Northern Virginia has no shortage of great Asian food. Northern Virginia Magazine‘s food critics have rounded up the best of the best to make your search for your next great meal easier. These 14 restaurants from our 2023 Best Restaurants list are sure to please.
By Olga Boikess, Dawn Klavon, Alyssa Langer, Alice Levitt, and Renee Sklarew
Editor’s note: Jiwa Singapura is now closed as of Monday, December 4.
Price Key: Entrées = $ 15 and under | $$ 16–25 | $$$ 26–40 | $$$$ 41 and over | * = prix fixe only
Fairfax | Chinese | $$$
It’s a family affair at Mama Chang. Both large and small groups gather around tables happily sharing dishes that can feed up to four people for under $120. No wonder guests return time and again.
To foodies in the DMV, chef Peter Chang is a beloved institution. But at Mama Chang, diners are treated to the dishes the chef enjoys at home. Peter’s wife, Lisa, is the “Mama” in Mama Chang. The Changs are from the Hubei province of China, and recipes reflect a taste of their homeland. Daughter Lydia Chang runs the show.
You can find the patriarch’s tantalizing hot and numbing dishes here, but most of the menu is composed of subtle flavors. Dishes such as pork and shrimp dumplings in paper-thin wrappers are free of heavy sauces. Heads of baby bok choy in garlic sauce are delicate and fresh, and the vegetable’s essence is the star.
There are bold flavors, too. Lychee chicken is a revelation with its crispy, sweet, caramelized coating. A seductive rendition of tender baby eggplant tangoes with undertones of plum and green chiles. Travelers to China attest to authenticity with dishes such as tofu skin salad. Platters come out fast, and no one leaves hungry.
While China is not famous for desserts, Mama Chang has a few up her sleeve, and her specials are inspired by the season. At this spacious restaurant, every night feels like family dinner with the Chang clan.
See This: The dining room hosts touches like white leather banquettes and oak tables with wall tiles from Hubei province.
Eat This: Lychee pepper chicken, green beans with pickled cabbage, eggplant in garlic sauce
Service: Fast, friendly, and attentive, but casual
When to Dine Here: Bring a group for dinner and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Ashburn | Modern Indian | $$
There’s been much (probably too much) written about the fact that millennials and Gen Zers are in love with big, bold flavors. These are also the generations in their prime to be dining out. It’s no coincidence that a restaurant like Celebration by Rupa Vira would be a hit.
Equipped with a creative chef who uses spices as her artistic medium, this is one restaurant that makes every meal an experience. Dry ice, colored lights, and gold leaf are all part of a dinner here.
To take full advantage of Vira’s showmanship, begin with the seasonal starter, currently known as Golden Shots. (Last summer it was Glow Gappa.) A play on gol gappa, also known as pani puri, the interactive dish featured crispy shells ready to be filled with a fruity spiced liquid. But first, the server pours water over the dry ice, allowing diners to take time to immortalize the ritual with their phones.
But it’s not all cheap tricks here. Even if the curries are presented with edible flowers, it’s the balance of spices that stands out, whether it’s a stew of crispy vegetables or tender bone-in chicken. And you don’t have to be a member of a younger generation to appreciate that.
See This: At dinner, large parties swarm the colorful dining rooms, filled with art that matches the plates of food with their brightness.
Eat This: Golden Shots, sabzi mandi, chicken purana
Service: Mixed; cordial servers have a way of disappearing later in a meal.
When to Dine Here: Your friend group is seeking new hues and flavors for dinner.
Alexandria | Modern Indian | $$$
“If I am making lamb, I have to grind all the spices right before making it,” chef Ajay Kumar told us last year. “If you compare with other restaurants, you can see the difference.”
There are plenty of innovations on the menu — think paneer stuffed with seasoned ricotta, served in a spicy tomato sauce — but the best way to taste what Kumar is talking about is to partake of his classics. Chicken tikka masala burns with a pleasant heat and soothes with sweet acidity, all in the same meaty bite. Get it with pillowy garlic naan.
Most diners start their meal here with tandoori cauliflower. The white veggie is dyed red with spices. The soft center is jacketed with blistered edges created by the heat of the clay oven.
