Dining CapsulesRestaurants recently reviewed by Eve Zibart.
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, 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. 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 unpricey 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. 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. Entrees $5.95-$21.95.
KUZINE (302 King Farm Blvd., Suite 100 in the King Farm Village Center, Rockville; 301-963-3400) -- The dining room may not be much bigger than yours, but the amount and variety of dishes the kitchen puts out -- Russian, Georgian, Hungarian, Persian, Italian, Lebanese and Anatolian -- not to mention the whole other lunchtime deli menu, would do many far more elaborate restaurants proud. For those tired of the usual vegan options, the veggie-stuffed artichoke bottoms are worth the drive, and all the several eggplant dishes, hot and cold, are fine as well. The stroganoff and goulash are homestyle rather than "continental," the stuffed peppers huge and the chicken Kiev really crispy. As to portions, they're international mama-sized. Entrees $9.95-$15.95.
PICASSO GRILLE (9812-G Falls Rd., Potomac Village Shopping Center, Potomac; 301-299-3000) -- While the kitchen's eyes seem often too focused on the nightly specials -- which, considering they include venison, porcini risotto, braised lamb shanks and soft-shell crabs, is probably the main attraction for regulars as well -- this attractive cafe puts out a comfortable, if sometimes too casual, mod-Med menu that features good and near-greaseless frying (the crabs and the calamari, with a fine cilantro-garlic chermula); tuna as rare as ordered; carefully cooked pastas and moist chicken. The staff is a strong point, the wine list moderate and varied by the glass; and thanks to lots of corner tables, the overall experience is often more pleasant than the parts. Entrees $14.95-$21.50.