- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

701 Restaurant, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; www.701 restaurant.com, 202/393-0701. Contemporary American. Bobby Varua’s cooking at 701 Restaurant has turned a staid downtown eatery into a place for exciting dining.

Mr. Varua’s plates are a combination of culinary expertise, sophistication and elegance. Presentations are beautiful to behold, and what is on the plate tastes as good as it looks - especially the first-course lobster salad. The bar menu offers several tempting small plates.

- Corinna Lothar

Jerry’s Seafood at the Metropolitan, 169 West St., Annapolis; www.jerrysseafood.com, 410/268-7733. Seafood. Famous for its Crab Bomb from its other branches, Jerry’s also serves delicious mussels in chipotle broth, and a fine, proper crab soup. There’s also the Baby Bomb (smaller) and the Firecracker Bomb (spicier).

Among the desserts, the brownie sundae is wonderful and rich.

- Scott Haring

Mrs. K’s Restaurant, 9201 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, 301/589-3500. French-Creole. This old-fashioned restaurant has a new wine cellar-dining room and a lovely garden.

Executive chef Maurisee Upshur uses some of the Creole flavors of New Orleans and the spices of her Caribbean background in her cooking, which is basically French-inspired and very good.

- Corinna Lothar

Spezie, 1736 L St. NW, 202/467-0777. Italian. Chef Cesare Lanfranconi, who made magic in the kitchen at Tosca, now presides at Spezie. The food at Spezie is good, but uninspired.

Lunch and dinner menus are rich with choices. Pastas are very good; appetizers include such specialties as lamb carpaccio, crab and corn fritters, and a warm oyster stew. Meat and fish dishes are high-quality and well prepared, accompanied by interesting vegetable combinations, but often oversauced.

- Corinna Lothar

Minibar by Jose Andres, 405 Eighth St. NW; www. cafeatlantico.com/miniBar/miniBar.htm, 202/393-0812. Avant garde. Minibar, in Cafe Atlantico, is as much performance as gastronomic tour de force.

Guests sample 28 unique bite-sized dishes, such as beet tumbleweed and man-made eggs, all prepared in front of them on a $120-per-person prix-fixe menu. Two seatings nightly on six stools. Reservations taken a month in advance.

- Gabriella Boston

Aqua Terra, 164 Main St., Annapolis; www.aquaterraofannapolis.com, 410/263-1985. Asian fusion. Aqua Terra has been delivering the best of land and sea in a contemporary setting in downtown Annapolis for eight years.

The kitchen emphasizes creativity whether plates are large (such as the sesame-seared tuna atop lemon-grass risotto) or small (duck tacos; asparagus tempura; and shrimp and pork dumplings). Chocolate lava cake is the perfect gooey rich dessert.

- Scott Haring

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