Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Restaurant Tips for Diabetics (Part 1)

Restaurant Tips if you Have Diabetes (Part 1)
by Roberta Kleinman, RN, M.Ed., CDE

August 28, 2013

There are many retirees living with diabetes in South Florida where I educate people in a self management program; a big proportion of them spend a majority of their time eating out in restaurants. They admit that eating out is a luxury, but after spending years raising young families they have disconnected from the kitchen and are willing to spend money for food.

Eating out can be a very social experience and often they live in communities where restaurants are readily available. I actually teach a couple who only make coffee in their kitchen and eat out for every meal! The husband always jokes that they should make the kitchen into an extra closet or large plant box. Surely this is very unusual, but I would like to share some restaurant tips with you that I frequently share with my patients.

Before you head out the door, search on-line for restaurant reviews and menus. Many restaurants, especially the chains, offer full menus with nutritional information (calorie/sodium/carbohydrate counts) as well as portion sizes. Be prepared before you go so you can make healthy choices. Take home printed copies of the menu to be ready for the next trip.Avoid buffets as often as possible. Although it sounds great economically, having too many choices with "as much as you can eat" can be dangerous for anyone - even more if you have diabetes. Calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates pile up and you think you are "just tasting everything."
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Taco Bamba Taqueria, Falls Church, VA

2190 Pimmit Drive
Falls Church, VA 22043
(703) 639-0505

The best part of the Taco Bamba experience was its location.  You know you’re in America when you park in a strip mall with a host of international variety.  Nestled between a Karate Studio, a Latin Market, a Persian Bakery (run by Armenians), a Neo-classic French restaurant, and a dive bar with a host of smokers chatting it up outside, you’ll find Taco Bamba.   That’s pretty much where the intrigue ends.  

We seek out restaurants through a wide variety of means—word of mouth, just passing by, Groupon and Specialicious ads, Restaurant Week promotions, and other reviewers.  This visit to Taco Bamba was a result of the latter.  Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post reviewed Taco Bamba a few weeks ago and gave it a good rating (2 out of 4 stars).  We think that’s a bit of a stretch.  1½ at best. 

The menu is pretty much a la carte.  Mr. Sietsema does a great job of explaining the menu, so we wount venture too far from our experience here.  We ordered 5 tacos total:  Chorizo, 2 chicken, shrimp, fish.  The authentic nature of a dual-shelled corn taco made them reminiscent of a visit to Mexico.  We tried the guacamole based on the Post suggestion and yes, the grilled avocado does make a difference.  For desert we tried the rice pudding. 

There seemed to be a disconnect between the order taker at the register and the chef.  Our orders came out in separate plates at separate times and thank goodness it was not crowded at the time or everything would have been difficult to track.  There are two patio-style metal tables with a few chairs each outside the restaurant.  A small dining “bar” can accommodate dining singles, but perhaps the best bet here is to take your tacos to go.  Even though the tables are around the corner from the bar and its host of smokers yapping it up, it was close enough to smell/hear their rambunctious conversations.

On the bright side, there is a salsa to address the full array of flavors and spices found in Latino culture.

It was pretty cool to have some tacos, stop off at the Latino market, pass kids in their karate garb as we walk by the Dojo, and stop to chat with the nice Armenian Iranian bakers all made an interesting international experience in Falls Church.  Bottom line:  skip past Taco Bamba, say hi to the bakers, and pick up your chorizo at the Latino market and make your tacos yourself.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

El Paso Mexican Restaurant, Springfield, VA

El Paso Mexican Restaurant
6804 Commerce St
Springfield, VA 22150

Colorful décor at El Paso
Is there such a thing as “authentic” Mexican food in the NoVA area?  Depends.  With the DC dining scene mostly inspired from all of Latin America, “authentic” can have Argentinian, El Salvadorian, Ecuadorian, Columbian, and Peruvian (to name a few) influences.  On the flip side, Mexican food influenced by the southwest US (Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico) brings its own differences to the palate.  El Paso seems to get its inspiration from the latter with a straight-forward menu and décor more geared towards the TexMex palate but leans towards a more northern Mexican direction with traditional Mexican fare found somewhere north of Mexico City. 

