China Star (9600-G Main St., Fairfax, 703-323-8822, www.chinastarfood.com) is just a very plain room in a nondescript strip mall, but it is the new darling of Sichuan aficionados. Ignore the American menu and try something daring, or at least interesting, off the Chinese specialty menu.
Do the same at Sichuan Village (14005 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Chantilly, 703-631-5888). The luncheon buffet features more than 100 items, but the gems are on the Chinese section of the menu. Sichuan Village is owned by the same family that owned the Formosa Cafe in Arlington for 15 years.
Cantonese cooking is the specialty of Full Kee (5830 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, 703-575-8232), an offshoot of the original in Washington's Chinatown. For dim sum, two of the best are A&J Restaurant (4316-B Markham St., Annandale, 703-813-8181) and Fortune (6249 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church. 703-538-3333, www.fortunerestaurantbanquet.com).
Woodlands (4078 Jermantown Rd., Fairfax, 703-385-1996) has an exclusively vegetarian menu, while Bombay Bistro (3570 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax, 703-359-5810, www.bombaybistro.com) includes foods from northern and southern India and daily specials from its coastal regions.
Jaipur (9401 Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-766-1111) has mostly northern Indian dishes. Minerva (10364 Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-383-9200) has more than 100 items on the menu.
Coyote Amigo (1313 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, 703-821-3888) looks like all the other taco stands that have been in this location for the past two decades. You can still get all the Tex-Mex favorites, plus subs and sandwiches. But the hidden treasures are the Bolivian daily specials, including saltenas, akin to an empanada but with a more savory crust and a filling that includes olives and beef. They are made in-house and worthwhile.
Fairfax County boasts more big-name steakhouses than many states. Five are clustered in Tysons Corner: Morton's (8075 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 703-883-0800, www.mortons.com), the Palm Restaurant (1750 Tysons Blvd., McLean, 703-917-0200, www.thepalm.com), Shula's Steak House (8028 Leesburg Pike in the Tysons Corner Marriott, 703-506-3256, www.donshula.com), the Capital Grille (1861 International Dr., McLean, 703-448-3900, www.thecapitalgrille.com) and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (1960-A Chain Bridge Rd. in the Courtyard by Marriott, 703-442-8384, www.flemingssteakhouse.com).
There is also the Steak House at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, 703-506-4300, www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/tysons_corner).
Not far away, in McLean, is a local favorite, J. Gilbert's Wood-Fired Steaks (6930 Old Dominion Dr., 703-893-1034, www.jgilberts.com). Housed in what was once Fairfax County police headquarters, J. Gilbert's has the lofty feeling of a Spanish monastery, with lots of wood, brick and giant stone columns. This is more a neighborhood place than the high-roller steakhouses nearby.
Another local place is the Foxfire Grill (6550 Little River Tpk., Annandale, 703-914-9280).
There is another Morton's in Reston (11956 Market St., 703-796-0128, www.mortons.com) and a Ruth's Chris Steak House in Fairfax Corner (4100 Monument Corner Dr., Fairfax, 703-266-1004, www.ruthschris.com).