Tucked away at the corner of Dolly Madison Boulevard (Route 123) and Old Chain Bridge Road, Evo Bistro is a cozy bistro that serves upscale Mediterranean-style tapas with a selection of wines from around the world. Outfitted in dark wood, stained concrete floors and modern décor, the 110-seat bistro provides an air of sophistication that attracts diners and bar patrons.
The restaurant originally opened in 2007 and has experienced several changes in chefs and menu items over the last few years. We were excited when we learned that the original executive chef, Driss Zahidi, had recently returned! Zahidi recently purchased Evo Bistro and also owns Le Mediterranean Bistro, which is located in Fairfax.
Growing up in Casablanca exposed Zahidi to a variety of French, Italian, Spanish and Moroccan cuisines. While his college training was in chemistry, it is clear that Zahidi’s education has influenced his ability to create a truly amazing culinary experience.
“Creating artistic and flavorful dishes has always been my true passion,” adds Zahidi. “My training in chemistry has always helped me to find the perfect balance of flavors through a variety of cooking methods.”
The Tapas Concept: Small and Large Plates
Zahidi’s menu concept encompasses a variety of cuisines from Spanish Piquillos Rellenos to Moroccan Cassoulet. The menu is customizable to any appetite with a long list of vegetarian, seafood and meat tapas with several gluten-free options.
Consider beginning with a cheese and charcuterie plate. Platters are dressed elegantly with fruit, nut and bread accompaniments. Patrons can create a personalized plate from a list of artisan cheeses and cured meats, pates and sausages. Zahidi brings a wide assortment of cheese selections from different countries and I especially enjoyed the St. Stephen (New York), Barbers Cheddar (England) and Gorgonzola Dolce (Italy) selections.
The tapas menu includes several Mediterranean staples such as kebobs and empanadas. Tapa sharing is encouraged and the lunch menu’s weekday special is an affordable option that allows guests to sample any three tapas for $12.
Fresh seafood plays a prominent role across the menu, with classic items like Gambas (sautéed shrimp) and Calamari Frito (fried squid rings). For the adventurous palate, exotic dishes worth trying include the Pulpo (grilled octopus), Escargot (sautéed snails) and Bouquerones (marinated anchovies). When prepared correctly, grilled octopus is incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful – Zahidi’s take on this Spanish-style seafood dish was just that!
While some of the tapas are among the best I’ve tasted, my favorite dish of all was the horseradish-crusted halibut entrée. This pan-seared fillet is served over a creamy risotto with a medley of vegetables. While tapa sharing is encouraged, the entrées also make a great addition to a family-style dining experience.
Another great pick among the entrées is the lamb shank, which is served Moroccan-style in a clay tangine. The Lamb Tagine is a savory dish that is cooked in a thick, aromatic sauce with couscous and vegetables.
Main courses include a taste of Spain in the form of Old World paella dishes. I enjoyed the variety of seafood in the Paella Marisco, which was prepared with large portions of sea bass, scallops, shrimp, mussels and clams. “Spanish Night” specials offer a wider selection of paella dishes and 25% discounts on Spanish wine bottles every Tuesday night.
For dessert, don’t miss out on the Apple Crumble. Roasted Granny Smith apples are topped with a mouthwatering cinnamon crumble and homemade vanilla ice cream. Chocolate lovers will want to save room for the Molten Lava Cake with its decadent chocolate cake and ooey-gooey center.
The Wine List
Evo Bistro’s wine list features many small producers from around the world, with an impressive list of premium wines that most places do not offer by the glass. The Caymus 40th Anniversary cabernet sauvignon at $26 a glass is not for everyone, but is a joy for a wine lover that doesn’t want to order an entire bottle.
With a wine list that carries more than 80 varieties of wine and champagne choices, there are options available for every type of budget. Evo Bistro offers wine bottle specials during Monday and Wednesday nights, in addition to Friday lunches. Frequented by locals on Wednesdays, half price wine bottle specials attract a large crowd of singles and couples alike. Thursday evenings are for the sparkling wine fans with half price champagne bottle discounts.
Weekday happy hour specials offer $6 sangria, wine, beer and rail drinks from 3:30-6:30pm. If that were not enough, the happy hour menu also includes $6 and $9 tapas. The fried Alcachofa is a tasty vegetarian tapa with lightly fried artichokes and a lemon aioli dipping sauce. Among the happy hour meat selections, the Lomo and Kefta did not disappoint. Great for sharing, the Lomo is a flavorful dish with grilled flank steak served over a bed of garlicky spinach with a Piquillo pepper sauce. Zahidi’s Moroccan inspiration is apparent in his Kefta with its seasoned ground lamb topped with goat cheese, harissa aioli and tomatoes.
I have an appreciation for small neighborhood restaurants where I can relax, while enjoying great food and wine. Evo Bistro definitely hits the mark with an extensive list of memorable tapas, entrées and wines that appeal to a variety of tastes. v
1313 Old Chain Bridge Road
Monday-Thursday: 11:30am -10pm
Friday: 11:30am -11pm
Saturday: 4pm -11pm
Sunday: 4pm – 9pm