Restaurants recently reviewed by Eve Zibart:
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. 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. 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 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.
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 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 tidbits 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-size 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. 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.
OBI SUSHI (1771 Library St. in Reston Town Center, Reston; 703-766-7874) -- 'Shi's got the look -- up to and including a dining "loft" -- and most of the time Obi's got the goods, although it seems to lack a little energy sometimes. The kitchen is visible through the sushi bar, which is not inappropriate, as the menu is as much teriyaki, tempura and soup as sushi. Best bets are often nibble-size: the crisp-fried cigarlike eel spring rolls, octopus vinaigrette, spicy-slick ika sansai, the tuna-veggie gyoza dumplings and baby grilled eggplant dengaku. Then add on a little nigiri and boutique sake and you're set. Sushi $3.50-$14.50; entrees $11-$29.
MY SUSHI (7945 MacArthur Blvd. in MacArthur Plaza, Cabin John; 301-263-9288) -- This is probably just what a sushi bar in a family-centric neighborhood ought to be: simple, sweet-natured, not too subtle and leaning a bit to the underseasoned. And the number of small fry getting into the fish rather than the franchised fries is the most endearing thing about it. Save your teriyaki yen for a bolder grill, and go for the white tuna-ish escola, surf clam, eel (unagi) and kampachi (baby hamachi) sushi; the crab tempura; the shrimp/surimi "dart maki" rolls and the shrimp tempura/surimi/avocado volcano roll (but hold the sticky sweet sauce). Sushi $3.50-12; entrees $8-$30.
YELLOW BRICK BANK (201 E. German St., Shepherdstown, W.Va.; 304-876-2208) -- It may not be yellow (although the almost rococo painting of the trim is as fanciful and theatrical as this arts-community town), but after 20 years, this slightly eclectic but not too eccentric cafe seems as solid as a bank. House-made mozzarella is a favorite, as is the house-dough pizzette. Among recent successes: Maytag blue-stuffed figs, Portuguese-style clams, Cuban-style pork and hanger steak (meat is generally a good bet here) and bluefish topped with a Provencal blanket of fennel, tomatoes, artichokes and olives. Entrees $17-$28.