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Review of Monsoon Siam, Charlottesville, VA

I gave Monsoon Siam four out of five stars in May of 2013 when I wrote a review.

Monsoon Siam
113 W Market St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 971-1515

Tried Monsoon Siam on a Sunday night at 9:30 when pretty much everything else was closing down for dinner; and we were stunned. Really, really exceptionally good papaya salad and nam tok (strips of beef with onions, chilies, cilantro, pepper seasoning) – delightful service and tasty cocktails.

I also had a special called Jade Island that was scallops (less than wonderful scallops) with a green curry that was amazing. Very good, though I hope the scallops are usually better (it was Sunday night – so I suspect they usually are better).

I’d skip the Thai Iced Coffee here – it did not stand up to other Thai restaurant experiences, but the food was very good and staff enthusiastic despite the late hour.

A surprise to find really good Thai food – and we were happy with it.

Review of Smokin’ Eddies BBQ in Louisa, VA

I gave Smokin’ Eddies three out of five stars in May of 2013.

Smokin’ Eddies BBQ
213 W Main St
Louisa, VA 23093
(540) 967-1990

Had an afternoon to explore the thriving town of Louisa, VA and decided to try Smokin’ Eddie’s BBQ. It was a casual experience, sit down and order – but casual enough that I initially thought we should order at the counter and sit down. The sauces were flavorful but not that spicy, and the meat came out very smokey tasting; and despite the name, I did not quite expect that. The brisket was pretty darned good, but the ribs were smokey enough to not really be great, though with enough hot sauce they got to be enjoyable.

The surprise delights were the slaw and potato salad, neither of which is normally my thing, but they were very good according to my dinner partner!

Skip the green beans; so overcooked as to not be worth it at all.

The sweet tea was quite good, and the service was friendly, helpful, and willing to engage in conversation (which we welcomed) – highly recommend the service staff.

Review of Cherry Blossom Restaurant & Banquet Hall, Sterling, VA

I gave Cherry Blossom five out of five stars in January of 2013, but would revise that down to four stars today.

Cherry Blossom Restaurant & Banquet Hall
46110 Lake Center Plz
Sterling, VA 20165
(703) 444-0080

The lunch buffet at Cherry Blossom is spectacular!

Best eggplant on the planet.
Best four bean salad on the planet.
Fantastic Dahl (Lentils).
Fantastic Chicken and Beef Kabobs.
Very good Qabili Palaw (rice with carrots and raisins).
Very good chick peas, hummus, and stewed beans.

When they have it, there is a rose flavored dessert that is stunning (it’s rare though).

For dinner, there is no buffet, and the kabobs are even better – but it is hard to get a variety unless you go in a group and everyone orders different things and you all share.

Sometimes the music is a bit repetitive and bizarre (Twin Peaks theme song?) – but lately it has been some guitar music that is pleasant enough.

The lunch value is stunning; it is a must do for lunches in Sterling area. Easy to eat vegetarian, but not exclusively vegetarian.

Update: I no longer go for dinner, as the buffet is the star attraction and ordering individual dishes gets you less variety and runs up the tab quite quickly… though the food is every bit as good.

Review of A Taste of Burma, Sterling, VA

I gave A Taste of Burma four out of five stars when I reviewed the quiet establishment in January of 2013 and stand by that strong review.

A Taste of Burma
126 Edds Ln
Sterling, VA 20165
(703) 444-8510

I love A Taste of Burma in Sterling, Virginia. The food is always delightfully prepared and very flavorful. The service is very good, and exceptional if you are lucky enough to get Jeremy who is very helpful and entertaining. It is easy to eat vegetarian here, with plenty of choices.

I am still exploring the many choices on the menu, and so far I have had nothing bad; everything has been very, very good. It is quiet, comfortable, and usually not very crowded. Highly recommended full table service. Kids welcome, but no special menu, so only bring those with adventurous appetites.

Update: Jeremy, sadly, has not been at A Taste of Burma for a few years now, but service remains good, if a little slow. The food is still spectacular and the establishment very quiet.

Review of Thai Square, Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA

I enthusiastically give Thai Square five out of five stars, and maintain that it is the best Thai food in the Washington area at least since September of 2012.

Thai Square
3217 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA 22204
(703) 685-7040

Thai Square is quickly becoming my favorite Thai restaurant. They excel at several of my favorite Thai dishes, and while I may like the crispy duck at Thai Luang in Herndon, or the Pad Thai and Tiger Cried from Thai Basil in Chantilly a smidge better, or miss the legendary Larb Gai and Tiger Cried from the long gone Bangkok-Vientiane of Falls Church… none of them excels at so many dishes at the same time. Also, none of them has the amazing Bean Threads that Thai Square has. Amazing!

