS.

Oh, and as an extra bonus, Tutti Frutti, which recently opened next door, is offering anyone who eats at Pho 88 a 20% discount on frozen yogurt!  This is a limited-time offer, but definitely worth it! 

Btw, if you like sushi, another restaurant that we love in the same strip mall is Manekineko Japanese Restaurant! Review coming soon, so if you are not yet subscribed to our email list, go ahead and sign up so you don't miss any of our highly valuable descriptions of our dining experiences in the Northern Virginia area!

Friday, March 28, 2014

CALLING ALL WAITERS AND WAITRESSES!!! Your chance to be on TV!!! Tell your story!!!

Vintage South Productions is a television casting and development company looking for a cast for a new national TV show that will feature waiters and waitresses who have contributed in wonderful ways to their communities
 above and beyond their jobs.  

Is that YOU?  Is it SOMEONE YOU KNOW who has served you food, but also touched your life or done something kind and wonderful that needs to be told?

If you know of a worthwhile candidate for The Kindness Project for waiters and waitresses, please contact Vintage South Productions.  They are looking for servers with a story of serving more than just food - those that 
are serving their communities in other ways. 

They are hoping to cast everyone within the next 3-4 weeks.

This is a nationwide show, but they want to have an episode 
on the Northern Virginia area. 

Contact them and let them know that you heard about it HERE on

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tara Thai Restaurant - Vienna, VA

226 Maple Ave.
West Vienna, VA 22180 
Tel. 703-255-2467

Since Tara Thai in Falls Church is one of our favorite spots for a reliably good Thai meal, we thought we'd try another Tara Thai that is located in Vienna.  In the past, we tried Tara Thai in Arlington before it closed.  Bottom line for us is that decidedly Tara Thai in Falls Church is heads above its namesakes.

Though most of the dishes offered on the menu are standard and familiar Thai choices, the Chef's specials understandably differ from restaurant to restaurant, as does the preparation itself. One of the particularly noticeable issues we found with Tara Thai Vienna is the inconsistency of the spicyness level between the menu and the actual dish.  We ordered dishes with asterisks that turned out mild and dishes with no asterisks that turned out hot.  We suggest that regardless of what it says on the menu, you indicate directly to the waiter the level of hotness you prefer, otherwise you will be surprised when the food arrives, at least in our experience.

We ordered two appetizers - Salt & Pepper Calamari, which was lightly battered and fried, and the Num Tok, a beef dish.  The Num Tok was a bit of a disappointment not only because the two asterisks next to it on the menu did not reflect the actual rather mild seasoning of the dish, but also because the flank steak was just overall not nearly as tasty or juicy as it is in Tara Thai Falls Church.  Would not order it there again. Our entrees were a combination of one standard Thai dish - Pad Thai, which was fine, and one of the Chef's Specials.  We ordered the Tara Thai Vienna's Chef's Special the Crispy Golden Chicken, which was good, but, despite there being no asterisks next to it on the menu, it was on the hot side.

Service was not nearly as friendly or attentive compared with Tara Thai Falls Church.  While Tara Thai Vienna is perfectly fine, if we had to choose, we would select Tara Thai Falls Church hands down.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bangkok Bistro at Ballston - Contemporary THAI Cuisine - Arlington, VA

Bangkok Bistro at Ballston
715 N. Glebe Rd. Arlington, VA 22203
tel: 703-243-9669

Bangkok Bistro is a wonderful, busy, cheerful spot for lunch right across the street from Macy's (Ballston Commons Mall) near the Ballston Metro.  They get you in and out quickly with smiles and just the right amount of attention.  Corner location with huge windows gives the restaurant an open and bright feel.  The dark furniture is clean and modern.  The aromas that hit your nose when you first walk in make it hard not to stay and enjoy your meal.

We ordered wine at $7/glass along with Drunken Noodles ($11) and a Papaya Deluxe Salad ($9).  Both were excellent.  The Drunken Noodles, one of my favorite dishes, had just the perfect amount of seasoning and noodles were cooked to a perfect texture.  The Papaya Deluxe Salad came out with a fun presentation of shrimp on a skewer and was also delicious.  

