Tuesday, April 17 at 11 AM
Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online. Host Todd Kliman

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Published April 11, 2012

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online.

From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory. Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His work has appeared in The New YorkerHarper'sThe Oxford AmericanThe Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies. He is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.

Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world.

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W H E R E   I ' M   E A T I N G   N O W   .  .  .

Komi, DC
The best, most sensual, most fully realized restaurant in the area remains Johnny Monis's lair of a place, a sparely appointed East Dupont townhouse with--check it--no menu.

Eola, DC
Daniel Singhofen scrapped his a la carte menu this past April, replacing it with a $65 five-course tasting menu. The move seemed premature, given that the chef had yet to establish his Dupont Circle townhouse restaurant as a landmark dining destination, one that had endured many seasons and fads. But Singhofen and company appear ready to make the leap. Courses are imaginatively conceived without straining for effect, and the execution is clean and precise without lapsing into austerity. Best of all, Singhofen imbues these sophisticated dishes with a quality more precious than all the tricks in the molecular gastronomer's toolkit: soul.

R&R Taqueria, Elkridge
Best Mexican food in the area, and it's not even close. And--it's in a gas station. Worth the drive to Elkridge.

Fiola, DC
Fabio Trabocchi's edge-of-Penn Quarter restaurant has put its tentative beginnings behind it. The dishes emerging from the brick-framed, herb-potted kitchen find the prodigiously talented chef moving further and further from the controlled elegance of his work at the late Maestro. They also find him cooking with a renewed confidence and conviction. The best of these plates--an astonishingly flavorful ragu of wild hare with thick bands of papardelle, a double-cut, prosciutto-wrapped veal chop with toasted hazelnuts that accent the sweetness and nuttiness of the meat, a bowl of tender meatballs in a tomato sauce that frankly puts most Italian grandmothers to shame--marry rusticity with refinement. Desserts--including a fabulous cone of sugar-dusted bomboloni, with pots of apple marmalade and cinnamon gelato--remain a rousing finish.

Proof, DC
I love the tossed-off sophistication of Mark Kuller's wine-bar-plus, the sense you get that everything just seems to have fallen into place and nobody's straining too hard for effect. The cooking, under the direction of Haidar Karoum, reinforces the feeling with dishes that combine the complexity and intricacy of fine dining with the approachability of a neighborhood bistro: superlative foie gras (seared and served atop a cherry-studded short cake), crisp-skinned branzino in a saffron broth, a knockout plate of spaghetti and meatballs (foie gras is the crucial ingredient, an ingenious way of lightening the texture of the meat without resorting to bready filler). There's a wealth of good, interesting wines to pair with these plates--wines you're simply not going to find anywhere else in the city. The restaurant, to its great credit, makes them available in two-ounce pours that encourages you to try things you wouldn't ordinarily.

Banh Mi DC Sandwich, Falls Church
#1 Combination and #2 Roast Pork. $3.75 apiece. Vivid reminders of what the boring and/or dumbed-down others all miss--the peppery bite, the pronounced sharpness of the pickling, the balance between meats and condiments, the lightness of the loaf.

Rice Paper, Falls Church
This new Eden Center mom 'n' pop, the first restaurant venture for the host family after two-plus decades in the jewelry business, breaks from the drab utilitarianism of its Eden Center peers with a pressed tin ceiling, dangling globe lights, sleek leather chairs, and the requisite industrial brick wall. It's the cooking, though, that commands inspection: spicy lemongrass ribs, garlic-marinated roast chicken with coconut rice, and the most stylish presentation of grilled stuffed grape leaves I've ever seen--and easily one of the most delicious. The coffee with condensed milk is a must-order, among the strongest and darkest you're going to find.

Bon Fresco, Columbia
Best bread in the area. And maybe the best sandwiches, too--I still can't stop thinking about the unlikely masterpiece of brie, lightly caramelized onions and sundried tomato pesto on a light and crusty baguette. And the London Broil on ciabatta is fantastic, too. Gerald Koh, the owner and bread-baker, is a former GM at Breadline and as passionate about his craft as any chef in the area.

