Tuesday, January 31 at 11 AM
Every Tuesday at 11, food and wine editor Todd Kliman takes your questions about Washington area cuisine and restaurant news. 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 January 24, 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 American, 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.

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  . . .

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, DC
This jumping fish house in the 14th St. corridor is Jeff and Barbara Black's fifth place, and by far their most funin the room and on the plate. The other surprise? The excellent valuea reminder that among the benefits of a mini-empire is the ability to leverage high-volume purchasing into cut-rate deals. Don't miss the marvelous twist on mariscos, a seafood-laden salsa with fresh-fried chips.

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 withcheck itno 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. Andit'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 platesan 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 shamemarry rusticity with refinement. Dessertsincluding a fabulous cone of sugar-dusted bomboloni, with pots of apple marmalade and cinnamon gelatoremain 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. 

Mama Chuy, DC
Working from their perch in a rowhouse across the street from Howard University, a brother-sister team from Guadalajara (by way of Chicago) have delivered one of the great surprises of the season -- a taqueria that aims not merely to be authentic, but to win your hungry heart with its commitment to exactitude and detail. Start with an order of the superlative housemade chips -- as salty, thin and crunchy as you could hope for -- and guacamole, then move on to the tacos and sopes, each presented in easy-to-handle cocktail-size portions. The carnitas sopes (tiny discs of fried masa slathered with refried beans and topped with luscious cubes of marinated, grilled pork) might just be the best three bites of Mexican food you're going to find within city limits.

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.
 
Mio, DC
In its five fitful years, Manuel Iguina's restaurant has endured more identity transplants than a snitch in the witness protection program and more mood swings than a teenie pop star. It's currently up -- way up -- thanks to new chef Giovanna Huyke. Like Iguina, Huyke is a native of Puerto Rico, and much of the inspiration for her menu looks to that small but vibrant island. The chef appears to value execution and lightness even more than boldness and spice, resulting in a slew of big-tasting dishes that don't taste big. Zero in on her roast quail stuffed with foie gras and white polenta, a cubed tuna tartare with orange cream, and, from the bar menu, her irresistible bolsitas -- tiny fried purses filled with juicy pork, served with a guava dipping sauce

 
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Editor's Note: Hello, chatters! The culinary book giveaways continue this week with a new contest—a challenge we call "The Bionic Restaurant". You frankenstein together your perfect restaurant, then send us the plan.

To wit: the intimate upstairs dining room of Vermilion, the flattering lighting of Central, the waitstaff of Obelisk, the knowledgeable and passionate bartenders of Jack Rose, the sashimi and nigiri of Kushi, the lusty tacos of R&R Taqueria, the pastas of Fiola, the desserts of Birch and Barley, the whimsically sensuous bathrooms of Proof, the valet men of The Source.

Note: The winning entry will include a minimum of 8 different elements pulled from restaurants around Washington. Todd will announce which book we're giving away this week at the beginning of the chat, and the winning restaurant at the end. Have fun....


arlingtonyum

I would love the #1 combo sandwich but, man, is it full of gristle. Did I just hit it on the wrong day?

Gristle? Or gelatinousness?

I hear you ... but you know, the banh mi isn't a sub, or a grinder, or a hoagie, or what have you -- it's not constructed as a delivery system for the meat.

The meat, in other words, is seldom something you'd pull out of the sandwich and say: I love this stuff -- how delicious! You'd probably never, ever eat it by itself, alone, just as you'd never order the cuts from a bowl of pho and make that the centerpiece of a meal.

And really, is it fair to expect primo cuts of meat in a sandwich that costs $3.50?

I have a friend who likes the IDEA of the banh mi, but just doesn't like the fact that the meats aren't, as he puts it, "all that."

He's zeroing in on the meat, rather than seeing the meat as one of many elements in a mix that includes the crunch and lightness of the bread, the tang of the pickles, the fragrance of the cilantro, the pungency and heat of the chilis ...

...

Today's book, by the way, is Oz Clarke's Let Me Tell You About Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Wine

(The link is not for Amazon, by the way, which would've been the easiest thing to do. It's to Books and Books in Miami, one of the country's great independent bookstores. Please try to support these places.

