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

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

Published June 11, 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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FOLLOWING-UP FROM LAST WEEK: SOFTSHELLS ...:

I had one last week at Fishnet in Shaw.

$15, served either on a sandwich or over arugula salad. The crab was fried perfectly, and the batter wasn't too thick.

My only complaint is that they serve the same salad with all of their seafood platters, and while it's really good, it didn't compliment the crab.

Next time I'd ask for the salad on the side. Or I'd get the sandwich, which looked amazing when I saw someone else's coming out of the kitchen.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for the report …

A not-too thick batter is really important if you’re going to eat them fried.

And being lightly fried is just as, if not more, important. Otherwise it’d be like eating fried shrimp or fried clams, and a softshell is a different thing entirely. It needs to retain its juice and its delicacy.

Good for Fishnet.

Although how funny that now they’re also in the city, everybody’s discovering them.

But Todd, College Park is a long way to go for a lot of people.

Yeah, well, the good stuff is not always easy to find, and takes some seeking out. I drove over an hour and a half out last night — with traffic, but still — to eat Indian food.

FIELD REPORT: ROOFTOP DECK AT ROSE'S LUXURY, DC:

Hi Todd,

Just writing in about the most AMAZING dining experience I've ever had in DC, or anywhere for that matter. The rooftop at Roses.

I was fortunate enough to experience it this past Sat night and just WOW. I can't stop thinkginb about it. When Chef Silverman says all you can eat, it's an understatement.

We had so many courses and suprises throughout the evening, and it was a 4 hour experience. I really want to write you all the courses we had, but i don't want to gave away any surprises to the readers. Ok..maybe just one..Delmonico..MELTED IN MY MOUTH!!

And we each got a take home surprise which made my husbands Father's day...rhymes w/ trisket.

Every single course was a pleasant surprise. To be able to enjoy a gorgeous private space w/ close friends, eating food of this caliber, and to be waited on by the most friendly/pleasant staff...just makes for amazing memories and love of life.

Truly amazing..this restaurant has EVERYTHING. I hope to be able to do the rooftop again next summer. Until then, I'll be getting in line at 4:45 for the normal seating.

Btw, have you tried it yet?

Todd Kliman:

I haven’t.

But I’d love to.

Problem is finding the 7 others who have the interest and the money to drop on something like this.

I’ve been trying to think of who, among my friends, has $200 to spend/blow on dinner per person — $400 per couple. I can think of maybe one or two. But not 7.

And ideally with something like this, I’d want to be in the company of people I know and like and can revel with.

So, no, not yet. But one day …

CELEBRATING AT RESTAURANTS, CONT. ...:

If I am asked if a reservation is for a special occasion, I always say no even if it is.

The last thing I would want at a restaurant is to become the center of attention. I'm sure most places would be more subtle than that, but you never know.

So when my wife and I celebrated our anniversary in the bar at The Source, the staff had no idea. So imagine our surprise at the end of dinner when the bartender presents a plate of cookies with Happy Anniversary in icing.

I assume he had noticed when we had raised a glass to each other.

'While unnecessary -- we were very happy with our night out to that point -- the gesture was much appreciated and often re-told.

Todd Kliman:

That’s a very good waiter you had. You didn’t by chance get his name, did you?

The competent server does everything you ask, and everything you expect.

The good server, in addition, anticipates needs and cuts off problems before they happen.

The great server goes a step beyond, and — as your story illustrates — constantly reads the table for ways to improve your experience.

It’s kind of amazing how a little gesture like this goes such a long way with most people — cementing the restaurant as a place that’s good, a place that cares.

Think of all the little touches the kitchen crew works on during the day for its dishes; all the distinguishing details that take so much time and concentration.

Now think about a plate of cookies with two words written out in sauce: easy; cheap; takes no time at all.

CAFE RUE: HOURS:

You may want to update your description of Cafe Rue to keep others from making the same mistake:

We went to Cafe Rue on Saturday night and discovered, to our shock, that they aren't open for dinner on Saturday or Sunday.

Normally, I'll check on a Monday or Tuesday, especially at smaller places, but it never occurred to us or our friends to check!

We'll try again, but we were very sad.

On the other hand, we had a lovely dinner at Jewel of India. ;-)

Todd Kliman:

Oh no! I’m sorry to have been the cause of the sadness. Please accept my apologies.