If you are driving there, expect to see lots of paid street parking around, but on a weekday lunchtime spots are hard to come by.  Parking hint: The garage right next to Bangkok Bistro charges just $1 for the first 3 hours, and the guys there are very friendly and efficient.  Great experience.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chutzpah Deli - Jewish / Russian / Eastern European comfort food - Fairfax, VA

12214 Fairfax Towne Center
Fairfax, VA 22033
(703) 385-8883

If you haven't tried Chutzpah a Real New York Deli in Fairafax, we recommend that you do, at least once.

Don't go too much out of your way, it is not a true New York Deli, certainly not even close to Stage or Carnegie, or really ANY deli in New York City, but it's as good as we get here in Northern Virginia, and that's worthwhile. Don't expect to be blown away or coming away wowed, but you will have a small reminder of the old familiar tastes that you may have grown up with or may have heard about.

There aren't many places in this area you can get Matzoh brei, borscht and a knish all in one order, and that's a real treat.  We have tried all the different kinds of pastrami and all are tasty, but put them on a sandwich and somehow they are... underwhelming.

Chutzpah is a small simple place with about a dozen grey tables and a carry-out area. If you choose to have a sit-down meal in the restaurant, be prepared: the service is atrocious and on top of that, it lacks personality. Both are an understatement.  The phrase "pulling teeth" comes to mind.  If the lack of enthusiasm and hospitality weren't enough, we had to remind our waiter about almost everything that we asked for... twice, so there is also that factor.  

Here is a tip (for you, not the waiter). Chutzpah offers a free bottomless supply of coleslaw and delicious half-sour pickles for its in-house diners.  The trick is that they don't tell you about it.  But ask, and you shall receive!!! It's a great addition to the meal and well-worth the extra conversation with the unenthusiastic wait staff.    

The portions are average to small and it is not cheap for what you get.

Overall, for the taste of the old Jewish Russian New York, Chutzpah is definitely worth at least one visit.

And don't forget to sign up for our mailing list just to the right of this review!  We will notify you each time we visit a restaurant in your area and have something to say about it.  If you'd like us to visit and review a specific restaurant, we will be happy to hear your suggestions - please email us! We hope to be helpful to you, your family and friends, in selecting restaurants based on some input from us and having an enjoyable and adventurous dining experience!  We also hope to be helpful to restaurant management in providing feedback on our dining experience in their establishments!  Please do not hesitate to contact us!  We are happy to hear from you!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some unique dishes you can only get abroad

12 Over the Top International Fast-Food Items from The Daily Meal

Biryani-Stuffed Calzone?
Kimchi Hamburger?
Mince Pie Donut?
Doubledecker Pizza?

Check out all 12 here: http://www.thedailymeal.com/12-over-top-international-fast-food-items/2514

While you're there check out some more fun fast food stories, like 10 Cutting-Edge Fast-Food Innovations of 2013 or 12 Regional Foods Worth Traveling For.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine - Falls Church, VA (Revisited)

5700 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA
(703) 820-2870

If there is a go-to Ethiopian restaurant for us, undoubtedly it's Meaza. We first reviewed it back in 2011, but since then we've been there so many times that we felt we needed to update our review. We said in our last blog that we had "one terrific meal" at Meaza, but in reality we've had over a dozen terrific meals there. Below is a photo of our recent meal. 

Two large dining halls in Meaza (one usually reserved for private banquets or evenings with extra need for dining space) are filled with cheerful diners during typical meal times.  Just keep in mind, this is considered an ethnic dive, so dress and set expectations accordingly.  There are the "regulars," both Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians, as well as a rather consistent stream of "newbies" to Ethiopian cuisine.  We particularly enjoy watching the newbies' reactions when the large plate arrives to be filled by the waitress spooning out entrees of freshly made sizzling meats and delicious veggies from kettles, and to be shared by everyone at the table.  The only utensils at the table are one's own clean bare fingers, using the injera bread to scoop up the delicious food.  

