Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seasons 52 - A New American Restaurant - Tysons Corner Center, McLean, VA

Tysons Corner Center
7863L Tysons Corner (Lower Level)
McLean, VA 22102
Tel: (703) 288-3852

Don't ask for a basket of bread with your meal here at Seasons 52! That would defeat the purpose of having a meal under 750 calories, explained our amicable waiter.

Wonder whether this restaurant has any relation to the new 5-2 diet that everyone is talking about? This is a diet where you eat normally for 5 days a week and fast on 2 days. Would be curious if there is a connection. 

Seasons 52 has been expanding rapidly in the United States with 40+ locations today, trail blazing the healthy eating trend that has swept across some parts of the country. Its parent company Darden Restaurants Inc., which also owns Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, and Yard House, was ranked by Fortune magazine in 2011 as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This may be a good thing and a bad thing in how it affects the quality of the restaurant's service.  The two servers we had were pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu. That's the good thing.  The bad thing is that servers were few and far between, obviously shorthanded, having to keep up with the busy and popular restaurant, running the large distances of the dining hall, so it took quite a while to get our food here on a Sunday evening.

Along with your meal, you'll be treated to a piano bar, which may or may not be your thing. If you arrive sans reservations, you may be stuck at the front of the restaurant in the first-come-first-serve tall bar tables along the crowded mall side with the added bonus of shopper watching.  Unless you have a booming Barry White voice, a conversation is challenging in this location, as you're battling both the noise of the mall and the piano bar music, but at least you have sufficient light from the mall to see your food. On the other hand, if you score a table anywhere in the large dining room, pack a flashlight, because the place is nearly pitch black. These are your seating options. Now for the food.

Sitting at the tall bar stools under the light of the mall, we began our meal with the Roasted Shrimp & Stuffed Mushroom appetizer that arrived in a classic escargot-serving dish. It was a nice tasty starter, despite being on the lean side (not rich at all). The best part about this appetizer was the delicious garlicky sauce that trickled to the bottom of each hole simply begging to be sopped up by a piece of a fluffy baguette. ALAS.... the words of our waiter rang in our minds.... no bread.

Our entrees were Steak Salad and Roasted Salmon. We requested the dressing on the side with our Steak Salad entree. The dressing came in such a miniscule portion that even for those people who are not dressing fiends, it would be laughable. Our waiter cheerfully complied with our request for additional dressing, while shooting us a look of caution lest we fully grasp the looming danger of possibly exceeding the allotted calorie maximum, as the Steak Salad was already a whopping 500 calories.  Further pushing the limits of our caloric luck, we ordered a side of Scallops (370 Calories) to go with the Steak Salad, thereby creating a Surf n' Turf. This was a good value for only $9.95. The restaurant also offers a Shrimp Scampi ($9.95) or Maine Lobster Tail ($10.95) as Sides, which are great deals, too, and would go great with any entree on the menu, but keep in mind, that they are 330 and 150 Calories, respectfully, so expect the portions to correspond to those numbers.

The Roasted Salmon was served on a wooden plank, as is the current trend in many restaurants. Despite being on the dry side, it was well-seasoned and the glaze added a nice sweetness to it. The side of steamed veggies was colorful and good. The pleasing presentation of all the dishes is definitely appreciated. 

"Any room for dessert?" Oh, yes..... lots of room.

There is something to be said for leaving a restaurant with the feeling that is somewhere past "starving," but quite a ways from "full." This would be fine had we not just dropped over $60 for our dinner, when usually for this price we would be bringing home leftovers. When we watched a sweet Millennial couple on a date sitting at the next table joyfully snacking on a basket of wilted asparagus, we understood that perhaps we are just a different kind of diners and require a different kind of restaurant. 

Luckily, just up the escalator (the less-gluttonous would undoubtedly have opted for stairs) on the Upper Level of the Tysons Corner Shopping Center, Le Madeleine was still open and still serving their rich, mouthwatering, whipped-cream-topped (and a strawberry, too) cheesecake with only 900 Calories!  Usually, after a fulfilling meal we do not crave, nor have any room, for dessert, making us wonder about the advantages of a low-Calorie meal that sends you running for cheesecake.  Dropping the Calorie-consumption level certainly is a worthwhile endeavor, depending on one's starting point. Many people may require a gradual approach to accomplish this objective. We believe in the old-school approach of eating a little bit of everything and not overdoing it on anything.  

