Tuesday, April 2 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 March 26, 2013

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 writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper'sThe Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The 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.

Todd previously taught writing and literature at American University and Howard University. At Howard, he was also the editorial advisor to The Illtop Journal, Chris Rock's humor magazine modeled after the Harvard Lampoon.

Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world. Or write to him: tkliman@washingtonian.com


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

* Sisters Thai, Fairfax
I like the bait-and-switch of this two-sister-led operation. The bait: a cozy tea shop atmosphere, the sort of setting you expect to sip a pot of tea and nibble scones and flip the pages of a home remodeling magazine. The switch comes when you order. This kitchen delivers a punch. Ask for it Thai hot, and it will come out Thai hot. The even better news is that the kitchen doesn't just ladle on the finger peppers; it works with surprising focus and clarity.

* Mi Cuba Cafe, DC
This tiny cafe, on Park Rd. in Columbia Heights, makes the best picadillo I've had in a long, long time -- with the right amount of olives in the mix, and, more vitally important, the perfect soft texture. Good rice and plantains, too. And finding a restaurant in the thick of DC that can turn out a good, hearty meal for 2 in the range of $35 is pretty close to miraculous.

* Little Ricky's, DC
This lively, art-strewn Cuban cafe acts as a bookend to Menomale on Brookland's main drag. Both places have the pulse of more populous, better-serviced neighborhoods, and manage to communicate a simple sophistication without much effort. The cooking is not just the hearty homeyness we expect of Cuban restaurants; there's an unexpected finesse, too. (And -- what's this? -- sauteed zucchini and onions on the plates: who ever heard of a Cuban restaurant serving vegetables?) Among the must-orders: the masas de puerco, twice-cooked hunks of pork that rival the rich lusciousness of perfect barbecue.

Mari Vanna, DC
Most restaurants begin with an aha! moment, and for this import from Moscow (with locations also in London and New York) I imagine that moment must have happened something like this: "What we do is, we make a hip place for trendy young Russians to go and eat and drink, with exposed brick walls and cocktail creations and lots of noise, but at the same time we make them pine for Mother Russia, with doilies on the tables and a guy sweeping through the dining room playing folk tunes on the accordion and babushka furniture and little babushka purses to stuff the check into at the end." Service the night I was in was a mess; I can't remember a meal in the last couple of years in which more went wrong. And our first courses were hardly diverting: a beet salad was salty, and a smoked fish platter was uneven. But then came the pelmeni (tortellini-like bundles of tender pasta stuffed with well-seasoned veal and served with heavy sour cream) and a fabulous rendition of chicken tabaka -- a Georgian specialty, in which the bird is cooked under a weight in a heavy cast skillet; it came with fingerling potatoes and a sour cream-and-dill sauce. We finished with more sour cream -- spooned onto our sweetened blinis, along with good cherry preserves -- and waddled out into the night.

Asi Es Mi Tierra, Wheaton
Peruvian restaurants have gone from being poorly represented to well represented in recent years, and this tiny but lively Wheaton restaurant is a vivid display of why that's a very good thing. The twin pillars of the cuisine are fish and potatoes, which feature, here, in a wide variety of preparations. The ceviche and tiradito are excellent -- absent the mouth-puckering tartness and mealy softness that sometimes results from overmarination, and with a welcome hit of black pepper. The papa rellena -- soft mashed potatoes molded over a zesty beef stew and fried just to the point of keeping the whole delicate construction together, but not enough to become hard or dry -- is astoundingly light and irresistible; one was insufficient, even with all the plates on my table one night; I was sure I could have eaten four of them. The dish every table orders is the big and bountiful jalea mixta, with three portions' worth of fried mussels, calamari, shrimp to pick at; it's crowned with a heap of vinegared, thin-sliced red onions, and there's even a small dish of ceviche on the side. The two times I ventured beyond fish and seafood were mixed: a dry anticuchos (marinated, grilled beef hearts on a skewer) and a decent chicken Milanesa (the kitchen opts not to pound the cutlets thin before battering and frying them; these were massive). On weekends, there's breakfast, and the reason to get up early is the fabulous pan con chicharron ($5.50) -- strips of juicy roasted pork, slices of roast sweet potato, cilantro, and vinegared onions, all spilling out of a light and crusty sub roll. I hereby nominate it for the local sandwich hall of fame -- to take its place alongside such founding members as the Nhu Lan banh mi; the Fast Gourmet Chivito; and the Mangialardo's G Man.

