Tuesday, June 10, 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 June 4, 2014

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 was a finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, and recently took home first-place honors for feature writing from the Association of Food Journalists.

Kliman 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.

He 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   .  .  .


Cafe Rue, Beltsville
I've got a lot of affection for this one-man band. Cole Whaley, a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine, is not just the owner and chef — he’’s also waiter, runner, and busser of this likable little hole in the wall in a fading Beltsville strip mall. There’s no other menu in the area quite like this, a delightful hodgepodge of soul food, yuppie bistro small plates, and Frenchified sweets. His crispy Brussels sprout dish may be the best I’ve had in a year full of crispy Brussels sprouts dishes — the outer leaves separate slightly, and he gets a chip-like crunch on them. And I love the enhancements — a touch of coconut oil for richness, a drizzle of clover honey for sweetness. The miniature crab cakes are hard to resist, and disappear quickly. Chicken and waffles are the heart of the menu, and the Cotton Club-derived combo comes in four varieties, including one with red velvet waffles and one with Sriracha-glazed chicken that calls to mind the sweet-spicy crunch of General Tso’s. I like the “classic” — the boneless, white meat chicken has surprising juice, and the waffles are thick and fluffy. Come dessert, the Francophile chef indulges his love of patisserie with five kinds of macarons (the cream centers are a touch dry, but he nails the difficult outside) and a surprisingly successful attempt at that recent darling of the NY foodie world, the cronut. More to like: the dining room is dressed up with art from the owner’s own collection, and bossa nova on continuous loop makes any day feel like a lazy Sunday.

Sushi Capitol, DC
I kind of hate putting this on here. The place is already not large — you could stand in front of the iconic Hawk ’n’ Dove, its next-door neighbor, and miss it — and the crowds that are sure to come now will only mean that I won’t be able to get in when I want later. And I’m going to want. This is a diminished sushi scene: Makoto is no longer special, Kushi is in decline, and Sushi-Ko I is gone. That leaves Sushi Taro and Sushi Capitol, and at the moment I’m not all that certain I’d take the former over the latter. Capitol is not as polished an experience as Taro, but neither is it the Zen-like spa of hushed voices and restrained manners — an Important Restaurant to save up for when you are looking to mark an occasion. This is a simple, unassuming spot, a workaday spot, with good, well-sourced fish and a chef who knows how to enhance the raw product without sacrificing the elegance essential to the form. Minoru Ogawa was previously in charge of sushi operations at every Mandarin Oriental property along the Eastern seaboard. He’s a purist at the bar, abjuring gimmicks, fads and clutter. The pieces are small, with tiny pads of rice, and the fish is sliced thin and delicately and draped just so over the pads. This doesn’t just make for an elegant presentation; it ensures that each bite is in balance, with the right proportion of fish to rice. I was in most recently for the omakase, which, at $50 for somewhere between 16-20 pieces, amounts to a sweetheart of a deal in the sushi world — particularly when the yellowtail is so sweet and still tastes of the sea, and the various white fishes are not simply there for padding, and the hand-rolls (passed across the bar as soon as they’re finished, their wrappers warm and crunchy) come with fresh-chopped toro. If you order a la carte, don’t ignore the rolls. The Florida roll, draped with whitened bands of blowtorched salmon belly and sliced avocado, is a stunner in every sense.