We'll definitely return to Le Madeleine, but not so sure about Seasons 52.

 Lump Crab, Roasted Shrimp & Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms under Parmesanpanko crust (220 cal) $9.95

 Grilled Flat Iron Steak Bibb lettuce, summer corn, roasted tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese (500 cal) $15.95

 Cedar-Plank Roasted Salmon roasted vegetables & crushed potatoes, dill-mustard sauce, grilled lemon (440 cal) $20.50

"Entree Accompaniment" Caramelized Sea Scallops (370 cal) $9.95

Decadent Cheesecake from La Madeleine

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tupelo Honey Cafe - A Taste of North Carolina in Arlington, VA

1616 N. Troy Street
Arlington, VA 22201
Tel: (703) 253-8140

Tucked away on a small newly-constructed block connecting Wilson and Clarendon Blvds in Arlington (Clarendon), Tupelo Honey Cafe is a distinctively unique and cheerful addition to Arlington's vigorously expanding dining scene. Tupelo Honey Cafe began in Ashville, NC about 15 years ago offering a modern twist on traditional Southern cuisine.

According to the restaurant, the name comes from the honey that is used and sold in the restaurants. Tupelo Honey is the best tasting and purest honey known to exist. It doesn’t crystalize like other types of honey and it’s produced only in Southern Georgia and Northwest Florida (where the original owner, Sharon Schott, grew up). Tupelo trees have a very short blossoming season from early April to early May, which makes the supply of pure Tupelo Honey very unique and rare. The mission at Tupelo Honey Cafe is to give customers the same unique, flavorful dining experience by using pure, all natural and fresh ingredients in the food they serve.

Ever since Steve Frabitore took over the Tupelo Honey Cafe in 2008, he expanded its locations around the South, then moved northward and, in the process, proved that Southern cooking with the right added touches can indeed have a universal appeal. Its localness is an added bonus - it has been placed in the Top Ten Farm-To-Table Restaurants in America. We welcome small business owners like Steve, who has already been awarded for leadership, civic responsiveness and for bettering the communities where he works with healthy eating and healthy living.

Tupelo Honey Cafe's outside patio dining area is large, modern and comfortable. At 6pm on a weekday the patio was packed with professional local 20-30-somethings enjoying a popular happy hour. The Cafe opened its doors only on June 1st and the crowd already seemed "regular" - now that's fast!

The Cafe is as welcomingly-outfitted inside as it is outside, in a rustic modern style. Art from local artists adorns every wall of the large dining room as far as the eye can see, from paintings to glass fixtures. We love bright open kitchens where we can see our food being prepared and watch the masterful technique and pleasure the chefs display while preparing our food.  This definitely adds to the fun of the dining experience here.

The food here is exactly what it claims to be - Southern with a twist.  We tasted about a dozen items from the menu section entitled Small Southern Plates. This was really a perfect representation of the restaurant's range of flavors, so we feel comfortable in calling the menu here pleasingly innovative without any pretense or pomp.

We tried about a dozen Southern Small Plates on the Summer Dinner menu. These range from $7 to $14 per plate.  You can see a photo and a description below each photo in this blog of the items we tried. The description reflects the menu as well as our comment, in most cases. A variety of about 5-6 Small Plates can make a great dinner for people like us, who like to eat a lot and walk out full and happy. So, it is a little pricey, but you get value for your bucks.

As Northerners, we often unfairly dismiss Southern cuisine as "everything fried."  Yes, there are some predictably fried items here, such as the classic Fried Green Tomatoes, several versions of Fried Chicken, and Fried Okra. But here they are not the stereotypical boring fatty stuff we Northerners tend to think it is. All the dishes have a flavorful twist that unquestionably set this menu way apart from anything predictable.  One fried surprise in a particular was a first for us - THE FRIED AVOCADO! Go figure, BUT THE FRIED AVOCADO IS DEFINITELY A HIT! It is a perfectly green ripe delicious avocado slice wrapped in a crunchy fried batter served with a house-made tomato sauce and whipped sour cream, and it is delicious.