Mintwood Place, DC
Perry's owner Saied Azali was lucky to land Cedric Maupillier, formerly the chef at Central and before that the chef de cuisine at Citronelle, for his rusticky new bistro. The Toulon native is doing typically great work--cranking out lovingly faithful renditions of such bistro classics as cassoulet (see if you can finish it without two glasses of wine) and steak tartare (the tiny, crunchy tater tots on top are a clever allusion to his old boss, Michel Richard) as well as offering up some sly, smart takes on tradition (frogs' legs with black walnut romesco, a lamb tongue moussaka). There's a whole boneless dorade with picholine olives and braised fennel that's a knockout--beautifully conceived, perfectly executed.

East Pearl, Rockville
A superlative addition to the unofficial Chinatown of northern Rockville, this cheery, three week-old restaurant is turning out uncommonly clean-tasting versions of standard Hong Kong-style fare, including shrimp dumpling soup, shrimp with walnuts, and soyed chicken (the slices of meat beneath the crispy, lacquered skin are not merely tender, but luscious). And don't miss a Shanghai-style noodle dish that brings together angel hair, roast pork, shrimp, green onions and a generous spoonful of yellow curry powder into a light, greaseless and remarkably vivid whole.

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PRODUCER'S NOTE: Let's try this unsung heroes contest again!

Kliman Online regulars know well that we've been doing contests the past couple of months. Chatters submit writeups about the topic of the week; Todd picks the one he likes best; we send that winner a book. So far these contests have been going great, with lots of funny, smart, thoughtful contributions livening up the conversation.

Last week, however, we had a dud. We asked you to nominate your favorite unsung dining-world heroes: favorite bartenders, hosts/hostesses, busboys--all those hardworking people who help restaurants run well but rarely get the spotlight. Questions poured in for the chat, but none of them had to do with the contest. We can't believe that's because you don't have favorite service-industry folks you want to nominate, so let's try this again: name your favorite dining-world hero. Don't just tell Todd who, tell him why, too. The winner will get a shiny new copy of Warren Brown's Cakelove in the Morning.

Chris G, Springfield VA:

Hi Todd - Wanted to follow up with your $5 post. You forgot the best Mexicali place in Arlington - El Charrito Caminante! On to the my current problem...I used to live in Arlington, but have since relocated to West Springfield or as I like to call it "the field" for a number of reasons not worth getting into...Anyhow, can you suggest any restaurants near "the field" worth trying that aren't your basic chain restaurants? Also - I follow your Tweets - Wizards need to make some moves in free agency this offseason, no more building through the draft. Although Davis would be a good pick up. Thanks, Chris

Todd Kliman:

I did forget them! Terrific place, and has been for a long, long time now.

Thanks for coming on and speaking up for TECC.

I don’t think you have a problem. There’s some pretty good stuff near you — Kabul Kabob, Gamasot (for soolongtang and good panchan), Food Corner Kabob House, Canton Cafe, Hot Bakes & Cakes (an Indian bakery), Afghan Kabob, and Mike’s American Grill (one of the better of the Great American Restaurant group restos) …

Anyone else got good Springfield recs?

Re the Wizards. Lucking out and getting Anthony Davis would be huge — I think he could change games with his shotblocking and superior defensive instincts. We’re assured of no worse than the fifth pick, and should find someone good among MKG, Beal, Robinson and Sullinger. I think Ted doesn’t wade into free agency until the NEXT off-season. This team is really intriguing right now, although most people are quick to discount them and/or sneer at their record. There ARE pieces here. Kevin Seraphin is proving to be the steal of the ‘10 draft, and the first post player we’ve had since … um … since … Ruland?? He and Nene are the Bruise Bros., part II.

Thanks for writing in.

Boqueria:

Hi Todd, I tried Boqueria this past weekend and was very pleasantly surprised. Between the 6 of us, we were close to ordering the whole menu. We prettty much enjoyed everything and the tapas portions weren't tini tiny. Patatas bravas were excellent as were the croquettes! With Boqueria and Estadio in the mix, I don't know how Jaleo is surviving. I'm going to the real Boqueria at the end of May and can't wait to experience and taste the real thing!! Any recs for Barcelona and Seville?