Monty's Steakhouse, Springfield
"I normally don't do field reports like this," began the Facebook message I received one day a couple of weeks ago, "but if Monty's Steakhouse in Springfield doesn't get some attention, then shame on you. It's easily and by far the best restaurant in the general contiguous suburban sprawl of Springfield, Burke, Lorton, Franconia, southern Alexandria, Fairfax Station and maybe Occoquan." Consider it done, BB, and thank you for the great tip. I'm not yet ready to make such sweeping claims, but Monty's is doing a lot of things right. The comfy and subtly stylish space, which situates this steakhouse squarely among the new, non-masculine subset of the genre, is as unexpected as the quality of the cooking at this stripmall Springfiled restaurant. The steaks -- hand-trimmed, locally-grown dry-aged prime meat, owner Madana Montazami claims -- are big, properly cooked, full of juice, and rewarding, and the sides are cooked with care. For lunch, there's a very good burger and a prime rib steak sandwich piled high with mushrooms. The Bolivian chef, Marco Camacho, even sneaks a ceviche onto the menu, and it's as bountiful as it is bright. And I would be remiss if I didn't put in a word for the service, which has both a snap and sincerity that are too often missing, even in big-city settings.

Pabu, Baltimore
Why drive to Baltimore when there's plenty of good sushi in DC? The skewered chicken parts, for starters -- luscious mini kabobs of heart, skin, tail, all of them cooked over smoldering logs of Japanese white oak that perfume the room and call to mind the mood-altering atmospherics of a pricey sauna. The sake list (bottles start at $13 and run to four digits) is fantastic, the best and most extensive in the region, and with helpful annotations worthy of a good wine list. And then there's the sushi -- 22 varieties of fish on offer, including a daily selection from Tokyo's famed Tsukiji market. Take note of the excellent sushi rice; it's made with fermented vinegar, which tastes like a cross between a craft beer and a digestif and gives the grains more flavor and character.

DGS Delicatessen, DC
My very early -- and very brief -- word on this artisanal Jewish deli: Go. The matzo ball soup is just about perfect, with a light and exceedingly well-skimmed broth that's flavored by the (superb) matzo ball and vice versa. The chopped liver -- made by a champ at pates and terrines -- is just as good, rich but not at all dense, full of chopped egg, and wonderfully capped by a dice of pickled onion and gribenes (schmaltz-fried chicken skins that might as well be called Jewish cracklins). The housemade pastrami is closer to the Montreal model than the Lower East side model -- a thick, juice-oozing cut edged with so much spice you would think it had been dipped in coffee grounds; it's served on good, twice-baked rye with a zesty housemade mustard. One of the biggest, and most welcome surprises, is that while chef Barry Koslow has lightened many of the traditional dishes that DGS features, and upgraded the quality of ingredients of standard deli fare (the pastrami is made with locally sourced meat), he hasn't sought to prettify the cuisine, or impose his will too strongly. And the prices are eminently reasonable for a casual restaurant in the heart of the city, let alone a deli. Compare tabs with the vastly inferior Second Avenue Deli, in New York, which relies upon mass-produced ingredients for which it charges significantly more.

Izakaya Seki, DC
Arguably the most exciting restaurant to debut this year. Hiroshi Seki and his daughter, Cizuka Seki, have fashioned a spare, intimate izakaya from a former barber shop on V St. It's a no-frills setting that suggests a gallery and serves as an ideal backdrop for beautifully simple dishes that all but command you to slow down and focus. Hop a seat at the wraparound counter that consumes the entirety of downstairs to watch Seki, a sushi master with 50 years experience, work with grace, speed, economy and calm as he executes his repertoire with a small team of cooks: thick slices of veal-tender beef tongue with a painting of mustard-miso sauce; succulent filets of grilled mero, the Japanese term for Chilean sea bass; springy soba noodles with flakes of nori and tempura; and some of the most exquisite cuts of aji (horse mackerel) and yellowtail you'll find. 

Blue Duck Tavern, DC
On my Twitter feed some months back, I teased the news that made a "massive and exciting leap," then sat back and watched the guesses pour in. No one came up with the right place, and to be honest, if I hadn't been there to enjoy it, I would never have guessed, either. Sebastien Archambault is a major talent, and without overhauling the menu or concept has given a restaurant that had slid dangerously close to irrelevance in the past year or so the kiss of life.

