Something about shedding your shoes and settling in at a low table with a yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) makes you feel as though you’re not in Bethesda. Then comes a platter of razor-thin beef tongue and Berkshire-pork jowl, and you feel transported to Tokyo. Beyond the meat and seafood pleasures of the grill are delicate pork gyoza with sesame-chili soy sauce; rice balls stuffed with plum, salmon, or fish eggs; perfectly fried soft-shell crab; and glisteningly fresh sushi. 8003 Norfolk Ave.; 301-652-1400. Entrées $12 to $15.
Assaggi Mozzarella Bar
Glance at the menu and you might start dreaming about catching an Alitalia flight out of Dulles. Buttery burrata cheese paired with condiments such as basil-marinated zucchini and green-tomato marmalade evokes the antipasto tables of Italian resort towns. Other regional Italian plates include savory artichokes Romana, the robust Tuscan vegetable soup known as ribollita, and the Venetian specialty fritto misto. Peachy walls give off a flattering glow, and windows open onto the street to let in the night air. With the debut of sister restaurant Assaggi Osteria in McLean, service in Bethesda has been dodgy, but here’s hoping that’s a temporary glitch. 4838 Bethesda Ave.; 301-951-1988. Entrées $15 to $29.
Passage to India
Carved antique doors and framed photos of Indian rajahs give this serene dining room an otherworldly feel. Chef/owner Sudhir Seth’s regional cooking is fittingly exotic with plates such as chicken kebab, ground dark meat shot through with jalapeños and nibs of house-made Indian cheese; airy vegetable fritters (the corn is fabulous); Parsi-style lamb stew studded with apricots and crunchy potato sticks; and a wonderfully light Goan shrimp curry. Crisp flatbreads are a must for sopping up sauces, as is the chili-stoked house-made pickle platter—if you can take the heat. 4931 Cordell Ave.; 301-656-3373. Entrées $13.95 to $21.95.
With a kitchen that shuns cream and butter and an entire menu page devoted to the nutritional lowdown, this upscale hot spot has the virtuosity of a spa. Most dishes don’t miss the fat. A jumbo-lump crab cake, available as an appetizer or entrée, and sweet-corn agnolotti are rich and satisfying. Organic salmon gets a boost from Asian flavors, and a dessert of sorbets, including an outstanding blueberry-basil, is healthful and tasty. The only slip-ups are the flavorless chocolate cake and a slow kitchen that handicaps an otherwise conscientious wait staff. 4917 Elm St.; 301-907-7625. Entrées $18 to $44.
This sprawling dining room has something for everyone. Eggy plates such as the house Benedict—poached eggs, ham, and sun-dried tomato hollandaise on a wedge of sourdough toast—appear alongside lunch and dinner classics including a fork-licking Gruyère mac and cheese with prosciutto and nicely seared scallops over arugula. A recent special of dewy cod on a mound of roasted corn hit the mark. Besides the usual Bloody Marys and mimosas, the bar shakes up a mean mint julep. 4910 Elm St.; 301-656-3131. Entrées $8 to $12.
Mon Ami Gabi
With heaping portions and well-spaced tables, the spirit of this dining room is more American than French, though the curvy bar area, with snug seating and brasserie-style globes, does feel a bit like Paris. Crab eggs Benedict nods to the Mid-Atlantic and Nutella waffles to Italy, but the croque monsieur, crepes, and steak frites are more Franco-centric. For dessert, try the delicious profiteroles filled with a classic Mad Men–era trio of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream. 7239 Woodmont Ave.; 301-654-1234. Entrées $8.95 to $20.
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