Dining Capsules

Restaurants recently reviewed by Eve Zibart:

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; softshell crabs; whole fish; mousse-like "crab cakes"; and the inadvertently ticklish "peppery shrimp" with sweet-and-sour pickles. 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. 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 very good. 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" (or sometimes, "free-style Japanese" fare) 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. 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 area, 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 fish houses 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.

EDEN (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth, Del; 302-227-3330) -- It's not that there aren't plenty of pretty spots to park here (draped booths, a "fireside" lounge by the old oven, mezzanine, sidewalk and even balcony seating), but the bar is often where it's happening, thanks partly to a wide range of good wines by the glass (and staff often willing to pour wines listed only by bottle) and partly to the intriguing and filling assortment of appetizers: grilled boar sausage, wild boar spare ribs with hoisin sauce, grilled Caesar salad, wood-grilled pizza, even a smart cheese plate. Admittedly, nibbling may spoil you for the bigger Kobe or antelope entrees, but you can still manage a sweetly seared half-dozen scallops or a dish of coconut-bathed "bouillabaisse," and you definitely should. Entrees $25-$32.

DISH! (26 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth, Del.; 302-226-2112) -- The homiest thing about this "retro dining gallery" may be the intentionally amateur attitude toward deconstructing recipes; it's like playing refrigerator turnover with a chef instead of your college roommate. (One who knows something about good wines.) And when it works, it works well; "free-formed chicken pot pie," crab-stuffed mushroom caps and chicken satay with spiced peanuts, pan-seared rockfish with curry-crab sauce. The carpaccio and crabmeat salad would be happier reconstructed, however, and more gentle sauteing of gritty rubs and spices would let their otherwise fine meats and seafoods shine. Entrees $13-$32. Not wheelchair accessible.

RED HEIFER (4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-951-5115. Metro: Bethesda) -- It's kosher, but it's anything but corny or corn-beefy. In fact, the area's newest steakhouse is where the organic buffalo roam and the chicken free-range, and where the sweet potato steak fries are as big as horns. Between the low-carb boom and nu Jewish pride, this bids fair to be Bethesda's best-yet crossover spot for mixed-group dining. The pseudo-pub fare, such as the orangy-hot "heifer wings," aren't great, but the veal chop, the rib-eye, the buffalo, the onglet and the tuna are first-rate; and the bread basket is actually more interesting than most. Entrees $14-$44.

MIKAKU (3065-J Centreville Rd. in the McLearen Square Shopping Center, Herndon; 703-467-0220) -- The sushi-bar boom is a wonderful thing, but it also tends to narrow the focus of Japanese restaurant patrons. This is a fine place to discover otsumami, small sharing-size servings that come not only from the sushi bar -- including some fairly serious traditional tidbit such as squid liver -- but also from the grill (razor clams, eel, whole squid, reo-stuffed smelts), the skillet (dumplings, sausage), the steamer (roasted and then steamed duck) and the tempura fryer (shrimp, soft shell crabs). Entrees $12.25-$35.

HALF MOON BAR-B-QUE (8235 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-585-1290) -- Blues, brews and barbecues: That's the rhyme, and it's the reason for this nostalgic roadhouse-look club, which turns out nicely smoky and lean ribs, pulled pork and chicken from its shack-sized kitchen. Home fries are long and hot, buffalo wings are unbattered and fine, collards are canned but dressed-up homestyle and the 50 or so brands of beer cover the waterfront. As for the blues part, they're courtesy the roots and rockabilly regulars in the back room; ask what they're having. Entrees $4.50-$11.75.

BOB'S NOODLE 66 (305 N. Washington St., Rockville; 301-315-6668. Metro: Rockville) -- Bob's culinary Route 66 leads to Taiwan, but the noodles are only a small part of the kicks along the way. This is big pot territory (noodles, soups and hot pots), a major seafood escape (five-spice red snapper, soft-shell crab, oyster pancakes, squid with sour mustard, scallops with loofah), and a great place to try those crunchy little duck tongues. The less adventurous should go for the ginger chicken, the thin bone-in veal chops in black pepper or the beef with basil. Let Bob be your guide. Cash only. Entrees $7.95-$16.95.

A buffalo rib chop, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and glazed carrots at Red Heifer in Bethesda.