Dining CapsulesRestaurants recently reviewed by Eve Zibart.
PACIFIC (46240 Potomac Run Plaza, Sterling; 703-404-5500) -- With its free-thinking culinary relish, its smart and ingratiating service and its over-the-top "exotic" decor, Pacific is one of the few truly fresh pan-Asian restaurants in the area. You could dine well on appetizers -- grilled Japanese eggplant topped with crab and peanuts, sticky rice shumai, pork satay and scallion pancakes -- but you'd miss the green curry seafood pot; Sichuan asparagus with honey walnuts; roast pork in golden nugget sauce; and the wok-fried filet mignon with ground rice and red and green peppercorn crust. Entrees $8.95-$22.75.
GOOD FORTUNE CAFE (235 Kentlands Blvd. in the Kentlands Square Shopping Center, Gaithersburg; 301-216-2828) -- Although fairly predictable in general, the food is generous and moderately priced -- even more so when it comes to the daily specials. Look for whole crispy fish, carefully tended squid dishes, roast pork, sizzling platter salmon -- and if you want spicy, make it extra clear. The noodles are pretty good; the sushi is fair; the fish tank is for looks. Entrees $6.75-$13.95.
THAI TANIC (1326 14th St. NW; 202-588-1186) -- In a town filled with theatrical Thai decors, Thai Tanic's is no less cinematic -- retro-kitsch sparkly red vinyl chairs, swirly metallic tables, shards of ship's metal and underwater murals -- but it's a fine stage for unexpectedly good food. Check the lemon grassy steamed mussels, particularly good yum nua (spicy beef salad) and yum ped yang (roast duck salad with ginger and lime/chili sauce); seafood ka pow stir-fries; sliced beef nua ka-ting; and green or red curries. Entrees $8.95-$12-95.
NOUVEAU EAST (671 N. Glebe Rd. in Ballston Common Mall; 703-807-4088. Metro: Ballston) -- While it's not yet running on all cylinders, Ballston Common's latest foray into fusion Asian food is as sleek as a Zen motorcycle, and with the expansion of happy hour sushi and sake specials, quickly picking up steam. Japanese is definitely the driving force here, and such entrees as salt-grilled salmon shioyaki and various tempuras are good; so are baked mussels, dumplings, the generous scallop-topped salad in potato nest. Other dishes, a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean, are a little more variable, and some of the fusion has "American" in the mix, but it's pleasant and in general moderately priced. Entrees $7.95-$15.75.
TIPPY'S TACO HOUSE (615 S. Frederick Ave./Route 355, Gaithersburg; 301-977-2111) -- These days, a restaurant that survives a quarter-century ought to get a congratulatory card from Willard Scott, and this longtime Gaithersburg family joint is an unpretentious and unpricy comfort stop: old-fashioned enchiladas and Monday dinner-style tacos, good beans and rice, generous fajitas and Yago sangria at $10 a liter. Not to mention the velvet sombreros. Time trip, anyone? Entrees $2.50-$7.80. Not wheelchair accessible.
MARCELLO (774-A Walker Rd. in Great Falls Village Center; 703-759-7401) -- This attractive but somewhat inaccessible restaurant hopes to seduce diners with Sicilian fare and "Sopranos"-hip uniforms, and it does have a couple of very Tony traits: When it's good, it's very good -- and delicacy is not so strong a culinary suit as muscle. Pappardelle with (home-grown) rabbit ragu; wild boar lasagna; roast veal chops with porcini mushrooms; portobello caps mounded with bay scallops and marinara sauce; shrimp and artichoke salad; smoked swordfish; and the stewed rabbit are all fine. Entrees $11-$24.
OCCIDENTAL (14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in the Willard Hotel Complex; 202-783-1475) -- Over the past three years, chef Patrick Bazin has modernized the cut but not clipped the basic fabric of this longtime Fed City favorite. The presentations are more ornate, sometimes just for the show of it; but the combinations are often a happy surprise. Good bets include shiitake-crusted salmon with black truffle emulsion; butter-braised wolffish; grilled swordfish with red pepper marmalade and preserved lemon vinaigrette; roasted baby beet salad; pumpkin ravioli and Korean-inflected sea bass. Entrees $20-$30.
TANDOORI NIGHTS (106 Market St. in Kentlands Market Square, Gaithersburg; 301-947-4007) -- Even if the food weren't as satisfying as it (mostly) is, this would be one of the most attractive lounges in the 'burbs, with its ladies-of-nirvana murals, its Zei Clubbish mod furniture, ironically nostalgic Mr. Boston-style cocktail menu and smashing cilantro dip for the papadum. The menu is a subcontinental A-to-Zei excursion as well: Don't miss the mint-marinated chicken legs, truly hot chicken vindaloo, lamb chops with garbanzos, dry-curried okra, crisp bone-in pomfret or, for those who've discovered the gamy delights of goat, the kadai gosht. The tandoori leg of lamb is great, but slippery, so plan to take it home and dismember it in discreet privacy. Entrees $5.95-$21.95.