Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Piero’s Corner Italian Restaurant, Fairfax, VA

9959 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 246-0097

As dining service goes, buffets naturally put the service on the diner. Diners have to do most of the work by serving themselves. The bussing staff is generally relegated to cleaning up empty plates, the wait staff keeps the coffee cups full, the hostess to welcome the guests, and kitchen aids make sure the buffet is stocked and fresh. Sorry to say that Piero’s waiters, bussers, and kitchen staff did not live up to their end of the service. But it was the wonderful company of friends that was well-worth suffering through the bad service and (as you’ll see) mediocre food.

The hostess sat four adults at a table more accustomed for two (even though larger booths were available—and yes, we decided to occupy the larger booth). After a long wait to order drinks and have our first round at the buffet, we finally placed our drink orders. We proceeded to a well-stocked assortment of breakfast and lunch items (more on those later) and returned with “Round 1” well before our coffee, champagne was served. The champagne was on the sweet side (odd) and the coffee came with the customary 2 creamer servings, but no sugar. I for one was finished with “Round 1” before the sugar made it to the table. Oh, and I need a spoon to stir my coffee--had to ask for that as well. Thank goodness for a silverware set that was made up of 2 forks, a knife so I could at least use the other fork to stir the coffee.

Reflections on “Round 1”? The English muffins beneath the Eggs Benedict were soggy, the French toast was cold, and the scrambled eggs seemed like they were there all morning. Oh, and do you think coffee refills were automatic? Think again—we had to pull teeth to get a refill. The omelet station did not offer egg-white-only omelets and the selection of omelet ingredients was blah.

After figuring out what did not work in “Round 1”, “Round 2” was a bit more enjoyable (isn't it always this way with buffets?). I was able to catch a fresh waffle coming out of the waffle iron, so I pounced on that. The butter actually melted a bit; however, a shortage in the syrup server and waiting on them to refill it caused the waffle to lose some of its just-from-the-oven freshness. We were pleased to locate a server making a choice of four different salads. The three lunch entrees were pizza, chicken breast in an unknown sauce, and a seafood Diablo-type dish with mussels being the only recognizable ingredient.

All-in-all, Piero’s was not the best NOVA has to offer when it comes to Sunday brunch. We are very big fans of J. Gilbert’s Sunday buffet so our bias and measuring up to the McLean staple is a difficult one at best. We will not be returning to Piero’s as our brunch with friends place will always be J. Gilberts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Ultimate Chicken Bistro, Falls Church, VA

7263 Arlington Blvd (Rt 50)
 Falls Church VA 22042

We went to the Ultimate Chicken Bistro (or the more trendy “UCB”) with friends on a Saturday night, prompted by a Groupon and a recommendation. UCB is a small, basic storefront in the Loehmann's plaza strip mall. In a nutshell, the food selection was limited (hence the appropriate name), the food itself was not bad, and the service was ok.

The chicken gumbo (soup of the day) was spicy, flavorful and good. Great appetizer portion.

The popcorn chicken with garlic glaze (option to have it with or without garlic glaze) was pretty good, as good as popcorn chicken can be...., and the two tomato sauces (one spicy one mild) that accompanied it in small plastic containers were relatively tasty.

The chicken parmesan was ok, not great.

The teriyaki / tempaniaki and the bulgogi bento box were plentiful, but not great.

Our friends seemed to like the chicken wings.

We can't remember everything that we and our friends had. The best part about this dinner, like with any dinner, was the company of friends!

Oh, and the wine selection was relatively decent.

The place was ok for what it is, but not worth returning to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The secrets restaurant servers won't tell you

Courtesy WTOP
Reader's Digest compiled a list of more than 50 of these dining-out secrets.  Check them out HERE (WTOP link) or HERE (Reader's Digest link).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shamshiry Restaurant - Persian Food - Vienna, VA

8607 Westwood Center Drive
Vienna, Virginia 22182

(703) 448-8883

We stumbled into Shamshiry almost by accident.  Our destination was iThai (previously reviewed); however, Shamshiry sat appetizingly next door across the lobby from what was once a circus headquarters (really - more on that later).  Shamshiry is one of several exciting dining establishments in hub of office buildings off of Westwood Center Drive near the octagon-shaped Sheraton Hotel off Leesburg Pike in Vienna. 

We’ve never had the opportunity to dine in Tehran or Baghdad, but if we did we imagine it would be pretty close to Shamshiry.   The dining room filled with those perceived to be Persian clued us in that this is authentic and traditional Persian cuisine.  We started our Persian venture with a Shirazi salad.  The artistic menu (read it on their website) noted:  “There is an Old Persian saying that it takes four people to prepare a salad: A generous man to add the oil, a stingy man to add the vinegar, a wise man to give the right touch of salt and pepper, and a fool to mix it well.”  The salad was not your traditional lettuce, onion, tomato, and ranch dressing variety, as some exotic greens mixed helped round out the starter. 

