Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ichiban Sushi, McLean, VA

6821A Old Dominion Dr
McLean, VA 22101

(703) 448-9117

A gem for sushi lovers,
Ichiban is a cozy 15-table restaurant in the heart of McLean. Since its opening 13 years ago, it has built up a loyal clientele, who are friendly with the owners, chefs and staff, and come here regularly to enjoy excellent fresh food, and be a part of a dining family "where everybody knows your name..."

This was my first time visiting Ichiban. One of the first things that struck me was how busy the place is, which is definitely a good sign. At dinner time on a weekday evening, not only were all the tables full, turning over rather quickly with a steady stream of people at the door, all the chairs at the small sushi bar were also constantly filled with customers who clearly knew what sushi is all about.

There is a standing menu, which we barely considered because the list of fresh sushi listed on the whiteboard was extensive and diverse enough to make a full meal. Our dinner included White Tuna Avocado roll, Real Crab Avocado roll, Manhattan Roll, Yellowtail Scallion roll, Spider roll, and Umagi (all with brown rice except the Umagi was with white rice) – all delicious and more than filling for 3 people. If you like avocado, this place goes heavy on avocado in most of its creations. Price was more than reasonable - about $60 (including tea and soda, but not including tip) for 3 people.

The quality of the food more than compensates for the nonexistent decor and a rather hectic ambiance. You'll be lucky to get a corner table or one near a wall for a little more privacy to enjoy your dinner, which is truly worthwhile.

We had a wonderful evening with friends and were able to relax and enjoy because we were immersed in a conversation of talking, laughing and eating great sushi. Overall, I would definitely not return here for a relaxing evening, but would definitely return to Ichiban for some good sushi! 


UPDATE (1/28/12):  Ironically, while strolling the streets of Moscow this week, Ichiban's "twin" was found.  See pic above.


In another sushi-related item check out:  A sushi roll in Yekaterinburg, 2.5 kilometers in length, took 15 hours to prepare

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ireland's Four Provinces, Falls Church, VA

105 W. Broad St.
Falls Church, VA
(703) 534-8999

Ireland’s Four Provinces is a tale of two restaurants. Weekdays and weekend evenings, it’s a very nice Irish Pub serving fine bar food and the perfect pint. On Sunday morning it becomes an entirely different place. Ireland’s Four Provinces becomes a cleaned-up, relatively refined dining establishment that offers one of the best and economical brunch buffets in Northern Virginia. We’ve tried the brunch there a few years ago, and can honestly say this “Best of NoVA 2010” winner* has not skipped a beat. In fact, it is maturing with age. This place does a great job of mixing the local feel of a nice neighborhood bar/restaurant while representing the best of Ireland’s pubs (it just takes one visit to the men’s room to see a poster entitled, “The Urinals of Ireland.” Take a guess where you'll find the poster hung in the men's room).

Friendly hosts guided us past those without reservations (we highly recommend reservations if you’re planning brunch during the busy hours around noon) and sat us in a very crowded dining room. Drink orders were taken and off to the buffet we strolled. The buffet, situated in the bar area is cramped, but fully stocked and frequently replenished with fresh foods. The array begins with cold salads, salmon and breads. The warmer foods are presented next with a wide variety of breakfast fare including French toast, waffles, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, corned beef hash, eggs Benedict, spotted dick (yes, spotted dick), and the assorted accoutrements to compliment all the above (syrup, butter, cream cheese, etc). This is followed by some assorted lunch fare including the almost mandatory Sheppard’s Pie. The end of the line sits an omelet and a roast beef station professionally manned by a chef ready to take your omelet order and slice some roast beast. On the way back to the dining room is a table containing a wide variety of juices and for those who believe its “5 o’clock somewhere” a Bloody Mary station.

Everything we took from the buffet lived up to our expectation as evidenced not only by our empty plates but by the frequent return trips to the buffet. All the food was fresh and well stocked. The eggs were light and fluffy, the waffles were crispy and the eggs Benedict came with a very creamy hollandaise sauce. Coffees, waters, and sodas were kept full by a very attentive wait staff. Hosts frequently checked (but not too excessively) to make sure our brunch experience met our expectations.

At $16 bucks per adult, this local Falls Church City Sunday brunch is a local best bet. Just be sure you make reservations first.

*According to
Northern Virginia Magazine

Friday, January 13, 2012

McLean 1910, McLean, VA - CLOSED

1394 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 356-1700

Several months ago one of us dined here with a neighbor and had an enjoyable dining experience despite the pricey menu.  So, when a Groupon came out for McLean 1910, we jumped at the chance to dine here together and save a few bucks. 

Despite the beautiful wooden tabletops, the over-the-top minimalist décor gives this place a sterile feel.  The large windows seemed to open up what is a rather a small dining space with a full bar in the back behind the booths.  One nice thing about the spacing was that we felt we had some privacy at the booth which we always prefer.  In other words, other diners, that were scarce anyhow, were not breathing down our necks.   

This mid-to-upscale restaurant was named for the year the municipality of McLean was established by the founder of the Washington Post and its first editor, John R. McLean.  For many years, McLean’s Three Pigs barbeque resided in the corner lot in this McLean strip mall laced with nick-knack shops, a lighting store, a Russian store, a pharmacy and a paint store. 

