- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

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 pm 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 so 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

Cafe Trope

2100 P St. NW, 202/223-9335

French Caribbean

Cafe Trope is named for St. Tropez on the French Riviera. It has little to do with the town, but its food is based on classic French cooking, with strong, spicy Caribbean influences, and it is very good.

Chef-owner Howsoon Cham, a native of Gambia, manages the kitchen. He fears no spice. Portions are small — between small plates and entree portions. The menu is ambitious, with about three dozen dishes, not counting desserts. It’s a fine mix of seafood, meat, salads and a half-dozen vegetarian dishes.

The range of chicken, meat and fish dishes shows off Mr. Cham’s culinary talent. Roast loin of venison comes with parsnip-potato puree; spiced duck with green beans, walnuts, tomatoes and a blood-orange reduction. Jerk-chicken lollipops are drumsticks seasoned with that most traditional of Caribbean seasonings.

The fish menu offers lump crab cake with avocado and roasted corn salsa; mussels in a tangy tomato and curry leaf broth; wild salmon with dill.

A single menu is served all day. Prices for food and wine are reasonable.

Corinna Lothar

Mojito’s Caribbean Grill

1246 Central Ave.

Edgewater, Md. 410/798-7356

Caribbean

The authentic Caribbean fare at Mojito’s spices up a cold winter night. West Indies chicken corn chowder was smooth and chock-full of flavor, with a bite to it.

Cuban crab fritters, an appetizer, are pure heaven, made with lump crabmeat, chorizo and aji amarillo — the Peruvian yellow hot pepper — and are fried, then served with a mango mojo.

Oysters plantain are oysters dusted with plantain chips and then fried. Served with a sweet corn salsa and a roasted tomato horseradish cream, these are among the best fried oyster offerings available these days.

For pork lovers, the chipotle pork and goat cheese is shredded pork meeting sweet corn salsa and tostones, served over mixed greens, then topped with chipotle mojo and goat cheese.

Duck is marinated in mojo, then dusted with cumin and roasted and served over congri with roasted pimento sauce and vegetables. The slight bite from the mojo provided a nice contrast to the rich meat.

The tropical bomba dessert is packed with flavor: mango, pineapple and raspberry sorbets molded into a ball shape and then coated with white chocolate. It is served quartered, drizzled with raspberry aioli.

Scott Haring

Domaso Trattoria Moderna

1121 N. 19th St., Arlington

703/351-1211 Contemporary Italian

Domaso Trattoria Moderna is the stylish restaurant in the Palomar Hotel in Rosslyn. Many of the dishes are pure Italian, such as panzanella (bread salad), and a pork-based barley and barlotti (bean) soup.

The best antipasto is a dish simply called polenta. Two large triangles of baked polenta are imbued with a rich creamy sauce enhanced with the suggestion of truffles. It’s simple, elegant and delicious.

Pastas are good and varied. Small red-snapper ravioli are sauteed with shrimp, clams, mussels and tomato in a white wine sauce. Potato-stuffed tortelloni in a sauce of goat-milk butter and pecorino cheese are delicate and delicious.

A boneless half chicken roasted and then sauteed with mushrooms and tiny chestnut balls is excellent. Sea bream (orata) filets are mild, and the accompanying lemon-white-wine sauce complements the delicacy of the fish. Herb-rubbed beef tenderloin is perfectly prepared. Domaso’s extensive wine list is almost entirely Italian. Service is outstanding.

Corinna Lothar

Cafe 8

424 Eighth St. SE 202/547-1555

Turkish

Cafe 8 is a Turkish restaurant, the latest addition to Capitol Hill’s culinary scene. It is cozy, and the food is moderately priced and pretty good, although not innovative. There are no delicate garnishes or avant-garde preparations.

Owner Turan Tombul, who also owns the more upscale Italian Locanda nearby, wants this restaurant’s Turkish home cooking to be affordable for neighborhood families and others to enjoy on nights they don’t feel like cooking at home.

If the first few busy months are any indication, Cafe 8’s unpretentious, moderately priced Turkish home cooking and its upscale look make it welcome on the Hill. Get a reservation if you’re planning to dine at Cafe 8 on the weekend.

The restaurant is open 10 to 12 hours a day, and the menu and prices stay the same. Familiar Turkish dishes include Iskender and Adana kebabs.

— Gabriella Boston


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