Yes, the place has very odd hours. A function, I’m guessing, of its one-man-band of an owner, Cole Whaley, doing just about everything on the floor: bussing, running, serving, cooking, etc. And being a young father.

It closes at 3 on Saturday and Sunday, and I believe at 8 on the weeknights it’s open.

Whaley, I want to add, also has a food truck, so look for it: Cole’s Palette. Sriracha chicken and waffles. Red velvet chicken and waffles. Crispy brussels sprouts. And more …

I almost had your experience the first time I tried going, many, many months ago, but did call ahead and got a recording.

I hope you’ll return. It’s a neat spot, and, like all independents doing interesting and good things, deserving of support.

Glad you had a good meal at Jewel of India. The old chef, Nabin Baudel, is no longer there, so it’s good to hear reports like this. My most recent meal there was about six months ago, and was also good.

By the way, Baudel is now at Namaste, in Alexandria. It’s a pretty standard-issue northern Indian place, but within that restaurant is another restaurant: a Nepalese restaurant. Baudel and his two partners are Nepalese, and there are a half dozen or so dishes on the menu from Nepal. Including the fantastic momo dumplings: tender steamed skins concealing a yellow chicken curry with diced green onions inside.

ROOFTOP AT ROSE'S, CONT ...:

Todd,

So when should we plan this rooftop Dinner at Roses? ;)

My wife and I are always down!

Naeem

Todd Kliman:

Well, so that’s 3.

Just 5 more.

Hm …

DULCE DE LECHE:

If Dulce de Leche so good that not having it would make you perform worse in a major soccer tournament, I want some.

Any suggestions?

Todd Kliman:

Ha.

What a freaky little story this is:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27889343

Lots of different ways to taste it around town.

Dolcezza has a dulce de leche gelato. It’s really good. And really not-cheap.

(I picked up two pints of sorbetto at the Dolcezza factory near Union Market for a dinner I was making a couple of weeks ago: $23.

(I parked in a spot that allowed me — yes — 3 minutes; it would’ve been 5 if it had been below 32 degrees. I think I was in and out in just under 6 minutes. Scofflaw!)

Baked and Wired, in Georgetown, does a cake with dulce de leche.

La Limeña, in Rockville, serves alfajores — anise-flavored shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche and dusted with powdered sugar. Really good.

District Doughnut does a dulce de leche flavor.

Point Chaud Cafe & Crepes slathers the thick, rich caramel inside a crepe — to my mind, one of the best ways to enjoy dulce de leche.

One of the best desserts I ever made was a dulce de leche crepe cake. I made more than 3 dozen crepes and a massive pan of dulce de leche (cooking this caramel is very tricky; you don’t want it to burn, but you want it to get dark). And then I began assembly: slapped down a crepe and slathered it with sauce; added another crepe on top and another layer of sauce. And on and on until there were no more crepes left. And then I added some squeezes of orange to the leftover dulce de leche to thin the mixture, along with a shot of Cointreau, and drizzled the orange-caramel sauce over the layered cake.

I need to do that again.

FIELD REPORTS: SILK ROAD CHOYHONA AND THE AIRPORT CAFE IN GAITHERSBURG, AND GRILLMARX IN OLNEY:

A few meals of late around N Montgomery County:

It isn't often I get to try a new cuisine, so we decided to spend father's day evening at the Uzbek restaurant Silk Road Choyhona in Gaithersburg to wade through the unknowing of a new menu. There were some gems in the many things we tried, and while everything was good it was less seasoned in general than we expected. Standouts were the thin dough of the kutabi filled with herbs and covered with tart sumac and served with mint yogurt, the pumpkin filled manti dumplings, the perfectly grilled chicken skewer covered in sour herbs spice and the plov with lamb and heaps of roasted garlic still in it's flaky skins . Next time I'm keen to try to try the huge pitchers of some kind of fruit juices with mashed fruit which were popular. Worth checking out. This isn't a culinary destination per se, but with two little kids sometimes you need some distraction.

The Airport Cafe is literally on the airfield of the small Montgomery County Airport and has a nice deck for dining and watching the little planes come and go. The menu is ultra standard -- with wraps, sandwiches, soups, etc and it's breakfast and lunch only. But it's real food and not bad as long as you stay simple. It is a great place to grab a $4 beer and munch a plate of fries and a sandwich and have some family fun. Looking forward to trying their breakfast.