(There's an awful lot of talk in the food world about the importance of buying local and supporting farmers, etc., but then a lot of these same folks turn around and buy books without a thought from Amazon because it's cheaper and easier. The local bookstore is vitally important to our cities and communities, and it's dying out or in many cases dead already.)

Mark Kuller

Hi Todd:

I read the posts the past two weeks about there being dozens of Tapas bars in Spain better than Jaleo and Estadio and questioning the stars we received. I thought back to the 2 weeks Chef Karoum and I spent in 2010 touring Madrid, Seville, Jerez (including Puerto Santa Maria and Sanlucar Barrameda), Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, San Sebastián, Logroño, Girona, and Barcelona.

We ate in at least 60 of the highest regarded tapas bars during that period, as well as many Michelin -rred restaurants. In addition to recommendations from José Andrés, Jorge Ordonez (Spain’s largest wine importer), and Gerry Dawes (one of our country’s preeminent authorities on Spanish food and wine), we had the good fortune of having Juan Muga (of Muga Winery fame) show us around his favorites in his native San Sebastian, and having Ruben Garcia (José’s right hand man) show us around his favorites in his native Barcelona.

I admit bias, but I honestly cannot say there were a dozen tapas bars that we visited that I would frequent before Jaleo or Estadio (or NYC’s Casa Mono for that matter). I would say that there is a difference in that Estadio and Jaleo don’t necessarily have a house specialty whereas in Spain, particularly San Sebastián, the tapas bars are known for one or two dishes and locals will bar hop in search of each bar’s best.

I have never summarized my favorite restaurants from that trip but having reflected on it and reviewing my notes from the trip in reaction to the posts on your chat, I thought I would do so and share them with you and your readers.

Best meal: Not in a tapas bar but in Asador Etxeberri in a small town call Atxondo, not far from Bilbao. Might be the greatest meal I have ever had period and it was lunch! Second place goes to a small unstarred restaurant in Barceloneta called El Suquet del Amarill. Quim, the owner, toured Boqueria with us that morning and made us a spectacular lunch from the ingredients we bought as well as his famous paella. Most disappointing meal: Can Roca, the 3 star Michelin in Girona.

Best Tapas:


Madrid: Estado Puro–my favorite in the city, cool, hip and simply delicious and creative tapas basically across the road from the Prado. Also do not miss Mercado San Miguel, a mini Ferry Building experience in Madrid. Seville: La Flor de Toranzo – tremendous cured meats, an inspiration.    Sanlucar: Casa Balbino – good tapas and a great vibe in this tiny seaport
city.

Vitoria: Sagartoki – one of my very favorites. Great execution and creativity. They make a bite size tapa of a thin potato crepe filled with a slice of jamon and egg yolk that is flash fried and is literally to die for.

Bilbao: Kepa Landa – sensational tortilla

San Sebastian: Many good ones but as I said, most known for one or two dishes. Bar Nestor: Steak, tomato salad and padrons comprised one of our very best meals and they make a great tortilla at precisely 1 PM–if you arrive 5 minutes after it is gone. Alona Berri: a blend of old school and modern creativity, we had a lobster canapé which was awesome and a boquerone/anchovy canapé (called marriage) which we adopted on a modified basis at Estadio. Others worth a stop were A Fuego Negro and La Cuchara de

San Telmo Barcelona: Quimet y Quimet was my favorite tapas bar on the trip, nudging out Sagartoki–tiny and crowded but so unique and so delicious. Cal Pep: a legend and for good reason. Every dish here was superb and the meal well worth the typical 30 minute wait. At the Boqueria, El Quim was my favorite but Pinotxo and Kiosko Universal are also deserved of a stop. We enjoyed Inopia, but Albert Adria has since sold this terrific tapas bar.

To the poster, there is great food throughout Spain but in my very biased pinion both Jaleo and Festadio are representing that cuisine very well here in DC, and the many Spaniards we have as regular customers would attest to that as well. Salud! 

Thanks for chiming in, Mark.

A pointed rejoinder AND two trips' worth of restaurant recommendations! Now that's the way to make a rebuttal.

 

Frederick, MD

Can you please, please, pretty pretty please get a drink recipe from Graffiato for me?

