Best of Vienna & McLean: Let's Eat!

Where to go for a romantic date night, good comfort food, and inventive sushi rolls

By: Cynthia Hacinli, Kate Nerenberg

>> See more of the best of Vienna & McLean here 

Amma Indian Vegetarian Kitchen

There’s a lot to like in this cheery space. The paper-thin dosas—lentil-and-rice-flour crepes—are excellent, especially the masala version, filled with potatoes and onions and served with a green-chili-spiked coconut chutney. We also like the poori, a globe of airy fried bread, and the lemon rice, which includes an uttapam, or onion pancake. For a little of everything, try the Amma Feast for just $8.99.

344 Maple Ave. E., Vienna; 703-938-5328.

Bazin’s on Church

Chef/owner Patrick Bazin’s contemporary dining room is the it spot for date night, and his food has big-city fillips—think spring rolls with crunchy phyllo wrapped around creamy lump crab—but there’s a welcome familiarity, too. Maple-miso Chilean sea bass with wasabi mashed potatoes is a plate we could tuck into nightly. Ditto for the lollipop lamb chops, served with red-grape relish, and the warm chocolate tart.

111 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-255-7212.

Coastal Flats

Shoppers converge on this Key West–themed eatery where, cocooned in cozy booths, they enjoy well-executed American fare such as crabcakes, hickory-smoked beef ribs, warm-goat-cheese salad, banana pudding, and the signature chocolate waffle. On-the-go diners can take advantage of the carryout counter—we like the fried salt-and-pepper shrimp roll on a nicely grilled bun.

Tysons Corner Center, McLean; 703-356-1440.

Entyse

While rumors swirl about celeb chef Michel Richard (Citronelle, Central) taking over the Ritz-Carlton’s former Steak House space, a new eatery serving stylish comfort food has opened in the hotel’s lounge. Entyse has a roster of easy-to-love plates such as lobster Cobb salad and 48-hour brisket with green-chili grits. Sommelier Vincent Feraud offers more than 40 pours by the glass and hosts weekly wine and oyster tastings. Wednesday through Sunday, afternoon tea is served.

Tysons Galleria, McLean; 703-506-4300.

Evo Bistro

At this casual wine bar with a cocktail-party vibe, diners fetch their own pours from an Enomatic dispenser. Mediterranean small plates are standouts: chicken-leg tagine with preserved lemon, pistachio-crusted lamb chops, and lamb meatballs with goat cheese. Soon there will be more Evo to love as it doubles in space by expanding next door.

1313 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean; 703-288-4422.

Inox

Chef Jon Mathieson occasionally trips up on overly complex dishes, but he hits the mark with foie gras with a peach-and-blackberry cobbler and butter-poached lobster with short-rib ravioli. Mathieson sources high-quality meat, and it shows in a crispy-skinned duck breast and grilled beef tenderloin. Instead of dessert, consider a cocktail—we like the tart raspberry pisco sour—in the lounge, a fun space with tree-trunk tables and beaded curtains.

1800 Tysons Blvd., Suite 70, McLean; 703-790-4669.

Nizam’s

Had your fill of high-decibel restaurants? Head to Nizam’s, perfect for a tête-à-tête over Turkish mezze—cheese-filled phyllo savories; rice-and-currant-stuffed grape leaves; and imam bayildi, a melt-in-the-mouth eggplant-and-onion dish. Larger plates include chicken with whipped eggplant and béchamel as well as doner kebab—lamb roasted on a vertical spit and sliced thin, served with rice or layered with pita, tomato, and yogurt.

523 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-938-8948.

Plaka Grill

Beyond its excellent roast-pork gyro stuffed with hand-cut French fries—the area’s best—this pint-size storefront is a reliable source for other Greek standbys including taramasalata, lemon-infused rotisserie chicken, and avgolemono soup.

110 Lawyers Rd., NW, Vienna; 703-319-3131.

Rose Restaurant

Popular with Middle Eastern cabbies, Rose goes beyond kebabs with an array of Persian dips and stews. You can get food to go or eat in the simple dining room. We like gheymeh—lentils, onions, and beef steeped in a tomatoey broth—and kashk-o-bademjan, a sweet and smoky dip of eggplant, cumin, and whipped yogurt. And though tender lamb shank stands out, Cornish-game-hen and kubbideh (spiced ground meat) kebabs are delicious, too.

126 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-255-2557.