Thai Taste by Kob, Wheaton

On a three-block stretch of Wheaton, near the intersection of University Blvd. and Georgia Ave., can be found two of the area's best Thai restaurants -- Ruan Thai and Nava Thai. Time to add a third. Phak Duangchandr -- Kob, to friends -- has set up shop in the tiny space that originally contained Nava, in the back of Hung Phat market. Thai food fans may remember her, or at least her cooking; for 19 years she operated the Thai Food Carryout at Thai Market, near the old Safeway in Wheaton. The new setting, electrified with a paint job of orange and day-glo green, gives her a chance to expand her repertoire of dishes, while staying true to the from-scratch traditions that earned her a devoted following. The emphasis is on street food and homecooking, with a good many dishes you simply won't find anywhere else, like bamee moo daeng, a meal-in-a-bowl of tender egg noodles, red-edged roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls; or kai yad sai, an omelette stuffed with ground chicken punched up with fish sauce and soy sauce; or a salad of shrimp paste-flavored rice, onions, cucumber and sweet, sticky pork). But even familiar tastes, taste different here -- funkier, more pungent, and definitely hotter (a shrimp fried rice, alive with fistfuls of Thai basil and a generous pinch of chilis, set my heart to racing). Some customers have already been asking for more rice to accompany their orders. Partner and manager Max Praserptmate says he is willing to accommodate any requests, but adds that his aunt's cooking is not the aberration; it's the great majority of Thai restaurants that are the aberration. "The taste," he says, "is what you're supposed to get from your Thai food." Duangchandr imports many of her spices from Thailand, and toasts and grinds them herself. All the condiments on the spice tray, including a terrific chili vinegar, are made on the premises. Meats are given a long soak before hitting the grill -- 72 hours, in the case of the pork that is pounded and threaded onto a skewer to create a must-order starter called moo yang. The other must-order starter sure doesn't sound like it -- when was the last time you had fried shrimp wontons that were any good? These are fabulous. Kiew tod comes to the table looking more like a plate of tortilla chips, the mix of shrimp and white pepper bundled within a sneakily rolled edge. The crunch is junk food-loud; it's hard not to believe they weren't engineered in a lab. No beer or wine yet; Praserptmate says soon on both. I would take the money you'd ordinarily spend on a drink and spring for an extra dish or two (most are under $10, and many items will survive into the next day).

Trapezaria, Rockville
The kind of big-hearted restaurant that takes you to another place (Baltimore? St. Louis?) and maybe another time (late' 70s). Come on a weekend night, when there's a two-piece band and the place is humming and you'll feel as if you've just crashed a wedding reception. I love the GM in coat and tie who shows you to your table, maitre d'-style. I love the waitress who turned to me one night when I was trying to decide between a lamb dish on the menu and a lamb dish that was a special, and said, "Listen. Listen to me," and insisted I order the latter. She was right. The meat was rich and juicy and drenched in a lemon-spiked gravy. Alongside it: lemon roasted potatoes and green beans cooked with tomato and mint. True to the homestyle nature of the place, you couldn't see any white space on the plate. Another great dish is the fried cod, delicately light, with a fluff of skordalia in the center, a sit-down Greek fish and chips. The menu has no weak spots, as far as I can tell. I've been three times, now, and nearly everything that has come out of the kitchen has ranged from the good to the terrific. Vegetarians can revel here. Iman bayaldi, a dish of roasted eggplant drenched in cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce, has the tight, knitted flavor of expert long-cooking. It comes in a massive portion, and costs just $7. There are stuffed grape leaves without the ground beef, filled with well-cooked rice and pine nuts and wrapped in fresh-tasting leaves that still have some good chew to them. If it takes wrapping up some food for leftovers in order to manage dessert, then do it. The version of galaktobouriko -- presented in small, crunchy pieces, almost like bites of fudge -- is one of the best I've eaten in years; the baklava (served warm, and nearly spilling its crunchy, nutty, sticky filling) is stunning; and the centerpiece of the yogurt with honey and walnuts is a scoop that has been strained almost to the consistency of a cheese, with a tanginess that goes on and on and on.




