Dining Capsules

Restaurants previously reviewed by Eve Zibart:

SOBE SEAFOOD CO. (3100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-528-0033. Metro: Clarendon) -- This South Beach-style restaurant may be a little more style-conscious than substantive, and the staff can get a little wired; but the kitchen is getting its rhythm down and already pays unusual attention to presentation details. But pace yourself; most dishes are generous, especially the appetizers. Try the jerk shrimp, spinach-artichoke dip, crab-crusted salmon, not-too-marinated tuna or fried calamari. The Caesar salad dressing may not be eggs-actly authentic, but it's pretty good. Entrees $10-$20.

MISS SAIGON (11 N. Washington St., Rockville; 301-838-9070. Metro: Rockville) -- This youngest member of the popular Washington restaurant family wouldn't win the local talent competition, but it could make a good case for the beauty title, and Miss Congeniality as well. The kitchen's main failing is a curious blandness that spoils the effect of its crunchy and grease-free batters, gentle stir-fries and not-tangy-enough salads; and it has an excess sweet tooth as well that makes the "caramel" dishes near-desserts. On the other hand, the vegetarian dishes (especially the mock duck), the grilled meats and chicken (fragrant roast quail), anise-scented beef noodle soup, clay pots and huge "lobster shrimp" can be real treats. Entrees $7.95-$17.95.

ESPUMA (28 Wilmington Ave, Rehoboth, Del.; 302-227-4199) -- Jay Caputo's modern Mediterranean style is still evolving, and occasionally his curiosity makes him just clever, but he understands restraint: His food is never boring, often intentionally comic or smart and frequently elating. Don't miss the foie gras dish of the moment (most recently a raviolo with fig compote); crisped duck confit cut by cherries and manchego cheese; caramelized diver scallops with a black truffle-mushroom raviolo; or the coriander-crusted -- really dusted -- rockfish with baby artichokes, a smattering of prosciutto and fabulously silken Robuchon potato gnocchi. Entrees $21-$35.

CABANAS (K Street in Washington Harbour; 202-944-4242. Metro: Foggy Bottom) -- Under the gentling hand of longtime area chef Hector Guerra, this restive Nuevo Latino establishment is trying to settle into its paces, though still with uncertain results. Its strongest points are more along the drinking and nibbling lines than pure dining, and the lounge is a real draw; but among good bets are the guacamole, crab fritters, coconut shrimp, various quesadillas, tortilla-crusted salmon and simply grilled seafoods. Entrees $9-$24.

DC BOAT HOUSE (5441 MacArthur Blvd. NW; 202-362-2628) -- It's not the food that makes this Palisades cafe such a popular neighborhood hangout, but the family atmosphere, complete with the "living room" sofa seating behind the dining room (and, no doubt, the neighborly sized drinks). Let the butcher-paper table covers and the hands-on underage spaghetti-eaters be your guide: Leave the fancier entrees for another night, and head for the home-style cheeseburgers, subs, barbecue ribs and such appetizers as fried calamari and spinach-artichoke dip. And when spanikopita is on the menu, even as a first course, make it the centerpiece of your meal; it's as light as a souffle. Entrees $13.50-$22.95.

NAGE (19730 Coastal Hwy./Route 1, Rehoboth Beach, Del.; 302-226-2037) -- Think modern eclectic fare is getting cutesy? Sure it has; but try Kevin Reading's lemon-salt-seared scallops with "mustard seed toffee" or the pan-roasted grouper in "warm lobster gazpacho" and see what just one degree of irreverence can produce. The seafood nage is a little clumsy, but it's probably worth the occasional splash of lobster-tomato-fennel broth; and the tender, meaty frogs legs could start a revolution even here in chicken country. And the clams casino flatbread and white truffle french fries are a serious threat to resolutions. The salt levels can be a little high (must be that ocean breeze); ask for a light touch. Entrees $16-$28.