Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Peter Chang - Chef Peter Chang's signature Szechuan cuisine (Chinese) in Arlington, VA

2503 N Harrison Street
Arlington, VA 22207
Tel: (703) 538-6688

Now we know why Peter Chang has a cult-like following of foodies. It is difficult to walk out of his new restaurant in Arlington without thinking that this is the best Chinese food you've had in the DMV area, or maybe ever.  

The new digs in the Lee Harrison Shopping Plaza are unpretentious and been packed since opening day. This is definitely the place to go outside the one's usual General Tso's Chicken to savor what real Chinese Szechuan food is about.  If you live anywhere near the 7 locations of Peter Chang's restaurants in Virginia and Maryland, we highly recommend that you run, don't walk, to the phone and make reservations.

Here is a list (and pictorial illustration) of the food we ordered family-style, so that we could try as many dishes as could possibly fit into our stomachs.  Let me just say from the beginning that a wonderful person in our party researched the most recommended dishes, and we went with those. It ended up being a fantastic combination of something for everyone, and everything delicious.  

 #5 Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls with a very light duck dipping sauce (2) $6
 #6 Scallion Bubble Pancake with a light curry dipping sauce (6) $8

Hot Appetizers:
 #21 Dry Fried Eggplant (one pepper!) ($10)
 #26 Bamboo Flounder Fish (one pepper!) ($12)
 #28 Grandma's Steamed Ribs with Rice Flour (one pepper!) ($10)
 #29 Crazy Beef with Ghost Chili (five peppers!!!!!) ($10)
 + Dan Dan Noodles with Beef (not on the menu, but we ordered and they made them)

Chef Specialties:
#43 Golden Mountain Chicken (one pepper!) $15

Grandmother's Home Style Cooking:
#54 Szechuan Style Stir Fried Hotpot with Chicken (three peppers!!!) ($13)

The runaway nearly unanimous favorite for our group of eight was the Bamboo Flounder. If your adroitness with a menu carries over into the kitchen, you can try cooking this at home. Washington Post offers a recipe for Chang's Bamboo Flounder. If you cook it, they will come!  

The Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls and the Steamed Ribs were excellent. The Dry Fried Eggplant seems to have gotten a lot of press. At first we were skeptical, but ordered it anyway. What a nice surprise. Almost like thick French fries that were delicately fried on the outside and moist and fleshy on the inside. 

We asked for the Ghost Beef to be brought out last, so as not to overpower the other less spicy dishes, as it had five peppers. This was a good call. Its smoky sauce was deliciously spicy.

In retrospect, it was great to have had several orders of the Scallion Pancakes come out first because not only did their mild flavor whet our appetites and prepare our pallets for the stronger dishes to come, but they also lingered throughout the meal to be a bread-like accompaniment.

The biggest disappointment was the Dan Dan Noodles. One of the folks in our group, who lived in Georgia and has eaten these at Chang's Marietta restaurant, said that these taste quite different. Hard to say why that is, but these were not up to the taste standards of the rest of our meal.

Lastly, we were ready for dessert. And here is the thing - Peter Chang doesn't offer any! We read in one of the yelp reviews that Chang's Golden Mountain Chicken has a slightly sweet taste, so when dessert is unavailable, what can you do, but order more chicken. This was perhaps also somewhat of a disappointment. It would have been more aptly named Golden Mountain Fried Batter, as there was certainly only a hint of chicken, so it was not our favorite.

Overall, what stood out most for us, undoubtedly, was that each and every dish had a specific and unique character. There was no overlapping or duplication in either flavors or textures. Even if cilantro was used in two dishes, they still tasted very different and unique. 

Every dish we ordered wasn't a hit, but some were amazing and most were runners-up to amazing. It is quite possible there are people out there who have tasted all of Chef Chang's dishes, and those who are most certainly making it their goal to do so. We can easily fit into the latter category, as it is worth our while to go on this discovery path to find more amazing Chang creations.

The pictures below represent the order in which our dishes were served.