Todd Kliman:

You don’t know how Jaleo is surviving?!

Drop into the revamped downtown location and see for yourself. I had an excellent meal there recently, with better desserts than I’ve ever had at a Jaleo since the very early days (the take off on a gin and tonic is fabulous).

I don’t get the bashing of this place, and particularly not in light of the things Jaleo is doing to stay fresh and relevant. How many places are this good and this consistent? How many places are this affordable? And this stylish? And this festive?

Naeem:

Hi Todd: Heading to Philadelphia this weekend and looking for a good fine dining restaurant to eat dinner at on Saturday night. I know of the Jose Garces restaurants and of Vetri. Can you recommend other fine dining establishments that you or your readers might know about? Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

Zahav, in Society Hill.

That’s Michael Solomonov’s Israeli/Mediterranean restaurant, with baked-to-order laffa and a very appealing menu of vibrant small plates.

I’d love to hear a report if you make it there. Take care, Naeem …

Washington, DC:

I am about to have day time (and lunch time!) free for the next month to wander the city. What are some of your favorite lunch deals within the bounds of the district? I know Proof used to have a great lunch deal at the bar, and I just heard about a deal called 'Power Hour' at Equinox (although it only has one option each day). Any similar options?

Todd Kliman:

Lucky you. “Time to wander the city” sounds fantastic — whatever the city. (I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I go somewhere new, or even somewhere not-new, my favorite thing is to just get out and walk. And eat. Walk and eat and basically just get lost. No better way to explore a city … )

Anna Spiegel, our excellent assistant editor, just compiled a guide to lunch deals around town. Take a look.

I’d also add Zola Wine & Kitchen, which is putting out some very tasty simple dishes these days — salads, sandwiches, small plates. And don’t miss the desserts.

Clifton, VA:

Todd, I have tried all the bbq places in DC area and just havent found a good one. Tried Hill Bros and wasn't impressed. Most are mediocre. Willard's is close by and okay. I recently found a place with best bbq ebtween here and Memphis. Absolute BBQ in Manassas, VA. They are only open Thurs through Sun. Tried their pulled pork very moist and flavorful with a just a hint of smoke. Not like some palces where the alleged smoke repeats on you for days. The ribs are also very moist and full of meat. I had the rice and chicken and sausage gumbo for sides. Both were excellent. I want to try their baked beans and mac and cheese. Never been a cole slaw fan. They have carry out and dine in. On Saturdays they have live music. Folks who own the place are their working the counters.

Todd Kliman:

Clifton … good to hear from you, bud.

I could really go for some good ribs. There’s just not a lot around here that does it for me. Almost everything I’ve had in the past 6-9 months has been a great disappointment.

(I just had some of the best ribs of my life in Kansas City last month, at Oklahoma Joe’s. Near-perfect. So good …)

I’ll check out Absolute and report back … Thanks.

Disappointed in DC:

Hi Todd- My husband and I trekked to Frederick, Maryland this weekend to try Volt's fixed price menu. My first course arrived and was a total disappointment--the crab was flavorless, and it appeared to be missing a sauce and any seasoning. Next, the server informed me that they ran out of my preferred entree. When there are only a few choices, and you're already committed to a fixed meal, it was an unwelcome surprise. What's the proper way in that situation to voice our concerns? We were caught off guard given the stellar press that Volt has received.

Todd Kliman:

I don’t know that there’s a preferred way to voice your concern. I think the thing to do is to summon a server or manager and say just what you said to me right now.

I know that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do in the moment. But that’s the best time to do it. In truth, the only time to do it and rescue the meal.

Restaurant GMs are fond of coming on this chat and saying: “If we’d only known, we could have corrected the problem and made the night perfect.” That may be true. But I think it glosses over the great difficulty many people have of breaking the fourth wall and confronting (because it is a confrontation, let’s face it) an employee of the restaurant. And doing this not after the fact, quietly, one on one in a corner of the restaurant, but in the middle of the drama, with others watching.