We enjoyed the Chelo Kabob Barg – a charcoal fired skewer of Filet Mignon medallions. The filet was served with saffron rice and homemade flat bread.  A small container of sumac which is a middle-eastern spice resembling a brown powder added a nice exotic flavor.   We also had the Chicken Tandoori, which was very good.

After seeing a milky beverage being served to some diners at the next table, we had to ask the server what was being served.  She explained but also offered us a taste of the beverage.  She brought us a small serving of this cold white beverage called Doogh.  The menu explains:  “This delightfully refreshing yogurt drink is very popular in Persia. It is always on hand at home to serve to family and guests. OK, it was not for us, but well worth the sample.

From Shamshiry’s website, a poem by Omar Khayyam which sums up our experience (especially being seated with a heart’s darling):

"If one may have a loaf of the flower of wheat, a two-
Maund jar of wine*, a thigh of mutton, seated with
A heart's darling in a ruined place - that is a pleasure
That is not the attainment of any Sultan."

* Often Doogh (the milky-white beverage we tasted) street vendors advertise their wares by replacing the “jar of wine” with a “jar of Doogh.”

As mentioned earlier regarding the circus’ headquarters.  It’s a shame they’ve moved out, but this office building was once home to the northeastern Headquarters for Feld Brothers Entertainment, the group that brings Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus from town to town.  They’re floor-to-ceiling murals of clowns, trapeze artists, tigers, big tops, horses, etc was so much fun to gaze at through the large glass windows.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Panjshir, Falls Church, VA

924 West Broad St.
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 536-4566

One of our old time favorites is still going strong.  No pretense, no higher ambition, just plain good Afghan food with great hosts and excellent service.  For those who are interested in factoids, Panjshir catered a large party hosted for President Hamid Karzai in Washington when Karzai first became president. But more importantly, the restaurant is always filled with regular people having freshly grilled kebobs on flat skewers, succulent pumpkin with yogurt sauce, scallion dumplings with minced lamb and other delicacies from Afghanistan.  It is a small restaurant with a cozy setting, clean and welcoming atmosphere.  Panjshir has been open at this location since 1985, no small feat.  When the Bankgok Blues surprisingly closed down next-door last year, Panjshir continued to stay strong, and that’s a testament to its goodness.

We ordered 2 appetizers – Bulanee Gundana (lightly fried dumplings stuffed with scallions and ground beef) and the Sambosa Goshti (deep fried dumplings with ground beef, chickpeas and parsley).  The sauces served with the appetizers were fantastic – one yogurt sauce and one spicy green sauce, which was very flavorful and we asked for seconds on the sauces.  Went great with rice and would go great on anything.

The wait staff was very knowledgeable about the food.  Pleasantly, even the waiter that is not Afghan definitely knew the food and made excellent recommendations.  This is not surprising for Panjshir because it is a family-run business that is truly run like a family with the warm atmosphere.

 Our entrees included a Kabab E-Murgh, which is a tender and flavorful chicken kebob served with saffron rice; a Samarooq Palow, which is tender, flavorful chicken cubes and mushrooms served in a stewy saucy dish with yogurt sauce; and a Vegetarian platter with any choice of 3 dishes selected from the vegetarian menu with saffron rice.  In our case it was eggplant (Banjan Chalow), spinach (Sabsi Chalow), and pumpkin (Kadu Chalow) – a perfect combination of salty and sweet.  All entrees came with a sizeable section of Afghan bread that is topped with black sesame seeds.  Entrees were also preceded by a nice garden salad with a homemade mustard-based dressing.  We finished off the meal with a tasty cardamom tea.  Portions were a “just right” amount and at about $20 per person (total bill) were reasonably-priced.

