Restaurants previously reviewed by Eve Zibart:
Cuba de Ayer
15446 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville; 301-476-9622. Entrees $11-$14.
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. 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.
4936 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-718-3400. Entrees $19-$32.
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 paid 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 Thai beef salad, tangy with lemon and ginger and a hoisin vinaigrette, is a perfectly executed meal. One of the best dishes is also one of the simplest: the tender and moist pan-seared Chilean sea bass.
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. A la carte $2.95-$11.95.
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 a buffalo burger and chili-dusted fries.
2650 Virginia Ave. NW in the Watergate Hotel; 202-298-4455. Metro: Foggy Bottom/GWU. Entrees $23-$35; prix fixe $32-$59.
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.
Irish Inn at Glen Echo
MacArthur Boulevard at Tulane Avenue, Glen Echo: 301-229-6600. Entrees $20-$32.
This beautifully renovated old favorite has moved well beyond pub status (although its lounge is more inviting than ever) and Irish-cliche cuisine to satisfying and sometimes surprisingly good eclectic fare: perfectly pan-seared trout; goat cheese and caramelized onion tarte; roasted beet salad; pan-roast salmon; hearty soups; and even the often-maltreated semolina crusted salamari. The scallops were prime, too, and if the lobster spring roll had lost its spring and the swordfish ought to have lost its vanilla sauce -- well, to Eire is human.
French Quarter Cafe
19847 Century Blvd. in Germantown Town Center; 301-515-7693. Entrees $7.50-$16.50.
Not too salty, not too crusted, not too floury -- finally, a Louisiana cafe that pays respect to the old days. The fried catfish is first rate, crisp and greaseless; the gumbos taste of more ingredients than just roux (or raw flour); and the crab cakes a bargain at $7.95 a pair. Get your Abita here!