A Taste Of the World

Reston International

Center Plaza

11824 Sunrise Valley Dr.

Reston

620-3310

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday. 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $1.25 to $4.95. Lunch, sandwiches and entrees $4.50 to $6.95. Dinner, entrees $5.50 to $8.75.

Cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.

No non-smoking area.

In recent years, one of the trends in area restaurants has been so-called hyphenated dining, where two or more cuisines -- Italian-Mexican, German-Indian, or Ethiopian-American -- are featured on the same menu.

At A Taste of the World, owner Shirley Janairo Roth has taken multi-ethnic dining to a new level: on any given day the menu and daily specials include dishes from 10 or more countries, from Africa to Thailand. Plus, each month a different "cuisine of the world" is featured -- in recent months European and Vietnamese; this month will be Japanese.

From the kitchen of her small storefront restaurant and deli near the Reston Cinema, this Philippine native and local cooking instructor generally puts to good use a wealth of cooking knowledge. Although not every dish tastes authentic, the overall quality is good and the prices are moderate.

The lunch menu consists mostly of sandwiches such as the New Orleans muffaletta with cheese, salami, Italian ham, and olive salad, and grilled chicken in pita bread with the Middle Eastern eggplant spread called baba ghanouj.

Dinner is served only on Friday and Saturday when the full range of global specialties are offered. Based on recent visits, the best dishes tend to be grilled or Indian-inspired.

The international tone is set early with the arrival of the complimentary rolls -- balls of snowy white steamed yeast bread, a staple of the Chinese dim sum or tea lunch. Typically, the buns are filled with barbecued pork, but here the faintly sweet moist buns are served plain and are good for soaking up curry sauces and gravy.

For openers, try the Middle Eastern sampler ($4.95) of tabouleh, the garlicy salad of cracked wheat and parsely; baba ghanouj, a tangy spread of eggplant, onion and tomato; and hummus , the creamy dip of blended chick peas, sesame paste, lemon juice and olive oil.

Other good ways to whet your appetite are with two Philippine dishes: thin, spicey barbecue pork strips ($4.50) threaded on skewers and served with a cooling cucumber relish, and the lumpia, a papery crepe loosely wrapped around a tasty mix of shredded vegetables ($2).

Neither of the two soups I tried was compelling, and although the Indian samosa filling of potato and onion was nicely seasoned, the fried dough wrapper was soggy.

One of the individual-sized designer pizzas can either be a light meal by itself or shared as an appetizer. One dinner companion who dislikes the usual tomato sauce on pizza thoroughly enjoyed the spinach pesto and cheese topping dotted with chunks of marinated, grilled chicken breast ($7.25). Other world-hopping toppings range from eggplant and Parmesan to a South Pacific pizza with pineapple and ham.

Beef fajitas arrived already made up with slightly chewy, flavorful slices of meat mixed with grilled green peppers and onions inside soft floured tortillas. These were fine, but the side dish of earthy black beans was even better.

Those beans turn up again with the winning grilled Caribbean chicken breast topped with a zesty salsa, guacamole and sour cream. The lone Russian dish, tsyplionok satsivi ($8.75), sounded interesting -- baked chicken breast with a walnut sauce -- but it actually tasted pretty bland.

Blandness, however, was not a problem with such successful Indian dishes as the curried chicken with notes of clove ($6.95) and makhani murgh ($8.75), a whole fillet of chicken in a sauce of tomato and fresh coriander. The hotness level can be adjusted from one to three stars. The lamb pasanda, however, probably should have cooked longer to better integrate the seasonings.

Save room for dessert: the cheese blintzes with an apricot glaze; the chocolate bread pudding with custard or raspberry sauce that was more like mini bundt cake; a banana fritter with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon syrup; or the smooth caramel custard plain or accompanied by the Philippine delicacy, macapuno, sweetened strands of coconut.