Tuesday, February 19 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 February 13, 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   .  .  .


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.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar, DC
This hopping oyster bar is the best of the early attractions at the new Union Market. Hop a stool and order up a platter of Rappahannock River oysters, either raw or roasted (the latter preparation transforms them from salty-sweet and light to rich and meaty and savory). You can wash them down with a small selection of craft beers, including Chocolate City Beer and DC Brau, or a glass of sherry. The surprise is the crabcake, a contender for the city's best. Dropped onto the griddle with an ice-cream scoop and given a slight, flattening press to develop a good sear, it's a massive thing, but also unexpectedly light and delicate for all its girth. It's not that there's no binder --  every crabcake's got binder. It's that the binder that's there is good binder, and smartly deployed. 

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.

Moa, Rockville 
You'd never find it if you weren't looking for it. Situated in the fascinating industrial sector of Rockville, amid a slew of old warehouses and specialty supply stores, this cozy Korean mom 'n' pop is about as hidden as hidden gems get. The cooking is vivid and punchy—great bibimbap, served several ways, along with a parade of soups, noodle dishes and stir frys. Order a soju to wash it all down; the mango and watermelon are fresh and gently sweet, a good counterpart to the garlicky intensity of the food.

Maple Avenue, Vienna
Some diners might be skeptical of splurging for $20 + entrees in a tiny, repurposed diner where the 8 tables are wedged together so closely the room can feel like one big dinner party when the drinks are flowing. Others might be skeptical of the menu, which bends in a dozen different directions, implying a kitchen with a scattered, be-everything-to-everyone vision— which is to say, no vision at all. But this is a surprisingly focused restaurant —and a surprisingly rewarding one, too, a place that feels like a personal statement, backed by an amiable staff that clearly aims to send you away smiling. The chef and owner, Tim Ma, does his part, too. He makes a mean shrimp and grits, and his beef cheek sandwich with beer battered fries is one of the best simple plates around. Don't miss the bread pudding.

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.

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Re: BOB KINKEAD'S ANCORA -- NEW, AT THE WATERGATE ...:

I wanted to report that I went with two friends to Ancora on Saturday night, Bob Kinkead's new restaurant across from the Kennedy Center.

The place was filled with Kinkead's regulars (I ate there infrequently) and Kinkead himself came around to every table - a nice touch.

For a restaurant open for less than a week, everything was terrific, from the service to the delicious food. The appetizers were large portions and delicious, the pastas were terrific, and the seafood was great. We saw the Veal Shin (for two) get served to two tables and it looked amazing - next time!

Kudos to Kinkead for hitting the ground running.

West Ender

Todd Kliman:

Great to get this report. Thanks.

And great to see Bob Kinkead back on the scene after the shutdown of Kinkead’s.

It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the times. Kinkead’s by the end had lost step with the culinary moment. Although you could still get a good or great plate of food, the cooking had lost some of its luster and the space had begun to feel tired. …

Good morning, everyone.

I have some big restaurant world news to drop — just waiting to hear when I can pass on a link. Stay tuned …

Meantime, I was curious to know whether there’s a kitchen gizmo, gadget or machine you somehow cannot do without.

Reason I ask is that, amid the fever brought on by my recent bout of flu, I bought myself a NutriBullet and now find that I’m using it everyday — making fruit and veggie smoothies, but also doing sauces, sorbets, etc.

Anybody have a similar story? Or a gadget or gizmo or machine that, like I said, you can’t see yourself being in the kitchen or at the table without?

DOSA STATION AT THE WHOLE FOODS, FOGGY BOTTOM ...:

What is your opinion of the new dosa station at the Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom?

It,s super delicious but how authentic is it

Todd Kliman:

I haven’t been. But I’m going to have to go now.

What a great idea …

So I take it they have someone who makes the dosas there, while you wait, and then fills them to order?

