Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Saba Yemeni Restaurant - Fairfax, VA

3900 Pickett Road
Fairfax, VA 22031
Tel:(703) 425-1130

If you are looking for a taste of Yemen without getting on the plane, we are lucky to have a new restaurant called Saba right here in Northern Virginia! 

Saba Restaurant opened about a year ago, offering Yemeni comfort food specialties consisting primarily of large portions of meat and rice, cooked with delicious spices. If you are not a meat eater, your options will be limited, but it's definitely worth the visit anyway. After all, this newcomer made it on the coveted list of Washingtonian's 25 Best Inexpensive Restaurants in the DC area!

Saba is a medium-size restaurant, about 20 tables, with a large sectioned-off area in the back, where you can dine in a true Yemeni fashion, shoes off sitting on pillows on the floor.  We opted for a table when we came with a group of about 10 friends. It is great to come with a group of adventurous friends, so that we had a chance to sample a variety of Saba's dishes. Unknowingly, we picked a popular night - Saturday - when Saba gets quite crowded, so the wait staff, though friendly and knowledgeable, were clearly stretched to their limit.

The crowded dining hall, coupled with the poor exhaust system of the building's older construction, where Saba is located, made for a somewhat stuffy and hot atmosphere. We visited the previous tenant of this space - Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, which we reviewed back in 2013, and this unfortunate feature of poor ventilation has remained.  In fact, the decor, the furnishings, and even the plates were exactly the same in Saba as they were in Sheba! So, by the looks of it, not much was spent on overhead in the transtition from an Ethiopian to a Yemeni restaurant.

One important thing did change, however, and not for the better: There is no alcohol served in Saba restaurant. None served and none allowed on the premises, so no BYOB. This was quite disappointing.

The menu options in Saba are monotone:  (1) Beef or lamb can be either roasted or slow-roasted; served on a bone, shredded or in a stew; (2) The spices seem to be rather identical from dish to dish; (3) The same side of the Yemeni salsa-type condiment called "sahawiq" comes with most entrees; (4) The generous portions of extra long grain saffron basmati rice or warm pita accompany all the food; (5) All platters are served family-style, ready to share, and all are sprinkled with wormy-looking onion bits; And finally, (6) all stews are topped with the same whipped-fenugreek dressing.  The Saltah stew, offered with either beef or only vegetables, comes out in a hot pot. The other entrees are served on large family-style platters.  All entrees come with generous portions of green salad with a light olive oil dressing, which the waiters brought out in large family-style platters, also.  Though there is not much variety to the menu, all the food we ordered was very good, flavorful and enough to share with friends.

One note, that of the two portions of Lamb Mandi that we ordered, one was quite fatty.  The staff, to their credit, offered to take it back and bring out another cut of lamb, so keep in mind if yours comes out this way.

We were disappointed when the appetizers we ordered never arrived AND when the restaurant actually ran out of silverware and gave several people in our group plasticware to use. Quite challenging to use plasticware with hot dishes, especially when it came to cutting meat!  We understand that the restaurant was filled to capacity with large parties, but.... come on.  Fortunately, the lamb and beef were soft enough to cut with a plastic knife.

Yet, a third disappointment came when we were ready to order dessert.  The menu featured a list of about 6 or 7 desserts that all sounded delicious.  Curiously, 5 of them ranged between $20 and $40 each!  We were told that they were unavailable for single portion ordering, they could be served only for larger parties. So why list them on a menu?  Individual portions were available only for two featured desserts: Rowani and Basboussa. BUT but they were out or Rowani! So, through process of elimination by the restaurant, we were stuck with Basboussa. We shared two orders among six of us, which was more than enough.  The Basboussa was a bit grainy because of the semolina base, only slightly sweet, and overall a light and good ending to our meal.

In all, we had a nice dinner out with our our adventurous friends.  Although we left happy and with full bellies, the experience was rather on the disappointing side and we are unlikely to return.  Do we recommend that you go to try it once? Yes. But that's about it.

 Entrance to Saba Restaurant is on the left side of the small shopping strip

 Main dining room with bar area under the TV

 Wall decor

 Sahawiq - Yemeni "Salsa" served with all dishes as a garnish

 Salad with delicate olive oil dressing and spices, brought out to share that comes with all entrees

 Lamb Mandi - roasted lamb with a generous portion of basmati rice and sahawiq (on side)

Haneeth - slow-roasted lamb with the same generous portion of basmati rice and sahawiq (on side)

 Saltah - traditional Yemeni stew served with warm pita bread

Basboussa - semolina dessert with honey, the only dessert that was available out of 7 on the menu


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rabieng Thai Restaurant - Falls Church, VA

5892 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, A 22041
(703) 671-4222

Since telling you recently about how much we enjoy dining at Rabieng, we've returned several times bringing different friends. Each visit has been consistent in the top-notch friendly service and absolute deliciousness.