We go well-done on the meats, which is probably not authentic, but is more suitable to our palates than the traditional raw kitfo. Along with the kitfo, we also usually get the house specialty Meaza tibs.  Because the Meaza tibs are not spicy, we asked for the kitfo to be made on the spicier side, to complement one another, since one of us likes spicy food and the other one does not.  The kitfo is served with a wonderful side of white cheese, which gives the meal a great flavor and a great texture.  While the meats are offered with one side order of veggies, we added the vegetarian sampler to our order to have a larger selection (and also plenty leftovers to take home!).  This gave us a wonderful array of choices like several types of lentils, cole slaw, potatoes, carrots, spinach and other small samples to make each bite different and delicious. A great choice also, if you're up for it, is the veggie sampler with the option of including fish.  The fish comes out on the tray with its head intact (you may want to ask that the head be removed in the kitchen), but it's one flaky, tender and delicious option that you can choose, although it makes the meal a bit more filling. 

A perfect addition of several glasses of red wine and cold Perrier and we were good to go. Wonderful service by Genet made our meal extra special!

We say "amasat ganalo" (thank you very much) every time we finish our meal because it's truly a gastronomical feast.   

Note to all diners:  Meaza is a winner of numerous awards, including "Best Restaurant" rated by Northern Virginia Magazine and "Best Bargain Restaurant" rated by Washingtonian Magazine.

Note to the frugal budget diners: Although Meaza is certainly a bargain restaurant, they regularly offer a Groupon for half off.  No reason not to take advantage of it and order double!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sarita's Salvadorian Restaurant - Falls Church, VA

2794 Graham Rd
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 533-9448

To the best we could tell, Sarita’s caters to the local Salvadoran community, providing a comfortable atmosphere with familiar fare. For us, however, Sarita’s was a disappointment.

Not sure why www.yelp.com and some other websites list Sarita’s as a Mexican restaurant. It is not. It may be Latin, but not Mexican, at least as we're used to Mexican (see Anita's, El Paso, Tequila Grande or even El Tio),  We went in there thinking it was, but after seeing the menu and tasting the food, we asked the staff, and they confirmed that it is a Salvadorian restaurant.

Let’s start with the cafeteria-like décor. The plastic tablecloths and the dingy furniture, walls and floors were an immediate turnoff.

The dinginess would have been ok if it was compensated by the quality of food and the service. It was not.

The service was pleasant, but clearly serving English-speaking clientele is not the restaurant’s priority. Our waitress was sweet, but rather clueless and definitely inattentive. The few staff hunkered around the bar area chatting with customers who came in after us, no one approached our table to ask us about our meal. The water wasn’t refilled. We felt like we had to pull teeth to get any attention.

As for the food, it was disappointing both in taste and presentation. The bottomless chips were rather greasy and the salsa was tasteless. We had to mix it with the tobasco sauce on the table to give it some flavor. The nacho plate we ordered was a slopyy, soggy mess, as you can see in the photo. The chicken tortillas were blah to say the least. Mushy meat and soft tortillas (plain pupusas) left a lot to be desired. The chicken stew was barely at all a stew, as you can see on the photo. Again, tobasco sauce to the rescue.

If Sarita’s offered a better dining experience the prices, which are rather average to an ethnic dive, would not have been so insulting. But we felt that we paid way too much for the mediocre quality of lunch we had at Sarita’s.

Zagat ranks 10 restaurant power groups with U.S.-based chefs and at least 12 restaurants world wide. Fascinating picks!

One of them is in Virginia (hip hip for Jose Andres!), two in Maryland and three in DC, listed below.

See http://www.zagat.com/b/empire-ranking#8 for the full list of selections and the ranking criteria.