On a mid-day Saturday we went to El Paso for lunch—we were pleasantly surprised they
Chips and Salsa
were still serving breakfast so our lunch experience turned into brunch (which by the way is “brunch” in Spanish).  El Paso serves brunch from 11am to 1pm.  This restaurant is not your typical “sombrero here, blanket there” type of décor.  The colors hit you like a huracán in Acapulco.  Bright, cheery, latin, clean, almost over-the-top, but certainly tasteful and above par for the average NoVA restaurant.  Our combinación de desayuno y almuerzo experience began with the traditional no-frills chips and salsa.  An empty molcajete (Spanish mortar) arrived with a small carafe of pour your own salsa and a smile from a very friendly server. 

Breakfast Quesadilla
We scanned the basic menu and focused on the breakfast offerings.  We ordered the breakfast quesadilla and the Migas Estilo Michoacan.  Each was prepared well, and was generous in size.  The great service ensured that our beverages, chips and salsa were kept full.

All-in-all, El Paso set a standard for traditional Mexican fare
Migas Estilo Michoacan
that we will soon and surely return to in the not-too-distant future to try (maybe for cena?).  FYI, military, firefighters and police receive 15% off their bill, but you have to ask for it to get it. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Neisha Thai, Tyson's Corner (Vienna), VA

8027 Leesburg Pike Suite 110
Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 883-3588

Num Tok and Tempura

After many years at the Tysons Corner Center Shopping Mall, Neisha Thai relocated across Leesburg Pike (Rt. 7) to the converted office building containing a Nordstrom Rack and a DXL Men’s Fashion store. The fancy dining hall at Neisha Thai is decorated with wood-carved lanterns, cave-like walls dotted with gemstones and impressive water sculptures. This restaurant is definitely not an ethnic dive.

We came to Neisha Thai for a "linner," finding the restaurant completely empty of customers. We were told that their grand opening was the previous week and was packed wall-to-wall with their old loyal customers from their years at the Tysons mall. They had no specials in terms of discounts or dishes, but we were hungry, so we decided to try it.

Drunken Noodles
The dining experience was quite underwhelming. Although the waiter explained the dishes to us, particularly how their Drunken Noodles were different from those in other Thai restaurants, after he brought us the food he sat at the bar with his back to us giving us very sporadic service. Our water and lemonade went unfilled almost until we finished our meal. Getting his attention was rather difficult, especially over the relatively high volume of music, but since we were literally the only customers in the restaurant, it should not be that difficult to get the waiters attention.

Now for the meal. For the good: The (what appeared to be homemade) lemonade was refreshing on the hot afternoon and tempura appetizer was good. In addition to the typical veggies found in the typical tempura appetizer, Neisha Thai’s contained an unusual sampling of asparagus and baby corn and was fresh and good with no oily texture. That's about all the good we can muster for this entry. For the bad: The Num Tok appetizer had a strange sweetness to it, which is unusual, since Num Tok, in our experience, is typically salty and spicy. This one was bland. Although we were warned that they make their
Pineapple Fried Rice
Drunken Noodles in a broth, not dry, this one could be more accurately described as "soupy." But worse than just soupy, despite having 2 peppers next to it on the menu, it was tasteless and bland, again with a strange sweetness like the Num Tok. Their Pineapple Fried Rice dish was served in a half-pineapple, which looked unique and interesting, but unfortunately it looked a lot better than it tasted. We took it home for leftovers and it lingered in our fridge for days, underscoring the unappealing taste.  We have never had Thai leftovers linger in our fridge.

If it was for décor only, we’d return; however, the measure of success for a good restaurant goes far beyond waterfalls and cave-like walls. For good Thai food, we are not likely to return to Neisha Thai. The great tastes and great service of neighborhood places like SweetRice, Tara Thai and i-Thai are definitely a better choice.