It was one of their market punch concoctions with jalapeno, grapefruit juice, and gin or vodka. I think about it sometimes, and I really need to have it again (and again, and again, and again).

Thanks!!!!!!

We can try!

Love your exuberance; thanks for writing in ...

Actually, it reminds me of a thought I had recently, thinking of all the things "bar chefs" are contriving these days to get us to buy their cocktails. They're putting food on top of drinks, or in drinks, and setting off all sorts of special effects in the mouth before and after we take that first sip.

Well, howsabout incorporating an aural component? For that Graffiato cocktail, for instance, there might be a small video screen attached to the glass, with an indubitably perfect tune streaming live for the drinker's pleasure (or amusement).

 

Navy Yard

Our trip to Annapolis was great. We went to Level and enjoyed it a lot.

Their lamb osso bucco was absolutely delicious. I cannot reccomend it enough. It was a great spot-- thank you for sending us. I knew you would not steer us wrong!

We also ate at a Mexican dive. It was called El Toro Bravo (also in Annapolis). Their drinks were not great, but they had fantastic white cheese dip and fajitas.

Where in the DC area can you get delicious silky white cheese dip?

As always, love the chat! Thanks.

I think Anita's, in Vienna, has this. I haven't been back there in a couple of years, however. Has anyone been more recently?

Glad you liked Level. My most recent dinner there wasn't quite the score that previous meals there had been, but it was still a pretty good meal. They've got a good staff, and seem to have a good grasp of what they should been and what they shouldn't be.

Next time you're out that way, and just for the sake of trying something new, you might want to pop into Crush, a dark and intimate wine bar (and wine shop) with some good dishes.

Local Bookstores

Will you share some insight as to why you think the local bookstore (as opposed to any other local merchant) is vital to our communities and cities? Additionally, why not link to a bookstore that is local to the DC area? I'm guessing its because either a.) they don't exist or b.) they don't have websites.

I could go on for 5,000 words on this, so I'll try to keep my thoughts brief ...

A local bookstore supplies more than books, which as we know are not local products. It's a gathering place, a cultural center, a nexus where authors bringing their ideas and insights interact with the community and, in many cases, inspire them -- in this way disseminationg those ideas into neighborhoods and homes.

Local bookstores don't just stock books; that's easy. They act more as curators, sifting and culling to come up with their supply, which they can then talk about with their customers. Unlike the big boxes, the staffers actually read the books, or, if not, are pretty well-acquainted with them.

Having a local bookstore in the community is symbolic, too. It tells people, young people especially, that things other than making money and getting ahead are important, that writers (and not just athletes and entertainers and doctors and lawyers) matter, that ideas have currency, that culture isn't a musty agglomeration of treasured things from the past but is ongoing, and always in process.

As for the link ... I looked for one for Clarke's book at Politics and Prose, but didn't find it. So I tried Books and Books, in Miami. I could've also tried Powell's, in Portland, or Left Bank Books, in St. Louis. All great stores, all (somehow) hanging on.

Vienna, VA

Great contest - Loved Hemingway on Bar Pilar! Need to meet the man who penned that review... Looking forward to reading future winners.

Why do you assume it was a man --?

Actually, the winner is a woman, Mabel Yu of Gaithersburg, Md.

Thanks again for such a great entry, Mabel! ...

MyHood Arlington

My Franken-Restaurant:

The experience of the Sushi Taro Omakase counter; View from Sou'Wester; Sidcar from Todd Thrasher, Wine from Proof (preferably Italian Red), Truffle Fries from Poste, the Mosaic of surf and turf from Citronnelle; Sweetbreads from Bibbiana; Caramel-Orange Tart with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Meringue from Restaurant Eve.

And my fast food option: Five Guys Fries, Burger King Burger, Jamocha Malt and Apple Turnover from Arbys.

Ha! Nice ...

By the way, for all those of you out there typing frantically right now ... Bear in mind that this isn't about compiling a perfect meal of dishes. I'm asking you to consider the many aspects of the dining experience -- or eating experience -- as possible.

Jessica

Heads up: I just put in a request with Graffiato for cocktail recipe.

Thanks, Jessica ...

Jessica Voelker, everyone, our new online dining editor. We're thrilled to have her ...

