Diners share an Ethiopian communal platter featuring everything from spicy chicken with spinach to salad, served on the spongy bread known as injera, at Sheba in Rockville. Pictured: Kitfo, the Ethiopian equivalent of steak tartare. Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee. See more photos in the gallery below.

Sardi’s Pollo a La Brasa | Peruvian

This may look like another Peruvian chicken place, but there’s much more to explore here. Cousins Phillip E. and Phillip G. Sardelis started out as caterers and now own five local Sardi’s restaurants. The Gaitherburg location opened in 2010, and it’s a big, family-friendly spot with an enthusiastic crowd and a full roster of Peruvian and Latin specialties. Eat in or carry out, you won’t be disappointed.   

Favorites: Don’t miss the amazing Peruvian-style ceviche de pescado, its paper-thin slices of tilapia marinated in lime juice and cilantro. Cutting the acidity of the dish are super-sweet potato wedges, giant kernels of yellow Peruvian corn, small kernels of dried salted corn and rocoto pepper sauce. Share the “ultimate mixed grill,” a huge sampler that includes chicken, shrimp, chorizo and carne asada (skirt steak), all grilled to a smoky, earthy char.

430 N. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, 301-977-3222, www.sardischicken.com

Tavira | Portuguese

The authentic Portuguese menu and spot-on seafood dishes overseen by longtime chef-owner Duarte Rebolo would be enough to highly recommend Tavira. But it also wins the award for the county’s sunniest subterranean restaurant. With its wall mural, pottery and pretty flower arrangements, this basement office building eatery is a mini-retreat to the city on Portugal’s southern coast for which it’s named. If it weren’t for the Connecticut Avenue traffic, you’d think you were there.      

Favorites: Try any of the several bacalhau entrées, the centuries-old dish made with dried, salted cod that’s rehydrated before being cooked and served with vegetables and other accompaniments. For starters, go fish with the fresh clams or grilled squid (when the latter is offered as a special), and absolutely end the meal with leite frita, fried custard with a hint of citrus and cinnamon that’s even better than a cream-filled doughnut.   

8401 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-652-8684, www.tavirarestaurant.com


Jaleo | Spanish

Despite its 12 years in Bethesda, celebrity chef-owner José Andrés’ Jaleo has retained its early buzz, most likely because the kitchen still delivers some of the best and most consistent small plates in town. A cozy, urban space provides the setting for sampling any of the more than 70 tapas, many of which come with a modern twist. There are about a half dozen varieties of paella, too.

Favorites: The list is long: toasted rustic bread with tomato and Serrano ham; mini burgers; roasted red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions with sherry dressing; seared piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese; grilled hanger steak with mustard sauce and Valdeón blue cheese; homemade chorizo with olive oil potato purée and cider sauce; seared scallops with butternut squash purée and oranges; jumbo lump crabmeat with cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower and a brandy sauce; fried salt cod with honey aioli. Also divine: the sangria, flan and rice pudding.

7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-913-0003, www.jaleo.com


Kao Thai | Thai

When it first opened in 2010, Kao Thai made a big splash for such a tiny space. Earlier this year, the extended Thai family that owns the restaurant expanded the space, taking over the shop next door, which allows co-owner and head chef Mayura Buddhahun to serve her drunken noodles and Bangkok Seafood Delight to more than double the audience. There aren’t many good Thai restaurants in our area. This one offers brighter, fresher food than most.

Favorites: Start with vegetable and tofu soup, a comforting broth with baby corn, mushrooms, cabbage, scallions and cubes of soft tofu. Then progress to Siam Salmon, its crispy exterior draped with fresh Thai basil leaves and a spicy basil sauce. For dessert, don’t miss the Roti Sai Kai, a not-too-sweet Thai street food made with a rolled crêpe of roti bread and egg, and garnished with condensed milk.  

8650 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, 301-495-1234, www.kaothairestaurant.com


Taste of Saigon | Vietnamese

Diners looking for a more upscale atmosphere and varied menu than can be found in the area’s pho parlors might do well to check out Taste of Saigon, a French-inspired Vietnamese restaurant that’s pleasant, pretty and surprisingly good. Modern and sleek, decorated in tasteful shades of orange, yellow and green, the restaurant is owned by the Tu family, which fled South Vietnam in 1975.

Favorites: The shrimp-and-lotus salad should be as popular as a Caesar, with its fresh, just-spicy-enough combination of shrimp, lotus root, carrot coins, red onion, basil, cilantro, slivers of fried garlic and dressing. Also worth trying: the miraculously thin, crisp Saigon Crêpe, bulging with shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts and onions.

20-A Maryland Ave. (in Rockville Town Square), Rockville, 301-424-7222, www.tasteofsaigon.com