Expect a palate cleanser in the form of a frozen lozenge of cranberry and rosewater. It’s a preview of the subtle desserts, like raspberry-and-coconut rice pudding and cardamom-scented warm carrot halwa. Yes, even the sweets benefit from the addition of freshly ground spices. And Kumar’s expertise with the Indian-grown ingredients is evident in every bite.
See This: The stark white dining room is modern, indeed. Sit at the bar to see colorful dishes flow out of the busy kitchen.
Eat This: Tandoori cauliflower, chicken tikka masala, garlic naan
Service: Simply solid
When to Dine Here: You and your friends value well-applied spice and want to share a collection of plates.
McLean | Japanese | $$$
Everyone needs a reliable, go-to neighborhood sushi spot, and Tachibana is that place. The menu is varied, offering a wide selection of classic sushi and Japanese specialties — making it a satisfying option for parties with a mix of sushi and non-sushi eaters.
For some crowd-pleasing appetizers, look no further than the fried shumai, gindara misoyaki (broiled black cod), and gyoza. Shrimp and vegetable tempura (offered in appetizer or entrée-size portions) is also a must — the shrimp are large and the portion is generous.
Beyond sushi, the vegetable sukiyaki is a favorite; boasting plenty of vegetables, tofu, a rich-yet-light broth, and thin glass noodles, this soup will keep you and your spoon coming back for more. For something a bit heavier, the chicken katsu is an excellent choice; the portion is sizable, it’s not overly greasy, and it arrives pre-sliced, making the dish simple to eat with chopsticks and ideal for sharing.
If you’re looking for a no-frills, classic, Japanese meal that will satisfy everyone’s cravings and preferences, make Tachibana your next sushi night spot.
See This: The décor is minimal and traditional with the centerpiece of a lengthy sushi bar.
Eat This: Gindara misoyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, vegetable sukiyaki
Service: Attentiveness is hit or miss depending on how busy the restaurant is, but service is friendly and polite.
When to Dine Here: You want a solid, no-frills meal and a variety of Japanese dishes beyond just sushi.
Arlington | Japanese | $$$
There’s a club-like vibe at Yume Sushi. EDM music pounds through a dining room with industrial-chic architecture and walls with graffiti murals. But chef Saran Kannasute and his team are serious about creating edible art. Options range from basic rolls to creations with luxe ingredients like wagyu, lump crab, and truffle oil.
The Yume roll is a highlight, blending myriad flavors and textures into each bite. Spicy tuna and avocado are on the inside, and it’s topped with seared tuna, jalapeño, spicy mayo, eel sauce, and tempura bits. The Salmon Lover roll is another winner. Yume also offers an omakase, if you’d like the chefs to surprise you.
If you want to venture beyond sushi, the poke bowl boasts a generous portion of fresh, raw fish and is great for sharing. The shrimp tempura and wagyu buns are also worth ordering.
Sushi might be what brought you to Yume, but the vibes are what will draw you back.
See This: Sit at the sushi bar, with a dramatic graffiti-meets-geisha mural backdrop, to watch the sushi chefs up close.
Eat This: Poke bowl, Yume roll, wagyu buns
Service: Friendly, attentive, and quick to bring dishes to the table, the staff doesn’t go out of its way to explain the menu or provide recommendations.
When to Dine Here: Your requirements for a sushi meal include a modern aesthetic.
Centreville | Korean | $$$$
It’s a carnivore’s carnival at this upscale bistro that elevates the Korean barbecue tradition with top-grade meats. Both dry- and wet-aged flesh is complemented by thoughtful presentation.
The show is staged at well-padded booths in the charcoal-toned dining room. A waiter covers half the table with a cavalcade of well-curated banchan, including a fiery scallion salad. On the other side of the centerpiece tabletop grill, he lines up prime meats, and the show begins. As the cuts sizzle on the grill, a parade of appetizers and side dishes appears. Among them is a notable kimchi pancake — untraditionally topped with cheese. The meal focuses on a merry-go-round of succulent meats, notably bulgogi, tender skirt steak, and flavorful pork with contrasting soupy stews.
The restaurant is a three-ring circus with a marquee roster of starters. At a midday visit, the kitchen performs something like a high-wire act balancing tradition with modern flavors and trends. A parade of preparations, many starring kimchi, set the stage. The main act is a meal pairing grilled, marinated brisket with soybean and kimchi stews. Pickled vegetables are cast as supporting sides. All the world’s a stage, but especially tables at Honest Grill.
