Unisys Building 8201 Greensboro Dr., McLean 442-0877 Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Dinner, 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Closed Sunday. Prices: Lunch $2.25 to $12.95; Dinner soups and appetizers $1.25 to $6.95; entrees $5.95 to $12.95. Cards: All major cards.
Nonsmoking section available.
B.F. Saul, the Silver Spring-based real estate investment company, is adding a new ingredient to its office buildings: attractive, moderately priced restaurants. The first Chase Grill opened in Atlanta about 18 months ago, and three months ago the Tysons Corner version had its inauguration on the ground floor of the new Unisys building.
The narrow, 60-seat dining area skirts a raised rectangular bar. The dining room holds rich mahogany stained tables, mirrored columns, and a wall of windows covered by black blinds.
The American menu offers such classics as a grilled strip steak, caesar salad and even meat loaf, as well as a selection of regional specialties: Texas chili, chicken gumbo and Vidalia onion soup.
On the one hand, the ingredients are impeccably fresh and presentations artful. On the other hand, timid seasoning in a number of dishes makes them unexciting. An example was the delicate tomato pasta with seasonal vegetables -- fresh and attractive but too bland and boring.
Two soups also came up short: a flat-tasting Cajun chicken jumbo and a vapid Vidalia onion soup.
Taste made a modest comeback with the pleasant vegetable turnover packed with a colorful assortment of vegetables, enoki mushrooms and a gently tart herb cheese. The pool of tomato sauce underneath, however, was surprisingly harsh with vinegar.
On the plus side is the Texas chili, a thick, flavorful stew of shredded beef and pork attractively served in a crusty, hollowed-out hard roll topped with melted cheese, sour cream and green onion. Both a light hand with the chili powder and a few beans may offend purists, but that didn't stop anyone at my table from enjoying it. Although listed as an appetizer, this hearty fare could be a meal by itself.
True to its name, the restaurant features a number of grilled items, among them the Chase steak, a thick, flavorful 12-ounce strip. I preferred the steak to the mixed grill trio at the same price ($12.95) because the small tenderloin had little flavor, and both it and the chicken breast suffered from an unpleasant charred taste. The third and best item, a huge prawn, was like eating a small, sweet lobster tail.
The large, nicely grilled cheeseburger comes at a reasonable price ($4.50) and on a good quality hard roll quickly passed over the grill to make it crisp. The waffle-cut fried potatoes are pretty good, too.
In sharp contrast to the blah pasta dishes were two robustly seasoned entrees with enough fire to set off a couple of alarms. The smoky Cajun sausage stuffing, flecked with crushed red peppers, overpowered a delicious boneless chicken roll. A blackened marlin special went full-throttle on the Cajun spices, and although this dish was popular at my table, I would have liked a thicker piece of fish to better buffer the spicy coating.
The desserts are homemade and quite good, as in the dense and creamy cheesecake surrounded by a moat of pureed raspberries, and the chocolate fudge ice cream pie. A special one evening, chocolate mocha cake, was actually my favorite: two bars of mousse-like cake with almonds in a Kahlua cream sauce decorated with whipped cream and blueberries. Skip the dreadful deep-dish apple pie with an excess of bad crust and canned-tasting apples.
I applaud the Chase Grill's practice of printing up the five or six daily specials instead of taxing both server and diner with a lengthy recitation. Also listed daily are the half dozen offerings of wines by the glass, which, as with the regular wine list, feature mostly moderately priced Californians.
In spite of some flaws, the Chase Grill is on the right track.