Every fourth Thursday, Mark and Gail Barnett recap the best restaurants they've reviewed over the previous few months.
12203 Viers Mill Rd.
Although many of the standard Chinese dishes here suffer from dull, over-thickened sauces, there are some dynamite items too. Begin with the fried dumplings, including an excellent vegetarian version, or with "my own" soup, delicate yet brightly flavored. Top entrees are the succulent, wonderfully flavored yuling chicken, a bargain at $7.95; its milder cousin, crispy chicken; the Peking duck; and the impeccably cooked, wonderfully sauced crispy whole fish.
4506 Baltimore National Pike (Route 144)
Forget the regular menu and come to this down-home road house for the nightly buffet, a $10.95 bargain that includes some top-notch specialties. (An additional $4 gets you all the steamed shrimp and crab legs you can eat.) Best buffet items: the home-made bread, the seafood salad, the home-made Italian sausage, the carve-it-yourself roast beef, the fried chicken, the seafood Creole, the apple cobbler.
4838 Rugby Ave.
An offshoot of the nearby Tia Queta and a top-quality Mexican restaurant in its own right. Beyond the usual Tex-Mex standards (which are done unusually well), strong points are excellent shrimp, pork, chicken and beef dishes and exceptional sauces. Most noteworthy: the terrific, reasonably priced dinner buffet (Friday and Saturday only).
2504 Enalls Ave.
Indonesian cuisine, unusual in these parts, served at reasonable prices in a pretty setting. The food is related (but not identical) to Vietnamese and Thai. Although no single dish is particularly outstanding, the 15-dish banquet called rijsttafel is lots of fun, and a good buy at $25 for two people.
Bradley Boulevard and Arlington Road
"Cheers" revisited, with better-than-average pub food, reasonable prices and dozens of exotic beers. Particularly good: the fried onions, the onion soup, the seafood chowders, the chili, the steak-and-cheese or Cajun chicken sandwiches. For dessert, fine hot fudge sundaes and apple pie.
8941 N. Westland St.
If you're pining for real New York-style pizza, this may help to cheer you up. A real crust from a real wood-burning oven and excellent toppings, including fresh minced garlic. Very good garlic bread and calzone too, a nice salad and, for big appetites, a fine fried dough dessert called "snowballs."
Quality Inn Hotel
8727 Colesville Rd.
The new incarnation of the old Mama Regina -- same chef, same excellent Italian food, same moderate prices and good value, but now with a handsomely remodeled dining room. Expect high-quality cooking and finesse across the board. Appetizers? Outstanding bruschetta, seafood stew, chickpea soup, sausage and beans, or antipasto caldo. An outstanding pasta: rollata della nonna, stuffed with meat, mushrooms and tomato. Entrees? Lovely fish and veal (especially the one with spinach and pine nuts), and a dynamite combination of chicken and stuffed veal. Dessert? Exceptionally good tiramisu.
Taste of Saigon
410 Hungerford Dr.
Excellent food, solicitous service and reasonable prices in an usually pretty Vietnamese restaurant. Top starters include spinach salad with grilled chicken, shrimp toast, cold imperial and summer rolls. Among the soups are an excellent pho (the traditional beef soup), plus equally good egg noodle and Saigon soups. Outstanding entrees: grilled shrimp or pork, shredded pork crab cakes, and better), sweet and sour pork. The basil chicken, though, is overly sweet. The flan here may be the best in the area.