Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Choyhona Authentic Uzbek Restaurant, Gaithersburg, MD

28 Bureau Drive
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(301) 330-5262

From the outset, we have to say that this place is definitely worth a visit. If you are not familiar with Central Asian or particularly Uzbek cuisine, don’t worry. Take our recommendations on the menu selections and you will not be disappointed. You must have an open mind and an adventurous palate. Even for those of us who have traveled to Uzbekistan and Central Asia many times, this food was as authentic as you can get, and it saves a 20-hour flight each way with two layovers!

We don’t often venture across the state border into Maryland, but when we got a tip from a friend about how great the food is at Choyhona Authentic Uzbek Restaurant in Gaithersburg, and when we read on yelp that it has only been open 17 days, we just had to try it. And we were not disappointed. Even those of our friends who were skeptical at first, came around after the first course was served.

For those who want to know, “Choy” means “tea” and “hona” means “hall,” so Choyhona means literally Teahall, but in actuality means “restaurant” in Uzbek and Tajik languages. As one drives across Central Asia, one can see many “choyhonas” along the way, particularly along some of the larger roads, for travelers to stop and rest over a small teapot of black or green tea, have a good solid meal, and chat with others about the goings on of that community. Local families go to choyhonas to have a reliably good homecooked meal.

The owners of this new establishment hail from Samarkand, an ancient city on what was

known as The Silk Road centuries ago, that served as a bustling trade and transport corridor of all things that were basic necessities of life, but also wonderfully exotic, beautiful and delicious. Food preparation in this part has remained a very important tradition. The Uzbeks historically were a tribe of “settlers,” unlike some of their neighboring tribes who were “nomads,” such as the Kyrgyz and Kazakh people. Now all these tribes have become sovereign nations with their own geographical borders and continue their best ancient traditions in modern times.

Samarkand, considered a Tajik city in Uzbekistan because of the large Tajik population and many preservations of Tajik customs, is a peaceful, mysterious, beautiful and special place in the world, seldom visited by tourists in modern times. Registan Square is the most famous, ancient and well-preserved spot in Samarkand, a Muslim city, where Muslims, Jews and Christians have truly lived peacefully side by side since time began. If you come to this restaurant you will see some depictions of Samarkand on the walls painted on hide, as well as some beautifully embroidered fabrics typical of its ancient traditions. The china here – plates, cups and teapots – are also of typical Uzbek white and blue pattern. It is truly a small trip into Uzbekistan without the jetlag and the TSA.

We started our meal with salads and soups. The “Tashkent” salad (named after the capital of Uzbekistan) reminded us of the sopska salad served in the Balkans, made of sliced tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, and onions with a healthy dose of feta cheese on top. The “Lagman” soup was made with homemade egg noodles, beef (although traditionally in Central Asia it is made with horse meat), what looked like green beans (Choyhona’s chef’s tasty invention) in a red spicy sauce. This was prepared in an authentic way, which means it is rather oily, but delicious. We also had a dish of pickled herring and wonderfully prepared potatoes, which was the Russian influence on Uzbek cuisine, and
deliciously prepared at this restaurant. Another wonderful surprise was the Khonim, which was a steamed layered dumpling with beef and a bit of dill, served with sour cream. We also ordered a side of regular French Fries. Although they came out at the very end of our meal, they were friend to perfection and served with a salsa-like home-made spicy dip, which was great, but they also had a bottle of Heinz ketchup on hand. The only disappointment was the bread / naan / “lepioshka,” which was very dry, clearly overbaked, and bland.

Now for the entrees. A must-have is the plov, a Central Asian rice dish, which takes a full work day to cook in a large iron kettle. Although traditionally made with lamb, the more palatable meat for Americans is beef, so here it is made with beef, and it is delicious. Thinly
sliced carrots, raisins and garbanzo beans add terrific flavor and texture. Plov must be eaten with a salad called “shakarap,” made of sliced tomatoes and onions, which can be ordered here as a side, and must be eaten together with plov, we cannot stress that enough. The fried pelmeni (also a Russian menu influence) sprinkled with dill were absolutely scrumptious. Ask for sour cream, which will complement ­the pelmeni.

Not to be missed is the assortment of kebabs. We ordered the salmon kebabs, the shrimp kebabs, and the liver kebabs. Very reasonable prices, which is why we ordered such a large variety. All were grilled and seasoned to utmost perfection. A little squirt of the lemon made them heavenly. Our stomachs seemed to have been transformed into a bottomless abyss because although we all were full after the second course, the deliciousness of the next wave of portions made us unable to stop eating. Yes, this is dangerous, but oh, so good!

There was a large party in the restaurant celebrating a couple’s 10-year anniversary. As the restaurant is a “hall,” basically one large room, the festivities of the party, particularly of the half a dozen toddlers playing loudly with toys on the beautifully-ornate floor rugs, was somewhat distracting. We wish that when we made reservations, we had been told about this. But on the other hand, this is clearly a family-oriented restaurant, where families are welcome, and this is a good thing.

Choyhona is situated in a Giant plaza, and can be easily passed over in favor of those restaurants that are more familiar, such as the Subway next door, the Asian buffet across the lot, or any of the other fast-food establishments in the area. Choyhona is definitely not fast food—it is slow-cooked goodness that is worth a visit! 

And by the way, if you're wondering what to order for a gastronomic feast, here are more tips http://www.buzzfeed.com/dianabruk/delicious-uzbek-dishes-you-need-to-try-immediately.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

50 Best Restaurants 2013

Even more of our favorite restaurant picks in 2013 than in previous years! Glad to see we're on the same wavelength with the rest of Northern Virginia! Thanks to Northern Virginia Magazine for putting together the list. Many of our faves are on the list, like Haandi,Tachibana, Peking Gourmet Inn, Anita's, Clyde's, Ray's Hell Burger, Honey Pig, and more.... Way to go!!