Vin 909 Winecafe, Annapolis
I feasted on a couple of superlative pizzas not long ago, and they didn't come from 2 Amys, Pete's New Haven Style Pizza, Pupatella, Moroni & Brother's, Comet, Orso, Haven Pizzeria, Graffiato or Menomale. They came from the kitchen at this always-swarmed, no-reservations wine bar, housed in a restored craftsman bungalow just over the bridge from Annapolis in tiny Eastport. The key players are Alex Manfredonia, who works the front of the (tiny) house, and Justin Moore; the pair met working at a restaurant in San  Francisco, and headed east to take over the space previously occupied by Wild Orchid Cafe. Moore and his team produce a crust that's close to perfect—thin, marvelously hillocked, chewy where it needs to be and crispy everywhere else, and hit with just enough salt. The Margherita is more heavily dressed than is usual, but it's excellent, and so is an unlikely concoction of baked beans, Tillamook cheese, fontina and coleslaw. Don't miss the spin on a lobster roll, with creamy, chive-flecked crab salad tucked between two griddled squares of bread; there's a cup of seafood bisque for dunking.

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.

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.

* new this week

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A GREAT SANDWICH IN BALTIMORE? :

I am going to be in Baltimore on a week day and am looking for a place to get a great sandwich for lunch. Any suggestions?

Todd Kliman:

A little out of the way if you’re going to be downtown, but as for me, I’d be willing to go some distance to eat at Artifact, Spike Gjerde’s bakery and cafe in Hampden.

They do an excellent pastrami sandwich — the fatty meat is prepared with the aid of a sous vide machine, ridding it of some of its fat but not so much as to leave it unjuicy. I should also say that the meat comes from a local source, is butchered by one of Gjerde’s cooks, and is spiced on the premises.

On another, related note — pastrami is having a moment, huh? DGS, Bub and Pop’s, Artifact, Stachowski, The Carving Room …

I’ve had pastrami sandwiches from four of those five, and the clear winner, to me, is DGS. Artifact makes a very good sandwich. The quality of meat at Stachowski is fantastic, but the spicing is much too muted. The pastrami sandwich I had at the Carving Room was full of small, dry slices, and there was not enough meat to stand up to the thick bread, which, by the way, fell apart a third of the way through.

FOLLOWING-UP FROM LAST WEEK: THE STORY OF THE RIPPED-UP MENU:

Wow, that story from last week about ripping up the dessert menu at 2941 (a restaurant where I've had very gracious service in the past) is breathtaking. I'll be fascinated to hear the owner's response.

I wonder if it might be interesting to compare stories of the "worst service ever." Mine came many years ago, at the now-closed Woo Lae Oak in Pentagon City.

To be fair to the restaurant, they were slammed that evening with a huge wedding party. This was a business dinner with five of us, including two out-of-town guests. When they brought the entrees, they brought nothing for my wife. Okay, accidents happen. But the waitress insisted, angrily, that my wife had not ordered ANY dinner and refused to apologize or put in a rush order for a replacement entree. My wife's insisting that she had come out to dinner in order to have dinner had no effect.

That's the only time in my entire dining career that I've tipped zero, with a note on the credit card receipt asking management to call me (which didn't happen).

Todd Kliman:

That’s awful.

And telling that they didn’t call you, either. Which makes it doubly awful.

And yeah, I’m sure everybody out there has a story like it — probably several stories like it. If you have a restaurant horror story that springs immediately to mind, please, by all means — do tell …

I’m also looking to follow-up on a thread of conversation from last week — the things that you like to doctor in the kitchen. Soups from a can, already-cooked rotisserie chickens, etc. I’m interested in hearing your tips for improving the sorts of things we all have on hand.

SCORING A TABLE AT LITTLE SEROW:

I'm planning to surprise my boyfriend with dinner at Little Serow tomorrow. Any thoughts you have on what time I should show up to get in line would be great.

I'd prefer not to be in the first seating so that he can meet me elsewhere for a drink and then we can walk over to Little Serow.

Is 5:30 good?

Thanks

Todd Kliman:

I’d show up at noon and wait.

Just kidding.

I’d say plan to arrive at 5:15, and when your turn comes around in line, ask for the second seating. That’ll give you a couple of hours to have a drink and build up an appetite.

I’m thinking, just now, of the places that always have a line outside when they open. There aren’t many. Little Serow, Pasta Mia in Adams Morgan … who else?

PHILLY EATS:

Hi Todd,

First, loving your chats/recommendations as always.

