Dining Capsules

Restaurants previously reviewed by Eve Zibart:

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 frog's 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.

TAJITU (9 E. Patrick St., Frederick; 301-631-6800) -- This pretty, novice-friendly and unusually good Ethiopian restaurant gives "home cooking" a good name. Decorated in part to resemble an open-air patio, and with unobtrusively pleasant music, Tajitu feels like a friend's house, and the airy house-made injera and complex ground spices suggest a host's special attention. Among the best dishes are yabeg wot alicha, gingery sauteed lamb; rich, dark doro wot, with its traditional drumstick and boiled egg in reduced onions; kinche, a sort of tabbouleh salad; and the lentil and yellow pea stews. The layered, chili-hot but not bitter berbere sauce is an essential condiment. Leave time for coffee -- green beans skillet-roasted and ground to order, and steeped like incense. Entrees $8.50-$19.50.

CHLOE (2473 18th St. NW upstairs; 202-265-6592. Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams-Morgan) -- Chloe's food is good enough, and so moderately priced, that you'll probably go back, especially while the roof terrace is open. But the earlier the better; the noise level jumps quickly, and the trend radar goes up as soon as the sun goes down. (Of course, there's nothing wrong with licking your fingers in the VIP lounge, if you can make it look good.) Try the first-rate steak salad, the indulgent lump crab cocktail, duck bruschetta, barbecue ribs, teriyaki salmon or homey roasted chicken. Entrees $10-$19. Not wheelchair accessible.

LE VIEUX LOGIS (7925 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-652-6816. Metro: Bethesda) -- In a trend-driven town, consistency and resilience are rare virtues. For 25 years, this cheerily cluttered mini-inn has been serving up classics and old-fashioned continentalism with as much affection for tradition as for its customers. Regulars know to go for the delicate scallops -- and you'll never find escargots more garlicky than these. Entrees $24-$33. Wheelchair access limited.

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.

AQUARELLE (2650 Virginia Ave. NW in the Watergate Hotel; 202-298-4455. Metro: Foggy Bottom/GWU) -- It's a tough job working in Jean-Louis's old room, but somebody has to do it, currently chef Christophe Poteaux, who is struggling with an aging menu. His "spicier" dishes are the least successful, and the seasonings too cautious; but there are fine moments (pan-crisped gnocchi, duck prosciutto, pomegranate jam), and his nightly specials, such as a twinned dish of tender lobster with parsnip puree and Brussels sprout leaves, can be stunning. Entrees $23-$35; prix fixe $32-$59.

Duck, from left, spiced scallops and curried shrimp with crab cakes at Aquarelle.