Saturday night we tried Argia's [http://www.argias.com/] again. The first time we went we were a little disapppointed. It is one of Washingtonian's "100 best" and had a half-dozen pictures [including the cover !]. The first time we went, last winter, we tried the bruschetta [very good], salad [insalata di spinaci which was to be the best part of the meal], a fetuccini with mushroom ragu [way too heavy and no longer on the menu] and eggplant al formaggio [too runny]. Overall nothing spectacular but given it's exaulted status as one of the 100 best, we thought we would give it a second try.
Saturday night at 6:30 the restaurant was packed. We got a table in the bar [which was noisy but ok]. We tried the calamari fritti ["Fried calamari dusted with parmesan & basil"]. Interesting Italian twist but I wouldn't order it again. The calamari were very small and coated with corn meal. Obviously done in the kitchen and not frozen out of a bag. Calamari were cooked just right [not overdone and chewy] but because they were so small we tasted mostly cornmeal. Basil chiffonade was a nice touch but the parmesan was missing. A very large serving that two of us could not finish. Overall, needed fewer, larger squid and a lighter batter. We both had specials as entrees. I had a tuna steak served over a mini radicchio salad. It was ok, nothing special, served luke warm. My friend had spahgetti with a tomato, tuna, olive, capers sauce. It would have been very good except it was overwhelming salty. The capers, the olives, the tuna ... something should have been rinsed far more thoroughly. We skipped dessert as we were running late by this time to go to the theater. Service was attentive given the crowd. Plating was nothing special. Neither of us would go back a third time. The "100 best" ranking is a bit of a mystery.
A half-dozen blocks away is Amasia Bistro [http://www.amasiabistro.com/]. We tried this for the first time Sunday evening. It used to be a chain [Zyng] but hired a real chef and became a real restaurant. The menu offered a number of fresh new ideas. We started with two [!] appetizers because we could not choose between them. The Ahi Tuna Poke was an interestng mixtures of flavors; I enjoyed it but perhaps too many flavors as the tuna got a little lost. Still, I would order it again if it wasn't for the Mu Shu Lettuce Wraps. A combination appetizer/salad, the grilled chicken and peanuts were presented with very fresh, crisp romain leafs to assemble into do-it-yourself wraps. The dippping sauce was perfect. I'd LOVE to have the recipe or know the maker of it. This appetizer was a real hit. I'd order it it anytime. There was more than enough for two to share. For entrees, I had the red curry crab cakes. A bit too dense and not quite as spicy as I expected but this is a personal preference, not a criticism. It was good and I'd recommend it. However, my friend's Sweet Potato Wrapped Rockfish was a home run. A thick fillet, crisp on the outside, perfectly done and yet very moist on the inside. Try this ! Although stuffed, we shared a dessert: fresh blackberries in creme anglais and blackberry sauce. Wow! We argued about who would lick the plate. [Neither of us did but this was another home run]. Service was attentive but never intrusive. Every dish thoughtfully and very nicely plated. Wine list was modest but we enjoyed a good chardonnay and a pinot grigio. Restraurant was sparsely filled. That was good for the attentive service and kitchen but doesn't bode well for financial success.
Try Amasia. It should be on the "100 best" list instead of Argia's.