Yet another sign that the food trucks have had a real influence, a real influence …

Re: UNUM, IN GEORGETOWN:

Todd,

I wanted to let you know that I pretty much loathe RW and similarly-overhyped events. I had reservations at Unum, which turned out to be over RW, as it was postponed due to Inaugural weekend. When I learned that, I almost cancelled my reservation, as my intent was not to dine during RW due to some meh experiences. (I once trumpeted RW and what it was trying to do, ideally. So many places make a joke of it that it's not even amusing anymore.) All that aside, I decided to keep the reservation and try it anyway, as I've been wanting to go for a while.

I had read they were quite generous during the summer version of RW, though they were also new to the restaurant scene. I had also seen a couple of reviews for the winter RW that said in sum: tiny portions, noisy, too chaotic for waiters to handle.

My experience turned out to be positive. They offered most of their menu, enough so that there were plenty of options from which to choose. The portions were not tiny, probably in keeping with their regular size plates. They even let you choose two small dishes or order one dish as a main, full-size entree.

The restaurant is small, though cozy and comfortable. I suppose if you're seated to a noisy table it could get loud, but that's a risk you take dining anywhere, any night.

Regardless, you have stated that you don't think the dinner deal is that great - and the truth is that if you tallied up everything, the overall discount was very slight. I didn't dine there, though, because it was RW, so I wasn't looking to "score a deal." This isn't a criticism to the restaurant, just responding to something you have talked about before.

I will add that they also had a few drinks on RW special, which was a really nice touch. I know that some diners have complained that there are typically no drink specials - and alcohol certainly boosts the bill. I thought it was a nice gesture that was gracious on their part.

I found our service to be good and it wasn't chaotic, as some suggested it might be. I really appreciated the care that Unum took during what can be a disappointing week of dining out. I have empathy for the waitstaff during RW or other hyped events because I'm sure they do get plenty of people to fill "amateur night," which probably requires even more patience than usual.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for the report.

Very thoughtful.

I have been very critical, in recent years, of Restaurant Week, particularly Restaurant Week dinner, but I have always thought that a place that performs well during that week is, generally, a keeper.

For a place to face those swarms, and make those changes to the operation, and still put out good food and drink and give good service … that says a lot.

Re: LITTLE RICKY'S -- NEW, IN BROOKLAND ...:

Not a question, but instead a shameless neighborhood plug for the fried chicken at Little Ricky's on 12th St. NE.

Not everything on the menu is great, or even good, but this chicken... oh man.

It takes about 20-25 minutes and is perfectly cooked; the well-seasoned breading has merged with the skin to become one and the interior is juicy, perhaps a product of brining. Flawless stuff. I'd put it up there with any other chicken in DC.

Little Ricky's also has very good chorizo sliders, three for $4.25. It's a tremendous value; they could probably charge twice that.

I'll add that this place is kid-friendly. When I come in with my 6-year old son the host (yes, male, a real rarity in the restaurant business to find a man who interacts with children) brings him a box of either dominoes or politically incorrect plastic army men, jokes with him, and is happy to blend fruit juices.

I'm hoping the rest of the menu catches up, and that the neighborhood continues to support these kinds of places.

Todd Kliman:

That chicken — our collective mouth is watering …

Thanks for the tantalizing report.

As for those plastic army men — whoa. Of course, maybe they’re symbolic of the stealth commandos who have been prepping for years in Miami, waiting for the opportunity to storm Cuba and topple the regime.

Or not.

By the way: how’re the black beans?

TOP 5 ETHIOPIAN IN THE DISTRICT? ...:

Hey Todd-

What would you say are the top 5 Ethiopian places in the district right now?

I've been to Etete and Dukem (liked Dukem better) and probably will not make it out to Ethiopic tonight (although its on my list) but I wanted to know if there was anything I was missing!

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

Interesting question.

Tough question.

My top 5 at the moment would go:

Ethiopic Zenebech Injera Habesha Market Kokeb Queen of Sheba

Area-wide, it would look like this:

Ethiopic Zenebech Injera Meaza Shagga Dama Kokeb Eyo

Re: OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM, IN PENN QUARTER ...:

As a local DC eater (and a fan of your reviews) I just thought I should pass along a fantastic dining experience recently at The Oceanaire Seafood Room. I had eaten there several years ago with forgettable results. I was especially wary of the fact that Oceanaire was purchased by a much bigger group and expected the food to be even less interesting than my last meal.