Lettuce Entertain You
Head honcho: Richard Melman
Main turf: Chicago, IL
Restaurants: 99 restaurants
Markets: Illinois/Chicago, Minneapolis, California, DC and Scottsdale, AZ
Average food score: 21.9
Profile: Operating close to 100 restaurants all across the country is nothing to sneeze at, and founder and CEO Richard Melman of the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You has over 60 partners helping him out, as well as his three kids. The group owns a wide range of restaurants from fine-dining concepts like L20 and Tru, to fast-casual chains like M Burger, Krispy Kreme and Big Bowl. For Melman, it all started with a single Chicago restaurant, a burger joint called RJ Grunt's, in 1971. Read up on the full family history here

Mina Group
Head honcho: Michael Mina
Primary turf: San Francisco
Restaurants: 20
Markets: Arizona, California, Nevada, DC, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Wyoming
Average food score: 25.2
Profile: SF-based chef Michael Mina began his career at age 22, on the day of the infamous 1989 earthquake that struck the Golden Gate City. Over 20 years later, his empire spans across the country, known mostly for his eponymous fine-dining concept, his popular Bourbon Steak restaurants, which are expanding by the minute, and the recently opened Michael Mina 74 in South Beach, Miami.

Head honcho: Jose Andres
Primary turf: Washington, DC
Restaurants: 16 currently open
Markets: DC, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, Maryland, Virginia
Average food score: 25.4
Profile: The innovative Spanish-born chef known for his DC-based Jaleo and eclectic concept The Bazaar(LA, Vegas, Miami) now has 16 restaurants to his credit all over the country. As new SLS Hotels open, The Bazaar concept continues to grow, with rumors that the upcoming SLS Philly may have food offerings from the chef as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Imm Thai Cuisine - Annandale, VA

7203 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003
Tel: (703) 750-0880

In the heart of a dining treasure trove of wonderful Korean dives in Annandale known as "Little Korea,Imm Thai Cuisine offers a small unexpected, yet still Asian, detour. On a cold Sunday evening, we decided to give it a shot. We know how wonderful many of the Korean restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars are in Annandale, so why not try something that is a little unusual.

Located in a small building neighboring only a boutique called Gloria Beauttie Fashion, which was doing business late into Sunday evening, Imm Thai Cuisine is a small place that is cozy, clean, simple and friendly.

When we arrived, there was only one other party of about 4 people eating in the restaurant. The waitress / hostess with a huge smile and a welcoming demeanor quickly seated us and took our wine order. They offer two kinds of red and two kinds of white wine, a humble, but sufficient selection for a small place like this.

Our food came out quickly. Our Imm’s Duck Rolls and Larb Gai chicken appetizers were very good. They tasted fresh and flavorful, though the Larb Gai wasn’t very spicy, even though it had two “spicy stars” on the menu. As our entrée choices, we both ordered noodles – Pad Thai and a Drunken Noodles, both with chicken. While they were both very good, the noodles were a little too soft for our taste, making for a texture that was a bit disappointing. In fact the next day when I heated up my Drunken Noodles leftovers, they literally disintegrated in my mouth. This is not something that is typical, not sure what kind of noodles they are using or how they are preparing them that is different from the many other Thai restaurants in the area.

The Drunken Noodles were marked with two “spicy stars” on the menu, indicating a higher level of heat, however they were not very spicy at all, just like the Larb Gai. We requested the spicy sauce tray, which helped to infuse some heat into the noodle dishes.

Overall, this place is OK, but not great, as far as Thai food goes. Tara Thai in Falls Church or i-Thai in Vienna make a much better choice. When in Annandale and craving Thai, this place will certainly do. Prices are quite reasonable and on par with other restaurants in the area. However, we suggest to stick to some of the better-known Korean dives that are plentiful and well-known in Annandale.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kenji Fusion - Bailey’s Crossroads, VA

3539 South Jefferson St 
Bailey's Crossroads, VA 22041

Coconut Herring???

