Around Town

Vienna, McLean restaurants among D.C. area’s best newcomers, WaPo says

Peter Chang opened at 6715 Lowell Avenue in McLean on Oct. 12, 2023 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Two relative newcomers to Fairfax County’s dining scene have found favor with the Washington Post’s food critic.

Tom Sietsema, a critic for the newspaper since 2000, included The Maple Room in Vienna and Peter Chang in McLean on his round-up of the 26 best new restaurants in the D.C. area. The list was published yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a spring 2024 dining guide to celebrate “what’s new, but also what’s worth your time and money,” Sietsema wrote.

The Maple Room opened at 377 Maple Avenue West last November, replacing Vienna’s long-standing Amphora diner. The higher-end restaurant was developed by Mac St. Hospitality Group, which also runs SouvlakiBar in Oakton, and serves a variety of American dishes, including steak, salmon and lobster rolls.

In his spring dining guide, Sietsema praises the restaurant for “smart service” and decor described as “handsome” and “inviting,” as well as the cooking by chef Cameron Cousin, whose past work includes the Fog Point oyster bar in Arlington’s recently replaced Assembly food hall.

“Cousin taps into a lot of diners’ wish lists with his winning roundup of oysters Rockefeller, French onion soup, ricotta scattered with mushrooms, and a strapping pork chop that’s pure comfort (and sweetly served with apple sauce inside hollowed crab apples),” Sietsema wrote. “The cocktails are Big City good, and dessert includes strawberries and whipped cream in puff pastry with strawberry-pink gelato.”

Sietsema notes that the atmosphere at The Maple Room can “seem chummy,” since many of the clientele are acquaintances of owners Christos and Effie Sarantis, who have lived in the area for 45 years.

Prolific chef Peter Chang opened the 11th location of his eponymous restaurant at 6715 Lowell Avenue in October. The McLean site was his first in Fairfax County, though his family has two other concepts — Mama Chang and Lu Wei by Peter Zhang — in Fairfax City.

Late last month, Mama Chang got lauded by the New York Times, which listed it as one of the 25 best restaurants in the D.C. area right now.

Sietsema says Peter Chang’s menu in McLean is “a challenge to conquer” because of its length, but some dishes may be familiar to the chef’s fans, including the dumplings and a tongue-numbing, dry-fried chicken.

“I’m having a blast trying to make my way through the possibilities, which recently included fried squid and peanuts, a dish whose chile heat I could smell before it detonated on my tongue, and whole, wok-seared branzino sauced with dried chiles and bean paste and finished with a fistful of cilantro, a spectacle the chef calls his favorite,” Sietsema wrote.

He also gives kudos to the restaurant for its “friendly and efficient staff.”

The Chang family’s expansion of its restaurant empire didn’t stop in McLean. They reached 17 locations with NiHao’s May 9 launch in Arlington, and another Peter Chang is in the works in Herndon.

Fairfax County restaurants were also well-represented in the Post’s 2023 spring dining guide, which recognized Kirby Club in Merrifield, Ingle Korean Steakhouse and the now-shuttered Jiwa Singapura in Tysons, and Annandale’s Sari Filipino Kusina as some of the region’s top newcomers.