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The Needle: A Monthly Gauge of Restaurants on the Radar
We check in on Poste, Sichuan Village, and Ceviche
Poste Moderne Brasserie
Chef Robert Weland subscribes to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. Rather than make wholesale changes each season, Weland tweaks his lineup. And why not? Old reliables include succulent roast chicken, finely chopped Wagyu tartare, and a delicate sashimi of Kona kampachi (farm-raised yellowtail from Hawaii) with frizzled shavings of ginger. A recent visit makes us hope he keeps two more dishes: a velvety, port-spiked chicken-liver mousse on toasted baguette and an appetizer of grilled pork sausages with delicate pierogi that’s as filling as an entrée. The only downer? A server who was by turns flighty and condescending.
•555 Eighth St., NW; 202-783-6060
The sign trumpeting an all-you-can-eat buffet isn’t promising. Nor is the gaudy Chantilly strip mall. But amid the General Tso’s chicken and shrimp fried rice, there’s memorable cooking here, courtesy of the Szechuan-trained chefs. The menu spans some 300 dishes, so ordering can be tricky. Owners David Qin and Xiao Rong Lu have color-coded it to help: Yellow is hot; orange is incendiary.
Another tip: Look for dishes with Chengdu in the name. It’s the capital of Szechuan province. Chengdu pork is the color of blood; floating in the fiery liquid are thin strips of meat and slices of hot pepper and cabbage. Kung Pao chicken, Chengdu style, is so pumped up with garlic, ginger, and red finger peppersit tastes new.
Ma po tofu, the restaurant says, can be traced back generations to the family that now runs Sichuan Village. The combination of soft cubes of tofu and a smoky sauce that numbs the tongue—courtesy of the peppercorn called ma la is the real deal.
•14005 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Chantilly; 703-631-5888
There’s still a lot to love at this Silver Spring hot spot. The menu reads like a primer of Latino classics, and many of the jazzed-up renditions of humble fare ring true: black-lentil soup spiced with chorizo; lomo saltado, the Peruvian stir-fry of meat, onions, and French fries; and arroz tapado, a homey rice casserole of ground beef, rice, crispy leeks, and plantains.
But the opening of a second Ceviche in DC’s Glover Park might be putting a strain on the kitchen. The cumin-and-beer chicken is not always as juicy as it should be, and the signature ceviches can seem tired. Some portions have gotten smaller—you get a quarter chicken instead of a half—and former freebies such as plantain chips (which go well with the excellent mojitos) now have to be ordered.
•921-J Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring; 301-608-0081
This article appeared in the May, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.