Prior to discovering the Bean Threads at Thai Square I had to book a flight to Cupertino to get decent Chinese Bean Threads, but the Thai version is so much better. Service is friendly and quick.

Squid with Basil is amazing, not nearly as heavy as most fried squid… and succulent with a lovely garnish of roasted basil leaves.

The Panang Curry chicken is delicious and heart-warming on a cold day.

The Papaya Salad is perhaps the best served anywhere, crisp and infused with chilies.

Columbia Pike, long a haven for really good eats, has a new standard now – and very few places along the pike can compete with this gem; absolutely delicious.

Review of China King Restaurant in Leesburg, VA

I gave China King Restaurant four out of five stars in March of 2012, and it has held up that excellent reputation since then. Do NOT be confused, there is no affiliation between this China King Restaurant and the fast-food chain of China Kings all over the Northern Virginia area (they are not good at all).

China King Restaurant
5 S King St
Leesburg, VA 20175
(703) 777-9831

China King in the center of old Leesburg is delicious and amazing. Do NOT be confused, this is NOT part of the local fast food chain of the same name with little modern over the counter places all around Northern Virginia, this is a sit down and table service family restaurant with delicious food.

I confess I do not know what I am eating half the time because Chinese food is not my expertise, but it is always good and they take care of my mushroom allergy very carefully, and that can be a challenge with delicious Chinese food.

It is a small restaurant, often quite busy because it is so delicious, and that can mean the ambiance is convivial and a little loud, but it is far better than the fake loudness of many modern eating establishments that seem to amplify the noise (Sweetwater, On The Border, etc). Service is amazing, prices are too low (I sometimes feel guilty after eating and getting such a small bill), and food is delicious and fascinating. I usually have left-overs because the portions are large.

The cooks are also very flexible about making things you can sort of vaguely describe… I went in craving a bean thread dish I could not remember the name of once, and they listened and took a stab at it and I had an excellent dinner as a result.

Review of Evo Bistro in McLean, VA

I gave Evo Bistro four out of five stars when I first reviewed French/Algerian Tapas and Wine place in November 2010, and if anything it has grown on me.

Evo Bistro
1313 Old Chain Bridge Rd
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 288-4422

We absolutely love Evo Bistro for tapas and wine. Our wallets are reluctant to visit as often as our taste buds and tummies would like.

Evo has an Enomatic┬« wine dispenser, which allows you to try several different wines from the large and spectacular collection Jacques has put together. The prices on the Enomatic┬« are a bit high (there is a lower priced Enomatic┬« at Whole Foods in Fairfax), but you are only getting the best wines in style…

The food is all tapas style, but with a French and Moroccan take on the style that is delightfully unusual around here (Spanish Tapas are fantastic, but much more common). If you are a little adventurous you can eat spectacularly. You may also find a tapa or two that is not your favorite – but I assure you it will not be due to poor preparation – it’s just that people’s tastes vary.

Amazing wines, amazing prices, very good service from inspired staff who enjoys working here.

The downsides: it’s noisy… very difficult to have a conversation here, and it is often so crowded as to be a bit slow… and it is priced so that it is only a special occasion place for us…

It is well worth the visit though, and try something new each time you go – there are many surprise fantastic flavors on the menu.

It is good for small groups or if you have warned them; but it is a small place that is often quite busy so a large group will quickly overwhelm the space if not the staff and kitchen.

Evo can be very hard to find, as a lot of the online and GPS map databases are confused (as are many people) by different roads in McLean having the same name. Evo is crammed into a strip mall between a Thai restaurant and a dry cleaners facing Dolly Madison Blvd (aka: VA-123 a major route through town), but the parking lot does not have direct access to 123, you’ll have to turn off on either Churchill Road / Old Chain Bridge Road (yes, Churchill becomes Old Chain Bridge about 90 feet from the entrance to Evo’s parking) or Chain Bridge Road to enter the parking lot. Part of the confusion is that a little South along VA-123, when you cross into Vienna/Tysons, the same road (VA-123) is called Chain Bridge Road but that has nothing to do with the Chain Bridge Road that is right next to Evo in McLean.

The simple directions are: drive along VA-123 until you see signs for either Churchill or Old Chain Bridge, Evo is behind the Remax building on the corner.

Review of Kabob House, Food Court IV in Centreville, VA

I enthusiastically give Kabob House five out of five stars, and have since first discovering the Afghan restaurant in November 2010.

Kabob House, Food Court IV
14220-A-1 Centreville Sq
Centreville, VA 20121
(703) 543-7166

Astoundingly good; better even than the legendary Bamyan Afghan place of Herndon a decade ago. You must try the Mantoo or Aushak if you have a little more time (they take longer as they need to be baked to order). If you have less time, stick to the kabobs, gyros, or my favorite dishes at this amazing gem of a restaurant:

Quabili Palau (warning, it’s large)

Palau Kabob (lots of food)

In both cases, the “meat sauce” they casually mention on the menu is the best damned curried lamb I have ever had anywhere. It’s probably hardening my arteries as I eat it, because anything this good must be earning me time in hell… absolute heaven. I am afraid to try to order just the “meat sauce” as a main dish… that would probably upset the balance of the universe with too much delicious goodness on one plate.