The Southern Taco Trio platter is available either with beef meatloaf or Cajun fried chicken. Of these two, we definitely preferred the chicken, not only for the curry flavor and the tomato-cuke salsa, but also for quality of the meat. There is nothing wrong with the meatloaf at all, it is quite tasty, though a bit milder than the chicken, but we prefer our meatloaf to be very very lean, which is not easy to get in any restaurant environment. In fact, we are not big beef eaters, just so you have our recommendations within the right context.

We plan to return to Tupelo Honey Cafe to try their Brunch on Saturday or Sunday 9am-3pm. They also serve a Moonrise Brunch on Friday and Saturday night that includes a combination of brunch and happy hour items. The actual HAPPY HOUR is Monday-Thursday 4-7pm, when their signature cocktail "Ode to Eleanor Roosevelt" is only $5 (regularly, $8), all draft pints are $3, all wine bottles are half off and 6 of their small plates are $6.  We definitely recommend Tupelo Honey Cafe and will return here very soon.

View from N. Troy Street

Patio at Happy Hour

An extensive Drink Menu that offers 23 craft beers. The Cocktail menu is interesting, too!
NOTE that the first Cocktail listed "Ode to Eleanor Roosevelt" Sparkling Sangria ($8) is a signature specialty drink of the Arlington Tupelo Honey Cafe, it is on draft, and looks like this:

All Tupelo Honey Cafe's cocktails feature local and regional spirits.

 Meatloaf Tacos with Brussels Slaw and Smoked JalapeƱo Sauce

 Fried Avocado with Fresh Tomato Salsa and Whipped Sour Cream
Definitely a hit!

 Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Cajun Blackened Shrimp

 Salted Beets with Roasted Pistachio Pesto and Goat Cheese
A great appetizer, side dish or tapas plate that will complement practically any item on the menu.

 Curried Fried Chicken Tacos with Apple Salsa and Cherry Pepper Aioli (Garlic Mayo)
The tomato-cuke-onion salsa with cilantro, fresh jalapenos and a squeeze of lime went great with the hint of curry in the chicken.

 Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese with Baked Apples, Sweet Figs and Crostini Slices
Although the Crostini can get a bit soggy from the juices, this is a great appetizer

 Fried Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Grits and Red Pepper Coulis

A feast!

 Lamb Meatballs in a House-made Tomato Curry Sauce with Feta Cheese

 Country Ham Wontons with a Brussels Sprouts Salad

 Fresh Blueberry & Lemon Quinoa w/ Arugula & Feta
Includes thin crunchy Almond Slices, not listed on the menu. Turns out that Blueberries and Feta go great with Quinoa!

 Seared Yellowtail Tuna with a Honey Mustard dressing and a Salad of Edamame, Pine Nuts, Carrots and Golden Raisins

 Southern creamy light warm buscuits with blackberry jam

 Kitchen is bright and open (not shown on photo) so you can watch your food being prepared

Art from local artists is displayed throughout the large dining space wherever the eye can see

Wonderfully-accommodating and convivial Sous Chef Andre (originally from Asheville, NC) and Waiter Nick (from Massachussetts)

 As an after-dinner treat, PICK UP A JAR OF TUPELO HONEY, as well as one of their made-from-scratch dressings, to take home with you!

Romantic patio setting at dusk after a heavy rain

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hong Kong Palace Chinese Restaurant - Falls Church, VA

Hong Kong Palace
Chinese Restaurant
6387 Seven Corners Shopping Center
Falls Church, VA 22044
Tel: (703) 532-0940

Is it ever possible to have enough Chinese restaurants in your neigborhood?  We'd say... No. So, when we found this small restaurant in the Shoppers Food Warehouse plaza in Falls Church, we were excited to try it.  Hong Kong Palace is only a few doors down from our new favorite Thai / Laotian restaurant Bangkok Golden.  This multiple-award winning ethnic dive is definitely worth a stop for an impressive variety of authentic Szechuan dishes, despite its Cantonese name.

Like most authentic Chinese restaurants, there are two distinctly different menus at the Hong Kong Palace: one is the Americanized menu and one is the traditional Szechuan menu.  We selected the latter. There were only two of us for lunch, so we sampled the most we could possibly eat, which was three full-size entrees. We chose dishes we thought would complement one another and would give us a good taste of the restaurant's offerings.