See This: The cosmopolitan setting of cushy booths with embedded tabletop grills is well-suited to convivial get-togethers with friends or family.
Eat This: Brisket, kimchi pancakes, kimchi and soybean stews
Service: Servers here know what they are doing and do it well. It may take a few minutes for them to respond to special requests when the place fills up, but it all gets done.
When to Dine Here: You and meat-loving companions are looking for a little theater.
Annandale | Modern Korean | $$$$*
Are you glued to social media? TikTok videos of this Korean restaurant’s edible works of art draw food lovers to its unassuming storefront in Annandale. Executive chef-owner Justin Ahn offers a fixed-price, book-online, five-course dinner that lends Thai and Japanese touches to Korean-inspired dishes. The menu changes several times a year.
The shareable dishes brought to the table on one visit include a colorful noodle dish with fresh clams perched on greens and a nest of udon. Brick-red, pickled Fresno peppers lend a spicy accent to a lush green curry. Another subtle and distinctive course features pleasantly chewy slices of melt-in-mouth beef bavette flanked by crispy cucumber and a Korean sweet potato cream.
It’s followed by a clever Asian play on fish and chips. Crispy, panko-breaded cod is paired with bok choy and green radish in a sweet-and-spicy glaze. Ahn’s penultimate salvo is a knockout, solidly Korean pork dish. Perfectly cooked, moist, flavor-packed pork belly slices are layered atop pickled cabbage and accented with a walnut bean paste and scallion salad. The dish leaves diners humming with contentment.
Although traditional Korean meals usually do not end with a dessert, Ahn indulges his guests. The perfect finish to an adventuresome meal? Fresh berries and crunchy macadamia nuts atop rich, not-too-sweet mascarpone, punctuated with mint.
Ahn also accommodates walk-ins with a casual wine bar menu that is hot on Instagram. Those diners can snap pics of shrimp toast, beet tartar, and kimchi beef ragú with cocktails, wine, and beer sure to light up their social media feeds.
See this: Colorful plates set off against gray-green walls and minimalist décor
Eat this: The five courses of riffs on classic Korean dishes change, so be prepared for a surprise.
Service: The welcoming and helpful staff take evident pride in the kitchen’s work.
When to dine here: Come with a group of food-loving friends for a repast worthy of enshrining online.
Editor’s note: After we went to press, Incheon started serving an à la carte menu.
Vienna | Korean | $$$$
Interactive restaurants — hibachi, hot pot, and Korean steakhouses — incorporate diners into the preparation of their own food at their table. But there can be drawbacks to these restaurants (think smoke, lack of clear cooking instructions, and noisy grills) that can cloud anyone’s enjoyment. Ingle Korean Steakhouse manages to avoid every potential pitfall.
Upon entering Ingle, diners would never guess there are grills at each table; they are small and discreet, and the chic, modern décor grabs your attention instead. Servers carefully tend to their tables’ grills, ensuring each cut of meat is cooked properly and then cut into smaller pieces to be shared by chopstick-wielding guests. Diners can sit back, relax, and enjoy their hands-off meal without worrying about under- or overcooking their meat. After all, nobody wants to ruin a $60+ piece of wagyu.
Speaking of the luxe beef, steak is the star of the show at Ingle. If you want to splurge, the wagyu strip loin is a great choice. For a more budget-friendly cut, try the outside skirt (tender and flavorful, despite minimal marbling) or marinated galbi (more marbling and very tender).
The supporting cast — the starters and sides — are just as important to round out the meal. Don’t miss the japchae: The thin glass noodles are tossed with an umami sauce and an abundance of mushrooms and vegetables. The scallion pancake is a greasy treat featuring crispy scallions and shrimp. Ingle even manages to transform basic fried rice into an elevated experience. This version is topped with a generous scoop of roe and filled with an indulgent amount of lump crab.
If interactive restaurants aren’t usually your cup of tea, give Ingle Korean Steakhouse a chance; the high-quality meats, satisfying starters and sides, and attentive service may change your mind.
See This: Your own steak grills to perfection (and your preferred temperature) in front of your eyes, at your table.