While I'm on the family friendly destinations, I can't say enough about the new Grillmarx up in Clarksburg and their happy hour menu. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the veggie burger here, it's the best thing on the menu I have tried, but there are many things about this relaxed yet classy venue which make it easy to take a couple of kids to and still feel like you are "dining out". The service could be a bit more polished but they can still claim newness, and they get some major points for genuinely welcoming kids to a place which could be more pretentious. Plus, with some of the better fries around and some tiny burgers on their happy hour menu perfect for a mini-eater there's a pretty perfect recipe for the parents to enjoy a quality beer or nice wine on their patio in peace.

Bevin

Todd Kliman:

Thanks so much for these reports, Bevin.

I’d never heard of the Airport Cafe until you just mentioned it. Sounds good — my kids can watch the planes and eat fries, and I can watch the planes and drink beer. ;)

Silk Road Choyhona I do know about, and have been to. It’s very decent. I badly wanted it to be better than very decent. I was hoping for something at or near the level of Rus Uz, in Arlington, which is wonderful, with many areas of strength.

I’ll have to go to Grillmarx for the burgers. And take my kids, who, it’s kind of funny, always say they want a burger, but then when they get them don’t eat them; a couple of bites, maybe.

My older son, who’s 6, isn’t much on meat, and I think is beginning to connect the dots. About a month ago, there was chicken on the table, a roast chicken, and he said: “Like a chicken on the farm?”

My younger son is only somewhat more interested in meat. Though he LOVES pastrami and barbecue. Makes me teary …

ROOFTOP AT ROSE'S, CONT. ...:

Two more that would be interested in the rooftop too ...

Todd Kliman:

That’s 5 …

CELEBRATING AT RESTAURANTS, CONT. ...:

Last week a poster, wrote about a restaurant taking notice that it was their or their spouses birthday and that multiple people wished them well on their special day.

I just want to piggyback on what that poster wrote.

My wife and I were at Rogue 24 two weekends ago and we were greeted right away by the hostess and she immediately wished my wife a happy birthday. Once, we were seated multiple servers came up and also wished my wife a happy birthday too.

During different times of the night, Chef RJ would make the rounds of the dining room, to chit-chat with the diners and to see how their meal was going. He noticed that my wife was cold. The next thing we knew, Chef RJ personally brought over a shawl for my wife. He didn't have to bring over a shawl, but little gestures like that help in making a special occasion more memorable.

Oh, and the food and overall dining experience were very good too.

Big shout out to Chef RJ and his staff for making my wife's birthday a memorable one and eagerly anticipating the opening of Gypsy Soul in the Mosaic in Merrifield VA too!

Todd Kliman:

Good for chef Cooper and the crew at Rogue 24. That’s really nice to hear.

And that’s especially impressive, given all the things a chef at a restaurant like this has to keep his eye on.

Thanks for chiming in …

ROSE'S, AND APPS SELLING RESERVATIONS ...:

re: Roses: Can you please please count me in? I am single so I don't have someone to share the experience with… ;-)

On a similar note: what do you think about all these new apps "selling" reservations to places that don't take reservations? As a diner, I am completely against it. If they get in line an hour before and can get paid to do that how am I going to get in? Will it be like the concerts and sporting events for which the tickets sell out in a minute and sold online and double/triple the price?? How do we stop this?

Todd Kliman:

That’s 6.

As for apps selling reservations to places that don’t take them — it sickens me.

Whenever people set out to game something, it sickens me. Ticket brokers sicken me. People flipping homes sicken me. They sicken me because they reinforce the idea that life is a scrum, and that if you aren’t ruthless and thinking constantly about money and positioning you’re done for, screwed. Game over.

I’ve heard and read the arguments that compare it to games and shows. It’s sad that restaurants are going in that direction. “Dynamic pricing” — where’s George Carlin when we need him? — is going to be more and more with us, I’m afraid, at the buzzy restaurants.

Already many of the best restaurants in the country are working to distinguish themselves from the merely very good restaurants. They’re issuing contracts and taking credit cards in advance. They’re styling themselves as speakeasies, so that you have to be in the know in order to eat there. They’re situating themselves as restaurants within a restaurant — in this way signaling to the diner that this is a more rarefied, more exclusive “experience.”

This is the culture now.

And just wait five, ten years.

It’s nothing to do with the food, you know. Nothing. It’s everything to do with celebrity, with show, with a sense that a restaurant is a place where things happen.

ROSE'S ROOFTOP, CONT. ...:

The rooftop at Rose's is an amazing experience, but organizing something like this is tricky not only because of the cost but, as you mention, you're in a small space for hours sharing a meal, so people have to mesh.