Rose's Luxury, DC
I love the crackle in the room when you walk in. I'm not talking about mere noise; lots of restaurants have noise. I'm not even talking about buzz, that sense that a new place is hot. This one has an energy that is unmistakable, a sense that you have entered a kind of rare and cherished zone where the enthusiasm of the kitchen and the staff is returned in kind by the diners, who all seem to walk out the door with smiles on their faces. It's not hard to understand why. Rose's Luxury has an old-school vibe, and a sort of making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, from the homey, unassuming way the menu bids you to settle in and order to the dinner party-run-amok vibe to the yahrzeit-look-alike votives to the beer glasses that are sawed-off wine bottles. The chef, Aaron Silverman, logged stints in such high-profile kitchens as Momofuku in New York and Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, and you don't have to look hard to see elements of each of these places in the room and on the plate. Like his mentors David Chang and Sean Brock, he aims to bring off a marriage of extreme playfulness and extreme precision. The bulk of the menu consists of a dozen small plates in which Silverman sets out to cross the wires, compositionally speaking, and see what happens. A pate is a braiding of French, Italian (garlic bread are the toasts), Vietnamese (the rich, crushed-peanut topped spread brims with star anise), and I want to say Jewish (the brine for the jalapenos, onions and cukes that add crunch and tang tastes deli to me). It's seamlessly done, and highly addictive. He crosses high and low in a soup that tastes at once like liquefied popcorn and a delicate lobster veloute (the sweetness calls out for some sort of counterbalancing ingredient, or more lobster). It's not all derring-do. His gnocchi are more properly a kind of ravioli, stuffed with fennel and mint, sauced with not-too-much butter and topped with a generous scattering of crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. You'd be hard put to find five better pasta dishes in town right now. The final course is a page not out of Momofuku or Husk or McCrady's, but out of Komi -- share plates for two. In one, you lay luscious slices of perfectly smoked brisket on griddled Texas toast, add on tangy strands of pickled cabbage and smear the whole thing with a fluffy horseradish cream. The other is built around a beautifully brined pork chop -- sweet and aromatic and rich as the best pork can be -- with potlikker beans and a textbook red-eye gravy. The final act needs re-staging. The lack of a pastry chef doesn't help, nor does the tendency to over-think and over-embellish. Quenelles of chocolate cream sprinkled with dried rose petals and intended for spreading on slices of charred bread feels twee, not interesting, and hardly satisfies. More of the sink-in simplicity of the share courses would go a long way. Still, this is one of the most exciting debuts of the year. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the most exciting debuts of the past three years.



Khan Kabob, Chantilly

The best karahi I've had in ages, maybe ever, is a version here made with lamb brains. The brains, for the leery, resemble tiny curds, and the sauce of garlic, ginger, cilantro, tomato and chilis is so concentrated, and so smoky, that even after you've had your fill it's difficult to stop dipping your torn naan into the hammered metal vessel. Tariq Khan, the owner, was for many years part of the Ravi Kabob empire; he's created a worthy rival.

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ISO: A CHEESECAKE FOR A PARTY ...:

Hi Todd,

Where can I buy a good, whole cheesecake to send along to a friend's bachelorette party this weekend?

Not really sure how I landed on this idea...the weekend plans do not include a meal I could send a bottle of wine/champ to. The bride also loves the Golden Girls, who were always eating cheesecake in that kitchen.

We have a history at The Palm; think they'd do it for $50 or less? Any other suggestions in DC proper, or Bethesda at the northernmost? VA only if by Metro.

Thank you in advance for any ideas!

Todd Kliman:

I’d order mine from the new Bread Furst, on Connecticut — Mark Furstenberg’s bakery and pastry shop.

The cheesecake is great. Tangier and also lighter than most.

Two other treats I love there — the caneles (crunchy on the outside, light on the inside, and with a dark caramelly glaze) and the Bostock brioche, rich and almondy.

BEST SUSHI IN DC? ...:

I've been invited for sushi next week. What's my best choice in DC these days?

I generally go to Sushi Taro but have been considering Zentan.

Thanks in advance.

Todd Kliman:

So what you’re saying is — you haven’t read the chat in the last few weeks. :)

Take a look up top, second quickie review.