Some friends chose Oceanaire and I, more or less begrudgingly, headed out expecting a good, but unexciting meal. I was pleasantly surprised!

The menu has it’s concept staples, of course. However, some of the items the new Chef has added offered more interesting variety.

Even the Chef’s take on classic favorites was lovely. I normally don’t enjoy fried calamari, but the Red Chili Calamari with Warm Asian Vegetables was flavorful and scrumptious. The Grilled Carolina Swordfish with Black Truffle Celery Root Puree and Roasted Maitake Mushrooms & Asparagus was a delicately balanced treat and the Sesame Crusted Hawaiian “Big Eye” Tuna Red Pepper Pickled Cucumber Salad with Ginger-Wasabi Emulsion & Soy Caramel was enjoyed by everyone at the table!

Whatever the new Chef is doing is most definitely working and I will certainly be back. I’m not certain how often you update reviews, but this one might be worth a revisit.

Todd Kliman:

It’s always great to hear that a place that has maybe slipped or fallen off the radar or otherwise hasn’t been operating in the white hot light of publicity has made big and exciting strides.

And I’m certain that you’ve made chef Sean Sanders’s day.

Re: TABLE -- NEW, IN SHAW ...:

Headed over to Table for dinner on Saturday as part of date night and we had an enjoyable time at this new edition to the shaw neighborhood.

The kitchen at Table is producing some very good food in an intimate setting. Frederik De Pue put a lot of time into planning and designing the restaurant down to the little details like the handwritten menus and detail work that woven into kitchen counter/island where the chef's are preparing meals. The handwritten menus were a nice touch and helps in giving the place character, but I feel for the poor person who has to do all the updates eaxh time the menu or wine list changes or say a diner spilling something on a menu. There were some items on the menu, which were hard to read because the handwriting had become smudged

We had the burgandy snails, nicely cooked not rubbery or chewy. the mushroom with poached egg was very good too. only hiccup on that dish was they could have let the egg cook another 10-15 seconds longer for my taste.

I had the dry aged ny strip and my wife had the whole dorade, which they dont debone for you unless you ask them, which they were gracious enough to do. Tt was cooked perfectly and paired with an asian type slaw, which gave a nice textural crunch to the dish. I know for presentation purposes they like to serve the dorade whole but it can become a chore having to dig through fish bones of which a few made it to my wife's plate even after the kitchen deboned the fish.

Desserts were done well too. not too heavy or sweet and right size portioning for dessert.

Table has an energetic vibe within relaxed environment. You can feel the energy if you are dining on the ground floor I do not know if that same energy gets translated if one is to dine upstairs.

We were fortunate to dine downstairs with a great view of the open kitchen. Personally, love open kitchens and the added dimension and challenge they present to the chef and his staff. It takes a chef of quality and talent to lead a staff in a calm but authoritative manner when your kitchen is open and exposed to a majority of the diners.

Diners were of all ages and nationalities and most seemed like they lived in the Shaw neighborhood or other parts of DC.

I personally think they should do reservations because there is no real lobby or hostess stand/waiting area for diners. everyone is squeezed together by the door and with the door constantly opening there was a slight cold breeze going through the restaurant. we were seated near the front but some of he diners around draped their coats around their shoulders due to this cold breeze.

It was a good meal in a nice setting and hope to visit the restaurant again in the near future.

Naeem

Todd Kliman:

You do get around, don’t you?

Thanks, Naeem, for this thorough and tasty-sounding report. What’s next up for you?

HELP! -- ISO A GOOD SPOT FOR A FUN FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER ...:

Where should my SO and I head for a fun and not expensive dinner/drinks on Friday night. We never seem to make it out before 9pm or so - willing to go anywhere in DC proper, any kind of food. Good drinks are a must.

Thinking about Toki Underground, maybe Hanoi House. What do you think?

