Otani Japanese Steak & Seafood falls into a familiar rhythm around mealtimes. Chefs man tabletop hibachi grills and sear platefuls of filet mignon, scallops, or chicken right in front of patrons while entertaining them with witty banter, dexterous displays of culinary skill, and their ability to peel shrimp telepathically. Meanwhile, the sushi chefs avoid open flames entirely as they carefully tuck lobster, spring mix, or wasabi aioli into their signature rolls. The entire staff matches the friendly, energetic service of the chefs, striving to greet every guest by name by their second or even first visit.
Fausto Garces gives South American transplants more than one reason to visit his restaurant, Don Churro Café. In addition to authentic dishes from Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Spain that earned Don Churro Cafè recognition as one of the region's Best New Restaurants by Northern Virginia Magazine in 2009, the restaurant entertains sports fans by broadcasting soccer matches from South American nations. Diners gaze at twin plasma televisions or a pull-down projection screen as athletes play the sport known as "fùtbol" in Latin America, and as "dangerous" in antique stores.
The dining room's yellow walls and floors are offset with royal-blue wall sections, matching seat cushions, and a bright painting of Quito––Fausto's mountain-clad Ecuadorian homeland. Illuminated by hanging light fixtures, lime-marinated ceviche and crispy plantains cleanse the palate before entrees rife with grilled pork belly, chorizo, and certified Angus beef arrive. Fresh, marinated fish filets come grilled alongside rice and patacones or buried beneath a creamy signature seafood sauce.
WaBa's chefs ladle house-made teriyaki sauce over meats striped with grill marks, adding no oil or MSG to any items on the menu. Sweetly marinated ribs pile high atop rice and fresh steamed veggies ($9.99), the same savory underpinnings that form the foundations of chicken plates ($7.99), shrimp skewer plates ($8.99), and most downtown skyscrapers. Party platters multiply servings of meat, providing enough protein to feed gaggles of friends.
The gracious gastronomic engineers at El Fresco Mexican Grill believe firmly that the finest flavors emerge from hand-slicing and hand-crafting their dishes with fresh ingredients. Tasty, generous portions lumber throughout its expansive menu. Homemade salsa and chips come complimentary but could stand a visit from the colorful guacamole ($1.75). Boneless, hand-cut juicy chicken resides inside each chicken-taco platter ($6.95), and every full-flavored soft taco de pollo asado ($2.25). Domesticated cheese, beans, and spinach are at your mouth's command in the veggie quesadilla ($6.49).
Executive chef Gian Piero Mazzi fell in love with food at a young age, when he was growing up in the Liguria region of Italy. His mother’s passion for cuisine planted the seeds for his infatuation, which he cultivated during formal culinary schooling in Florence as well as an internship in France. After honing his skills in the kitchen, Mazzi ventured across the pond, earning new fans stateside when he showcased his recipes at an event at the James Beard House in 2002.
But that was just the beginning. Today, at two locations of Piero's Corner, he and his team hand make an assortment of authentic pastas, including ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster or a blend of spinach and portobello mushrooms. The menu highlights Chef Mazzi's hometown cuisine, with a focus on fresh seafood. Entrees include blackened tilapia and shrimp served with fruit salsa as well as scallops wrapped in prosciutto and arranged on a bed of spaghetti carbonara. Pizzas are made to order and baked in a brick oven, as are calzones stuffed with ingredients such as ricotta, ham, spinach, and tomato sauce. A gluten-free menu features pastas and doughs imported from Italy, whose climate doesn’t support gluten.
Both of Piero's Corner’s locations facilitate mini European getaways, with brick arches framing murals of Italian landscapes, and columns reminiscent of classical architecture supporting their ceilings. In Fairfax, diners can eat or sip wine al fresco beneath red and white umbrellas.