The Needle: A Monthly Gauge of Restaurants on the Radar

We check in on the Bethesda Jaleo, Bazin's on Church, and Amina Thai


Of the three area locations of José Andrés’s color-splashed tapas restaurant, the one in DC’s Penn Quarter has been the most reliable. But lately the kitchen at the Bethesda outpost has been turning out renditions of the mini-chain’s trademark dishes that are just as good: nicely fried roll-ups of bacon and dates; crusty halves of rustic bread rubbed with tomato and garlic and laden with thin shavings of Manchego; a bright, citrusy salad of raw beets with pistachios; and a lovely apple charlotte doused in Pedro Ximénez sherry.
•7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-913-0003

Bazin’s on Church

Two years after opening, Patrick Bazin’s upmarket Vienna tavern has established itself as a neighborhood fixture, with an enviably convivial atmosphere. So why aren’t we more enchanted? The food tends to be too embellished for its own good and the prices too high for the degree of finish. A recent visit brought a fan of rosy, well-cooked duck breast with a sweet-tart cherry sauce. But the duck was fanned around a big potato cake—topped with a dice of tomatoes—and a sautéed savoy cabbage that was meant to taste Asian but came across as German. It was more interesting than the flatiron steak, which confirmed one of the rules of dining out: Order steak only in a steakhouse.

Preceding these was a plate of potato-and-onion ravioli that reminded us, favorably, of pierogi (it came drenched in lobster sauce); a sweet-potato-and-coconut soup that was more purée than soup; and a caramelized-onion tart that was enjoyable but not memorable.

Rounding out the meal were Michel’s chocolate-hazelnut-crunch bars, an homage to the “Kit Kat” made famous by Michel Richard at Citronelle. Some homage: The bars fell apart on contact.
•111 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-255-7212

Amina Thai

The blue-and-yellow dining room remains as pristine as the day this Muslim Thai eatery opened—owner Amina Toopet scrubs down the place daily. And the kitchen still turns out spicy Thai salads, coconutty curries, and ginger-perfumed stir-fries with flavors that are clear and bright. Here is a menu consistent enough to venture in any direction without worry—from crispy fried vegetable spring rolls to pungent curried mussels to limy chili-stoked beef salad to specials such as tilapia with Thai basil and garlic.
•5065 Nicholson La., Rockville; 301-770-9509

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.