As slick and intriguing as a Latino beat, Arlington's Gua-Rapo -- named after the juice squeezed from sugarcane -- offers a refreshingly sophisticated dining and entertainment adventure, without any downtown hassle. Masterminded by successful restaurateur Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld of Chi-Cha Lounge, Gazuza and Bambule fame, Gua-Rapo spotlights a semi-tapas menu of first-rate Peruvian and Latino fare. Start off with or share a selection of arepas (corn cakes with a choice of toppings) or pick up one or several of the outstanding empanadas. With dough as tender as butter, these pastries come with assorted fillings, one of the most intriguing being the Chilena, with ground beef, Spanish olives, boiled eggs and, for a dash of sweetness, raisins.
Although you can make a meal of such starters, you'd then miss out on other cositas ricas ("tasteful little things"), such as a lentil soup, sauteed shrimp with garlic-tomato, or grilled chorizo. But whatever you choose, don't omit an entree from your game plan. We loved the ropa vieja, a Cuban dish of shredded beef served here with lettuce cups for wrap-up eating. Other bests: the skewered chicken, rubbed with a green curry-ginger paste that brightens the dish with levels of flavor. Don't skip desserts: The banana y tres leches, a rich, milk-drenched banana cake served with a blueberry sauce, is to die for. And whatever else you do, enjoy one of the drinks for which the restaurant is named: a guarapo cocktail of alcohol and fruit juice.