ATLAS ROOM (2.5 stars)
Novelty abounds among the eateries on H Street NE. Have you heard about the taco joint that also peddles miniature golf (H Street Country Club) or the beer garden that comes with an oom-pah-pah soundtrack (Biergarten Haus)? Try to source a memorable meal, on the other hand, and the neighborhood frequently falls short. One of the few exceptions is the Atlas Room. It’s a serious restaurant helmed by two chefs who spent time together at the very good Vidalia downtown and who now serve globally influenced dishes in several sizes: nosh, appetizer, entree. Grilled seafood atop pearly Israeli couscous, flatbread made meaty with pulled chicken, and tender ravioli stuffed with short ribs are all pleasing, and I’m tempted to order the seared rare tuna (boring!) just for its excellent hush puppies. The moody little dining room with framed maps and shimmering green curtains is as inviting for a midweek bite as for date night, and if the service could use a little polish, the top-shelf cocktails and improved desserts smooth everything out. // 1015 H St. NE; 202-388-4020. theatlasroom.com. Open: Dinner Tuesday through Sunday, Sunday brunch. All major credit cards. Prices: Dinner $8 to $24, brunch $6 to $14. Sound check: 70 decibels.
BANGKOK GOLDEN THAI (2.5 stars)
The secret to ordering at the mango-hued Bangkok Golden Thai is to remember that both of its chefs are from Laos. That’s your cue to zero in on a style of cooking known for its fiery flavors, restrained sweetness and use of short-grain sticky rice. Among the numbers to keep in mind on the menu are 5, a loose and fragrant pork sausage presented with roasted peanuts and matchsticks of ginger, and 18, ground duck brightened with mint and citrus. Then again, the shrimp cakes (No. 1, appropriately) and the julienned green mango salad (No. 10) are equally choice destinations. The latter is searing with red Thai chilies, but it’s not such a torch-bearer that you can’t taste the shrimp, tomato and garlic in the mix. Grilling is preferred to frying in the Laotian kitchen; a skewer of juicy charred pork, pulsing with lemon grass and ginger, endorses that approach. I appreciate that no two sauces seem the same here, and if I forget to explore the Thai lunch buffet ($8.95 weekdays, $12.95 weekends), it’s because all things Laotian keep me from straying. // 6395 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church; 703-533-9480. www.bangkokgoldenrestaurant.com. Open: Lunch and dinner daily.Discover, MasterCard, Visa. Prices: $6.95 to $15.95. Sound check: 70 decibels.
BIBIANA (3 stars)