Dining Capsules

Restaurants previously reviewed by Eve Zibart.

SAKE CLUB (2635 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-322-2711. Metro: Woodley Park) -- If looks could chill, this new-Tokyo style sippery would be the coolest lounge in town. And it may be anyway, with sushi that's alternatingly biting (the vampire roll of spicy tuna con tuna), buttery (seared toro and yellowtail), bling-bling (flecked with gold) and -- where it counts, as with the well-tempered rice -- solidly basic. For heartier nibbling, try the chicken heart skewers, the pan-seared pork tenderloin, gobo and salmon skin rolls or break out of the protein rut with one of the many vegetarian sushi options. But remember: chic sake doesn't come cheap. A la carte sushi $4-$15, entrees $14-$40.

DANTE (1148 Walker Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-3131) -- With a generally meaty menu but a light touch that extends to the pappardelle, chef Guiseppe DiBenigno takes full advantage of natural flavors and skips the frills. Darker dishes -- rabbit legs, lean and not-too-gamy boar chops and spicy duck ragu -- show him at his best. The doughs testify to his sense of balance, and it's no small thing to say the scaloppine is tender (or that the seafoods are carefully monitored) ; but the finishing touches (trimming, seasoning, siding) sometimes get short shrift, suggesting a shortage of manpower rather than of imagination. Entrees $21-$32.

IRISH INN AT GLEN ECHO (MacArthur Boulevard at Tulane Avenue, Glen Echo: 301-229-6600) -- A fine back of the hand to fatty and floury "theme pubs" that give Irish stew a bad name, this beautifully renovated old favorite now offers Irish-inflected fare -- pan-roasted salmon with corned beef-stuffed cabbage roll, whiskey smoked salmon, lamb shank with root vegetables -- that don't need a shtick to lean on. In fact, as if to defy the heavy-food stereotype to the utmost, the kitchen dispenses with most of the fat and flour, sometimes going so lean it could use a little extra liquid to help wash it down -- Guinness on tap, of course. Even the reuben sandwich could make the diet cut. Entrees $20-$24.

COEUR DE LION (926 Massachusetts Ave. NW in the Henley Park Hotel; 202-638-5200. Metro: Mount Vernon) -- This romantics' hideaway, like a castle's wine cellar, is also a happily theatrical dining escape with a modernized hunt-country sensibility and an aristocratic wine list to match. Among good bets are swordfish, honey-glazed quail, roast pheasant, and an immaculately fresh rack of lamb with a light mustard coating. The first-rate terrine de fois gras, and the veal en croute it stars in, are two of the best dishes on the menu. The only drawback is a tendency to over-sweet sauces, prettily reduced and macerated fruits that go a little too far to the medieval taste. Entrees $18-$30. Not wheelchair accessible.

HUNTER'S HEAD TAVERN (9048 John Mosby Hwy./Route 50, Upperville, Va.; 540-592-9020) -- Once you realize that nearly everything on this menu, including side dishes and appetizers and definitely desserts, are big enough for a meal, you can lean back and play into the neo-colonial atmosphere. Most of the meats are organic, and the real flavor of the steak will remind you of what those big-name chophouses have sacrificed for size. The pate is chewy and the cheeses rich; the bean soup senatorial, the bangers discreet and the beef stew (and yes, mac 'n' cheese) homesick-making. And you don't have to wait till spring for perfect asparagus. Entrees $12.95-$21.95

NEISHA THAI (4445 Wisconsin Ave., NW: 202-966-7088) -- This fantasy of a Thai cave, complete with faux rock veining, stalagmites and waterfall, is as cheery and fresh, if not quite as bold, as its Virginia siblings. Still, if you can urge your servers to accentuate the seasoning, regardless of the supposed chili-pod rating, you'll be particularly happy with the quality of the fish and seafood. (Wait till the soft-shell crabs are fresh, then go hog wild.) Turning up the heat on the duck would make for crisper skin; on the other hand, gentler handling of the marinated pork and beef dishes might keep them from going a little tough. And while fat rice noodles are real comfort food, some of the cellophane-noodle dishes, such as the "Thai-style sukiyaki," are simply curiosities. Entrees $6.95-$14.95.

TAIPEI TOKYO ( 14921-D Shady Grove Rd. in the Fallsgrove Village Center; 301-738-8813) -- While this third TT covers a lot of Asian culinary territory -- Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Malay and Korean -- it doesn't get terribly far with any. The problem is mostly one-recipe-fits-all, and the various apparently commercial dipping sauces don't help a whole lot; but the ingredients are fresh and carefully tended. The sushi here is better than at a lot of the other pan-Asian places, thanks to correctly prepared rice, but this is best considered a family- or mixed-group destination, with a little something for everyone and nothing especially challenging for any. Entrees $7-$16; a la carte sushi $4-$11.

EL GUAJIRO (8650 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring; 301-565-4985. Metro: Silver Spring) -- If this were any more homestyle (or any snugger), you really would be in the kitchen. This plain and unpretentious Cuban storefront is not only authentically suburban -- the name is roughly the equivalent of "paisano" -- it comes as a relief after the bustle and hullabaloo of all the franchised eateries across in City Place. And it's as much food for the money as any. Best bets include the chicharonnes de pollo, chicken so crisp Colonel Sanders would weep; picadillo, a sort of non-sweet sloppy Joe; ropa vieja, beef stewed until it collapses like "old clothes"; cubano sandwiches; and black beans and rice you can actually taste. $6.95-$9.99. Not wheelchair accessible.