Eat This: Japchae, wagyu strip loin, crab fried rice
Service: Friendly, polite, attentive to grills, and willing to guide customers with recommendations
When to Dine Here: You want an upscale, fuss-free, interactive dining experience and are willing to splurge on high-quality meat.
Ashburn | Nepalese | $$
In one corner, a large Buddha sits in meditation. Across the bar, Ganesh stretches his many arms. On the stereo, a radio station straight from Nepal plays the latest hits of the homeland. And in the dining room, guests relax into a different mindset.
There’s a calm to dining at Roadhouse Momo & Grill that’s as soul-feeding as what’s on the plates. And that’s saying something.
Diners are greeted with a lengthy menu of Nepalese dishes that aren’t available at other restaurants that serve the same cuisine. The emphasis here is on street food that shows off the tastes for spice and fresh ingredients that typify Himalayan cuisine.
Just be prepared to work up a chile-induced sweat. Chow mein is far from the stodgy noodles served in Cantonese restaurants. The pasta, woven with vegetables, sears the tongue with a complex, spicy sauce. Momos (dumplings filled with vegetables, pork, chicken, or buffalo) are more subtle but no less appealing, especially when covered in a sweet-and-hot chilli sauce.
This baptism by fire has a natural result: After a meal here, diners feel restored — and leave with a new set of cravings.
See This: Everything here is personalized to the elegant restaurant, from the embroidered leather chairs to the cutlery.
Eat This: Momos, chow mein, chilli chicken
Service: A 20 percent service fee tacked onto the bill ensures that the staff is poised to fulfill your every need.
When to Dine Here: Your group is seeking a calm refuge from the hustle with plates of spicy food.
Editor’s note: Jiwa Singapura is now closed as of Monday, December 4.
McLean | Singaporean | $$$
There is “mall food,” and then there’s Jiwa Singapura, which happens to be located in Tysons Galleria. The restaurant highlights the flavors of Singapore with modern flair.
To start, order the popiah, chilled spring rolls that are perfect for sharing. The curry puffs and sweet-and-sour pork are also noteworthy.
Although noodle dishes only comprise a small fraction of the menu, they are a highlight. The mushroom noodle dish is a savory powerhouse with wok-fried egg noodles that are made in-house. Char kway teow is another winner — this slightly spicy bowl of wok-fried flat rice noodles is tossed with squid, shrimp, and Chinese sausage.
Don’t dismiss dessert. The ice cream loti offers a Singaporean spin on an ice cream sandwich, with vibrant green pandan ice cream served between slices of toasted pandan brioche. Chocoholics must order the Milo chocolate sundae.
Jiwa Singapura’s modern, stylish dining room and patio — combined with top-notch service — effortlessly transports diners from the stresses of mall errands to a luxurious Singaporean oasis.
See This: The restaurant showcases a sizable, impressively quiet open kitchen.
Eat This: Popiah, mushroom noodles, ice cream loti
Service: Waitstaff is willing to offer guidance and recommendations, and courses are paced well.
When to Dine Here: You have errands to run at the mall but the food court is hardly your scene.
Ashburn | Thai | $$
Here’s an unpleasant truth for you: Too many Thai restaurants in our region trade in thin, soupy curries and too-sweet pad Thais. Even the well-respected ones are often a disappointment for experienced diners.
But not Sense of Thai St. For seven years now, the One Loudoun centerpiece has assaulted the senses in a delightful way. From the bright, spacious dining room to the creative cocktails and sometimes incendiary dishes, this modern classic hits all the right notes.
It starts with service that is friendly but never too familiar. Lamb lollipops are a sensible entry point to an impressive repast. The trio of grilled goodies is marinated for an easy bite that transcends mere tenderness but never falls apart, thanks to a thin jacket of char. Served with a basket of sticky rice and tamarind chile sauce, it prepares the palate for the complexity to come, whether it’s an unassumingly floral curry or heat-packing plate of drunken noodles.
The moral is that it doesn’t really matter what you order at Sense of Thai St. It will doubtlessly be among the best Thai dishes in NoVA.
See This: Vintage Thai movie posters and old family photos remind diners of the past, while the busy bar with its forward-thinking cocktails propels them into the modern age.
Eat This: Lamb lollipops, crispy whole fish, mango and sticky rice
Service: Solid and seamless, despite a usually packed dining room
When to Dine Here: You want Thai food and need it done right.
