Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sibarita's Restaurant - Bolivian food in Arlington, VA

2716 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 276-1050

We are very fortunate to live in Northern Virginia, where there is such a rich variety of wonderful restaurants that offer a sampling of ethnic flavors without the hassle of getting on a plane.  Sibarita's is one of those restaurants that reminds us how lucky we are!

We probably would never have tried Sibarita's if it wasn't for a Groupon. We are happy we did!

Sibarita's is a small unassuming standalone one-story house with a small outdoor patio for warm-weather dining.  It definitely fits into the category of "ethnic dives" with its shabby furniture, cultural decorations and unique menu offerings.

The most fitting description of the food is "Bolivian comfort food" because of its prevalent featuring of grilled meats, fried eggs, rice, large (and we mean LARGE) french fried potatoes and giant (and we mean GIANT) corn kernels.

When you first walk in, you may feel somewhat claustrophobic in the small bar area with a low wood bench covered with animal skins (where people like to pose for photographs).  We were greeted by a cheerful host dressed in simple drab a la Che, who led us upstairs to the cozy dining room with orange walls and vent pipes along the ceiling. The TV screen beamed a football game, but was largely ignored by the full room of diners enjoying their large samplings of beef.

The main draw for Sibarita's clientele is undobtedly meat, meat and more meat!  Looking around at what others were eating, we quickly concluded that if you have friends who love meat as much as you do, your best bet is to get together a group of 4 and come here for the "Pique Macho para 4."  This carnivore's delight is brought out as a heaping plate of grilled meat (looked like flank steak) and chorizo with huge french fries, some fried eggs sunny side up, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.  You can get one ample portion for yourself for $14.95, or an ampler portion for 4 for $39, which is a great deal.  The other popular options for groups of 4+ seemed to be the Parrillada Familiar ($54), which is grilled beef, chicken and chorizo, also with rice and large french fries.  Anyway you cut it, this is a meat lover's paradise, or rather a meat-and-potato lover's paradise.

We did not take that route, as there we were only two of us and besides, we are not big beef or chorizo eaters.  Instead, we began our meal with an appetizer with the unusual name "K'Ally" Con Pan.  This consists of two large pieces of grilled bread, chimichurri sauce, garlic and olive oil, a tomato and cheese salad and giant corn kernels, which are prevalent on the menu.  One word - bland, but nonetheless it was interesting to try!

As our entrees, we chose the Silpancho and Pollo Saltado.  The Silpancho, very popular here, was a sight to behold.  For one thing, the portion is large enough that it could be shared by two people.  It can best be described as a "sheet of grilled beef" topped with a couple eggs sunny-side-up.  The beef blankets over a bed of rice and several huge french fries, which are present in most other menu selections.  The Silpancho was accompanied by a side plate of Salsa Cruda, which is the Bolivian Pico de Gallo. The Pollo Saltado consisted of small pieces of grilled chicken with onions and jalapeno slices with a side of rice The flavors of both dishes can best described with the same word as the appetizer - bland. Fearing this, we asked for the Pollo Saltado to be prepared "extra spicy," which they did, and only because of this request was it less bland than it would have been otherwise. But again, was fun to try.

If you are not the carnivorous type, you will find two wonderful things about Sibarita's:  One is its wonderfully cheerful and attentive staff.  They are friendly, highly accommodating, are very familiar with the food and most importantly, they look like they really enjoy the interaction with the diners and the food they serve.  Second, and this is really THE BEST THING ABOUT SIBARITA'S - THE LLAJUA (a.k.a. Llajwa) PREPARED PERSONALLY BY BRENDA.  Llajua is a Bolivian salsa (yes, we learned a new word!). It is absolutely, positively, mouthwateringly delicious!

Would we return to Sibarita's? Honestly....probably not, but not because they are not wonderful.  It is just not for us.  Would we recommend that you go?  Yes!!! Go at least once! Don't return, if you don't like it, but do go to check it out!!!  Go either for the large helpings of meat, or for Brenda's llajua, or just to see what Bolivian comfort food is all about.  We are sure you will walk away satisfied.

 Cozy dining room with TV screens

Bottomless peanuts

 K'Ally Con Pan appetizer $6.75

Brenda's fantastic llajua (Bolivian salsa)

Silpancho beef dish $11.99

 Pollo Saltado chicken dish (prepared extra spicy upon request) $10.95

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pulcinella Italian Restaurant (revisited, even though we said we would never return) - McLean, VA

6852 Old Dominion Dr.
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 893-7777

Based on Trip Advisor reviews back in December 2010, we tried Pulcinella Ristorante in McLean. It was, after all, rated #1 out of the then 62 McLean eateries. Since 2010, restaurants in McLean have nearly doubled to 112 and Pulcinella finds itself now at #22 (according to TripAdvisor.com). We wanted to try the #1 restaurant for ourselves and were disappointed, to say the least. But when we found ourselves in the geographic area near Pulcinella, we threw caution to the wind and decided to give "The Italian Host" (subtitle, per its website) another twirl, hoping that 5 years was enough to address the myriad shortcomings many people pointed out over the years.

Bottom line: Aside from the consistency in the kitchen, there has been not much improvement in the areas they needed to improve.

As we wrote in 2010, “Judging on food alone, this place is exceptional. Too bad dining experiences are not based on this one element.” Back then, we wrote it was nothing short of a disaster; however, while not a disaster during this experience, certainly there is plenty of room for improvement.

The pluses:  Our table, though not the same we sat at 5 years ago, was wobbly, but not wobbly enough enough to knock our glasses off the table as it was previously. Cutlery and napkins were on the table upon arrival and the bread and drinks came out pretty quickly.

The minuses:  After we had read through the menu and ordered our meal, the waiter noticed that we did not receive the night’s dinner specials supplement. Would’ve been nice to know about the specials before studying the menu and selecting our entrees....  While the bread and butter were brought out with the drinks, the olive oil was brought to the table quite a bit later AFTER we already ate our bread...  And there is more.

A salad came out with dressing “on the side,” not how everyone else's salads came out, even though we did not order it that way. We chalked it up to the noisy dining room and the server mistakenly hearing “on the side” instead of something else. We did not return it, as it takes little effort to pour dressing on a salad (about as much as it would have taken the waiter to confirm he heard the order correctly... or not).  

Food delivery and server check-ins were regular this time, and the bill was accurate, in contrast to our last experience.

On to the food. This is Pulcinella's strong point and they do not disappoint.  The Ravioli alla Panna (Spinach Ravioli), usually prepared in a very heavy cream sauce, came in a nice light cream sauce, which was quite good. The Vitello alla Parmiglana (Veal Parmesan), was delicious, moist, tasty, served with perfectly al dente pasta. The Chicken Fettuccine seemed to be the only “miss” of the night. While the pasta and cream sauce were nice, the chicken lacked taste and, while grilled well, needed something—salt? Pepper? Lemon? Not the best effort there. 

Our review from 2010 said, “Needless to say, we do not think we will ever return.” We did. And while there was some improvement five years later, it was not enough to want to come back. But who knows, maybe if we find ourselves in the area again and want to check it out five years from now...  we'll let you know.

Veal Parmigiana

Chicken Fettuccine

Spinach Ravioli