Went to Punjabi by Nature the other night and my husband and I were talking about how you never, ever steer us wrong (also had the make your own dosa at WF Foggy Bottom for lunch yesterday - very tasty).

Last year you gave us great recs for Charleson, and I was hoping you could recommend a couple restaurants in Philly for an upcoming weekend getaway. We're looking for 1 lunch, 1 dinner, 1 brunch. We'll have 6 adults (late 20s, early 30s) and 1 baby.

I just made a dinner reservation at Osteria based on a past chat I found... still your favorite, and would it work for a baby? (not having a baby, I don't really know what to look for, but I also don't want to sacrific the chance to try good Philly restaurants).

Would love a backup dinner rec because Osteria could only accomodate us very early. And how about brunch? And lunch - should we just hit up the Reading Market? This is our first time in Philly so I really don't know where to go... any recommendations for an after dinner drink would be appreciated as well. Thanks!!

Todd Kliman:

I’m so glad to hear you loved Punjabi by Nature. I still think about the chole there. Amazing stuff.

And chatters, if you haven’t been out there, you need to. It’s worth the trip. Take that food out of its food court setting, put it on china in a soothing dining room in downtown, and everybody would be talking about it.

Re: Philly — Osteria is, yes, good for a small kid. (It’s very, very good for an adult. ; )

They have high chairs, and the staff, if you go early — and you should, if you’re going with a small kid — will take care of you.

I like Reading Market a lot. It’s fun to explore, and if you have never been, you should make a visit.

For brunch, I’d recommend Garces Trading Co.; I had one of the best brunches I’ve had in years there my last time up.

Some other spots to consider for dinner: Vernick’s; Amada; Alla Spina; Farm and Fisherman.

Enjoy your trip, and happy eating. I’d love to hear how things turned out …

A GREAT SANDWICH IN BALTIMORE, CONT. ...:

Less elegant but still excellent sandwiches in Baltimore, closer to downtown:

Attman's Deli for old-school Jewish-deli style cold cut.

Di Pasqualli's for Italian-style subs.

Less conveniently located and a little off-the-beaten path: Greg's Bagels, next to Belvedere Square market, has both traditional and non-traditional bagel stuff -- and Belvedere Square also has the original Atwater's and Neopol spots, both of which have excellent sandwiches.

Todd Kliman:

Thank you for the suggestions, and for widening the discussion beyond the new, talked-about place.

I keep meaning to get to Greg’s Bagels. So thanks, also, for that reminder.

Re: ADOUR, IN THE ST. REGIS HOTEL:

Does Adour give out any amouse bouches/canapes if you decide to do the tasting menu?

I am a sucker for canapes and amouse bouches with tasting menus. Debating on whether to go there on Friday for dinner. Would be my first visit there.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

So, wait — your decision as to whether to drop approximately $350 on dinner for two hinges on whether they offer a two-bite preview at the start of the meal?

Not the atmosphere, not the cooking in general, not the wine list, not the service, not the availability of parking — but the amuse bouche?

Seriously?

This is not a belated April Fool’s prank?

A LINE OUT THE DOOR, CONT.:

How about Little Serow's neighbor, Sushi Taro. You'd better be lined up fifteen minutes early if you want a seat when they open the door for happy hour.

Todd Kliman:

OK, so we have Little Serow, Pasta Mia, Sushi Taro … Who else?

TAMPA EATS:

Not sure if it's really a dining destination, but do you or any chatters have any recommendations for the Tampa area (and, more specifically, Clearwater Beach)?

Thanks.

Todd Kliman:

Chatters?

Re: THAI DEELISH, IN ASHBURN:

Kind of a weird, subjective question, but have you ever tried Thai Deelish in Ashburn, Va?

When I lived out there I adored the place, but was never sure if it was actually that good, or more a function of not having a whole lot else around. The curries were amazing, with distinct, unusual (to me) flavors and spices. The menu had some unusual items. And the service was often ... haphazard, at best, but always well-intentioned.

Basically, I'm wondering if the food at this place was good as I remember it being or if I was just delusional from Loudoun residency.

Todd Kliman:

You learn a new word, you hear about a new place — and boom, a week, two weeks later that word, that place, pops up everywhere.

I just learned about Thai Deelish not too long ago. I have a cousin who lives out that way. I added it to my long list, and had planned to pay a visit next time I was out to see him.

So, I can’t confirm whether or not the place is good, or just good in your memory, though, really, what matters is that you liked it, no?