 Appetizer #6: Scallion Bubble Pancake

 Appetizer #5: Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls

 Hot Appetizer #28: Grandma's Steamed Ribs with Rice Flour 

Hot Appetizer #26: Bamboo Flounder Fish

Grandmother's Menu #54: Szechuan Style Stir Fried hotpot with Chicken, can also be ordered with Beef, Pork or Shrimp

 Dan Dan Noodles with Beef

 Hot Appertizer #21: Dry Fried Eggplant

Hot Appetizer #29 Crazy Beef with Ghost Chili 

Chef Specialties #43: Golden Mountain Chicken

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Tama Sushi Japanese Restaurant in McLean, VA

6828 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA 22101
Tel: (703) 883-2001

Tama Sushi is a small family-owned sushi place in McLean.  Several years ago this restaurant was under different owners and was named Endo Sushi, which we loved and reviewed it here back in 2011.  Today, under a different name, it's the same delicious food (new chef made only a few changes to the menu) and the same wonderful service. Under new ownership, this Japanese Restaurant is still a sushi gem in McLean!

Tama Sushi is a standard Sushi place with various other standard Japanese options. It is not fancy or pretentious. The staff is incredibly welcoming and sweet. You don't feel rushed or overlooked.  It is a place to come to relax and have a terrific down-to-earth low-key quiet pleasant meal. 

We came here for dinner on cold February Sunday. We were immediately served a delicious hot green tea that was tinged with flavorful roasted brown rice.  Everything we ordered was excellent in taste, texture, presentation and value. 

Having dined in many other Sushi places in McLean, this was definitely a more pleasant experience due to the individual attention we received from the personnel, and it was evident that they treated the other diners with the same approach. Our wide-smiled waitress Midori was wonderfully attentive, pleasant and efficient.

Tama Sushi is a bit difficult to find by its address, if you have not been there before. It is in a two-floor shopping area with Cafe Taj and other long-time McLean establishments.  Parking in the garage is ample and a short elevator ride to the second floor will land you at the restaurant. Or you can park in the small outdoor lot at Tama Sushi's front door.

We will definitely return here and bring family and friends!

Our scrumptious feast!

 Vegetable Roll Combination

 One of the Chef's Roll Specials

 White Dragon Roll

 Salmon Skin Hand Roll

Thursday, March 3, 2016

King Street Blues - Southern Comfort Food in Crystal City (Arlington), VA

1648 Crystal Square Arcade,
Arlington, VA 22202
Tel: (703) 415-2583

“Comfort Food with a Southern Accent” – the King Street Blues way. Darn tootin’!

During a Saturday afternoon attending the Northern Virginia Magazine’s Chicken Wings Battle, we were fortunate to win a $25 gift certificate to King Street Blues. Our unfortunate turn occurred when we showed up to redeem it, and—ugh—King Street Blues was gone!!! I lived in the Kingstowne area for quite a few years, so returning there to find KSB shut down left a hole that no wing can replace. Fortunately, two other KSB dining halls still exist; the original one off King St. in Old Town Alexandria and in the Crystal City Underground in Arlington.

Having spent nearly 5 years working just above the Crystal City Underground, returning to one of my lunchtime faves only showed that the food, service, and ambiance of King Street Blues not only did not change, but even got better.

KSB's "southern accent" hits hard upon arrival. Papier-mâché figurines adorn the restaurant in an almost surreal manner conveying the New Orleans inspired jazz theme. Sports games emanating from the bar area, and a slight bustle of activity circulating around the dining room added to the surreal nature of the figurines. We realize the location of this restaurant is geared towards the weekday business lunch crowd, showing up on a Sunday afternoon we knew that there would be no crowd. Heck, even underground parking in Crystal City is free on weekends. We sat at a bar table just off the bar area and were provided with outstanding service by Daniel. He was attentive and responsive even if serving a dozen or so sports fans sitting at the bar (as the football playoffs were in full swing).

King Street Blues is really good southern comfort food, bringing a bit of the Deep South to the not-so-deep south of Northern Virginia. We started with their famous Smoked Chipotle Chicken wings, which are probably reason alone to come here often. They were coated in an amazingly tangy and “finger-lickin’” sauce with a side of blue-cheese dip. So good, we could have easily ordered another round of wings. 

We really enjoyed their Mushroom-Swiss Burger and the “Sister Mary” – a House-smoked shredded chicken BBQ with coleslaw and really fresh house-made potato chips.

I really miss working just above KSB and miss having the KSB experience as a lunch option. 

Would we go back? In a heartbeat!

 Mushroom Swiss Burger with house made potato chips $8.99

 Smoked Chipotle Chicken Wings $9.99

 One of KSB's three "Smokers" - The Sister Mary - House-smoked shredded chicken BBQ with house made chips and cole slaw $8.49