Washington DC

I wanted to respond to Mark Kuller's post even though I am not the OP.

Tapas, as done in Spain, specifically San Sebastian, is where Mr. Kuller is right - each bar specializes in one or two and people tend to bar hop to make a night of drink, bites and good cheer. Win-win in my book. That's part of the culture of tapas.

While I think Jaleo and Estadio are fine establishments, but my concern is that they are taking "tapas" out of their intent and content. And that there are plenty of "fledging" DC restaurants that are doing the tapas/small plates concept.

Todd, I know you are a fan of small plates, as it allows you to taste several dishes. The problem is (and I think you know how this can get) is that these "small plates" turn out to be expensive nights out. Yes, some people are able to manage to keep the bill at a moderate price level, but when many people go out, they don't keep a tight eye on the cost of the night out. I think this happens a lot at places that offer "small plates/tapas."

Sometimes I think the small-plate gimmick becomes the appeal for restaurateurs. I'm not saying that specifically about Estadio or Jaleo but I have to wonder when I see every other meh restaurant suddenly turning over the mediocre menus to small plates.

I mean really, who wants a series of mediocre small plates!?

I appreciate your perspective.

I think it's interesting to think about, because on the one hand, you're right -- we are eating tapas out of context when we go to these places. In Spain, tapas is, for many, the meal before the meal, a prelude to something more substantial -- taken, with a drink or two, at a different establishment.

Our tapas places are different beasts altogether. For one thing, they ARE the meal, the entirety of the night out.

On the other hand, the profusion of tapas or mezze or small plates restaurants has in many ways helped to level or democratize the dining scene, making it more possible to eat well or interestingly without dropping $250 for two -- which is what you would have paid at most fine-dining restaurants a generation ago.

You'll Never Have to Go Anywhere Again

My Franken-restaurant:

1.) The address of Chadwicks, Old Town 2.) The waitstaff at Komi 3.) The bartenders at Clydes, Mark Center 4.) The raw bar at Clydes, Mark Center 5.) The beer list at Church Key 6.) The wine list from La Strada 7.) The sushi lunch special from Tachibana 8.) The "pick your own" dinner from the Del Merei Grill 9.) The custard from the Dairy Godmother 10.) The twice weekly live bluegrass from Tiffany Tavern

Now that I think about it, having all of my favorite things in one restaurant *might* get boring.

Kevin

Maybe, but wouldn't it be a blast to give it a spin a few times before jadedness sets in?

Thanks for the entry, Kevin ...

Washington DC

I was sitting in the bar at Fiola last week reading your chat. I quickly asked to see the menu and Fiola still has an a la carte menu.

Good. I'm glad. For you, me, and all the other food lovers out there.

Thanks for chiming in ...

Bethesda

Hi Todd-

We want to go out for our anniversary tomorrow in Silver Spring. Where should we go? I looked at the menu at Jackie's and...it looks only ok. The small plates look good, but none of the entrees really do anything for me.

Any other restaurants to recommend in that area? Thanks!

There's Ray's the Classics, on Colesville, across from the AFI Silver: good steaks and chops, a good Maryland-style crab bisque, and an atmosphere that's far from the clubby, masculine vibe that you tend to find at most steakhouses.

There's Kao Thai, which is a couple of doors from Ray's. I like the cooking here a lot, the moo ping, the chicken curry puffs, the won ton soup, the red curry ... though it's probably not what you think of when you think: special occasion restaurant.

And there's 8407 Kitchen + Bar, where the cooking of late has really found its groove. If you go, the must-order is the lamb bolognese, with homemade tagliatelle -- an outstanding dish, one of the best pasta dishes you're going to find in the area. Rita Garrubo makes the desserts, and there's not a single sweet on her menu that isn't deeply, wonderfully satisfying.

Finally: I'd give a lot more consideration to Jackie's than you're giving. The menu also changes all the time, and the version up on the web may not reflect what's there right now. It's a terrific spot.

Van Ness

My Franken-restaurant ...