That’s not to say that if you like it = it’s good, just that if you liked it, then it shouldn’t matter whether I or any other critic says, if we happen to say otherwise.

I wonder, though: Is it possible for you — for people — to say: “I like this place, though I will readily admit that it’s really not very good”? Or: “I really dislike this place, though I know that it’s actually a very, very good restaurant”? In my experience, people tend not to do this. Or to be able to do this. They tend to equate their judgment with Judgment. If I like it, it’s good; if I don’t like it, it’s not.

A LINE OUT THE DOOR, CONT.:

Toki Underground for sure

Todd Kliman:

Of course! How could I forget?

So: Little Serow, Pasta Mia, Sushi Taro, Toki Underground … what else?

We could probably add Izakaya Seki to that list, though it’s not a line so much as a cluster.

But still.

Little Serow, Pasta Mia, Sushi Taro, Toki Underground, Izakaya Seki …

Looking at that list, some interesting things jump out at me.

Four of the five are Asian, and besides being hot, are also among the city’s best restaurants. I think it says something about the emergence of Asian food in the city, that it has a resonance, now, that it lacked seven, eight years ago.

I don’t hate Pasta Mia, though a lot of foodies I know scoff at the place. I think it’s fun. It’s not homemade pasta (though the sauces are), and the wait is not, after the first or second time, worth what you get. But it’s a relatively inexpensive night in the city, and it has an old-school charm that many other restaurants in the city don’t.

Re: WESTEND BISTRO:

Hi Todd- love the chats!

I wanted to write in about my last 2 experiences at West End Bistro. I never made it there when Chef Eric Ripert was involved, but it is now on my list of favorite places to go in DC.

My first experience there was sitting at the pass for my husband's birthday. This is one of the best kept secrets in D.C. and I struggled with whether or not I should write in about it!

You can sit, wait for it, at the pass looking into the kitchen. The regular menu is available or you can talk to the chef about putting together a tasting menu and just tell him how many courses you want. The chef and the sous chef were both really fun to talk to and it was amazing to watch the whole team work.

We went with the 7 course tasting and it did not disappoint. We were able to sample so much of what was on the menu and when the chef overheard us chatting about how good the shrimp and grits looked, he tacked that on to our tasting.

Those were the highlight for sure but everything was just fantastic. Worth mentioning is the wine pairing that we did for a bargain price of $35 a person. The tasting was very reasonably priced too, maybe around $85 for 7 courses and it was a TON of food.

After having such a great meal there, we went back the other week when my parents were in town. When we arrived, we were told we would have to wait a few minutes for our table which is no big deal. Off to the bar we went and about 30 minutes went by and we were still not seating.

Apparently, there was some confusion at the host stand and they thought we were seated already. The manager could not be more apologetic and gracious about it. She sent over several appetizers while we waited for the next table that could accomodate 6 people to be ready (and the good stuff- tuna carpaccio, duck liver, and one or two other delicious apps).

This would have been more than enough, but they brought each of us a glass of prosecco when we sat at our table and then took 50% off of the entire bill. Honestly, we were blown away.

The food was great (although we were heart broken that shrimp and grits are off the menu for the time being) but to be treated so well for an honest mix up was remarkable.

There is a lot of chatter on here about how restaurants don't always handle things in the best way when things go wrong, so it seems only fair to share this tale of a restaurant going above and beyond. Definitely a winner in my book.

Todd Kliman:

And let me add that it’s great to be able to include a story like this amid the griping and the nit-picking that goes on in here — from all of you and from me, too. It’s nice to be able to say, Hey, this place did a great job of taking care of you and making you feel special.

My most recent meal there was very good, too, and reminded me a good bit of the restaurant in its early days when Ripert and team were around a lot.

The chef, Devin Bozkaya, was a smart hire. Not just talented, but also a good fit for the operation.

Thanks for writing in …

OBJECTIVITY/SUBJECTIVITY AND FOOD:

Definitely possible for folks to like a place that isn't, objectively, really good.

For example, going to Williard's in Chantilly for burnt ends makes me really happy - even though they're not Arthur Bryant's burnt ends and even though they may not be the best in the area. But because I've gone there with good friends and family and consistently had a good experience, it's a "good" restaurant in my book even if critics/foodies may not love it.

I feel similarly about Windy City dogs in Leesburg: because it was the first place in DC/NoVA I found that would do a Chicago-style dog properly. Again, not a "great" restaurant, but feels good when I walk in.