Before you head over to the Asian Fusion restaurant Kenji Fusion in the Skyline/Bailey’s Crossroads neighborhood of Falls Church, consider this exchange between Frasier and Niles in the old sitcom Frasier*:

Niles: Frasier, I hope you're free tonight. I just secured a table at the most exclusive new restaurant in Seattle.

Frasier: I'm sorry - just not in the mood.

Niles: At least hear me out - this place is the hottest new thing in fusion cuisine.

Frasier: What cuisines are being fused?

Niles: Polynesian and Scandanavian. It's called "Mahalo-Valhalla."

Frasier: Well, perhaps there's a reason why God put those two countries so far apart.

Niles: I had my doubts too. But my gourmet newsletter gave three-and-a-half whisks to their coconut herring.

I quote this show because its further proof I am not a big fan of fusion restaurants. The old adage, “if you can do one thing well, stick with it. The more you add, the more washed out it becomes.” I think Kenji Fusion is evidence of this adage. In and around the NoVA dining scene there are really good Chinese, good Japanese, good Korean, good Thai, etc. Search this blog, or Yelp, or other reviewers and you’ll find them. IMHO, when each of the continent’s menus are fused, it takes a lot of guts, skill, and knowledge to pull it off. Kenji Fusion comes close, the food is OK, but what drops its bar is in its service and décor—both are nice, but fall way short of what a restaurant should be. If Niles’ gourmet newsletter gave three-and-a-half whisks to their coconut herring, then we give 2 whisks to Kenji Fusion.

Let’s start with the food simply because it was the only part of the meal that was acceptable. Savvy readers may want to skip this section and proceed directly to the décor and service below. Our orders consisted of several Japanese rolls (Philadelphia Rolls, California Rolls, Tempura Shrimp Rolls, Sweet Potato Rolls—oh wait, the Tempura Shrimp and Sweet Potato Rolls never showed up—more on that later). These rolls were “ok”, but I think a Japanese sushi house could do them much better. Our entrées consisted of Singapore Noodles, Chicken Tempura (never showed up—more on that later), Ginger Tofu with Veggies, and Chicken Teriyaki. All of our entrées passed the taste test, but because they were served out of order and some entrées came out late, detracted from the experience. Again, more on that later.

So you probably are here because you skipped the paragraph on the food. That’s ok,

because this is where the review really begins. Finding a place to start is difficult, so we’ll start with the décor as that is always the first impression. Kenji Fusion’s décor tries. Tries real hard, but fails miserably and ends up being very cheesy. Booths are huge, poorly lit, and very uncomfortable as the tables are so narrow that in order to eat you must sit at the edge of the bench. Great ideas in an open floor plan but too much thought on conveying a contemporary atmosphere and not enough though on diner comfort. The lighting is a too-dark mixture constructed with a back-light behind crystal glass balls. Makes for an interesting scheme, however, the gradual color reflections from one color to the next makes reading a menu extremely difficult. TVs showing sporting events and CNN were way out of place and distracted from the entire experience. Maybe limit the TVs to just the bar area?

On to the service at Kenji Fusion. OMG, how bad can service be? Order a sushi roll you’re likely to see a coconut herring delivered. OK, our guy may have been new, but he was inattentive, lacked experience (and a command of English), and did not understand the basics of dining service. Nothing could warn us more since he was very attentive on the front-end as we previewed the menu. He came by at least twice before we were ready to order ensuring we knew and understood the drink menu. Our dining companions noticed his elaborate square drawn out on his notepad, but that’s where the organization stopped. We purposely went slow through our order and “hoped” he would get it right.

We ordered two soups and four sushi rolls as starters. The soups arrived soon enough, but only two sushi rolls ever showed up. The menu states that avocado, crab sticks, etc. can be added to any roll order (for an additional charge), imagine our frustration when we ordered a sweet potato roll with extra avocado and had to argue with the waiter to convince him that the menu actually does say this is possible. Since the roll never came, we will never know if the extra was conveyed to the sushi chef. Did our starters (rolls, salads, etc.) actually start the meal? Hardly. Yes, soups came out first (believe it or not, the ONLY thing on our order that came out as ordered and were quite good), but they were followed by a mish-mash of screwed up orders.

