Dining Capsules

Restaurants previously reviewed by Eve Zibart:

RESTAURANT KOLUMBIA (1801 K St. NW; 202-331-5551. Metro: Farragut North or Farragut West) -- Jamie Stachowski's cooking isn't fusion, it's fascination: He's interested in so many styles and schools he can't help making a little this and a little that. Sometimes it's fabulous: a torchon of foie gras just brushed with sea salt and aspic; a tart of fresh anchovies and oven-dried tomatoes; braised veal cheeks so tender they seem held together by memory alone; grilled squid with kalamata olives, mint, fried lemons and arugula. And even when the recipes are a little strange (lobster-she crab bisque slick with okra), they're always entertaining. Entrees $24-$35.

BISTRO 123 (Tysons Corner Center lower level, Route 123, Tysons Corner; 703-288-1369) -- It looks a little like a shopping mall cafe, with its bright, shiny wood and repro-art decor, but someone's in the kitchen for the diner. And if bistro classics make you sing, head for the leg of lamb steak, the beets and goat cheese salad, pan-seared snapper and frog's legs, if only for the ethereal onion ravioli. Entrees $12.95-$29.95.

VERMILION (1120 King St., Alexandria; 703-684-9669. Metro: King Street) -- Ever smarter, ever sharper, this good-looking and accessible modern-American hangout has enough tricks up its sleeve to keep us interested: fabulous scallop ceviche, robust bison hanger steak, rich tuna tartare balanced by rooty beets, crunchy risotto cakes and meticulously balanced seasonings. Entrees $17-$25.

CUBA DE AYER (15446 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville; 301-476-9622) -- This mom-and-pop shoebox wears its heart on its sign -- the name means "yesterday's Cuba," i.e., the good old days -- and turns out fine comfort food just because that's how it's supposed to be. Ropa vieja, the simmered-to-shredding beef, is the finest around; the green olive- and raisin-tangy ground beef picadillo, with green olives and raisins, has a very subtle, fruit-spice tang-like chutney; the roast pork has a similar edge from its citrus and caramelized onions -- but always the meat is the star, not the sauce. And arroz con pollo shows you why baked chicken is mom's best medicine in any cuisine. Entrees $11-$14.

BISTRO ASIATIQUE (4936 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda. 301-718-3400) -- This lavishly decorated restaurant specializes in fusion of the all-in style, which sometimes leads to a busyness or fussiness in the presentation. Chef Dennis Friedman has passed through the kitchens of Kinkead's and Citronelle, and he's clearly been paying attention. But he is only beginning to appreciate something the best Asian chefs have known for centuries: when to stop. Tempura tuna roll is one of the best things on the menu, and the "Kobe beef poke pines" appetizer's ground beef balls are supplied with fried wonton spines and surrounded by nicely ripe avocado. The house salad, which has bits of daikon and baby radish plus goat-cheese-stuffed wonton purses, is served on a platter. Similarly, the Thai beef salad, tangy with lemon and ginger and a hoisin vinaigrette, is a hearty and perfectly executed meal. One of the best dishes on the menu is also one of the simplest: the tender and moist pan-seared Chilean sea bass. Entrees $19-$32.

MITSITAM NATURAL FOODS CAFE (Fourth Street and Independence Avenue in the National Museum of the American Indian; 202-633-1000. Metro: Federal Center Southwest, L'enfant Plaza or Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter) -- This would be an unusually likable cafeteria even if the primarily indigenous ingredients weren't seredipitously healthful. Try the buffalo or cedar-plank salmon (both are on the $18.95 sampler for two), venison, wild rice or fennel salads, skillet roasted root vegetables, green chili chicken-stuffed tamal, buffalo chili, ash-roasted corn on the cob, chipotle chicken wrap, baked beans or just settle for buffalo burger and chili-dusted fries. A la carte 2.95-$11.95.