The close-knit family culture that is so prevalent in India makes its way across the pond to India's, where the Kumar clan—mom and pop Suraj and Sudesh, son Raghu, and daughter Rozy—dish up flavorful curries, stews, and roasted meats created in the kitchen by nephew and chef Zeenat Bhanot. They work together to ply patrons with both meaty and vegetarian morsels scented with cardamom, ginger, and fenugreek.
Like the trail of raisins Marco Polo left to find his way back along the Silk Road, the bill of fare spans the subcontinent. South Indian mulligatawny soups and Goan chicken vindaloo mingle with Mughlai butter-based sauces and North Indian Khara Pasanda lamb. These fragrant dishes tantalize noses amid the dining area's impressive art collection of colorful paintings and gilded statues.
For more than 25 years, French-born chef Jean-Louis Evennou has filled Café Normandie with Gallic cuisine peppered with flavors from the Eastern seaboard. A chef since the age of 13, Evennou seasons endive salad with strong roquefort cheese and rabbit with tangy dijon sauce and simmers beef bourguignon in another rich sauce. Dinners also include American-inspired recipes such as crab soup with Maryland vegetables, as well as housemade pastries and crème caramel.
In 2008, Café Normandie was certified as a sustainable steward by the city of Annapolis for its eco-friendly initiatives. The restaurant follows intensive composting and recycling guidelines; in addition, it stocks biodegradable carry-out gear and serves its meals on tabletops made of marble salvaged from the ruins of the Louvre.
When chef Jim Wilder put out an ad seeking a front-of-house and catering manager for his restaurant, he had no idea that he'd also find a soul mate. A pastry chef by trade, Karen seemed the perfect business partner, and two years later she became his life partner as well.
Together, the Wilders opened The Wild Orchid Café in 1995 in a homey, cottage-like space. Their recipes and shared cooking style favored locally sourced produce and protein, long before "farm to table" became a foodie catchphrase. In 2010, the restaurant outgrew its original home, and the Wilders pulled up stakes to move to a larger, more modern headquarters with stone columns, generous windows, and lofty ceilings, plus an outdoor patio guarded by blossoming trees.
"We have always cooked like that," says Karen of the pair's propensity for seasonal fare. On any given day, Jim, as executive chef, can be found inspecting the newest produce and meat offerings at local farms.
Jim and Karen work together on recipe writing, and though the menu changes according to what's in season, a few hard-and-fast staples remain. Grilled oysters burst with flavor when smothered in bacon and beurre blanc. Sweet wine, bacon, and grapes enhance sautéed chicken livers, and grilled bison sates appetites with much leaner bites than beef from cows or beefcake calendars.
Private dining rooms accommodate large groups, and one comes with a stone fireplace to warm up hands before they dig in.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery?s name from ?Athenian Taverna? to ?Lebanese Taverna? so that they only had to update one word on the eatery?s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service caf?s, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare?all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
Luna Blu?s walls showcase hand-painted murals of an idyllic Naples coastline, its cerulean hues echoing the dining room?s candles and blue glass accents. While the decor evokes the Italian landscape, the cuisine barrels straight into authenticity. Owner and executive chef Erin Dryden peppers the pasta dishes and stews with fresh seafood, just as cooks in Naples might fill their entrees with fish from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Additionally, sweet Italian sausage or artichoke hearts mingle with colorful cheese tortellini, and an ample wine list complements entrees.
Amid the stately storefronts of historic Annapolis stands Harry Browne's, an elegant eatery that has teemed with gourmet Continental cuisine and international wines for more than 35 years. In the 1930s-era dining room, servers ferry out the restaurant's most acclaimed dishes—steaming bowls of cream of crab soup, platters piled with crab cakes, full racks of lamb, and seasonal specialties. Upstairs in the State Circle Lounge, guests sidle up to a full bar to sip craft cocktails and swirl selections from a wine list more than 100 strong.