And take a look at this, too:

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/best-thing-i-ate/-the-best-thing-i-ate-crunchy-edamame-tacos-fresh-sea-urchin.php

Sushi Capitol is where I want to be eating sushi right now.

But one thing, before you go — you said that you’ve “been invited for sushi.” So how is it that you’re the one picking the place? Doesn’t invited mean that you go wherever someone else picks.

FIELD REPORT: FARMERS FISHERS BAKERS:

Hi Todd. I have another shout out for a restaurant doing a great job. There were 9 of us out celebrating a friend's birthday at Farmers Fishers Bakers last week.

They had no problem handling a large group and even brought out a cupcake with a candle for the birthday girl.

Colton, our server, was especially awesome when someone in our group ordered an entree they didn't like. He took the dish away, and while it was being remade, brought a complimentary glass of wine. We were already enjoying our night out, but his service made it that much better.

I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

Todd Kliman:

I love hearing this.

And I love that not only do you single out the restaurant — good going, FFB — but also that you thought to mention and praise your waiter — good going, Colton.

Thanks for writing in …

And this, of course, also ties back in to something we’ve been talking about the past few weeks — the question of whether a restaurant should formally recognize a birthday or special occasion.

A simple cupcake with a candle. Nice.

Not at all necessary — unless the person taking the reservation broached the subject of celebration — but nice.

FIELD REPORT: PIZZERIA ORSO:

Todd -

I'd be interested in your thoughts about a situation my wife and I encountered Saturday at Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church. This is one of our favorite restaurants, pretty much our fallback place when we want a reliably excellent meal in a pleasant setting.

Saturday we drove over around 2 pm for what we thought would be a leisurely mid-afternoon lunch. The place was about half-filled with lots of tables available both inside and out. But when we asked for a table the hostess told us there would be a 10-15 minute wait because they didn't have the staff available to handle any more customers.

It wasn't a big deal, I guess. In the middle of Saturday afternoon, it was obviously easy for us to find a table at a restaurant elsewhere.

I was surprised they didn't offer to seat us but with the warning that service might be slow because of staffing issues. I guess it was just a little jarring because I've never been told to wait to be seated in a half-full restaurant. It didn't seem like the welcoming place we've become accustomed to.

I'm curious about your thoughts about whether Pizzeria Orso handled this correctly. (Or whether we handled it correctly by just leaving.)

Doug

Todd Kliman:

I can’t blame you for not waiting.

The restaurant screwed up. Not having enough staff should not happen with a restaurant that is not new and in the first week of business.

And then it compounded that mistake by telling you and your wife — regulars at the restaurant — to wait while the place is half-empty.

Seeing a half-empty restaurant and being told to wait for 10-15 minutes — that just feels dispiriting.

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

Best soft shell crab deal in town. Pines of Rome. Bethesda. Three for $28 with pasta.

No fresh veggies at that price. Just plain. Sweet. Sautéed. Nothing fancy.

Call first to be sure they have them that night.

Todd Kliman:

Sounds good.

Thanks for the tip.

I had a softshell recently at Table that was not what I would call a contender for best deal in town.

The whole thing, claws and all, was smaller than my fist. The frying was not clumsy, but neither was it delicate. I could barely taste the sweetness of the meat. It had been halved and stood sticking up from a mound of frisee, but the frisee was so generous that it dominated the plate. And the taste.

No one has ever said of frisee: Such a generous portion!

Price: $15.

Almost half as much as the softshell at Fiola Mare, which was much more than twice as good.

So we have, in our tally:

  • the $28 softshell with sea urchin at Fiola Mare

  • three softshells with pasta for $28 at Pines of Rome

  • the $15 frisee with softshell at Table

Who can add to the list?

CONNECTIONS, CONT. ...:

You brought up the idea of connecting readers at the table last week.

How about 10-15 people getting together at some of your favorite ethnic restaurants for family style meals? Think Panda Gourmet, Bangkok Golden, etc.- the kind of places where eating across the breadth of the menu is really rewarding. The kind of places that eating as a couple don't really do it justice because there is so much missed.