Relaxed and knowledgeable service of Komi. A well curated beer program like Birch & Barley. (although doesn't necessarily have to be that extensive) The mixology of The Passenger. Decor of Bar Pilar. A quirky owner like at The Saloon. (who donates time and money to build schools in developing countries) Food of Proof mixed with perhaps a little French bistro ala Montmartre. Interesting vegetarian options, like one can get at Zaytinya or Ethiopic, to keep the gf happy while I graze on cured meat product. And it will be located in otherwise unhip Van Ness so we can finally have a good restaurant...although the neighborhood probably still wouldn't support it!

Good one ...

Thanks, Van Ness ...

30 minutes to go, everyone -- 30 minutes to come up with the book-winner ... Dare to be different. Be surprising ...

McLean

So, with Rogue Sessions, which of the remaining chefs would you be interested in?

Granted the line up has been amazing, but if you could only go once whom would it be and why.

I'll tell you, it's tough. Lots of interesting names on that list.

Remaining chefs, order not yet announced:

Scott Drewno — The Source
Katsuya Fukushima — Daikaya (opening February 2012)
Jennifer Carroll — Carroll Couture Cuisine, Philadelphia
John Currence — City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, Miss.
Nancy Oakes — Boulevard, San Francisco

Already done it:
Bryan Voltaggio — Volt (First week)
Tim Byres — SMOKE, Dallas (second week)
Spike Gjerde — Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore (third week)
José Andrés — ThinkFoodGroup (This week)
David Posey — Blackbird, Chicago (next week--on sale now)

But the one I'm most love to attend is the one featuring John Currence, of City Grocery (among others) in Oxford, Mississippi.

I love his approach, and I love the fact that he's so conversant not just with his culinary past but also his cultural past.

His cuisine, like that of Sean Brock of Husk, in Charleston, is at the forefront of a new movement that might be called Southern Artisanal, a fancy-sounding term I just made up that just means he's committed to doing things -- ALL things, at every step -- from scratch and rooting his dishes in traditions that, in some cases, are no longer extant. Just looking at a picture of one of his hand-sized biscuits (made with lard only) is enough to make me salivate.

Van Ness

re: Politics and Prose. Last year, we went to see Joshua Foer speak at 6th and I Synagogue (another great DC cultural institution) and he started his remarks with a story about how he and his brothers use to run around P&P as kids like it was an extension of their living room and here he was 20 years later speaking at a P&P event at 6th and I. Not going to get that from Amazon.

Yeah, exactly.

And I don't just say that because P&P was so gracious to invite me to read and speak about The Wild Vine. I really do think it's pretty much indispensable to the city at this point -- just like Arena Stage and the Kennedy Center and the Folger, etc.

In a way, it's a shame there's only the one -- a shame that it doesn't have some company and competition. I mean, think about that. The capital of the free world: one real bookstore. One.

Cleveland Park

My "Bionic Restaurant":

I'll take bustling dining room from Aredo+Bardeo, the tables from Estadio, the spot-on waitstaff from Zaytinya, the soundtrack from The Diner, the beer list from Churchkey, the pizza's from 2Amy's, a plate of injeera and tibs from Dukem, and finish it off with black seasame ice cream from Kushi

I like!

Fun-sounding place ... thanks for playing, CP ...

Capitol Hill, DC

Hi Todd,

My husband and I are spending a weekend in Dupont Circle as a rare kid-free getaway. Can you help us plan an eating itinerary, keeping in mind that we won't have a car? We will have two dinners, one lunch, and two breakfasts. We like all types of food and like to be adventurous, but we have the budget for only one splurge meal.

Thanks in advance!

Sounds like a fun time. Enjoy it.

Here're some of my favorites:

Zorba's Cafe for gyros, hummus, tabbouleh, taromasalata, etc., and great prices.

Urbana has a new chef, John Critchley, and I've enjoyed eating off the bar menu there. The must-orders: a foie gras brat that isn't really a brat at all -- it comes to the plate looking simply like a terrine sliced into pieces; it's rich, it's satiny, it's elegant, and it shows a superb command of salt. One of the best plates I've had the last couple of months. Critchley's also doing a version of Vietnamese caramel pork, with ribs served on the bone not off, with an unexpectedly delicate caramel-black pepper sauce.

Obelisk is one of the enduringly good restaurants of the dining scene for the past two decades. Dinner there is serene and civilized, and full of simple pleasures.