AND, the dates are issued only a few at a time only a couple of weeks in advance, so knowing who will be able to attend on a particular night is well nigh impossible at the time you *try* to get through (think: ordering highly coveted concert tickets online) to get a reservation. I tried for three weeks straight before I got lucky. I could have put together 3 dinners of 10 people if all of the people I asked who wanted to go but had date conflicts could have made it.

I had a wonderful time but gained some new gray hairs doing the organizing.

(And I don't know the etiquette but keep feeling like I should have sent a note thanking them, since they went way above and beyond.)

Todd Kliman:

It’s not too late.

And I know they’d appreciate it.

But yeah, that meshing is the thing. I’m sure it could be a good time with just anyone around the table.

But so much the better, I would think, with people you’re going to see again, year in and year out.

It just goes to show: foodie-ism is for people of means. I’m not saying loving food is for people of means: absolutely not. Most of the food lovers I know are not people of means. And there are many great meals to be had outside of the restaurants everyone always talks about — I work very hard to find these places and bring their work to you.

But eating at places like Rose’s roof deck and other “experiences” around the area — Minibar, the Inn at LW, the softshell at Fiola Mare — takes money. The spirit of Rose’s roof deck is wonderful, and I know my friends would have a great time trying all the different dishes and comparing them each to each and reveling in the onslaught. But it’s not meant for them, and that’s kind of a shame — that it exists for a certain swath of the dining public. Not that it’s not open to all, but that it exists for that swath.

ROSE'S ROOFDECK, CONT. ...:

There would be two more to add to the Rose's tally, if you wanted to go.

Todd Kliman:

That’s 8.

SERVER S/O ...:

Hi Todd,

Since you like to recognize people, I have 2 favorites:

Lily at Etto, and Luca at Fiola Mare.

I realize they are very different places, but I love both of them for the same reason. They always treat me like a friend, tell me honestly what they think of every dish/beverage I'm curious about and what I should go for on that particular occasion. Not to mention the fact that, they seem to be happy that I am at that establishment whether I order just a drink or 5-6 items from the menu with multiple drinks (have done both) I enjoy being their "guest" so much so that I try not to visit those places when they are off (sorry) - to me they are part of the experience and real gems in the city.

Any time I have a long or not so great day, I like to go see them, and then decide what I want to have for dinner, in that order.

By the way, I've seen them extend same kind of service to both newcomers and regular, as well as people with a little chip on their shoulder.

Just sending a big thank you to them for providing such excellent service in such a tough city with all kinds of customers.

Todd Kliman:

This is great.

I love being able to credit the men and women who — as the best ones invariably say — “take care” of us at the table.

Thank you, Lily.

Thank you, Luca.

ROSE'S ROOFDECK, CONT. ...:

Can I come to rose's too? I'm single too and lots of fun I promise!

Todd Kliman:

9.

You know, I think I need to start an app of my own!

FIELD REPORT: BRASSERIE BECK, IN THE KENTLANDS ...:

Todd,

We got together with our friends who live near Gaithersburg, MD on Saturday, and wound up having a great meal at Brasserie Beck.

The restaurant was quite busy, but we bypassed the advertised 40 minute wait by opting to sit in the bar area. (It's a huge bar area, and includes several tables and booths.)

Overall, the service was very good, but the staff was quite young both in terms of age and experience. However, everyone was exceptionally friendly, and the quality of the food made up for the minor glitches. We shared a full appetizer portion of the Thai curry mussels, which were cooked perfectly and served with a generous portion of the perfectly seasoned broth. Between the four of us, we enjoyed roast chicken, rockfish, steak frites, and the pork shank. We all enjoyed our food immensely, and each dish was flawless and well-presented. My pork shank was easily one of the best I've ever tasted.

Much to my surprise, I spotted Timothy Clune and Chef Chris Watson, both of whom I recognized from their time at Ovvio Osteria. They are off to a great start, and as my friends commented, will be a welcome addition to the Gaithersburg area. If only they had opened in Fairfax!

On a separate note, my wife surprised me with VIP tickets to the Appetite Festival at the Strathmore in August. It looks fun, and I look forward to experiencing it with my adventurous teenage daughter.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for the report.

They’ve been pretty booked solid almost since they opened. I thought of going there for Mother’s Day, but they didn’t have a free table until much later that night.