Sakana

Rolls are inventive at this jewel box of a Japanese restaurant. One of our favorites, yukimaki, brings together shrimp, avocado, and crab with crunchy tempura flakes inside and out. The flakes also give crunch to snow shrimp, a ball of rice embedded with seafood, coated with the crispy bits, and drizzled with sweet eel sauce. Look to the specials board for morsels such as uni, toro, and yellowtail.

128 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-319-1300.

Shamshiry

This kebab house has an avid following among Persians who gather for plates piled with succulent meats and fluffy basmati. Kubbideh, marinated minced beef served in long strips, is marvelous alone but even better with a raw egg cracked over the rice. (You have to ask for it.) Traditional rice dishes—such as shirin polo, with candied orange, pistachios, and almonds—add a note of sweetness to the savories.

8607 Westwood Center Dr., Vienna; 703-448-8883.

Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant

Even carnivores will find that mock versions of meaty favorites—soy fried “chicken,” a sweet-and-sour “sensation” that could pass as pork—are tasty imitations of the real thing. There are lots of Asian influences; highlights include spicy Thai tom yum goong soup and a mix of kale and burdock root in ginger sauce.

2531 Chain Bridge Rd., Vienna; 703-319-3888.

Tachibana

Sit at the sushi bar for the full Tachibana experience. It starts with hot towels and a ramekin of, say, chewy pickled squid and cucumber. Where it goes next depends on you. Ethereal shrimp and vegetable tempura? Buttery Chilean sea bass seared with miso and sake? Or an array of exotic, just-flown-in seafood from Japan? We like the sanma (mackerel pike) and aji (horse mackerel), grilled with salt or sashimi style.

6715 Lowell Ave., McLean; 703-847-1771. 

Best of the Chains

Belly up to the bar at the Palm (1750 Tysons Blvd., McLean; 703-917-0200) weekdays from 5 to 7, when sliders are $3.50 for three. We like the Kobe-beef and Philly-style cheese-steak versions.

Lebanese Taverna (Tysons Galleria, McLean; 703-847-5244), a local family-owned chain, draws fans with its mezze platters heaped with hummus, kibbeh (ground meat with cracked wheat and spices), and fava beans with garlic and lemon.

The raw bar is the place to be at Legal Sea Foods (Tysons Galleria, McLean; 703-827-8900). Littleneck and cherrystone clams and a lineup of oysters including the luscious Kumamoto and Prince Edward Island varieties are perfect with a glass of flinty Sancerre. For a more substantial repast, try the New England clam chowder, well-battered fish and chips, or a lobster roll on a brioche bun.

At P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (Tysons Galleria, McLean; 703-734-8996), our go-to dishes are wok-braised ribs with five-spice salt, chicken lettuce wraps, and salt-and-pepper prawns stir-fried with ginger and chili peppers.

Quick Bites

Fresh-baked cinnamon rolls are a real treat at Cenan’s Bakery. Photographs by Chris Leaman

Vienna has lots of Greek restaurants, and Skorpios Maggio’s Family Restaurant (421 Maple Ave. E., Vienna; 703-938-7777) makes some of the best gyros. A thick pita spills over with peppery lamb and beef, tempered by a house-made tzatziki.

At Cenan’s Bakery (122 Branch Rd., SE, Vienna; 703-242-0070), macaroons, cookies, and lemon bars share counter space with more than 30 types of bread. At lunchtime, the bakery puts out good panini.

Church Street Pizzeria (115 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-938-1155) is a refreshing throwback to well-worn pizza parlors. It lives up to its promise of New York–style rounds with not-too-thin crusts and a liberal blanket of cheese.

Duck into the back of Al-Nakheel Kebab & Cafe (340 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-938-4220) for an unusual take on Vienna’s ubiquitous kebabs. Here the meat skewer comes as a sandwich at lunchtime—a hummus-covered pita wrapped around hunks of lamb and batons of pickled turnips.

The New York–style pizza from Luciano (Tysons Corner Center, McLean; 703-893-8488) is a favorite of Tysons shoppers. Robust sauce and a judicious sprinkling of mozzarella meld over a snappy crust.

The new Sweetleaf (1359 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean; 703-893-2323) sets itself apart from other make-your-own-salad cafes with its house-baked desserts and sandwiches. Start with the Feather, a chicken-salad sandwich, and finish with tangy fro-yo and a chocolate-chip cookie.

Quaint Church Street is the perfect backdrop for Nielsen’s Frozen Custard (144 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-255-5553), a retro ice-cream parlor. The custard—in classic vanilla and chocolate as well as more offbeat takes such as cake batter and pumpkin—is dense and ultra-smooth. If you’re after a kick, try mix-ins such as peanut butter or bits of hard-shell chocolate.