One thing to bear in mind — and something that might give you courage to speak up next time — is that restaurants of this caliber really don’t want you to be disappointed in something. That more than anything is what eats away at management. The entire operation of a good, ambitious, high-toned restaurant is geared toward — or ought to be geared toward — sending you home on a cloud.

Arlingtongue:

I was going to nominate that guy that wanders around Da Domenico singing, but then I realized he is not exactly "unsung." (Yes, I know that was bad.)

Todd Kliman:

Oof — that’s bad.

C’mon — who’s got a person to nominate?

All this talk about service all the time, and we can’t single out someone who is great at giving it? Surely we’re not just interested in the kind of formally correct but faceless service that the Michelin folks seem to be so fixated on …

20003:

I just discovered I have high cholesterol. I must admit ignorance was bliss until this discovery. I was just wondering if it easy to ask restaurants to suggest or make their dishes low cholesterol, or if I am going to have to do my research before going in to dine? Do you have any suggestions for someone who loves to dine but has some health constraints? Thank you!

Todd Kliman:

I’m sorry to hear that.

I’ll tell you, though — there ARE things you can do to make your life easier. I mean, this is the golden age of restaurant special requests. *

For example, you can order a vegetable and request that the kitchen steam it rather than sautee it or grill it. Restaurants don’t generally announce that they do this, but they’re not often put out by the request. I would stress to the server when you order: No oil. Or — very, very little oil.

If a restaurant lists a fish dish, and it sounds good but also rich, full of cream sauces and things like bacon and butter, you can ask if they might consider altering the preparation for you. Here, the key thing is to stress that you have high cholesterol and that you really do enjoy food. The great worry on the part of the kitchen and management, too, is that, should they strip the dish of its riches, you won’t like it.

It always helps to have a look at a menu in advance of hitting a restaurant. More time to think about how you’d like to order means more of a certainty that you can eat well when the time comes.

If you have the time, and are thinking far enough in advance, giving a manager a heads up that you’ve got these dietary restrictions is a great courtesy to extend to the restaurant. You’re not ambushing them, but rather working with them to come up with a meal you can eat. They’ll respect you for it.

On a somewhat related note, no one apparently feels any compunction anymore about telling you, when they’re invited over for dinner, what they will and will not eat. I was recently informed that Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and “pretty much anything Asian” were off-limits for a meal I wanted to make for some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Why? I wondered. Did he have allergies, ailments, etc. “No,” he said. “I don’t like that kind of food.” What do you suggest I make instead? I asked. “Real food,” he said.

San Francisco & Portland:

Hi Todd, I'm headed to San Francisco and Portland for the first time and excited to eat! I'll be spending a week in each city. Can you recommend some places? Our tastes are very similar so I'd like suggestions for local food done well with a preference for low to mid range prices (since I'll be eating out everday and love mom and pops) along with a couple of nicer options for dinner dates with my husband. Also, are there any references equivalent to Washingtonian or food critics you like in those cities I can look into? Excited for dim sum and eating my way through the Mission District in SF, and for food carts in Portland!

Jessica Voelker:

Hope you don’t mind me interjecting here, Todd. Having just returned east after five years of food writing in Seattle, however, I have some Portland picks.

Chatter: For your date nights, I’d suggest Beast. If you like farm-to-table stuff, Naomi Pomeroy will likely blow your mind a little bit with her seasonal veggies and loving way with proteins. Also, just a quintessential Portland dining experience. As at Komi, the kitchen does all the work, you just sit there and feast.

Portland’s brunch lines—recently parodied on the show Portlandia —are notorious for a reason, but tiny basement spot Simpatico is well worth the wait. Eggs Benedict are great as are any of the savory crepes on offer.

If you like cocktails, head to Clyde Common (great late-night menu too). Some of the best drinks you’ll find anywhere served by some serious charmers behind the bar.

Bargains: The butcher shop at Laurelhurst Market is doing a barbecue plate that sounds terrific. Bluehour has a really good happy hour—try the burger or housemade tagliatelle. Two great food trucks: Koi Fusion—try the shortrib taco—and Nong’s Khao Man Gai for, um, khao man gai.