Todd Kliman:

I like this idea a lot.

If there is a way to make it happen, I’d love to have us give it a try.

There’d be a lot of logistics, and I think I should point out right now that I hate even having to organize my weekly workout with two friends. I have a book group, too, and whenever there’s a date change and the emails go flying back and forth, I slam my laptop shut and go for a drive.

If I didn’t have to handle the coordination of things, then yes, absolutely, I think it’d be great.

By the way: I have mixed feelings about Panda Gourmet, which is why I don’t tout it often. The mapo tofu is terrific. Some other dishes there are terrific as well. But the service is beyond surly, and some of the cooking is slipshod. You can order 6 dishes, and three of them will be wonderful, and three of them will be eh.

RESTAURANTS AND CELEBRATING OCCASIONS, CONT. ...:

Years ago I took my mother in law and my son to Central as they share a birthday. She was 60 and he was turning 1.

They asked about dessert and I said "no, thank you" because my MIL was gluten free and my son wasn't eating sugar yet and we had already had such a lovely and special meal.

The waiter returned with a special gluten free chocolate mouse with sprinkles and a candle for MIL and also a couple of duck fat fries on a fancy plate for my son with ketchup I think as a design (he saw us give him a tiny bit earlier in the evening so correctly assumed this was okay) so they could celebrate.

It was extremely memorable and very thoughtful!

Todd Kliman:

Wow, that’s extremely thoughtful!

Thanks for passing on this story.

Some restaurants really do mean it when they say — let us take care of you, we want you to leave happy and smiling.

And some … they just say it.

ISO: A HAM STEAK FOR FATHER'S DAY BRUNCH ...:

Hi Todd- I am looking for a southern or diner style brunch on sunday (dad specifically requested ham steak) but I can't think of where to go.

I know a few diners have ham steak on the menu but they don't take reservations and I'm thinking it will be really crowded for brunch that day.

Live in Bethesda, but will travel anywhere in metro area...can you save father's day??

Todd Kliman:

Ted’s Bulletin does a ham steak at brunch — bone-in, with red-eye gravy.

Not sure whether they take reservations. But call and find out.

There are two locations, by the way — one on Barracks Row, the other on 14th St.

I hope you can get in.

If you do, please give us a report back.

Good luck.

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

I saw softshell crab on the menu at Buck's Fishing and Camping over the weekend. I don't recall the price, and didn't notice any leaving the kitchen.

I recently saw a chef preparing them on NBC 4's "Foodies DC" - it didn't appear that he dispatched the live crab before removing the lungs and other inedible parts, like one does with a lobster.

Can that be?

Todd Kliman:

It can.

The first bit of business in working with a live softshell is to cut off its face. Then, to remove the gills. Then to remove the apron in back.

But all this cutting doesn’t kill the crab. Pains the crab, undoubtedly — it’s torture, pure and simple, to be mutilated alive like this.

To the best of my knowledge, however, the crab at this point is still breathing, still living. Hitting the hot oil in the fry pan — that’s what ends its life.

FIELD REPORT: CAFE RUE, BELTSVILLE:

Hi Todd,

Just wanted to say thank for recommending Cafe Rue. I live in College Park and while I always want to try out new things in D.C., I like that you tell us about these awesome places in the suburbs.

I loved the brussels sprouts and the sriracha-glazed chicken and waffles!

The place is a definitely a little run-down looking (and with a one-man band, you might wait a little while before you're noticed after you walk in), but the food is great.

I want to try some of the other things on his little menu!

Todd Kliman:

I wouldn’t say the place is run-down looking; I would say the mall that houses it is.

I think the place itself is nice. I think Cole Whaley —the chef, owner, manager, busier, and runner, all in one — has done a good job of bringing his world, his interests, into the room.

I’m so glad to know that you went and gave it a try.