Todd Kliman:

I think Toki.

GADGETS, GIZMOS, KITCHEN AIDS, CONT. ...:

The machine I use weekly is a yogurt maker.

I know there are several different ways to make yogurt without a fancy machine, but mine works great...and the yogurt is made in individual 6oz glass jars, perfect for snacking.

Curing yogurt takes about 10-12 hours, and with the yogurt machine I can set it up in the evening and have fresh yogurt in the morning. In the infamous words of Ron Popeil "set it and forget it."

As a bonus, since the bottom part of the machine is basically a hot plate, I've also used it to ferment dosa batter.

Todd Kliman:

My father used to have one of those. It was one of those things that was out and in use for about six months and then — pffft.

But I like what you say. And I like that you can use it to ferment dosa batter.

Thanks for chiming in …

GADGETS, GIZMOS, KITCHEN AIDS, CONT. ...:

It's hard to imagine my life without the mandoline.

I eat a lot of vegetables, mostly chopped by hand, but the ability to slice evenly and finely plus the small and large matchsticks takes my cooking up a notch.

I'm about to caramelize 8 pounds of onions, and the mandoline will make light work of the chopping.

My salad these days is making use of vinegared daikon - bought in bulk, peeled and matchstick size pieces with ginger, salt and vinegar.

Todd Kliman:

I’ll bet you’re a helluva cook.

That salad sounds great. Anything else go in there?

And I’m curious to know what you have in mind for those eight pounds of caramelized onions — French onion soup? Doro wat?

I have waited and waited on shelling out for a mandoline, but it’d really be great to have one for all the reasons you say. The food processor can do thin, but not paper thin. And paper thin makes a difference when it comes to doing certain salads, as you say.

BIT O' BREAKING NEWS ...:

Todd Kliman:

As I teased above …

The new Southeast Asian restaurant from restaurateur Mark Kuller and chef Haidar Karoun has a name: Doi Moi.

For more on that news, as well as restaurant details and behind-the-scenes, click here:

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/interviews/exclusive-an-interview-with-mark-kuller-about-his-new-southeast-asian-spot-on-14th-street.php

DOSAS, CONT. ...:

Speaking of Dosas, any good Southern Indian cuisine w/ dosas around?

Todd Kliman:

Woodlands is the place.

Locations in Langley Park and Fairfax.

Curry Mantra, in Fairfax, used to make exceptional ones, but had to take them off the menu when they began to create unexpected logistical problems for the kitchen.

The restaurant recently opened a new Falls Church location, by the way. I’d love to think that owner Asad Sheikh can find a way to bring those dosas back.

Re: TABLE -- NEW, IN SHAW ...:

Todd, just a small rant -

I found 2 comments less than helpful in the poster's review of Table. The first was the complaint about the bones in the fish; my experience is if you order the entire fish, bones are pretty much par-for-the-course. If the fish is properly or perfectly cooked, removing the bones shouldn't be a significant task worth complaining about. I know, different diners, different irks.

Also, I'm not sure what the point of saying diners of all ages and nationalities dined there, either from the neighborhood or other parts of DC. Well, that's like an unhelpful sentences which is neither here nor there.

As for essential kitchen tools, I cook and bake a lot. While it's nice to have this gadget or this machine or this oven or that sink, I'd still have to go back to the fundamental basic: knife - but 2 knives. One chef, one pairing. Everything else can be done by hand. This coming from someone with great state-of-the art tools and I still mix and blend by hand.

Todd Kliman:

I have to disagree with you, on both points.

Sometimes, the bones don’t come free very easily. As you say, if a fish has been cooked perfectly, that’s often the case — the bones slip right on out. But it’s possible in this case the fish was cooked a little past the point of perfect.

As for the chatter’s remarking on the makeup of the dining room — “diners of all ages and nationalities” — I thought that was an interesting thing to point out. The restaurant-going audience in DC is, for all the changes that have taken place in the city, a pretty homogenous group. At the top restaurants, you don’t find many people past a certain age, and you don’t find a diversity of diners. That’s not meant as provocation; that’s just a fact.