Panjshir is a place we have visited many times and will continue to visit and recommend to our friends. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chics N Wings, McLean, VA

8119 Watson Street
McLean, VA
(703) 847-2442

Mediocre - that's the food. Poor - that's the service. Chics N Wings is definitely a place to keep driving past, or stop at Dunkin Donuts next door, if you want to walk out satisfied. We ordered the Wing Sampler Platter and the Philly Cheesesteak. Not only did the order take ages to come out to us, when the place was nearly empty, neither the wings nor the sandwich were good. It was nearly impossible to get anyone to wait on us. But if the food was good, it would be worth it to suffer through the service. It wasn't. If you want wings, or anything else, don't go here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Amoos House of Kabob - Persian Cuisine - McLean, VA

6271 Old Dominion Dr.
McLean VA 22101

(703) 448-8500

This was an unexpectedly wonderful surprise.  Located in a small nondescript restaurant strip along with a pretty good Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaner, Amoos House of Kabob is a jewel!  If not for the Groupon, we would not have tried this place even though we drive past it often.  This is one awesome ethnic dive!!! Definitely recommend.
Décor is simple and rather cheesy.  But the food and service more than makes up for it.  The daily special – Fesenjoon – was a delicious chicken stew with just the right amount of spices, if not maybe just a bit too sweet, but definitely tasty.  It came with a healthy helping of rice.  The Koobideh (ground beef kabob) was perfectly prepared on a plate with a lettuce salad and wonderful rice. Appetizer Salad Olivieh was a delicious mixture of chicken and vegetables surrounded by fresh vegetables.  The food was truly delicious, and a testament to this fact was the constant inflow and turnover of satisfied diners, many of whom were clearly regulars. 
The owner and his daughter were delightfully welcoming hosts, offering suggestions, explaining dishes, unwrapping napkins.  Their wonderful personalities were particularly pleasant, making this dining experience something we will return to again and again.
To add to the surprise of a chance restaurant visit was that the owner happened to own a restaurant we visited in the past.  The Rose Restaurant on West Broad Street in Falls Church City became La Caraquena, which we reviewed on this blog.  When he sold it in 2007, he opened Amoos House of Kabob.  Although he looked very familiar to us, we did not put the 2 and 2 together, but he recognized Elena and reminded us of the same great meals and wonderful service we had at The Rose Restaurant.
We hope this place stays around for a long time exactly as it is because we want to try all the dishes on the menu and to enjoy the great, unimposing and warm atmosphere of Amoos House of Kabob.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Koi Asian Bistro, Vienna, VA *** CLOSED ***

8413 Old Courthouse Rd
Vienna, VA
(703) 394-5205

*** CLOSED ***

Koi Asian Bistro occupies the old Ega Restaurant space in the back of a small strip mall near the corner of Chain Bridge Rd and Old Courthouse Dr. in Vienna.  We’re starting this entry with the location of this Tyson’s Corner gem because if you don’t know it’s there, you’ll never find it.  Once you’ve found the place, you’ll soon discover that the food, the service, and the price make the search worth it for some really good Asian cuisine. 

We’ve been to Koi for lunch twice and had the buffet.  Although tucked away in a far corner of the restaurant, the buffet was fully stocked with a cross-section of treats from various Asian cultures.  There are few surprises on the buffet:  A rich pumpkin broth, some typical wonton soup, samples of tempuras, fried rices, dishes that were plentiful, fresh and tasty.  The trays of sushi were also plentiful; if a bit typical with avocado and crab stick California maki rolls, and nigiri pieces (salmon, yellowtail, ebi, and tuna) that were all fresh and served with the standard staples of pickled ginger and wasabe.  

The serving staff was the real draw to Koi.  An attentive, knowledgeable, and pleasant minded staff seemed to take a few steps beyond what would be considered normal service.  Water glasses were kept full; plates bearing the remnants of a previous trip were bussed immediately before the new plate of goodness arrived from the buffet. They checked on us during the meal and her sense of pride was evident as she talked about the genesis of her restaurant.

Koi does a great job making a rather large space seem personal and intimate.  Several private dining rooms that hold about 8 – 10 diners line three larger rooms with open tables and booths.  Each table is equipped with a Gogigui grill (Gogigui literally means "meat + roasting"), the Korean style built-in grill for roasting meats.  A fourth larger room in the back of the restaurant is reserved for large parties that can hold about 80 – 100.  This room even comes with a karaoke machine for guest’s entertainment.  Bathrooms are very clean. 

We have not yet ordered directly from the menu, but some friends recently visited Koi for a first account of some menu items.  Here are their comments: 

“We ate there with our bridge club on Friday night and were all very pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.   And the food is good, too.   Our dinners included decaffeinated green tea, miso broth, a small salad, entrée, and a sample of their “ice cream with rice skin”.   Wow!    We ordered the honey/butter sweet potato appetizer and it was wonderful and had the blackened cod which we enjoyed.   We also had the chicken with vegies, but the sauce contained shell fish.   So she took it away and brought us the dish without the sauce.   We were very pleased with the place.” 
The next time you have a yearning for some good Asian food and can’t decide on the rich variety of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai cuisines in the Northern Virginia area head out to Koi and get some of the best from all the Asian cuisines.