Northern Virginia’s cornucopia of ethnic cuisine means opportunities to try food from far corners of the globe with just a few minutes spent behind the wheel. Take raw beef dishes, for example. Nearly ever culture embraces their inner carnivore and serves beef (or lamb) rare. Here’s where to try takes from France, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Vietnam and Korea.
1) France: Beef Tartare at Restaurant Eve
A flawless rendition of European-style beef tartare can be found at Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria. Chef Cathal Armstrong combines pasture-raised Shenandoah Valley beef with a Worcestershire emulsion and diced serrano chilies for some heat. The tartare is accompanied by a small salad and house-baked rye toast. Though the menu at Restaurant Eve rotates and evolves with frequency, the tartare has emerged as a signature dish.
Restaurant Eve, 110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450
2) Ethiopian: Kitfo at Meaza Restaurant
Falls Church Ethiopian mainstay Meaza Restaurant offers two variations of kitfo—a signature Ethiopian dish of minced raw beef mixed with herbs and spices. Their “regular kitfo” is made flavorful with mitmita (chili powder), cardamom and clarified Ethiopian butter, while the liyu, or “special kitfo” gets an added punch from onions and jalapenos. Both are served with housemade cheese. Use injera, the signature sour bread of Ethiopia, to swipe at the beef mixture and then bring it to your mouth.
Meaza Restaurant, 5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church; 703-820-2870
3) Vietnamese: Bò Tái Chanh at Four Sisters Restaurant
Vietnamese bò tái chanh is a salad of thinly sliced, lime-cured rare beef mixed with mint, basil, peanuts, fish sauce and more lime juice. Each bite is herbaceous and tart enough to make your cheeks twinge. At Four Sisters Restaurant in Merrifield, they opt to blanch the rare beef for mere seconds before curing it in the lime juice.
Four Sisters Restaurant, 8190 Strawberry Lane, Suite 1, Falls Church; 703-539-8566
4) Korean: Yukhoe (Sometimes Yookhwe) at Yechon
Yukhoe is shredded raw beef that has been marinated in sesame oil. At Annandale Korean mainstay Yechon, yukhoe is served both by itself as a side dish and as a topping for a Korean rice bowl known as bibimbap together with vegetables. The sesame flavor overwhelms in a good way. Traditionally, more adventurous cuts of meat like the kidneys or the heart can be used, but at Yechon they keep things simple. Yechon, 4121 Hummer Road, Annandale; 703-914-4646
5) Lebanese: Kibbeh Nayeh at Me Jana
Try a Lebanese dish dubbed kibbeh nayeh at Me Jana in Arlington. The finely minced raw beef seasoned with burghul (cracked wheat), green onion and mint arrives in three mounds accompanied by sliced radish. Scoop some up and spread it on warm pita bread for a cool contrast.
Me Jana, 2300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-465-4440
Laura Hayes hails from Philly (but don’t hold it against her). She’s been covering the local dining scene for three years, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, Food Network, Washington City Paper, Arlington Magazine and more. Having lived in Japan for two years, she finds herself in a constant state of craving sushi. Laura always orders her favorite savory dish again for dessert and keeps her gut in check through lots of CrossFit classes.