See all the restaurants here: http://www.northernvirginiamag.com/best-of-nova-2013-food-drink/

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

50 Best Restaurants 2012

Some good picks here, definitely worth exploring for those with an adventurous palette.  Very glad to see two of our absolute favorite ethnic dives Meaza and Tachibana are on this list. Well-deserved!  Missed some other gems in the area, but....  maybe next time.....


27 Arlington Restaurants Welcome “Doggie Diners”

27 Arlington Restaurants Welcome “Doggie Diners”

(Bill & Elena: From time to time we post articles from other reputable blogs / publications that we think are useful to our readers, such as this one, and of course always give credit where credit is due.)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Twenty-seven Arlington restaurants that have met the County’s health and safety conditions, and received a variance, now allow “doggie dining” in designated outdoor areas.

“Arlington’s restaurant dining culture is fun, festive and increasingly, includes outdoor seating,” said Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada. “Arlingtonians love eating in our great restaurants. Now, those who own dogs, and who take appropriate precautions, have the option of bringing their pets along when they dine at restaurants that meet all the requirements and have obtained a variance.”

Any restaurant with an appropriate outdoor seating area may apply for a variance. Restaurants that receive a variance must agree to comply with conditions designed to minimize risks to the dining public’s health and safety, including:

- Signs must clearly mark which tables are “dog-friendly”
- Outdoor dining area must be accessible from a separate entrance, to ensure that pets do not enter through the indoor area
- Tables may not be pre-set with cutlery, glasses, or plates, but must be set only diners are seated
- Food may not be prepared in the outdoor dining area – only served there
- Incidents must be promptly reported
- Dogs that are disruptive or in poor health must be excluded by restaurant staff
- Dogs are not allowed on chairs, seats, benches, or tables, and must be on a leash and under control of an adult at all times.

If you have questions about this information, please call (703) 228-7400 or email them to ehealth@arlingtonva.us.

Restaurants with Variance for “Doggie Dining” (updated August 2013) :
- American Seafood
- Arlington Capital View Renaissance & Residence Inn
- Arlington Capital View Renaissance - Illy
- Asia Bistro
- California Pizza Kitchen
- California Tortilla (Crystal City)
- Chasin’ Tails
- Elevation Burger
- Faccia Luna
- House of Steep
- Jay's Saloon & Grille
- La Côte D’Or Café
- Lyon Hall
- Mexicali Blues Restaurant & Bar
- Nando’s Peri Peri
- Rappahannock Coffee
- Rhodeside Grill
- Rockland BBQ and Grill
- Saigon Saigon
- Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub
- Sine Irish Pub & Restaurant
- Thai at Corner Restaurant
- THAI Shirlington
- The Green Turtle
- The Liberty Tavern
- William Jeffrey’s Tavern
- World of Beer

To read the entire article go to the Arlington County website here: http://news.arlingtonva.us/releases/27-arlington-restaurants-welcome-doggie-diners

Restaurant Tips for Diabetics (Part 2)

Restaurant Tips if you have Diabetes (Part 2)
by Roberta Kleinman, RN, M.Ed., CDE September 4, 2013

In continuation from last week's newsletter I wanted to add more useful restaurant tips. If you plan ahead, think of reasonable food choices prior to arriving at the restaurant and you and your diabetes will be pleased with your dining experience.

We are all human; try to enjoy the meal as a social experience without feeling guilty or deprived. Remember, if you do mess up one time, immediately recognize that you should and can return to healthier eating at the next meal.

Consider the way the food is prepared. Try raw, broiled, baked, steamed, grilled or sautéed. Stay away from fried foods as much as possible. Ask for food to be sautéed in olive oil instead of butter. Ask for sauces on the side and dip instead of having the food smothered.

For breakfast, substitute egg beaters or egg whites if you have high cholesterol, and eat only 3 regular egg yolks a week. Order grits or oatmeal instead of hash browns. Replace bacon with Canadian bacon or turkey bacon and eat only occasionally. Use sugar free or fruit only jam on your bread. Use sugar free syrup on waffles or pancakes (these sugar free products may cause gastric distress, so watch portion amounts). They usually keep it on the side. Skip the bagel which counts as 4 servings of a carbohydrate. Eat whole grain, rye, sourdough or pumpernickel bread.

Order skinless chicken to avoid eating the skin. Ask for steaks to be grilled without butter or heavy sauces. See if they can trim the fat off the meat before it is cooked and served to you. Include 3 fatty-fish meals a week and try not to order farm raised fish.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

iThai (Revisited), Vienna, VA

8607 Westwood Center Dr.
Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 975-8785

Still a pleasant surprise! We LOVED it then and we still LOVE it now. iThai remains a simple, affordable, no-nonsense, convenient, and most of all great tasting Thai restaurant. Can't beat their savory Num Tok and delicious Drunken Noodles.

With great happy hour offerings, cozy atmosphere, and convenient location (just behind the new Wal-Mart in Tysons, if you have not tried iThai yet, what are you waiting for?

Anita's New Style Mexican Food

521 E Maple Ave
Vienna, VA 22180
(703) 255-1001

Always a low-key, pleasant and cheerful dining experience at
Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican food in Vienna. Their complimentary chips and salsa are addictive! Our meal usually begins with an order of Gringo Nachos. Chicken fajitas do not come out on a sizzling plate, which is great because you don't go home smelling like a smoky kitchen. Their new Taco Mexicano Combo is fantastic, definitely worth a try! We have come here many times by ourselves, with friends and with family. We've tried their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and margaritas. All are wonderful. If you want fancy, this is not the place. But if you want good simple food with a consistently great service, we definitely recommend Anita's in Vienna.