ASIA BISTRO (1301 S. Joyce St. in the Pentagon Row shopping center; 703-. 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, and its most ambitious in terms of choice, rising above its otherwise modest outlook. Even the special rolls are of 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 nibblies 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; 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 housemade 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, this, quick and a 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, ribeye, 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 crabcakes 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 croquette. 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.

CAFE PROMENADE (1127 Connecticut Ave. NW in the Mayflower Hotel; 202-347-2233. Metro: Farragut North, Farragut West or Dupont Circle) -- Looking for the in-laws or out-of-towners summer special? Look no further. While longtime chef "Tino" Buggio can soothe a nostalgic weeknight palate with such continental classics as Muscovy duck and Guinea hen with Savoy cabbage (and lure a smaller appetite with lamb chop lollipops and foie gras), the Friday night seafood buffet is a magnet for protein addicts: clams, oysters, shrimp, antipasto and green salads, grilled, baked and sauteed fish, crab cakes, tenderloin of beef and a surprisingly good gargantuan paella for $39. And low-cal/low-carb, if you avert your eyes from the desserts. Entrees $15.95-$25; Friday buffet $39 adults, $19.50 11 and under.

THAI CORNER (4733 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-0262. Metro: Bethesda) -- This is a Thai restaurant for those who prefer their Thai not too trendy and less than incendiary, but it's a handsome spot, both inside and out (it has a small, below-sidewalk-level patio), and eager to please. Best bets include yum tuna, a carryover from the old Thai Place up the street; soft-shell crabs; whole fish; mousse-like "crab cakes"; and the inadvertently ticklish "peppery shrimp" with sweet-and-sour pickles. If you do like chilies, fight for your right, but beware the cooking oil; it stains. Entrees $7.95-$12.95. Not wheelchair accessible.

AMBROSIA GRILLE (802 Hungerford Dr., Rockville; 301-251-5816. Metro: Rockville) -- You can take the grille out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the grille . . . well, you get the idea. It may have relocated, but this longtime old-Rockville favorite still hands off filling and unfussy Greek and Italian family fare at prices tonier spots can't match. Try the spanakotiropita (cheese and spinach cigars), eggplant melitzanosalata, dolmades (beef-and- rice-stuffed grape leaves), the unusually light moussaka and the conventionally well-done but tasty beef and lamb gyros; or the meatless lasagna with spinach and linguini with clam sauce. Entrees $6.15-$12.95.

OVATIONS (1551 Trap Rd. at the Filene Center, Wolf Trap; 703-255-4017) -- Under new management by the group that owns Georgia Brown's, Old Glory, Paolo's, Fin, etc., this pretty and convenient pavilion buffet is a better bet than ever, especially when it comes to the main dishes: cayenne/espresso- marinated flank steak, pepper-crusted ahi tuna with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (a nice twist) and crisp fried chicken. Pastas could be a little bolder (except for the garlic) and the breads more interesting, but the cream of portobello soup, the sliced tomato/ mozzarella/pesto salad and the edamame succotash are good. The a la carte options aren't bad, but at the price the buffet's better. All-you-can-eat $24.95, ages 9 and under $9.95; a la carte $16.95-$28.95.

SIGNATURES (801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-628-5900. Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial or Gallery Place/Chinatown) -- It's only one of Signatures' two creative menus, but the modern-sushi list is full of reverse-fusion palate-pleasers: A deconstructed tuna roll of jicama with tuna tartare and wasabi "gelee"; sunomono (assorted fresh sashimi) in filtered "gazpacho water"; avocado and jicama rolled in crushed sesame, hazelnuts and pulverized corn; Kobe beef maki with beet oil and chive soy; and a clear improvement over the common "Philly roll" that combines smoked salmon mousse, asparagus, cream cheese and bagel crumbs wrapped in smoked salmon. Sushi $7-$16.

KAZ SUSHI BISTRO (1915 I St. NW; 202-530-5500. Metro: Farragut West or Foggy Bottom) -- Kaz Okochi's "original small dishes" were among the very first in this area, and they're still among the best, especially the plum wine-infused duck foie gras nigiri with plum wine jelly, sea trout sashimi "napoleon" and tuna with black truffles. If you like the "deconstructed" new-Catalan dishes that Ferran Adria has made famous, order the sweet shrimp with ajo de blanca (ground almond sauce). Sushi and small dishes $3.75-$16.

FIRESTONE'S (105 N. Market St., Frederick; 301-663-0330) -- This nicely old-look tavern in the historic downtown, with its pressed-tin ceilings and age-darkened plank floors, is the perfect neighborhood hangout (although there's little to separate the din from the din-din), and when the food is good, it's very good. Good bets run the lite-to-full gamut, a virtue for a regular stop; and include the mango-avocado salad with watercress and ginger; barbecued shrimp with melon slaw; sauteed mussels; pan-roasted duck with blood orange-Vidalia sauce; veal scaloppini with crab and roasted corn; cornbread-stuffed semi-boneless chicken and scallops over lobster ravioli. Entrees $14-$26.

FISH ON (17300 N. Village Main Dr., Lewes, Del.; 302-645-9790 or 877-871-3474) -- This smart, art-gallery-sleek seafood grille looks more toward Rehoboth (and Bethany, home of its corporate sibling Redfin) than to the old-fashioned fishhouses of canal-side Lewes, but it's a good fit for the new-town Five Points neighborhood: up-to-date but not trend-bound, moderately priced, with a good wine list and fresh ingredients that make the nightly specials hard to get past. Look for pan-fried fish (particularly rockfish or grouper), raw asparagus salad, crab cakes, shrimp on grits, sashimi-style "quick-marinated" fish and the hilarious but satisfying barbecued salmon with beans and slaw. Entrees $16-$27.