It’s good to hear.

I ended up — ha — going to Beck downtown.

My favorite dish on the menu there remains the veal Bolognese mussels. If you haven’t tried this, you’re missing something special. The pleasure of a pot of mussels, as every mussel-lover knows, is eating the mussels themselves then dunking good, crusty bread into the broth. Well, here you have a luscious Bolognese to scoop up. So you’re really getting two dishes in one. Two great dishes in one.

I love picking up a mussel and finding the rich sauce clinging to it — reminds me a little of eating a rusticky Portuguese dish, the easy mix of surf and turf.

ROSE'S ROOFDECK, CONT. ...:

I wrote in a couple of weeks ago about how to dine solo at Alinea, and have been even more distressed that I would never get 7 other people together for the Rose's rooftop blowout.

Would love to join this group of chatters!

Seriously, we need to set up a Washingtonian supper club...

Todd Kliman:

10.

We really do …

ROSE'S ROOFDECK, CONT. ...:

My husband and I are in for Rose's!

Todd Kliman:

12 now.

And in such lighting-fast fashion …

Let’s see if we can somehow make this work.

As I said last week, I hate organizing and coordinating. A chatter came forth and said she’d be willing to give it a try. (So actually, that’s 13.)

Drop me a line, all of you who expressed an interest in this idea, at tkliman@washingtonian.com

I’m so taken by everyone’s eagerness and readiness …

NAMASTE, CONT. -- AND ROSE'S ROOFDECK, AGAIN ...:

Thanks for the tip about Namaste. We'll definitely visit in the near future.

With regards to Rose's, perhaps two more for the table?

Todd Kliman:

That’s 15.

And do give Namaste a try. But as I said, treat it as a restaurant within a restaurant and order the Nepalese dishes. The goat curry is not listed in the Nepalese section, by the way, but it’s also a Nepalese preparation. That and the momo dumplings, and you’ll likely walk away smiling and happy.

SOFTSHELLS, CONT. ...:

Todd -

LOVE the chats.

For $8/each (they seem to be more expensive this year than in the past) you can get them fresh from the Fishwife in Union Market and cook them at home.

My preferred method is to dust them with flour and old bay and pan fry them in a frying pan with butter.

Serve with fresh tomatoes and corn on the cob and its my favorite summer meal.

And, cooking them yourself isn't so bad as long as you let the store "clean" them for you. The popping noises are part of the experience.

-Baltimore Girl Living in DC

Todd Kliman:

BGLDC,

All I have to say is: mmmmm.

The way you prepare them is the best way to prepare them. Keep it simple. And, like you, I also love to serve them with a corn dish of some kind. Corn and tomatoes. Perfect.

Eight bucks isn’t cheap, but the District Fishwife gets in really fresh, top-grade product. I have no doubt that these are terrific.

I’ll have to go and get some soon.

FIELD REPORT: OLD EBBITT GRILL, DC ...:

Hi Todd,

I wanted to give some feedback on my question a week or so about taking 4 pp. with two teenagers to dinner before a show at National Theater.

Your suggestion of Old Ebbitt Grill was a winner.

Just what we wanted.. a nice, but not "fancy" atmosphere, close proximity to the theater. The service was friendly, well paced, and knowlegable.

My daughter and I had some really delicious oysters, 3 varieties. I was surprised to see that we had actual dinner portions, not small plates, I am so tired of small plates.

Thanks for the suggestion -- as always, love the chats.

Todd Kliman:

I’m so glad to know that worked out so well for you!

Thanks for writing in to tell me.

Old Ebbitt doesn’t get talked about a lot — doesn’t need to, really, not after all this time — but it fills a lot of bills.

Bravo to the gang over there — for being so good and consistent.

THE WILD VINE AND THE NORTON GRAPE ...:

I just read "The Wild Vine" after drinking a bottle of Stone Hill Norton at the winery. Loved the wine and learned a great deal from your book.

I suggest a bicentennial celebration of the Norton grape across the U.S. in 2021. What an opportunity to promote the "real American grape."

Thank You.

Todd Kliman:

It’d be a great idea.

I should run it by Jenni McCloud and see what we can come up with.

Thanks for reading the book.

Gotta run, everyone.

Thanks so much for all the liveliness today. And how great that so many of you stepped forward (and so quickly!) to say you’d be game to try a dinner like the one we’re talking about — even at that price.

More to come on this, soon, I hope …

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







[missing you, TEK … ]



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