NUE (No. 7)
Falls Church | Modern Vietnamese | $$$
There are restaurants that serve an exciting menu. There are spots that beckon with visual beauty. Then there is NUE, where the art-filled dining room sets the scene for the fireworks on plates.
The first true modern Vietnamese restaurant in NoVA comes from the team at Happy Endings Hospitality, best known for casual restaurants Chasin’ Tails and Roll Play. But don’t expect mere crawfish or banh mi here. Instead, co-owner Tuyet Nhi Le took her mother’s recipes and worked with executive chef Daniel Le to bring them into the 21st century.
To taste exactly what this means, diners need only order the short ribs. Based on Le’s mother’s bo kho, a spicy beef stew usually served with crusty bread, here it’s served over al dente pappardelle. Think of the best Italian beef ragú you’ve tasted, then amplify it with spice, acid, and the love of a Vietnamese mom. Even better, an eye toward luxury allows you to add freshly shaved truffles to the pasta — or anything else on the menu. Guests can’t lose.
See This: Impressionistic flowers decorate the walls of the airy main dining room, while blooms tumble from the ceilings, all a tribute to Vietnamese artist Le Pho.
Eat This: Pho pâté, short ribs pappardelle, coconut curry risotto
Service: The team earns the 20 percent service fee that’s included in the check.
When to Dine Here: The dining room is unabashedly romantic — bring your other half who’s as passionate about up-to-date flavors as you are.
Falls Church | Vietnamese | $
Attention diehard pho lovers: This casual location in a busy strip mall draws hungry folks for a quick — and we mean really quick — bowl of fresh, flavorful pho for a low cost.
Pop in for traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup, and choose from myriad add-ons at this warhorse establishment. It’s nothing fancy; but once your pho arrives, the giant bowl of colorful nourishment brightens up the room.
Grab chopsticks and a soup spoon from the communal collection between tables and dig in. Sprigs of fresh basil, bean sprouts, sliced hot peppers, and lime wedges accompany your bowl, so the power to customize your meal is in your hands. Hoisin and Sriracha are standing by to kick taste buds into gear as plentiful rice noodles, cilantro, and scallions swim playfully in herb-infused broth. Choose meat toppings à la carte, or order one of the numbered chef recommendations that combines cuts. The well-done brisket delivers just-right-sized thin slices of tasty beef easily eaten in one bite.
Bring cash and pay at the counter at this no-frills spot. Your stomach — and your wallet — will appreciate a return trip anytime a pho craving hits.
See This: Massive bowls of soup with fresh basil, bean sprouts, and lime
Eat This: Pho with well-done brisket or flank steak
Service: Pho-nomenally fast
When to Dine Here: You know that you want pho and you want it now.
Falls Church | Vietnamese | $$
If you’ve overdone it with pho, head to Rice Paper, where diners are treated to a wide array of less common Vietnamese dishes featuring garden-fresh ingredients, served in group-sized portions. It’s no surprise that customers gladly wait in line to dine at this eatery in Eden Center.
Dried rice paper is a staple of Vietnamese fare. Soften it up with water, then wrap the rice paper around slices of pork, pickled veggies, herbs, and condiments to create a harmonic medley of flavors.
While the restaurant is hailed for enticing meat dishes, the kitchen also produces tangy salads that refresh the palate between bites of skewered beef or chicken. Perhaps the best are the lotus and papaya salads, both showered with nuts, herbs, light fish sauce, and citrus.
Don’t shy away from trying something new, like bo nuong la nho, ground beef wrapped in grape leaves. For a twist on an Asian classic, com chien uong chau, or combination fried rice, will comfort anyone new to the cuisine.
There’s no shame in choosing savory bowls of pho at this family-friendly restaurant, but Rice Paper delivers best on muscular hunks of meat and textured, herbaceous dishes.
See This: A streamlined bistro with an exposed brick wall and turquoise banquettes. Circular orbs dangle from the copper tiled ceiling and pattered metallic wallpaper complements the textured blue bar.
Eat This: Nem nuong, bo nuong la nho, pho
Service: Hectic, friendly, and fast. Ideally, avoid peak dining hours.
When to Dine Here: You’re seeking an authentic cultural dining experience.
Feature image of Mama Chang by Rey Lopez