You’ll have to follow closely here, because this actually happened to one of our diners: Food ordered—tempura shrimp roll (for app) and tempura chicken meal with Miso soup. What came to the diner? The soup, yes. But an entrée of tempura shrimp (with no roll). Ugh.

Three entrées arrived for the four of us with one forgotten about. We waited about 10 minutes for our Chicken – err – Tofu with vegetables to arrive. Yes, ordered tofu, but chicken came out. Obviously another error that was about as messed up as the rest of the service. I could go on-and-on, but you should be getting the point by now.

As with most fusion-type places, there is an attraction to serving a hybrid of different cuisines. If Mom wants Korean, Dad wants Chinese, and the kids want sushi, perhaps a place like Kenji Fusion works. But works only if comfort and service are not high on your list of dining needs. I’ll pass on the coconut herring.

* FRASIER. “Sweet Dreams” written by Jay Kogen, directed by Sheldon Epps. Original Airdate on NBC: 19th May 1998.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

El Tio Tex-Mex Grill and Mexican Restaurant - McLean

1433 Center Street
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 790-1910

After reading a multitude of generally positive reviews on Yelp we headed to El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in the hopes of having a good meal, and we did. El Tio is difficult to find, tucked away in a tiny strip mall on a side street running parallel to Chain Bridge Rd (near the corner of Chain Bridge and Old Dominion). Unlike its Falls Church location on the main drag (Lee Highway), there is no way to drive past the McLean El Tio and notice it. It stays busy, no doubt, due to word of mouth. The food is great and the service attentive. We were definitely made to feel welcome.

El Tio is a small restaurant with about 15 tables in all, so, when crowded, the atmosphere is cramped, hectic and can be a loud. They do not take reservations on Friday and Saturday nights, but we were seated, even though the restaurant was busy. It would have been nicer to have had a larger table for our party of 5, with wait staff rushing all around us.

The bottomless chips and salsa really hit the spot while we waited for our food to arrive. The huge margaritas seemed popular with the patrons, so we ordered a few also. Despite the restaurant being busy, our server Eneida was very attentive. She also answered our questions knowledgeable and overall added to the great experience.

Everything we ordered from cheese quesadillas to taco samplers to seafood burritos to chicken chimichangas was delicious. Those who like their food a little spicy, note that there was not much heat to any of the entrees, so if you want some extra spice, you can ask and they will gladly oblige. Those who don’t like heat will enjoy the full flavor of the food. The staff seemed to be able to accommodate almost any request, even to split our large margarita into two glasses.

In an area with many great, but expensive, restaurants, El Tio offers both great food and affordable prices at about $12 per entree on average. Our margarita was the size of an entrée, that's for sure, and cost about $13.

As we were leaving, we ran into some friends who asked us “have you been here before?” Before we could even answer, they all enthusiastically pumped their thumbs in the air, saying “this place is great, we love it!” And we all agree.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


WINTER RESTAURANT WEEK January 13-19, 2014

200+ area restaurants offering 3-course meals at a discount invite you to have a new dining experience, have fun and eat well.  Throw caution to the wind and check out as many restaurants as you can! 

Over 50 restaurants are participating in Northern Virginia!

Reserve ASAP.  As always, reasonable lunch and dinner times go very fast.


Restaurant Week will return to this area in August.

Wildfire - McLean

1714 International Drive (Tysons Galleria 3rd Floor)
McLean, VA
(703) 442-9110
The half a dozen times that we have dined at Wildfire over the last few years, we have wondered what about this place makes it so appealing to the customers who seem to flock here.  The relatively standard menu does not offer anything particularly interesting and the consistently terrible service makes this a very very long and frustrating dining experience every single time.  There is really not much else to say about this restaurant, other than perhaps the location is pretty good for a quick happy hour drink with business colleagues in the Tysons area.  However, with the wide variety of excellent restaurant choices available and constantly increasing in Tysons, we hope that Wildfire steps up its service and livens up its menu.

j. gilbert's - McLean

6930 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA 22101

j. gilbert's continues to be our favorite go-to brunch spot in the NoVa area. 