On the other hand, while I want to like Central, it's never really done much for me. I know that it is a "great" restaurant, but I've always left feeling a bit meh. So while I trust your opinion and those of others on places to try, (thank you, Todd, again, for turning us on to Caraquena which is one of our go-to spots), I think that's only a starting place for finding food and experiences that bring you joy.

Todd Kliman:

I think happiness and joy is as good a metric as any!

Thanks for chiming in …

The quest for The Ultimate motivates a lot of foodies, but it doesn’t do much for me. It sets up expectations, for one — and expectations are bound to lead to disappointment, or, just as bad, to a sense that: Hey, I had a great meal/dish/hot dog, which means I had the experience I am supposed to have. For another, I don’t believe there is an Ultimate, in food or any other creative realm. I don’t believe there is perfection.

Not related, really, but it has me thinking — the notion of expectations and such … This past week I visited two new places, and walked in both times thinking I was going to love these restaurants. I always want to love a new place; always. I hate it when a place is mediocre or disappointing or just somehow never quite comes together. I do. It’s dispiriting, and I feel bad for the place and for the people who have put in the work and money and time.

But anyway: these two places. A lot went into them. It’s clear to see that. A real attempt is being made to mind the details. You can see that, too. And yet my meals were — well, one was bad; the other was mostly bad. And while I do believe that places can evolve and get better, that doesn’t happen often. And in these two instances, I can’t see that occurring. It’s a shame. These restaurants, if they were good, would be real credits to their neighborhoods.

Re: COFFEE:

Good afternoon, Todd.

Since people are sort of looking for the next new or great thing (and then hundreds pile on the bandwagon if it does well), I'm wondering if you think the art of brewing coffee might be the next revelation?

It's already taking root in other cities such as NYC and LA. Although coffee proprietors probably have run through the majority of brewing processes, there are a couple still out there to be discovered.

Will it come to DC or will it be too avant-garde? I'm thinking of the Japanese brew method in which you don't use near-boiling water to make a cup of the good stuff.

Thanks

Todd Kliman:

Oh, I think it will.

Trends are finding their way here more quickly than they used to.

This is also a city flooded with young, on-the-go people with a lot of disposable income and a desire, on the one hand, to fuel that fast pace and, on the other, to take an hour out here and there and camp with a laptop in a coffeehouse.

Two years, would be my bet.

WESTEND BISTRO, CONT.:

See, now that is cool. Being able to sit in the pass and observe the chef and his team preparing the meals. Will have to add WestEnd Bistro to my list now.

Todd Kliman:

Restaurateurs, take note: Foodies are dying to sit in the pass.

Watch. We’ll see a wave of this in the next couple of years. We’ll love it.

And then we won’t.

We’ll grow weary of it. We’ll think it’s a cliche. Eventually we’ll turn grumpy, and wonder why so many restaurants think that people should want to sit at the pass, of all places.

Incidentally, a few new restaurants have installed chef’s table-style seats that offer diner’s a glimpse of the action without having to spring for an actual, expensive chef’s table: Range in Chevy Chase, Table in Shaw, Beuchert’s Saloon on Capitol Hill.

A LINE OUT THE DOOR, CONT.:

I don't really get it, but I've never been to a Cheesecake Factory and not had to wait in line.

Todd Kliman:

You don’t get it?

I do: affordable prices, big portions, lively atmosphere, consistency.

And although the food’s not high quality, like many of the restaurants we routinely talk about on here, it’s not slop.

A LINE OUT THE DOOR, CONT.:

Daikaya also has a line-- Another Asian restaurant. Not sure how that has worked since the izakaya opened. Are there separate lines for each spot?

Todd Kliman:

Not sure, either.

But that gives us — Little Serow, Pasta Mia, Sushi Taro, Toki Underground, Izakaya Seki, Cheesecake Factory, and Daikaya.

Interesting.

One commonality, beyond the fact that five are Asian: with the exception of Taro, all are (relatively) not that expensive.

THAI DEELISH, CONT.:

I agree that if I liked it, then it's good. I'm guess I'm not looking for personal validation so much as a more fully-informed opinion, and especially an opinion removed from all the subjective feelings that I brought to the place. (The main one being, "Hey, this sure seems like terrific thai food and I don't have to drive for an hour to get it," but including many others as well.)

Thanks for looking into it!

Todd Kliman:

Done.

Thanks for the reinforcement.

Gotta run, everyone. Thanks for all the tips and recs and comments.

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







[missing you, TEK … ]



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