I waste no time in attacking my New Year’s resolutions list for 2012. I know that I am supposed to be eating healthier and working out more, along with everyone else. Frankly, I find these kind of resolutions boring and easily broken. There are more important resolutions to attend to, namely my dining to do list.
I begin with a return visit to Palena Cafe, where I had a somewhat disappointing visit last year. This time the food is much better, although the service is a little cold. Perhaps it is designed to match the weather outside on this particular night? See my previous review where I’ve added some comments on the current visit.
Next up is dinner at the fairly new Greek restaurant Nostos in Vienna, Virginia. This is on my New Year’s resolution list based on a review from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post as well as its inclusion in The Washingtonian‘s “100 Very Best Restaurants” 2012. Plus, although I haven’t been in quite some time, I like Mykonos Grill in Rockville, which has the same owner.
Nostos is a pretty place, all white and sleek. My first observation is that although we are in an office building close to Tyson’s Corner Mall, the restaurant is attracting a young and fashionable crowd. My friends and I are not young, and our grown children would tell us we’re not always fashionable, but I guess we fit in well enough. But is age a distinguishing factor when it comes to noise levels in restaurants? Because we immediately find the sound deafening and therefore off-putting.
At first the noise distracts me from focusing on the menu. I have a hard time deciding on appetizers, but not in a bad way. Greek cuisine affords us so many suitable choices for our parties’ two Kosher-keeping pescetarians. I sometimes feel like I’m missing something by skipping meat on shared dishes. This is not one of those occasions.
We settle on spanakopita, baked layered eggplant, a sampler with three cheeses, and fish roe mousse (taramosalata.) The standout by far is the mousse, with a tart lemon flavor which dominates the fishy taste. Its smooth texture is perfect spread atop warm pita. The presentation, however, makes us giggle as it’s a little anatomical.
The spanakopita and eggplant dishes (Melitzana Fournou) are equally satisfying, if nothing remarkable.
I have decided on my entree hours before our arrival, although I am open to hearing about other options. The lamb shank is a signature dish at Nostos, and I have a difficult time resisting a well-reviewed lamb. The server eliminates any doubt in my mind, telling me that if I like lamb, this is a no-brainer. At least that’s what I think he says. I really can’t hear him offer opinions on other options. Indeed, this is a beautiful, tender piece of meat. I enjoy sopping up the orzo with the tangy sauce almost as much as I relish the bites of meat. This is a generous portion of lamb, with plenty of leftovers for another meal.
My friend has the grilled lamb chop as her entree, which is under the meat mezedes portion of the menu. I actually like it as well, if not a touch better, than the lamb shank.
Our two pescaterians both have snapper, which is grilled with olive oil and lemon. They both agree that it is “spot on,” meaning perfectly prepared and surpassing expectations on taste.
We’re pleased with the freshness and flavor of the food. The service is competent. The decor is appealing. There’s only one element of the evening that’s dragging down the experience. The noise is deafening. It’s one of those places where you can converse with the people seated next to you, but after that all bets are off. To be fair, the owner is well aware of the situation. He greets us after our meal and engages us in a discussion of changes that will be made to help absorb the sound. Those hard surfaces look great, but looks aren’t always everything. Fortunately, Nostos has a savvy restaurant owner who understands that diners want more than good food. Hopefully, in the very near future Nostos will be a place where you can eat and talk at the same time. There’s a concept!
Nostos, 8100 Boone Blvd, Vienna, VA
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.5
Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2012, 2 1/2 stars (out of 4)