Pointing out that the dining room is made up of diners of different ages and nationalities tells me something. It tells me something positive. And something not the norm.

The chatter’s including that in his writeup lets readers know that here is a place that maybe is a little more progressive in its outreach, or has so far been able to broaden its appeal to more than just the usual crowd of diners. Remember, also, that the chatter, Naeem, is Indian. Minorities tend to notice things that whites often either take for granted or, if they are pointed out, maybe react squeamishly to.

THOSE 8 LBS. OF CARAMELIZED ONIONS, CONT. ...:

Re: onions - They get used in about everything I cook.

Yesterday I made cream of mushroom soup - start with caramelized onions, add garlic/oyster mushrooms, etc. Also tomato/pepper soup - roasted tomato/pepper, caramelize onion/garlic, blenderize. Tomyum soup is tomorrow, unless I do stir fry. Chili. Indian yellow curry. Focaccia with roasted onions...

Salad - it changes daily, but I'm using up a ham these days; lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber, roast pepper, mustard dressing.

I've been thrilled to find cheap ($1/pound) red peppers at hmart, which I roast about 8 at a time, skin, to add to the same things I add onions.

Todd Kliman:

It sounds great, all of it.

And I’m impressed with how organized you are, cooking up a great big batch of stuff to then parcel out in your dishes for the rest of the week.

What great variety, too.

When am I being invited for dinner? : )

Re: DOI MOI -- COMING THIS SUMMER TO 14TH ST. NW ...:

Doi Moi -- good interview, sounds interesting and if they put in the time and effort into this project as they did with Estadio and Proof it should be a success.

Look forward to it.

Todd Kliman:

It’s certainly an intriguing-sounding venture, and I think Mark Kuller is right in saying that the timing is right for it, in a way that the timing was not right at all ten, fifteen years ago.

I also think that success of Little Serow — particularly its commitment to staying as true as possible to the roots of the cooking — has upped the ante for chefs and restaurateurs who would risk taking on a challenge like this.

DOSAS, CONT. ...:

I'm pretty sure the new dosa station is not authentic, but I approve of that. I like it when restaurants take same-old formulas and tweak them with modern ingredients and flavor profiles.

In the last few years we've been able to buy wet dosa batter in the Indian grocery store - $3 for a 32oz container, which is much better than the dry mixes. After a few years of always having one of these on hand, I finally took the plunge to make my own, which seems easy enough.

I rarely make the potato stuffing, spicy sambar and coconut chutney - but it's nice to fill like a cross between french crepe and vietnamese rice paper.

Todd Kliman:

Sounds good to me.

I gotta say: I always knew you all were deep into food, but I guess I didn’t know how much really interesting cooking you do. You really seem stretch and challenge yourselves.

I want to explore this more next week. I’d love to read more about the kinds of things you attempt in the kitchen — both when you have time to experiment and when you don’t …

DOI MOI AND MANDOLINES, CONT. ...:

Doi Moi - while I like the name (it's fun to say) - interesting choice: "economic reforms initiated in Vietnam in 1986 with the goal of creating a "socialist-oriented market economy"." Well then.

For yogurt maker, shh, but you actually don't need a maker to produce homemade yogurt. For a mandoline, although the fancy shiny ones are gorgeous and look great sitting on the counter, you might want to get one of the cheaper plastic ones (if you're really going to use it). What you want is a smooth glide, otherwise your vegetables will be mushy and you will be more likely to cut or slice your hand!

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for the advice re: the plastic mandolines.

When I was contemplating one, years ago, I looked into both. I had zeroed in on the “fancy shiny ones.” I’ll have to look into both again, now.

As for Doi Moi and the origins of the name — and without launching a huge political debate — is there something wrong with a “socialist-oriented market economy”?

NAAEM RESPONDS ...:

I am Pakistani American. My wife is Indian American. we made peace across the border ;)

I actually don't even refer to myself as Pakistani American. I refer to myself as American Muslim. At heart I am still a midwest boy born in Chicago with an early childhood in Edmond Oklahoma.