The Mantoo are sublime and the Aushak delicious – though both take a little longer to prepare.

This is not a fancy place; you walk up to the counter and order, and they will call your number when it’s ready. No table service (though sometimes they come out and bring you your tray if they are not busy).

There is not much choice about what to drink, but the food is devine and the behind the counter staff are enthusiastic and friendly.

If you are anywhere near Centreville and hungry you must make this your first stop for food. Absolutely the best Centreville has to offer by far. This is perhaps THE place that finally puts food in Centreville on the map.

Quiet enough for real conversations. Clean. Well lit. Kid friendly. Spectacularly delicious.

If I had to be pressed, I think the kabobs themselves are better at Charcoal Kabob in Herndon; but everything else is better here at Food Corner Kabob House IV… Mantoo, Aushak, Gyros, Quabili Palau – amazing…

I have never been to the other locations mentioned on the menu.

Update: I have now found another Kabob House in the same micro-chain, the one in Tyson’s Corners which is also very, very good.

Review of Tipicos Los Amigos in Sterling, VA

I gave Tipicos Los Amigos four out of five stars when I first reviewed the Papusaria in June of 2010, and again when I updated in November of 2010, and stand by that rating today.

Tipicos Los Amigos
46950 Community Plz
Sterling, VA 20164
(571) 434-0060

Excellent and very cheap papusas that are sometimes HUGE (Papusa Loca).

Best Bistec Encebollado (steak and onions) I have ever had anywhere!

Pretty large selection of Central American food with a focus on Nicaragua (I think). The wait staff can barely speak English, but they more than make up for it in friendly enthusiasm. I typically point to the menu.

I might not order complex drinks there again (depends on the bartender) – but bottled beers and classic cheap margaritas are always good.

Warning: portions can be huge very quickly… you will have leftovers, even if you are a BIG hungry eater.

Typically there is Latin music on (usually bachata and merengue) and a couple of big screens with football (the kind with goalies) running. There is a separate bar area.

Tables and decor are tacky and very low-brow, but the food and fun staff more than make up for it. They have some outside seats sheltered by the strip mall overhang, but I’ve never seen them serve anyone outside… must remember to ask on a nice day.

Has wife approval factor too… only problem, is she wants take out from this place every time I go there.

Oh, one negative… the bathroom is less than sparkling… might want to hold it and use the ones at work or a fast food place.

Update: The restrooms have been completely remodeled and are sparkling clean now!

Update (November 2010):
The lunch out crowd at work has really taken a liking to this place, we continue to go back and struggle with ordering in broken Spanglish from the staff.

The service times can be very slow if there is a crowd (and quick if you are lucky enough to be the only ones there).

The food continues to be spectacular for low-brow cheap eats… YUM!

Update (March 2012): The bathrooms have been renovated and are much nicer than they used to be. Also, the Salpicon (chopped steak, mixed with onions, cilantro, and radish, served cool) is spectacularly delicious and the perfect complement to a warm day. Service continues to be friendly though a little slow (not a quick lunch) and food is always delicious.

Review of Kora in Crystal City, Arlington, VA

I gave Kora two out of five stars when I reviewed it on November 26th, 2010. I have not been back.

Kora
2250-B Crystal Dr
Arlington, VA 22202
(571) 431-7090

Horribly disappointing is the summary. Wish there was a 1.5 stars you could click… We were sold a bill of goods, told it would be hip and trendy and have great food as well. We actually gave up a chance to visit Jaleo (next door) again… and I will not lightly forgive Kora for making us miss another Jaleo meal.

If you are just going for drinks, and to be seen by the trendy folks at the bar, you will probably be fine.

Do NOT stay to eat here.

Table service was horrible, we had to ask for utensils and napkins a dozen times; we never did get them.

The Insalata Caprese does not have any basil, and even after sending it back twice to get basil that is part of the definition for Caprese, we kept getting the plate returned with different greens on it that were no basil. The staff could not understand that we wanted basil even though they seemed to be native English speakers.

My entree was acceptable, but bland and unremarkable. I struggle to remember now what it was supposed to be.

Like many places, the noise level was high enough that it was difficult to have a decent conversation. To be fair, this is an annoying trend in most modern restaurants; but here – where nothing else seemed right, it was a killer because we could not even ignore the horrible service and mediocre food and just talk.

Overpriced, mediocre, glacial and uncaring service. Skip Kora, it sucks; except possibly for drinks only.