Karen Brooks at Portland Monthly is a great food critic. Check out her 48 Hours in Portland piece for a bunch of great recs. Happy eating!

Todd Kliman:

No, interject, interject …

Thanks, Jessica. You know that scene better than anyone I know. I’m glad you chimed in …

Washington, DC:

Favorite dining world hero--a classic, Julia Child. The personality, the charisma, the commitment to technique are unparalleled. No fleeting trend, her recipes are still the standard for home cooks everywhere. No question, she's in a class of her own.

Todd Kliman:

Who doesn’t love Julia Child?

I grew up watching her. I mean to say, in between watching reruns of “Batman” and “Gilligan’s Island” after school, I would watch Julia Child — sometimes copying out her recipes on an index card and handing the cards to my mom when she walked through the door.

The last thing, of course, she wanted to see after having worked a full day was a recipe for something with 14 steps to it, but I persisted. Never did get the satisfaction, but I persisted.

Eventually I got down one of her books and started making the dishes themselves. One year, together with my father, we made dinner for my mom’s birthday out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Total disaster.

We weren’t accustomed to eating so much butter, and the meal I made was soaked with it. Scallops in butter. Rolls made with butter and slathered with butter. A chocolate mousse built on butter. We were all sick afterwards.

Bethesda, MD:

I'd like to nominate Leslie the bartender from Mussel Bar. She is almost always there and possess all the qualities a really great bartender should have: she never forgets a face and makes you feel like an old friend/regular even when you're not; she's totally calm in the face of an always crowded and LOUD bar; and she makes a mean cocktail. She is a big reason that many of us frequent Mussel bar and she deserve some recognition for it!

Todd Kliman:

Finally! A name! : )

Well, half a name … Do you mean Leslie Shafer?

It’s great to hear this. Thanks for playing.

Who else wants to pay tribute to a server, bartender, runner, host, valet, etc.?

Adams Morgan:

Krishna from Cashion's is my favorite bartender! He always remembers our names, what's going on in our lives, and even what wine we really liked last time we were there. He is the most personable bartender I've found in the area - he should definitely get a shout out!

Todd Kliman:

He should.

He should also get his full name listed: Krishna Ramsundar

It’s great to give some pub to these folks, but please, if you can, tell us their full names. And also please, if you can, really make the case for why they’re so good at what they do.

Dupont, DC:

I don't think it's a matter of preferring faceless service. I just don't go to places regularly enough to get to know the staff. Unless you count my Starbucks on 9th st. I would love to nominate my barista. He's so friendly and starts making my drink once I walk in. The rest of the day is kind of a letdown. I've had some brief, but meaningful, interactions with restaurant staff. Like the waiter at Ping Pong Dim Sum who noticed the large bandage on my arm and my look of pain, and brought over the strongest drink on the menu. Or the chocolate experts at Cocova who always recommend new treats and never judge me for buying more than I should eat. Or the waiter at an unnamed chain restaurant who let me and my friend in an hour early because we had a hankering for their speciality. But most of the time, my interactions with restaurant staff are just so straightforward.

Todd Kliman:

Sure, that’s understandable if you’re only going once in a while to a place.

But a lot of us have places we haunt once or twice a week. Or, if you’re Dr. William Hall, once a day, every day.

The waiter at Ping Pong Dim Sum you mentioned — now THAT’S a waiter. I hope you gave at least a 25 percent tip …

Portland, OR:

If you're heading to Portland, you _cannot_ miss eating at the food carts for lunch one day I recommend the carts near SW 10th and Washington (Addies, Whole Bowl, Angels Cabana are my "go tos". Jessica is right to mention Clyde Common. Make sure to go from 4-6 for happy hour so you can get the fried chickpeas. If you can't get in to Le Pigeon, I recommend their sister restaurant Little Bird which is also great. Interested in beer? Baileys Taproom. They have a ton of great, local beer for (usually) around $3 pint. Rogue Alehouse & Deschutes. Two famous Oregon brewpubs within stumbling distance of one another.

Todd Kliman:

Nice.

