The upscale town of Vienna has become an international food scene—restaurants from Thai, Mexican, American, Japanese, British, and Indian to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Italian—provide a global culinary tapestry. Add to the list the following international eats: the Greek Plaka Grill and the Mediterranean Turkish Istanbul Blue, and you can forget updating your passport. You can eat globally but stay local.
If Mediterranean flavors appeal, plan a lunch or dinner at Istanbul Blue, an upscale, sit-down eatery that proclaims the restaurant’s national identity with a menu that features many native dishes—lahmacun, falafel, imam bayildi, and yaprak dolma—that your local American hangout likely won’t offer. But that should not hinder taking chances on the unknown. And after all, their menu offerings are not only tempting but many are self-explanatory.
Take, for example, the appetizer, hummus, a gently seasoned purée of chickpeas that is such a popular offering that most supermarkets carry different brands and flavors. What is on offer here is a blend of fresh lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed paste), and garlic, and is served with pita bread slices. Less well-known appetizers can challenge the palate: baba ganoush (roasted eggplant puréed with tahini), falafel (fried balls of seasoned ground chickpeas), and cigari borek (cigar-shaped phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and fried.)
Entrées include salads, kebabs, seafood dishes, and lamb, beef, and chicken offerings. But patrons who stop by for lunch get to select from among six different sandwiches, all of which sound quite familiar. And for a pick that seems totally Turkish, try the adana sandwich, made of beef and ground lamb grilled on a skewer and topped with a scoop of their ezme salad (mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, and parsley).
And do not skip dessert: Six choices are listed, but the best of the best is the restaurant’s baklava. A rectangle of phyllo pastry layered with sweetness and baked with pistachios, it is one of the best treats imaginable. Take two, just for the fun of it.
For a very different and much more casual destination, try the Greek Plaka Grill. It’s eat-in or take-out, and if you arrive midday, chances are the place will be packed with take-outers, but finding seating may still be a challenge. However, its casual fare, especially the sandwich wraps, are worth the wait.
Dips and appetizers start the meal, and a good beginning are the zucchini fritters with feta and mint. Somewhat offbeat and Latino sounding is the tyrokafteria dip, made with feta cheese, jalapeño, and red pepper and served with pita bread.
For entrées, patrons can make up their own salad bowls, big a main course such as beef souvlaki, mixed grill, or lamb kapama (lamb stew). But skipping by one of their special wraps would be a mistake. Especially good for take-out, one of these sandwich wraps, served with a side of salad or fries, fit the bill. Their featured Plaka gyro with pork is obviously popular, but if a combo of lamb and beef appeals, do order their Chicago Gyro.
Their Greek desserts selection is limited to baklava, galaktoboureko (custard), rizogalo (rice with cream), and Greek yogurt. Craving a sweet? Go to the baklava!
Istanbul Blue, 523 Maple Ave. West, Vienna, 703-938-8948. Hours: lunch and dinner daily.
Plaka Grill, 110 Lawyers Rd. NW, Vienna, 703-319-3131. Hours: Lunch and dinner daily.