Eola is putting out one of the most exciting meals in the city right now, an all-tasting menu experience for $65, with supremely soulful cooking.

Tabard Inn for a light meal of oysters and apps and drinks, followed by some very good desserts. On weekends, the brunch includes homemade donuts, a must.

I'd put Pesce on your list on the strength of its wines and its rotating, market-dependent roster of small plates, mostly of fresh fish and seafood, simply prepared.

I hope that helps ... Be sure to drop back on and let me know where you ended up ...

Cleveland Park, DC

1. The neighborhood community feel of Palena, 2. The value of Ray's the Steaks, 3. The energetic but not deafening bustle of Zaytinya, 4. The innovative libations of the Columbia Room barstaff, 5. The flavors of Four Sisters, 6. The 'just right' service of Obelisk, 7. The cheeky desserts of Central, and 8. The "you're in DC" reminder provided by Oval Room

Interesting ...

I wonder, though: how do you convey #8 in a place that offers #1-#7??

Clarendon, VA

What are your favorite lunch spots in the Clarendon area? Takeout would be even better for those on the real run. I love Liberty Tavern To-Go where you can get anything off their menu. 

Clarendon -- and immediate surroundings -- is awash in great choices ...

Bayou Bakery for sandwiches and gumbo and beignets, Delhi Club for its very tasty and cheap buffet, El Charrito Caminante for its tortas and tacos, Lyon Hall for its shortrib hot dog, shrimp cocktail and good wines, Minh's for grilled pork and vermicelli, shrimp-and-yam fritters, sizzling catfish with dill, Ray's to the Third for its fried shrimp, its hanger steaks, its burgers ...

... And I know I'm forgetting a ton of others, in just naming these ...

The Circle

I'll play: Classic martinis with a classic DC view at the Hay Adams; dim-sum type Mediterranean appetizers from Zaytinya; family-style Indian at Rasika; local neighborhood ambiance of Bar Pilar; wine pairing from Komi; cheese plate from Proof; after-meal coffee from Kafe Leopold; the rarified experience of Minibar.

Good stuff ...

Thanks, The Circle ...

E. Market

Todd -

We happened to be downtown with some time to kill this weekend and popped into "Hamilton" for a drink. We sat in the welcoming front bar. Service was sub-par but I will give a complete pass given they have only been open for a hot minute.

I am writing more bc I was blown away by the massive size of the place. Rooms upon rooms, upon bars, upon floors... It felt more like a Vegas hotel or cruise ship than a restaurant. I can't fathom how they will make it profitable. Or why undertake such a massive endeavor. Have you been?

I have.

And you're right -- it's massive. It just goes on and on and on. Room after room after room. And that's just the first floor of it.

Can it make it? I don't know. But one key thing to consider: It's a Clyde's. It has all the other restaurants in that group, including Old Ebbitt Grill, to cover for it for a while and even, possibly, into the future.

I get a kick out of the menu. It's like an iPod shuffle of greatest hits from restaurant menus of the past 5 years: banh mi, Korean lettuce wraps, ramen, the gut-busting egg-topped burger, charcuterie, cheeses, pork belly something or other, sushi ...

I wlll say this: It's a very good restaurant for 1 in the morning, when you've had a night out already and/or -- but preferably and -- are slightly hung-over. ...

... Time to pick a winner.

I want to take a moment and just thank everybody for playing -- some fun-sounding places you came up with.

I'm going with "Cleveland Park" -- well, the "Cleveland Park" who wrote: "My 'Bionic Restaurant': I'll take bustling dining room from Aredo+Bardeo, the tables from Estadio, the spot-on waitstaff from Zaytinya, the soundtrack from The Diner, the beer list from Churchkey, the pizza's from 2Amy's, a plate of injeera and tibs from Dukem, and finish it off with black seasame ice cream from Kushi."

I like the mix of high and low, and I guess above all, I just think that all of these elements together sounds interesting and, in my mind, likely to work pretty well ...

Drop me an email, "Cleveland Park," at tkliman@washingtonian.com and we'll be sure to get that Oz Clarke book out to you.

Have a great week, everyone ...

Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[missing you, TEK ... ]

 

 

 

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 01/24/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Chats