I don’t single out these places in order to single out places in the suburbs. I single out places that I think are interesting, or doing good work, or are interesting AND doing good work, which is the ultimate.

Last night I spent $167 on dinner for two in the city. There was no bottle of wine, and we didn’t have cocktails. Just three glasses of wine — served in glasses without stems (so that a cold white did not stay that way for long). The portions for most dishes were small. We had 5 dishes total. A pretty good app, and a not-good app. An entree that was fantastic. And another entree whose main item was fantastic, but whose components didn’t really complement it and were only okay. A mediocre dessert.

But wait, there’s more. The floor of the restaurant is concrete, and there’s a divot in the middle of the floor; last night it pooled with water. We had to buss our own table, handing off bread plates to the servers to make space for the appetizers. The server mispronounced an ingredient name, and misled us to think that a sauce for one of the dishes would be a more prominent part of the plate. We were hustled in and out, and were done in exactly an hour-and-a-half.

For $167.

And no, in case you’re wondering, this was not CityZen or Blue Duck Tavern or Fiola Mare.

Now, to come back to Cafe Rue for just a second. It’s an apple to this restaurant’s orange. Of course. But is it interesting? Is it good? Is it interesting and good? Do I think people would benefit from knowing about it, and probably walk away happy and talking about coming back? These are the questions that matter.

Where a place is, who runs the kitchen of that place, what that place’s reputation is — these questions matter much less to me.

SOFTSHELLS, CONT.:

Hi Todd,

I’m enjoying today’s chat thus far (and as always!) I saw that you were looking for additional soft shell offerings around town and wanted to quickly send BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier’s spring tasting menu.

Chef de Cuisine Harper McClure is currently offering a Tempura Battered Soft Shell Crab with a spring onion salad and purée and preserved lemon ($20). Might be a bit steeper in price than you were searching for, however, I wanted to send your way in case it proved useful.

Best, Jordan

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for passing this along.

I don’t care about price. I care about good.

I’ll note the price, certainly, but I’m interested in knowing every great preparation of softshell that’s out there right now.

CONNECTING, CONT. ...:

I'm the original poster who suggested family style meals at an ethnic restaurants. I am willing (I think) to organize. Also have some thoughts on how to make it easier for all involved.

Should I contact you directly via email?

Todd Kliman:

Yes, please.

tkliman@washingtonian.com And thanks …

CREEKSTONE FARMS BEEF = HALAL:

This article was being circulated around various social media sites and through email about Top American restaurants that serve Creekstone Farm Beef, which apparently is all halal.

This is big news for Muslim Americans who adhere to the principles of Halal eating. I was able to see that Blue Duck Tavern carries Creekstone Farms.

I personally do not eat halal but for my wife, the news about Creekstone it was her Eid.

Have already booked a table at Blue Duck so she too can try the one of their most popular dishes the beef short rib. They also serve Creekstone Farm beef for Brunch too.

I hope some of the other restaurants in the city can confirm if they too carry Creekstone Farm beef.

Link to the article:

http://muslimeater.com/2014/06/09/creekstone-beef-served-in-top-restaurants-around-america-is-halal/

Naeem

Todd Kliman:

Really interesting stuff.

Thanks so much for passing this along, Naeem.

That also means that she and others can eat the pastrami sandwiches at DGS. They’re made, I believe, with Creekstone Farms beef.

Halal-ujah.

I hope restaurateurs and chefs are reading.

RESTAURANTS AND CELEBRATING SPECIAL OCCASIONS, CONT. ...:

Since there has been a lot of discussion about restaurants asking about and not acknowledging special occasions, so I thought I would share my recent opposite experience.

I returned to the U.S. after being away for about a half a year, and my girlfriend arranged for a nice return dinner at Komi. She must have told them the reason for the dinner because several of the wait staff asked me about my time away with genuine interest and questions about the country I was in. They also served the dessert chocolates in a nice little box that said "welcome home".