We know that restaurants have to weigh many factors when deciding whether and how to serve brunch to its hungry weekend clientele.  A recent article in the Washington Post's Going Out Guide outlines some aspects that can make brunch quite taxing on the staff and management of a busy restaurant.  This is why when you have a combination of a huge buffet with freshly made constantly replenishing dishes that are both delicious and varied, you just can't go wrong with j.gilbert's.

Their limitless buffet of seafood with a variety of smoked and fresh fish, their abundant comfort standards of vegetables, meats, poultry, breads and cheeses, all delicious and abundant and beautifully presented....  this is a feast and a great value.  The carving station doubles up as the omelet station and is fun, quick and efficient.  Nothing compares to their dessert station with a dozen or so choices, including a fantastic chocolate fountain with fresh fruit and marshmallows to enjoy, worth a trip to j. gilbert's just for that!  Forgot to mention waffles - prepared on request. They are fresh, crispy toasted on the outside and melt in your mouth, especially when topped with whipped butter and warm syrup, but you gotta ask for it! 

Our friends have commented about how much they love j. gilbert's mixed drinks, particularly the Manhattan.  When we have guests in town or when we want to be certain of an enjoyable experience, both in food, service and atmosphere, this is where we head first.  This can be a festive family occasion or an intimate meal shared between two friends or a couple.

We have eaten dinner here, too, but brunch is what we most highly recommend. 

The only drawback is the dim lighting in the dining room and the less than sturdy booth benches. They can stand to refurbish some of their aging furniture....  Although sitting next to the fireplace can be cozy, especially during the cold months, we always ask for the table near the window so that we can have a little more light. They only have a few tables near the window, so we recommend reservations if that's where you'd prefer to sit. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Full Kee Restaurant - Authentic Chinese Cuisine - Falls Church, VA

5830 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
(703) 575-8232

If you don’t know it’s there, it’s easy to miss Full Kee Restaurant at the Bailey’s Crossroads Shopping Center, home to Best Buy, Trader Joe’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill. But miss it you should not. That is if you really enjoy delicious authentic Chinese food with no fanfare, lousy service, second- (or third-) rate ambience, and a variety of dishes that can keep you coming back for years. Yes, Full Kee is a gem of an ethnic dive.

Our friends recommended that we eat at Full Kee on Christmas Day. Good thing we made reservations! Even though we had a relatively large group, the restaurant was packed with people waiting for a table even at an unusual meal time in-between lunch and dinner, we went at 2pm. Had it been only several of us in a party, considering the slow inefficient service, it would still have made sense to reserve ahead. Yelp says that they do not take reservations, so perhaps Christmas Day was an exception to this policy, we just are not sure how flexible they are, especially if there is a language barrier with whoever picks up the phone. (Note that they have a new feature on their website where you can reserve a table online.)

If you are looking for an immaculate setting, service with a smile (or even with good English), personalized explanations of the extensive menu with literally hundreds of choices consisting of items that are for the most part unfamiliar to the American Chinese diner (although a whole section that is familiar), then this is not the place for you.

If you enjoy trying a variety of flavors, you will not be disappointed if you eat here! We ordered just under 20 different dishes of appetizers and entrees to share among the 8 people in our party. There was not a single dish that was bland or unsatisfying, all were wonderful. From the dumplings to the lo mein to the variety of their popular meal-portioned soups to the beef, shrimp, pork and poultry dishes, all were delightfully savory with just the right amounts of sauces, flavors, and variations. With prices so affordable, if we had bottomless stomachs, we could have easily stayed in Full Kee until they close (at 2am!) to try as many of their choices as possible. 

To us the quality and flavors of food are worth coming back to Full Kee and recommending it to our friends, the same way we found out about it. Thanks, Joe!