Thanks for chiming in and helping fill out the list …

Welcome to Clydes, my name is Tim:

For the past 4 years or so that my wife and I have been visiting Clydes, Mark Center, Tim has been behind the bar. He always greets us with a handshake and a "nice to see you". If the bar is full, he'll tell me that the old couple in the corner has just asked for their check From advice on oysters, wine, food and everything else, he is one of the most friendly and professional people that I've come across. To be honest, there isn't anything special that he does for me that I can call out as preferntial treatment, he treats everyone the same (even the drunk govvies on $10 wine night) and its always comforting to know that a familiar face will behind the bar when we go in. On a related note, its nice to see staff stick around at a restaurant for a long period of time, I (hopefully) take that to mean that the restaurant treats them well and that they enjoy their jobs which adds to my enjoyment of the establishment.

Todd Kliman:

Seeing the same people year in, year out is reassuring at a place like that.

I’m with you. It tells me that morale is good, and that it’s a decent place to work (or better), and that they’re happy to stick around. A lot of restaurants spend great gobs of cash trying to create an atmosphere — but often, it’s things like this that help to establish that mood and sense of solidity.

And that keep us interested and attached.

Walker Percy knew this, even though he never, as far as I know, wrote about restaurants. But he wrote about everydayness, and the challenge of living. “Repetitions,” as he called them (with a big assist from one S. Kierkegaard) are a big part of why we go to certain restaurants — why some places, in other words, are meaningful to us even if the food’s not top of the line. “Rotations,” the opposite, are a big part of why we try out new places or venture to unfamiliar cities to eat — a departure from our locked-in norms, a chance to break up the pervasive everydayness that numbs us to the world, and to wonder.

Boqueria, cont'd:

ok, ok...I'll admit that I should probably give Jaleo another fair chance before rambling. I just decided to never go back after my experience last year, which was terrible, to put it bluntly. But, I still need recs for Barcelona and Seville...do you have anything? Thanks!!

Todd Kliman:

I don’t. Maybe your fellow chatters do …

NEDC:

My dining world hero is Gina C., the famous mixologist. I was a patron at Rasika when she was there and loved her spirit. When I was pregnant and attending a party at EatBar, she made is a point to mix up something special for me. It was a great mixed drink and it was the first time that I didn't miss the alcohol at a social event. The second time I was pregnant, I ended up at PS7 and she did the same thing. It really means so much that she always goes above and beyond - not to mention that she is just phenomenal at what she does. A great talent! I will follow her anywhere!

Todd Kliman:

She really does liven up a room, Gina Chersevani does.

On the other hand, she’s sort of a known quantity. I’m interested in hearing about the people who don’t get written up in round ups or give interview about “the scene,” etc.

People like Jana Castle, who, at the time we ran this Q-and-A, had been working at the Red, Hot & Blue in Laurel (the best, by far, of the outlets) for 19 years. I think she’s still there. It says a lot, seeing here there.

Also 20003:

If someone is watching calories, asking for no oil means something, but vegetable oils (including olive oil) are not animal products and, therefore, have no cholesterol. There's also not a direct correlation between cholesterol taken in and a person's cholesterol levels, but that gets into another discussion. Ditto for the argument that olive oil may actually lower bad cholesterol levels. Making sure something isn't cooked in butter, lard, or animal fat would be helpful, but the oils aren't an issue beyond their role in total calories.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for setting me straight on that. I appreciate it.

Foggy Bottom:

Hi Todd, Had some very good food out of the retooled kitchen at Cork the other night. The two highlights were an inspired fried pickle and ramp bruschetta, which could have been awful but instead had perfect balance between the sourness of the pickles and sweetness of the ramp (and I think some goat cheese) and salt from a tapenade, making for a very flavorful couple of bites. There was also a fantastic gnudi served over spring peas and beets. Again, I really liked the balance between the fresh greenness of the vegetables and the richness of the cheese from the gnudi. The steak tartar was boring, though (nothing interesting going on at all—just some raw steak). The red wine braised rabbit was an inspired failure, sort of what the pickle bruschetta could have been. I thought the rabbit was great by itself, but completely overpowered by the musky earthiness of the hen of the woods mushrooms piled on top of it, and I did not understand the point of the random bits of tagliatelle and bacon strewn about the dish. Still, it was the kind of not so good dish that you don’t mind getting, because even though it is bad, you can see how it could have been exceptional. Overall, I was very happy to see the menu evolving at Cork, especially in what seems like a positive direction. The old menu’s total lack of change with the seasons (hello, braises and stews in July!) always irritated me.