It was a great example of a restaurant recognizing a special night for us without needing to give away food or drinks (although maybe we wouldn't have received the chocolates otherwise).

The food, wine, and overall service was all amazing as well!

Todd Kliman:

What impresses me most about your story is that more than one server, I’m guessing — right? you said staff — took a genuine interest in your time away.

That’s a real interaction. And a real interaction is so much more meaningful than “happy anniversary” or “happy birthday” written out in sauce on a plate or printed on a menu or a piece of cake.

That’s a great testament to Komi.

Thanks for chiming in on this …

FOLLOWING-UP FROM LAST WEEK: BLOWOUT COOKOUT IDEAS ...:

BBQ Idea - I did my take on a Chipotle menu for my last cookout and it was a hit!

Marinated carne asada and boneless chicken thighs the day before with a copycat recipe I found online.

Made a big pot of black beans and cilantro lime rice in the morning. Grilled the meat and some sliced onions and peppers and served family style along with fresh guacamole and chips and maduros (the Cuban in me had to have them). You could also have lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream and tortillas.

Make a pitcher of sangria and you're all set!

Todd Kliman:

And you didn’t invite me??

My mouth is watering just reading this …

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

RE: Softshells

I had one at Bar Pilar. Wanted to like it, but it was not good. Chargrilled to the point of being solid black. Didn't taste like much other than charcoal.

And was $12 for one. I only ate half.

Todd Kliman:

Twelve bucks per isn’t bad at all.

And especially not if it’s a sweet and meaty one.

But charred to the point that you describe?

Ugh. What a waste.

Chargrilling is a bad idea for a softshell.

It’s a delicate, delicate thing.

CHEESECAKE, CONT. ...:

I never go for a meal, but I have to admit the cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory (Clarendon metro) is pretty darn good!

Todd Kliman:

And massive.

It’s three cheesecake slices in one.

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

RE: your description of how they're prepared ...

Ha ha! You are now going to ensure that softshell crabs stay reserved for those of us heartless enough to do that to a creature.

Which, by the way, I'm ok with. You need to understand what you're eating -- being oblivious to how food is produced seems a real problem to me!

Sincerely, A Softshell Fiend (who has cleaned her own softshells on occasion)

Todd Kliman:

This is interesting and complicated and probably deserving — no, definitely deserving — of a longer, more involved conversation, an actual conversation, not one where I’m typing fast and you’re anonymous and a bunch of people we both don’t know and can’t see are reading along.

I wouldn’t say that I’m okay with it. Like many things in life, I don’t have a clear and unambiguous stance on the matter. I’m conflicted.

I eat them. Every chance I get, I eat them.

And I’ve even cooked them up myself, once. I’ll never forget it. It was excruciating to watch. You might not — or then again, maybe you might — believe all the things that ran through my head as they sizzled and writhed in the pan. Thoughts of power relations. Thoughts of death and dying. Thoughts of Thomas Aquinas and Viktor Frankl. Thoughts of the Nazis …

A very discomfiting few minutes.

And then, yes, I ate them. And that was not less discomfiting, let me tell you …

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

I've somehow never had soft shell crabs, and only this year am realizing it for the serious oversight that it is. What preparation do you recommend for a first timer? Pan seared or fried?

I'm on a tight budget this summer so I can't quite go around trying all the offerings - Fiola Mare's sounds good, but I'm not sure how I feel about the sea urchin aspect. DC Coast has a soft shell po' boy for $20, but am I just drowning the flavors if I eat it that way?

Todd Kliman:

I don’t think so.

Not if it’s done well, and I’d be willing to bet that it’ll be a good sandwich.

You’re going to like them better, the first time, if you get them fried.

After — if there is an after — you can move on to sautéed.

Good luck. And let me know how you like it …

Gotta run.

Late-ish for lunch.

Thanks for all the great questions and comments and tips and musings.

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







[missing you, TEK … ]



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