Every fourth Thursday, Mark and Gail Barnett recap the best restaurants they've reviewed over the previous few months.
Sabang 2504 Ennalls Ave. Wheaton 942-7859
Suburban Maryland's first Indonesian restaurant, with lovely decor, modest prices and a cuisine related to Thai and Vietnamese, but with enough differences to keep things interesting. Most of the food here isn't memorable, but the rijsttafel -- a 15-dish banquet at $25 for two people -- compen- sates in sheer variety.
El Camino 4838 Rugby Ave. Bethesda 654-3440
Another first-class Mexican restaurant from the folks who brought you Tia Queta, right around the corner. Similar menu, same high quality, with well-sauced shrimp, pork, chicken and beef dishes plus Tex-Mex standards done exceptionally well. But the real sleeper here (and not available at Tia Queta) is the marvelous dinner buffet on Fridays and Saturdays, one of the nicest spreads in town and modestly priced.
Taste of Saigon 410 Hungerford Dr. Rockville 424-7222
An unusually handsome restaurant with excellent Vietnamese food, reasonable prices, lovely service. Sure-fire appetizers: the spring rolls, the cold imperial and summer rolls, the fine shrimp toast, the spinach salad with grilled chicken. Also tops: the traditional beef soup (pho), plus the egg noodle and Saigon soups. Top entrees? Grilled shrimp or pork, shredded pork, crab cakes (different from the American version, and better), sweet and sour pork. (Sidestep the over-sweet basil chicken.) Finish off with the ethereal flan, perhaps the best version in the area.
Sergio Quality Inn Hotel 8727 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring 585-1040
The old Mama Regina restaurant reborn into a beautiful new dining room, with all the old virtues retained: excellent Italian food of considerable finesse, moderate prices, good value for your dollar. For appetizers, go for the bruschetta, seafood stew, chickpea soup, sausage and beans, or antipasto caldo. A pasta winner is rollata della nonna, stuffed with meat, mushrooms and tomato. For entrees, aim for fish or veal (particularly the veal with spinach and pine nuts), or look for the chicken and stuffed veal combination. For dessert, there's an exceptional tiramisu.
Yi Jo 9137 Baltimore Blvd. (In the Days Inn) College Park 345-6500
A beautiful little restaurant featuring very good and reasonably priced Korean food. You won't go wrong with the meat dumplings (mandoo) in any of their variations (appetizer, soup, entree). Nor with the delicate clam soup, the feathery tempura, the delightfully marinated grilled beef (bul-gogi), the seafood pancake (haemool-pajun) or the meat-vegetable-rice combination called bibim-bab.
Lotta Bull 891 Rockville Pike Rockville 340-8700
Exceptionally good, low-priced sandwiches and platters in a big, plain-looking barn of a restaurant. The house specialty is a big, beautiful roast beef sandwich. The steak sandwich on French bread is another winner, as is the chicken breast platter. For dessert, go for the homemade carrot cake.