I mentioned the diners of various ages and nationalities as a postive. Because everything that I had read about Table presented and described it as a place for younger diners ranging from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. I myself am above thirty and was happy to see that older diners were in the restaurant and enoying the food and atmosphere.

They brought the dorade to the table and showed us how the composed dish would look if we did not ask them to debone it. They then took it back to the chef who delicately deboned the dorade. Also, the server mentioned that the kitchen would be happy to debone the fish for my wife, which I recommended to my wife, since I knew she would get frustrated at a certain point if she had to delicately remove the fish from the bone

Todd Kliman:

Naeem, thanks so much for writing back in with the clarifications — and my sincerest apologies for the misidentification.

HELP! -- ISO: NOT-SO-LOUD, NOT-SO-EXPENSIVE DINING IN THE WEST END ...:

My aunt is coming into town next week, and staying at the Avenue Suites. I'm looking for someplace to go with her for dinner, but am having a tough time.

I suggested District Commons, but she said reviews claimed it was loud. She suggested Dish + Drinks, but I'm not too excited by that option. Maybe Rasika West End? Trying to keep costs reasonable (no Blue Duck, for example).

Any other recs for a Monday night in the area? Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

How about Ris?

It’s not loud at all, the dining room is very comfortable, and although there are some dishes that cost a lot, you can have a moderately priced dinner for downtown DC.

Re: AMUSE BOUCHE AND PETIT FOURS ...:

Todd,

When dining at fine dining establishments, am I expecting much when restaurants don't offer an amuse buche and/or complimentary desserts (like petit fours), especially when ordering their expensive tasting menus? Places like the Source, BLT Steak, come to mind, since they offer these nice one bite items.

We went to Tosca this past Saturday for my parents 50th anniversary, and the service and the quality and presentation of the food was fantastic. I was a little disappointed they didn't offer these type of gratis, especially when paying $220 per person (after tax and tip). Am I expecting too much?

Todd Kliman:

It’s a really interesting question.

I don’t think, in all the 7 years I have been hosting this chat, that anyone has ever asked something along these lines.

So, I’m glad you did.

Places like BLT Steak and The Source have deeper pockets than does Tosca, and they charge more per meal, too. They can afford to offer these little baubles and treats.

Bourbon Steak, to name another deep-pocketed place, takes baubles and treats to the nth degree.

In general, I guess I would say that I would be disappointed not to find these things at the big-ticket restaurants, but I would be inclined to cut a place like Tosca some slack.

HELP! -- ISO: VEGETARIAN DINING FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR ...:

I'm looking for a restaurant for dinner with my family of 4 vegetarians, in the price range of around $25/person.

We're not big fans of vegetarian-only restaurants, and can make better Indian food at home than any restaurant; other than that, I'm open to any cuisine. Anywhere in DC or the MD suburbs up to Baltimore works. Any suggestions?

Todd Kliman:

Pizza?

Vin 909 Winecafe, in Annapolis, would be my first choice — great pies. Menomale, in Brookland DC, would be my second choice.

I know you said you don’t generally go for vegetarian restaurants, but I’m enjoying Ovo Simply Veggie, in College Park. Odd name for a place that is — yes! — vegan, but I’ve been three times and, while the cooking suffered slightly when the restaurant was slammed one Saturday night, the dishes have been good.

And they have individually-wrapped pastries from the excellent Bread Corner, in Rockville, brought in a couple of times a week.

My last meal there was — don’t laugh, omnivores — mushroom protein with coconut green curry, lotus root and onions. I really did like it.

Had it with a pot of green ginseng tea — served in a beautiful clear glass kettle. There’re also agave-sweetened sodas, including grapefruit and strawberry-rhubard.

The space is unexpectedly serene for the busy, storefront setting along Rte. 1. Nice tables, comfortable chairs. …

Gotta run, everyone. Thanks so much for the questions, comments, rants, tips and clarifications. I love our Tuesdays together …

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







[missing you, TEK … ]



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