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El Manantial, Spanish-Italian-French in Reston - Chef Enrique Fuentes on North Shore Drive Closed and Reopening in Herndon

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El Manantiel is my Reston go-to place. A few years ago, I was going to have a business dinner in Reston, and since it is the epicenter of the chain universe, I wrote a note to Tom Sietsma and asked for his recommendation. Not 5 minutes later came a quick paragraph on El Manantiel. And what's not to love? A good tapas menu, a brick oven with great pizzas, reasonable wines by the glass and very good Euro-Mediterranean fare. It's the only place I'll eat in Reston when food matters....and when doesn't it?

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I ate at El Manantial for Restaurant Week last night and it was very good.

I had calamari appetizer and paella for my entree. The calamari was excellent as was the paella. I especially liked that the calamari didn't come with marinara sauce, it came with some kind of aioli sauce on the plate and the sauce was very good. The paella did not look like a lot of food, but looks were deceiving. The rice was very moist and the paella was loaded with seafood, about 5 mussels 5 clams, a big piece of fish, 2 large shrimp and lots of calamari.

The other person who I was with had french onion soup and that was very good. She had the Ny Strip steak. Although the NY strip is one of my least favorite cuts of meat, this steak was very good. The steak was moist, tender, flavorful, and cooked correctly. The steak came with a a pepper sauce that was similar yet different to an au poivre and the steak was seasoned so that it was very yummy.

I would not let the fact that the restaurant is in a strip mall scare you, after all it is in Reston so unless it was in the town center there is no choice but for it to be in a strip mall. I consider it to be a good thing that it isn't in the town center because it made parking very easy. Also, the inside of the restaurant is very nice.

There were more options for RW than I saw on their website (their website could use a makover). There was Steak, Pork, Fish, Chicken, and Paella.

Finally, the sangria is a little pricey $20 for a carafe, but it was very good.

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Went there again. Had paella again and it was very good, again. The other had cassoulet she loved it and I also thought it was very good. The sausage in it was very tasty and tender with none of the gristley unpleasant things you sometime get small pieces of in mass produced sausage.

However the main purpose of this post is to point out if you get on this list, http://greaterdulles.suddenvalues.com/

You will very frequently get coupons for this El Manantial, for buy one entree get one free (up to $19.95) making this restaurant quite a good deal,

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Thanks to the DR.com help board, I chose this place for a business lunch recently and wanted to report back.

On the good side, it is a nice find for Reston and easily beats out all of Reston Town Center (except PassionFish). Service was friendly and efficient. Food fine but nothing that would get me to drive out to Reston if I didn't have another reason to be there.

Can't recall everything we ordered but two things I do recall:

- lasagna. the menu had this listed as a "lasagna of the day" but the day I was there they were serving a standard bolognese style lasagna. This kind of reminded me of Kotobuki, which has had the same 8.5x11 inch sheet proclaiming the "daily specials" without changes for a few years. Anyway, the lasagna was okay. Good cheese, sauce, meat with serviceable pasta maybe a bit overbaked.

- friend oyster app. again okay. too much breading and left in the fryer a bit too long but not enough to send them back or complain. We finished them. No problem with the oysters.

- we also had a salad which, like the items above, was fine but nothing distinctive in any way.

I realize the above few things aren't enough for a comprehensive and fairer assessment. But, I'd agree with others (including the DR member who very kindly answered my plea with this suggestion) that it's a good option if you have to be in Reston and looking for something respectable that isn't seafood. But, short of that, I probably wouldn't seek it out.

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