Restaurants recently reviewed by Eve Zibart:
ASIA BISTRO (1301 S. Joyce St., Pentagon Row, Arlington; 703-413-2002. Metro: Pentagon City) -- The menu does lip service to the Pan-Asian concept (Korean-lite short ribs, Thai drunken noodles, Vietnamese lemongrass beef), but the Japanese fare, particularly the sushi, is this sleek little shoebox's strong suit. Even the special rolls are above average. Of the other choices, the tempura and the two salmon entrees are the best; but you can do a lot with the happy hour nibbles of edamame, California roll, grilled chicken, etc. Entrees $10-$27; a la carte $3.50-$12.
THE NIBBLER (18556 Woodfield Rd./Route 124 in the 124 Plaza, Gaithersburg; 301-417-0233) -- German-born chef-owner Manfred Ochs and his Filipino wife, Rowena, fell in love with Latino fare when he was a hotel chef in Panama, so it's no surprise that this seemingly casual Peruvian restaurant comes close to making haute cuisine out of such homey favorites as aji de gallina (chicken stew), chupa de camarrones (shrimp bisque), ropa vieja (shredded brisket) and carapulce (a peanut-flavored pork and chicken stew). Fried calamari and yucca are crisp delights, and the lomo de saltado (flank steak), steak sandwich, grilled fish or nightly continental specials will lure even the tamale-challenged. Entrees $10.95-$16.95. Not wheelchair accessible.
THE JEFFERSON (1200 16th St. NW in the Jefferson Hotel; 202-833-6206) -- Perhaps because of the hotel's traditional style, chef Andrew Saba is plating a far more conservative menu than might have been expected, but glimmers of his technique make you pray for another rebellion: Dover sole dressed with fried parsley and pine nuts; decadently unctuous veal cheeks; Arctic char with mushrooms and gnocchi; and foie gras over matchstick beets with squash puree and fleur de sel. Entrees $25-$37.
ROY'S (720-B Aliceanna St., Baltimore; 410-659-0099) -- It's flowery, it's fusiony, it's a little too fussy, but when on-site chef Damon Morrison focuses his energies, his recipes seem fresher than the Roy Yamaguchi standards that fill out the menu. Avoid the cliched raw-chili powder blackened tuna and look instead for (the menu changes daily) the relatively simple dishes: fish with fresh salsas; crab cakes; "bento boxes" of mixed appetizers; smoked rather than fried rolls; and rooty eel-shiitake ravioli. Entrees $18-$27; three-course prix fixe $30.
SAVEUR (2218 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-333-5885) -- The understudy for a hot spot, just waiting for the big break, and perhaps a bolder, project-to-the-peanut gallery seasoning style: ingratiating staff, nice wine list and a rotating palette of mini-meal-size indulgences. Good bets include bric pastry tuna spring roll, braised veal cheeks, venison carpaccio and such old-fashioned charcuterie treats as house-made pates, frog legs and escargots. Entrees $16-$26. Not wheelchair accessible.
SORRISO (3578 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-537-4800. Metro: Cleveland Park) -- The wood-fired brick oven pizza is the most visible calling card and a quick, no-reservation bar fave, but the unusually delicate layered-crepe lasagna, the equally light eggplant parmigiana and the osso buco over polenta are the reasons for returning. The saltimbocca is draped rather than laden with prosciutto, and though the tuna carpaccio can be icy, the quality of the seafood is high. Pizzas $9-$14, entrees $12-$19.
LEWNES' (Severn Avenue at Fourth Street, Eastport Annapolis; 410-263-1617) -- In the assembly-line world of big-name big-beef, Lewnes' is your father's Oldsmobile, the steakhouse even Sunday grillers would bow to. Dark-woody, white-lineny and generous in the family-service style, Lewnes' serves up expense-account portions but concentrates on the bottom line: dry-aged porterhouse, strip, rib-eye, prime rib, and veal and lamb chops cooked exactly to order, under broilers hot enough to sear the surface and render the fat, which is what gives it that old-fashioned flavor. Worthy of denting your appetite is the pristine lump crabmeat cocktail (the crab cakes aren't bad, either), clams casino and sides of asparagus and onion-spiced sauteed spinach. Entrees $16.95-$32-95.
VERMILION (1120 King St., Alexandria; 703-684-9669) -- Despite the boldness of the name, redlining it is not Vermilion's style. The kitchen does best when it holds back a bit: feta- and spinach-stuffed lamb with sun-dried tomato and potato gratin; mini-risotto cakes with fontina and spicy tomato sauce; unfussy crab cakes; pork tenderloin with sweet potato fries; pan-seared scallops with red pepper coulis and potato croqette. Vermilion also treats bar regulars with unusual respect. At $7, the plate of four "shredded pork sliders," not-so-mini barbecue buns, is a steal, and considering the quality, the $9 crab cakes are, too. Entrees $15-$26.