Although the menu was rather limited, we appreciated the fact that McLean 1910 serves humanely-raised meats and other sustainable ingredients.  The server, Eduardo, helped us to select our food.  Our appetizers included a rich Lobster Bisque and the “1910 Salad.”  The bisque’s aroma and taste were superb.  We had to order a second (or was it the third?) plate of fresh bread to dip into the bisque—a combination that represented the best lobster roll this side of Boston.  A signature bread spread on the table was a combination of a green chimichurri sauce and a white bean sauce.  Neither of these was particularly tasty, though the presentation had an aesthetic appeal, but the rest of the food more than made up for it. 

For our entrees, we ordered the Buccatini pasta and Diver’s Scallops.  The homemade pasta was thick long tubes of spaghetti in a rich tomato-based gravy, spinach and pine nuts, as well as two slices of garlic toast.  The scallop dish was served with a green-tinted lemon caper sauce.  The five scallops sat atop a circular presentation of spinach sauté, tomato, garlic and an abundance of crunchy fennel root (perhaps they can back off on the fennel a bit).

From the bisque to the check, the attentive service, including a visit from the chef, made this an enjoyable dining experience.  Though the meal was indeed pricey, the quality of the dining experience was worthwhile.  It might be a good venue for small special occasions or special nights out rather than a regular place to visit.  It will probably be a while until we return.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Visit the Tysons Corner Blog

Many thanks to the folks over at The Tysons Corner blog for linking this site to their very informative blog.   Check them out for all that's going on in the Tysons area including: food, traffic, culture, retail, commuting, future planning, smart growth and all things development in Tysons Corner, VA.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Famous Dave’s Barbeque, Falls Church, VA

Multiple locations nation-wide (5 DC-area outlets)
370 W. Broad Street
Falls Church, VA 22046

Arriving at Famous Dave’s Barbeque was like walking on the set of “Rawhide”.  Additional Clint Eastwood credits included some phenomenal movies, so with a “Sudden Impact” and a “Fistful of Dollars”, “Bronco Billy” and the “Enforcer” Drifted out to the High Plains of Falls Church to “Go ahead--make my day” to grab us some grub “In the Line of Fire” at Famous Dave’s on Main Street.  To “Hang ‘em High” with this “theme”, here’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” of Famous Dave’s.

The Good: 

This place serves breakfast.  Our server told us that they were only two of the 50-60 nationwide stores that serve breakfast.  They really had no choice.  Prior to becoming a barbeque joint, the Original Pancake House stood in this Falls Church strip mall.  We arrived just in time to allow us to pick from either menus.  Our breakfast selection included a fluffy three-egg omelet constructed with their signature brisket, cheese, and mushrooms.  Accompanying the omelet was a cheesy-potato bake (hash browns with cheese) and some bacon.  Bread on the side was supposed to come with the meal but did not arrive (more on that in the “Bad” section); but all-in-all the breakfast was good.

The décor is unique and appropriate.  The décor was about what you’d expect from a place that serves mostly barbeque items.  Having eaten at other barbeque places (Red, Hot and Blue, Rocklands, King St. Blues), this place has the theme nailed.

Barbeque sauces.  If you’re a fan of barbeque sauce, this place is for you.  Not only was there six (there “could have only been 5, do you feel lucky?  Well, do ya’ punk?”) individual sauces to accompany any order, but the server described each sauce by pouring out the regional sauces on a plate in the shape of the first letter of the sauce.  A small chip bowl was presented to taste each sauce.  Since we were first-timers to Dave’s, they presented us with a take-home bottle of their signature sauce (for free, not “A Few Dollars More”).  Nice touch, so ask for a bottle if you’re a first timer.  The sweeter sauces were, well, sweet, and the hot fire sauce was “Firefox” hot.  The other sauces were ranges of these spectrum ends with varying degrees of tang, spice, and savory, and sweet.

The Bad: 

Table space.   A rack of paper towels, the array of the different sauces, condiments, and accoutrements, place settings, and menus left us little room to eat.  Good thing we didn’t order the big rack of ribs, as we would have to hope an adjacent table was free just to find room for the side orders.

Incomplete order.  As mentioned above, the breakfast came “Every Which Way but Loose”, but without the ordered English muffin.

The wait staff.  Not very knowledgeable about the menu, but to their defense, the restaurant was only open a few months.   What our server lacked in knowledge made up for in her bright personality and honesty. 

The Ugly: 

VEGETARIAN WARNING:  This place is NOT for you.  We were hard pressed to find something on the menu that did not contain meat.  Granted, this is a barbeque place, but some attention should be paid to those who prefer something without beef, pork, or chicken.   Having scoured the menu for anything void of animal, we consulted with both the server and the kitchen manager.  Reviewing just about everything on the menu and looking for alternatives, the kitchen manager suggested the Veggie Burger.  What veggie burger?  It was not on the menu. The manager explained that it is on the catering menu, but he could prepare one for us.  Not wanting to leave hungry, we opted for the mediocre veggie burger with a side of slaw and fries (which were actually pretty decent if used with the variety of sauces available at the table).

Parking.  We were lucky.  We got “rockstar” parking; however, luck aside, it seems like it will be a challenge to find a place to park in the limited available spaces. 

Our experience was not exactly “Heartbreak Ridge”; but not the kind of place to rush to “Any Which Way You Can”.  To paraphrase a line from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”… In this world there are two kinds of people, my friend. Those who eat meat, and those who do not.  You decide.