Back to the Mediterranean for Evo Bistro

Paella is a specialty of Evo Bistro. Left: A shrimp and peppers dish comes to the table in a skillet. | Photos courtesy Evo Bistro

With cranes animating the Tysons Corner skyline, the Silver Line extension and a new Hyatt Regency, it’s clear that the area is experiencing a major facelift.

Just three miles away, in McLean, Virginia, another facelift is underway at Evo Bistro. The restaurant, which opened in 2007, has gone through a succession of leadership changes over the years, but the original owner and executive chef, Driss Zahidi, is back, restoring the restaurant’s authentic Mediterranean character.

Zahidi was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, a city that exhibits a variety of culinary styles and influences. The oldest of five children, he regularly helped his mother in the kitchen. By the time he was in high school, he landed his first job as a line cook. After college, he got a master’s degree in physics and spent a year working in France as a chemical engineer before returning to his passion for cooking.

In 2000, Zahidi moved to the United States, relocating to Washington, D.C., after a brief stint in New York. He worked in a number of commercial kitchens before co-founding Evo Bistro. Zahidi’s goal since the beginning was to serve elegant, upscale Mediterranean cuisine alongside an extensive wine list, which he did until 2011. At that time, Zahidi left Evo Bistro, which slowly moved away from its Mediterranean roots.

In February of this year, Zahidi’s ambition to restore Evo Bistro to its original concept became a reality when he resumed ownership and the executive chef position. He also continues to operate Le Mediterranean Bistro in Fairfax, a French Moroccan restaurant, which he opened in 2013.

At a recent Evo Bistro lunch, the atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. The open dining room was bathed in natural light and accented with colorful artwork by Buck Nelligan. The menu has shifted back to a Mediterranean montage of dishes influenced by Spanish, French, Italian and Moroccan flavors. Tapas range from garlic shrimp with white wine sauce to lightly fried artichokes with jalapeno aioli, sweet peppers stuffed with wild mushrooms and savory goat cheese and saffron paella.

“Back home we used to have paella weekly,” said Zahidi of his Moroccan upbringing. The restaurant now has three paella dishes to choose from: a vegetable version, rich with piquillo peppers, spring squash and asparagus; a chicken and chorizo rendition with wild mushrooms and peas; and a seafood interpretation with mussels, shrimp and scallops.

The menu’s diverse flavor portfolio complements the diverse wine selection for which Evo is known. In addition to this impressive wine list, Evo Bistro also has a retail wine shop, with every bottle on the list available for purchase either individually or by the case. Guests can call ahead and pick up their order or simply take it home after their lunch or dinner.

Since Zahidi’s return, every day at Evo Bistro is a cause for celebration. Tuesday is Spanish Night, with a variety of paella specials plus 25 percent off Spanish wine bottles. On Thursdays, diners get 50 percent off select Champagne bottles, and on Mondays and Wednesdays until 9 p.m., and Fridays at lunch, guests get 50 percent off featured wines.

Additionally, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Evo has happy hour in their bar and lounge that includes $5 and $6 drink specials, plus $6 and $9 tapas. The workweek lunch special is also not to be missed, with three tapas plates for $12.
Evo Bistro sits in the crosshairs of a fast-growing region, and Driss Zahidi’s return helped sharpen the restaurant’s focus while restoring its originality. Evo Bistro has successfully revamped its look and reclaimed its identity as McLean’s premier destination for Mediterranean cuisine.

Evo Bistro, 1313 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, Virginia.

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