Todd Kliman:

I’ve heard good things about that bruschetta, though I didn’t get it my last time in. I did have the gnudi, which was served with a green pea puree; fantastic.

I think Cork’s a pretty exciting place to eat right now. And it’s also got one of the most interesting wine lists in the city.

I’m interested to see how the place evolves as Rob Weland, the chef, gets used to things and tweaks and changes the menu.

Dupont Circle:

Last year, you steered me to a great russian restaurant in brighton beach for my new york trip. Any suggestions this year for a place that serves food not readily available in this area (certain cuisine) or presented in different way than this area (pizza obvious choice)? An inexpensive place, preferably. Thank you.

Todd Kliman:

How about Uzbek this time?

Cupola Samarkanda II, in Brooklyn. Cheap and good and memorable.

If you go, and I hope you do, I’d love to hear a report on what you found …

Van Ness:

Todd have you seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi? The sushi making scenes are food porn at its very best.

Todd Kliman:

No, I almost went to see it last weekend. I really do want to see it. I love documentaries, love sushi, love father-and-son stories.

Speaking of which: I ended up seeing another film, a terrific film — best I’ve seen all year. Footnote (Hearat Shulayim, in Hebrew), directed by Joseph Cedars. It has the richness and weight of a good novel, and really needs to be seen at least twice. It’s about fathers and sons, and has so much to say about family in general.

It was a finalist this year for the foreign-language film Oscar.

Go.

Alexandria, VA:

I want to single out a waitress from Hops. When we took my son (at the time 2) to dine there, she couldn't have been nicer to us and him. She pulled me aside to ask if it was ok to offer him ice cream if he ate all of his food (which we later found out was not standard, but we were not charged for it), she talked right to him, she didn't blink an eye at all of the rice he flung everywhere. It was just a lovely experience all around and made us want to go back!

Todd Kliman:

Servers like that, they’re angels. They’re amazing.

They make you feel so good about, not just a restaurant, but about the world … about LIFE.

(And then you wander out to the street and find that someone keyed your car. But for that hour and a half …)

I just wish you had a name to give us …

To the Volt complainer:

If the poster had complained to the GM I'm sure they would have done something. I ate there a couple years ago (this was just before or perhaps while Bryan Voltaggio was on Top Chef), and we were seated next to a really grating couple, who mentioned to anyone who would listen that they were "in the business," clearly trying to suggest what sophisticated diners they were. (We were seated in the garden and it was very quiet so we couldn't help but overhear each other. Another reason they annoyed me is that they didn't even pretend that they weren't eavesdropping on our conversation - they even laughed at a joke I made to my husband.) At any rate, they were asked how their entrees were, and the wife said she didn't like hers. No specific complaint, she just thought it was kind of meh. Later the waiter came back and told her the entree was comped! So clearly they bend over backwards to please diners, even super annoying ones.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for chiming in …

You know, I don’t think I give enough credit to the people “in the business” who deal with this kind of infuriatingly entitled crap on almost a daily basis. I know it would gnaw away at me and make me thunder in rage. And many of these folks just smile and walk away and — the important part — move on.

That about does it, everyone.

Thanks for all the comments and questions. And the corrections. And the entries.

Which reminds me…

Adams Morgan, you’re the winner of our contest today for your testimonial to Krishna Ramsundar at Cashion’s. Drop me an email at tkliman@washingtonian.com with your address, and I’ll put a copy of the “Cakelove” breakfast book in the mail later today.

Oh, and before I sign off … Tune in to the Kojo Nnamdi Show tomorrow — 88.5 WAMU — at noon; I’ll be talking about Virginia wine with Kojo, Dave McIntyre, the Post’s wine critic, and Dr. Tony Wolf, a viticulturist at Virginia Tech.

Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …

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