So, we wanted to post a few more pictures of our recent meal for you. If you have not yet delected in the flavors and hospitality of Rabieng, we're certain these pictures of our mouthwatering entrees will do the trick. 

Don't miss Rabieng's wonderful selection of appetizers, especially the Calamari, Fried Plantains, Roasted Cashews, and Veggie Rolls. These are just a few of the appetizers that we love, but you will surely not leave the table disappointed with any choice you make.

Go ahead and make diinner reservations for next weekend! You will be pleased you did. You're welcome!

 Bah Mee (Crispy Noodle Nest) With Chicken

 Drunken Noodles with Chicken (Pad Kee Mao)

 Pad Thai "Supreme"

 Garlic Chicken with Broccoli

 Pad Thai with Veggies

 Pad See-Ew (Noodles in Sweet Soy Sauce)

CHECK IT OUT: Come to Rabieng for dinner on a Wednesday, when for a $35 dinner for two, you can get a bottle of red (Merlot) or white (Chardonnay) wine from the La Terre Winery for just $1!

Awards wall - could not fit all their awards in one photo. Nuff said.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Two Awesome Lunch Buffets - Bangkok Golden (Thai / Laotian Cuisine) at Seven Corners in Falls Church and Saffron (Indian Cuisine) Falls Church City, VA

Bangkok Golden - Thai and Laotian
6395 Seven Corners Center
Falls Church, VA
(703) 533-9480

Saffron - Indian
1077 West Broad Street
Falls Church City, VA 22046
(703) 992-0077

You could easily drive or walk right past them without noticing them! And you probably have! Both hole-in-the-wall tiny places with barely a store front to notice. BUT THE TASTES - WOW!

First, Bangkok Golden, which serves both Thai and Laotian cuisine.  Situated in the Shoppers Food Warehouse plaza, this is a tiny place. As you walk in, you will barely notice a wall display of multiple well-deserved awards, such as Washingtonian's best restaurants.  We came here for the lunch buffet we heard so much about from our friends. And now we can definitely say that the lunch buffet is perfection both in the variety and the flavors.  The value is also perfection: on weekdays for a mere $10, Bangkok Golden offers a delicious selection of veggie and chicken dishes, ideal especially for those who don't eat other meats.  The papaya salad alone is worth the schlep through the Seven Corners traffic.  On weekends, Bangkok Golden adds several fish dishes that are out of this world delicious, for just a few dollars more.  Most dishes are on the spicy side, especially the Laotian ones.  If you are the type who usually puts extra spices on your food, you will definitely not need to do that here. Every buffet item is flavorful and spiced to perfection.

What makes Bangkok Golden more interesting is the Laotian side.  The chef owner Seng Luangrath is leading the much welcomed Lao Food Movement in the Washington, D.C. area.  Recently, her 21-year-old son, young chef Bobby Pradachith, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, also joined his parents at Bangkok Golden, while also working at D.C.'s well-known Minibar.  We look forward to returning here and ordering off the menu, but for now we are delighted with tasting the variety of offerings from the buffet. NOTE: Bangkok Golden is CLOSED ON TUESDAYS!!! We found out the hard way, so if you're planning to go, pick any day of the week but Tuesday.

Bangkok Golden

Second, Saffron. We wrote up Saffron in this blog several months ago, and since then have returned here at least a half a dozen times, bringing friends and relatives, who all enjoyed their meals here.  Saffron serves South Indian cuisine, which generally tends to be spicier than North Indian.  Their Goan specialties are great.  Usually, we order off the menu. Their Chicken Vindaloo is addictive, especially when prepared personally by the chef-owner with 20+ years of experience.  Their Chicken Tikka is also one of our favorites, complemented with an order of garlic naan.

Saffron's lunch buffet does not disappoint. Make sure you arrive for the buffet early, as the crowd likes to arrive at the opening of the restaurant and stay around for a while to enjoy the plentiful delicious buffet selections.  As we have described this restaurant in our blog only recently, we will not linger, other than to emphasize that the value for the lunch buffet is not only worth it, it is a steal! And definitely leave room for dessert, which is a plain and simple vermicelli-based Kheer (a white pudding), only offered at their buffet. At other times, their rice-based Kheer is offered as a menu item. Both are absolutely delicious.  Like all Indian food, it is quite complicated to make and requires ingredients most non-Indians typically don't keep around at home.  Incidentally, here is a demonstration of how to make



Saffron - Vermicelli-based Kheer