From the traditional soup menu, we ordered the Chicken and Pickled Vegetables Soup.  Although we intended for this to be our appetizer, it ended up arriving late, a few minutes behind our first entree. This soup had large chunks of garlic and noodles, a perfectly mild brothy chicken soup. Our two entrees were Fish and Bean Curd in Spicy Sauce and Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce.  Both dishes were likewise on the mild side.  The Fish and Tofu came in a very very thick orangy-red sauce. The Garlic Chicken came with delicate black mushrooms and cucumbers in a delicate brown sauce. 

The flavors at Hong Kong Palace were not overwhelming or strong, rather they are mild and delicate.  Had we checked their online menu, we would have asked for their "Special Gift" dishes that come free with purchase over a certain threshold:  

Free Gifts
We weren't aware of this, and the staff did not volunteer this information to us.  Perhaps it is only available for delivery? If so, do take advantage of these deals when you order from Hong Kong Palace.

Overall, our experience was pleasant and we walked out full and happy. We will return here someday and will likely sample other menu offerings, as there are many that seemed appealing. But not sure we will return soon, as there are so many other places we would rather re-visit sooner.

 Chicken with Hot Garlic Sauce

 Chicken with Pickled Vegetables Soup

Fish and Bean Curd with Spicy Sauce

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jerusalem Restaurant - Middle Eastern Food - Falls Church, VA

3405 Payne Street
Falls Church, VA 22041
Tel: (703) 379-4200

It is nearly impossible to drive along the ethnic food corridor in Falls Church between Seven Corners and Bailey's Crossroads and not stop for a bite of delicious Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, Indian or Middle Eastern food. These are just a few of the options, but there are many others!  One of the restaurants we have favored lately has been Jerusalem Restaurant in a small eatery strip along Leesburg Pike (Rte.7).

Walking into Jerusalem, expect high quality everything and you will not be disappointed. Our several dinners here have been consistent in an outpouring of hospitality and great service on behalf of the staff, particularly Rania (no doubt named after the Jordanian Queen), as well as great, very authentic food.  Flavors here are guaranteed to satisfy everyone's tastebuds.  You will not walk out hungry.

To kick off a meal, try the standard selection of Middle Eastern appetizers, ordered individually, or as a sampler platter that includes Hummus (chickpea-based dip), Babaghanouj (eggplant-based dip), Falafel (deep-fried chick pea patties), Tabbouleh (parsley-based salad), Stuffed Grape Leaves, and a chopped onion and tomato salad,  They all go perfectly with the warm freshly-baked bread.

All the entrees we have had here were delicious and the portions more than generous. A small salad and a soup selection (Chick Pea or Vegetable Tomato-based Harissa) accompany each entree. The Chicken Kabob is perfectly grilled with tomatoes and onions on two skewers, served on a bed of delicious saffron rice with a light yogurt sauce on the side. Fattah Chicken is a a dish of shredded tender chicken breast topped with grilled pita and yogurt over a bed of saffron rice with pine nuts.  Vegetable Couscous is a stew-like dish of large chunks of delicious mildly-seasoned veggies served with a side plate of rice. If you order the Chicken Couscous, be prepared for a well-seasoned roasted half-chicken that honestly can feed two. The Bamieh is a tasty dark stew, also served with a side dish of rice. The rice alone is so good and plentiful that it could almost be eaten as a meal on its own!

Middle Eastern food is very flavorful and delicate, but not particularly known for being spicy. If you need a little extra kick ask for the HOT SAUCE, made in-house by the chef.  It is a delicious condiment that enhances the taste of each and every dish on the table.

Whatever you do, do not forego the desserts! They are only $2 a piece and are decadent! Despite being creme-filled, the Warbat we had was surprisingly very light, almost light enough to have two (or three).

We will definitely be back to Jerusalem Restaurant, and are most certainly to take out a tray of their wonderful desserts for our next BBQ.

Can't argue with this advice!

Pleasant welcoming decor


Harissa soup

Vegetarian Appetizer Platter Sampler $16.95

Falafel Appetizer $6.95

Chicken Couscous $12.95 - amazing House Hot Sauce on the side (ask for it!)

 Vegetable Couscous $10.95

 Bamieh lamb stew $13.95

 Large dining room

 Fattah Chicken $12.95

 Grilled Chicken Kabob with yogurt sauce $11.95

8-9 different dessert options, most with the same mouthwatering creme filling

Warbat (Middle Eastern Cannoli)

               Well-deserved Wall of Honor