Under the Stars
Restaurateurs Jeff and Barbara Black have a mini-empire going with Black’s Bar and Kitchen, BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant, and Black Market Bistro. But it all started at Addie’s (11120 Rockville Pike; 301-881-0081). When the weather’s warm, we prefer the big front patio to the charming but cramped inside. One recent meal included a lovely summer-bean salad with frizzled Benton’s ham, a memorable beet carpaccio with goat cheese, nicely fried oysters, and a grilled slab of wood-smoky trout drizzled with bacon vinaigrette.
For a Big Group
The lights may be low at Greek mezze spot Cava (9713 Traville Gateway Dr.; 301-309-9090), but the volume of laughter and conversation is cranked up. Many of the small plates—jalapeño-flecked feta, miniature chicken pita sandwiches, and ouzo-stoked shrimp—are full of flavor. But perhaps none is more dramatic than the saganaki, a skillet of kefalograviera cheese that blazes with flames.
Chef/restaurateur Sudhir Seth has lots of fans at Passage to India, his Bethesda restaurant. He’s got another hit—the recently opened Spice Xing (100-B Gibbs St.; 301-610-0303) in Rockville Town Square. In a color-drenched dining room, you can graze on pan-Indian small plates such as tiny dosas and tandoori chicken wings, then move on to Seth’s wonderful curries and stews; we like the Malbari chicken and stewed eggplants.
Eastern Shore Substitute
Bobby’s Crabcakes (101 Gibbs St.; 301-217-0858), which looks like a fish shack from a Restoration Hardware catalog, excels at the dish touted in its name. The lightly broiled mounds made from super-sweet Maryland crab (when it’s available) are excellent on their own and just as good tucked into a sandwich. But this Rockville Town Square restaurant also does a bang-up job with BLTs and burgers.
Amici Miei (1093 Seven Locks Rd., Potomac; 301-545-0966) has been quietly turning out casual Italian fare for years. You can adorn the thin-crusted, buffalo-mozzarella-laden pizzas with such toppings as prosciutto, pork sausage, and artichoke hearts. Pastas—a rich Bolognese, spicy seafood linguine—stick to tradition.
Don’t go to Niwano Hana (887 Rockville Pike; 301-294-0553) looking for austere presentations of sashimi or a quiet sip of sake. Here, the streamlined simplicity of many sushi houses is thrown out in favor of boldly over-the-top—and often delicious—sushi rolls. The jambalaya roll pairs shrimp tempura, crab stick, and avocado with spicy mayo. The salmango roll marries—you guessed it—salmon and mango. The fish tends to be of high quality, so traditional sushi is a good bet.
Amina Thai (5065 Nicholson La.; 301-770-9509) is a ray of sun in its dingy off-the-Pike strip mall. The hushed, humble, and fastidiously clean little spot has a grandmother’s-kitchen feel and warmly attentive servers. Linger over excellent curries and fiery salads. The thing you won’t get: a bottle of Singha. The Muslim restaurant doesn’t use pork or alcohol.
There often are hungry customers pacing the front porch while waiting for a table at Black Market Bistro (4600 Waverly Ave., Garrett Park; 301-933-3000). The restaurant takes only a few reservations for dinner, but slip in early and tell them you’ve got a show to catch at Strathmore and you can usually get a quick meal. There’s a fabulous burger and roast chicken, but more eclectic finds—hanger steak with piquant chimichurri, buttery shrimp and grits speckled with fresh sweet corn—are good, too.
Where can you find pillowy, flour-dusted baguettes, Parisian-style sandwiches, and one terrific lemon tart? In probably the least-expected place in Rockville: a hidden strip mall off Randolph Road. That’s where pastry master Bertrand Houlier set up his airy storefront known as St. Michel Bakery (5540 Wilkins Ct.; no phone; saintmichelbakery.com). Morning pastries such as raisin twirls and pain au chocolat come in miniature versions, but they were so good we wished we’d gone for the big ones. The fresh baguettes make great bases for such sandwiches as ham-butter-cornichon and pan bagnat. But the treat we’re still dreaming of is that lemon tart, with its sugar-cookie-like crust and lightly brûléed top. Open Monday through Friday 7 to 5:30.