Before he owned K Town Bistro, Gonzalo Barba busied himself with feeding presidents and politicians at the Watergate Hotel. This experience, along with the rest of his 40 years in the restaurant industry, bred a respect for the careful balance of upscale cuisine and familiar atmosphere that characterizes many prestigious eateries. Gonzalo preserves this relationship today, serving K Town Bistro's European-inspired dishes in a warm, friendly setting marked by coral-colored walls and lace curtains.
The bistro's chefs pull from American, French, and English traditions when arranging their entrees. Beef wellington—filet mignon surrounded by a mushroom-liver mousse—is a crowd favorite, though it vies for the spotlight with seared salmon and lamb shanks. Lunchtime heralds crab-cake sandwiches and the omelet of the day, all of which are in the running to become the omelet of the eon. Guests can also pick their courses from a prix fixe menu and pair them with wines from Spain, France, Chile, and the United States.
After a 23-year career working at the Hay Adams Hotel, Jose Cardenas branched out and opened his own restaurant, Jose's Grill. He brings many Latin American and Bolivian flavors to his menu, as he grew up eating those foods, but also works in dishes culled from his career at the hotel, resulting in a Latin-influenced selection of international dishes.
He shows off pure Bolivian flavors with his salte?as, beef-filled pastries filled with a sweet and spicy sauce center, much like the Earth's core. For the main course, he grills New York strip steaks and T-bones, saut?s shrimp scampi, and boils shellfish, fish, and octopus in the rich broth of his sopa de mariscos. He finishes off meals with a pair of sweet and creamy desserts: flan and cheesecake. He even adds special touches the two classic sweets, topping his flan with liquid caramel and icing his cheesecake with a layer of sweetened soft cheese mixed with cream and eggs.
The dark wood façade of Mezeh’s Mediterranean Grill creates a stylish, modern presence in the food court at Annapolis Mall. Patrons walk along the eatery’s glass case, first selecting a base for their meal—salad, rice, tortilla, or fresh-baked pita—to complement one of five fillings, including crisp rounds of falafel and morsels of chicken shawarma. Their dishes can be topped with tahini or spicy harissa sauce, along with vegetable blends such as red cabbage slaw or pickled turnips. All items on the menu are crafted without trans fats or preservatives, making them a healthy alternative to making ham sandwiches out of other ham sandwiches.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
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.
When the first Eggspectation eatery opened in Montreal in 1993, the concept was simple: upscale brunch with a focus on decadent egg and crepe dishes. The founding concept has been tweaked only slightly since then, with a menu that today includes more than 160 breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. Breakfast remains the menu’s biggest draw, with a dozen egg benedicts and savory crepes, 16 omelets and fruity pancakes, plus french toast and waffles. At lunch and dinner, chefs stack plates with fine-dining-style entrees, such as half-pound USDA-choice beef burgers and steak and seafood entrees, such as maple-glazed rib eye or lump crab cakes. Whether at a location in Canada, the US, or India, patrons can slide behind a table amid rustic stone and brick walls flanked by jubilant circus-theme decor, such as colorful murals and paparazzi snapshots of Humpty Dumpty.