- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

Marvin

2007 14th St. NW

202/797-7171

Belgian-American

Marvin is an authentic neighborhood gathering place, named for Marvin Gaye, the Washington-born musician who lived for several years in Belgium; the menu offers a happily schizophrenic combination of Belgian and American dishes, with Southern accents.

The dishes are imaginative and always good. Start with a terrific dish of baby back ribs — sweet, smoky and meaty. Shrimp with creamy and lightly cheesy grits are another great beginning. Appetizers include Belgian cheese croquettes and onion soup.

Mussels are a house special, served with a variety of sauces. Entrees tend more toward American dishes: pan-seared halibut; braised pork shank with green lentils; sweet-potato ravioli with brown butter; and an excellent deep-fried, crisp filet of sole. Beef short ribs are prepared carbonnade style, braised in beer. Perhaps the ultimate international combination is Southern-fried chicken and Belgian waffles.

Marvin isn”t open for lunch, but brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays. Upstairs is a lounge and an attractive rooftop bar.

Corinna Lothar

Overwood

220 N. Lee St., Alexandria

703/535-3340

American

As with all trends, the quality of wood grilling ranges from the good to the bad and the ugly. Overwood, a year-old wood-fired American kitchen in Old Town Alexandria definitely fits in the “good” column.

Executive chef Boubker “Rami” Errami makes sure the ingredients are fresh and the preparation methods solid before putting his fare to the fire. He also takes old favorites and enhances them by adding unexpected flavor, color and presentation twists.

The service is attentive and knowledgeable without being too familiar and chatty. The waiter spoke intelligently about the dishes and drinks and treated us to a round of Pabst Blue Ribbon (in honor of Brett Favre, who that day announced his retirement). Hard to beat and totally unexpected.

Overwood is a great addition to Old Town. It’s unpretentious and offers great fare at a fair price.

Gabriella Boston

L’oustalet

302 King Farm Blvd., Rockville

301/963-3400

French

The menu of L’oustalet in Rockville is ambitious; the cooking emphasizes solid bourgeois dishes with an occasional flight of fancy with spices and seasonings.

Profiteroles come as a not-so-classic-French first course. Three small rounds of puff pastry are stuffed with a creamy mixture of avocado and crabmeat, sauced lightly with an unexpected chocolate balsamic vinegar. A variation on a classic dessert is the transformation of creme brulee into a savory three-cheese appetizer.

Other first courses include snails, mushroom ravioli with a porcini sauce, sauteed shrimp, seared foie gras, and smoked trout. Most appetizers are available on the lunch menu at slightly reduced prices.

The menu offers a wide choice of entrees from farm and field: mussels and french fries, filet of trout with vegetables, sauteed scallops, poached filet of sole with crabmeat, fricassee of lobster with noodles, duck breast, grilled lamb chops, stuffed chicken breast, roasted pork chop, and a steak.

Desserts include a splendid souffle, available in chocolate, Grand Marnier and peach-and-pepper.

Corinna Lothar

Greystone Grill

200 Westgate Circle, Annapolis

410/349-5052

American

This Greystone Grill is in the new Severn Bank building in an Annapolis area booming with new development.

A warning: portions are enormous.

The blue crab and roasted corn soup ($7.50) lives up to the medal it won at the 2006 Maryland Seafood Festival. Smooth and velvety, this cream version is chock-full of crabmeat, corn and spice.

The Greystone salad — crisp greens, candied cashews and crumbled Maytag blue cheese tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette — is excellent.

Steak lovers have a choice of five cuts: 8- and 12-ounce filets, 16-ounce New York strip, 20-ounce cowboy rib-eye and the Greystone flatiron. All meats are char-grilled at 1,800 degrees and can be topped with steak butter upon request.

Seafood dishes include a flaky and flavorful pecan-crusted tilapia; shrimp and champagne cream, which includes mushrooms, shallots and chopped tomatoes, is served over linguini.

Scott Haring

Mio

1110 Vermont Ave. NW 202/955-0075

American-Mediterranean

Mio is sleek, impersonal and bright. Italian-born executive chef Stefano Frigerio presides over the royal-blue open kitchen in the rear of the restaurant, between L and M streets, where his American dishes with Mediterranean influences are created.

What comes to the table varies. Some dishes are superlative; others miss the mark. A starter of grilled scallops is superb; spicy shrimp are very good, too, but a roasted potato soup turned out to be tasteless. First courses are plentiful and varied — from cured salmon tartare to pan-seared sweetbreads with toasted hazelnuts.

Main courses include excellent pan-seared quail, grilled duck breast, a double pork chop, a duo of roasted rack of lamb and leg of lamb, and grilled venison.

Fish dishes include grilled swordfish with a carrot-lemon-grass puree, pan-seared wild rockfish, and roasted monkfish with butternut squash-quinoa risotto.

Besides the mostly fine French, California and Spanish wines, there’s a good variety by the glass. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. a special bar menu is available; happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m.

Corinna Lothar

Gordon Biersch

900 F St. NW

202/783-5454

Microbrewery

Gordon Biersch — part of a national chain of brewery restaurants — is perfectly located. In this amusement-park-like area of town with a new Madame Tussauds wax museum, International Spy Museum, a sports arena, a multiplex movie theater and much more, the brewery restaurant fits like Mickey Mouse in Disney World.

Sorely missing on the menu were classic German and Central European dishes to complement the lagers. Where is the brat? Where is the kraut? The dark bread? Their absence is a clear sign that this menu is intended to work anywhere and for anyone rather than really please and excite some.

What do we know? On a Wednesday-night visit, the restaurant was more than half-full and guests at surrounding tables seemed quite pleased with their evening.

We’ll be back for the Marzen, the delicious amber lager, and the magnificent space with antique columns and marble floors.

— Gabriella Boston

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