Tuesday, June 25 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.

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

From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper'sThe Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies.

He is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.

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

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

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



* Curry Leaf, Laurel

The former chef at Udupi Palace, the beloved Langley Park vegetarian Indian restaurant that shuttered three years ago, has made a triumphant return at this comfy Laurel stripmall restaurant. Saravan Krishnan presides over a kitchen that covers a lot more ground than his predecessor's did -- street food, curries, Indo-Chinese, tandoor, dosas, biryani, and breads are among the categories that make up the long and sprawling menu. Some Indian food can be characterized as spicy. Krishnan's is that more elusive beast -- it's spiced. Heat is not the end game, though he certainly doesn't shy away from it; the thing you take away from many of these dishes, however, is the way a gravy or a sauce appears to change as you eat it, the way its complex, carefully coaxed flavors deepen and reveal new and different truths as you go. Among the must-orders are the lemon rice -- its light, citrusy topnotes accentuate the nuttiness of the crushed and toasted cashews scattered throughout -- and a Sri Lankan specialty of hardboiled eggs in a rich brown curry shot through with black pepper and cinnamon and served with Ceylon-style parathas, smaller than their Indian counterparts and coiled like ropes at rest. The latter eats like a lusher version of the Malaysian staple roti canai and might just be the most memorable dish I've eaten this year.


The Red Hen, DC

It's a simple-sounding recipe -- finesse on the plate, warmth from the staff, character in the room -- but precious few restaurants pull it off. This one does, with an almost effortless aplomb. I've dined here three times in the past month, and with the exception of a couple of dishes (notably a hen that could use some black pepper), everything on ex-Proof cook Michael Friedman's modern Italian menu has been either good or very good. In the latter category: a fantastic dish of sweetbreads, polenta, bacon and a fried egg that combines the soothing pleasures of a simple Southern breakfast with the rusticky charms of a good French bistro. I don't think it's a stretch to call this Bloomingdale restaurant the surprise of the Spring season. As a matter of fact, I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's the best restaurant to debut in DC this year.


Tutto Bene: Bolivian Menu, Arlington / Saturday and Sunday 


Here's what you do: go for lunch on the weekends, and ask for the Bolivian menu. It's a modest document, but nearly everything on it is rewarding -- especially the superb salteñas (slightly sweet football-shaped turnovers that are baked every morning to a pie crust-doneness and stuffed with a zesty chicken or beef stew). You could make a meal of these alone, but then you'd miss out on the fantastic sopa de mani (a rich peanut soup) and the chorizo with oiled rice and a good salad.


Banh Mi DC Sandwich, Falls Church

I've spent the past few weeks eating banh mi (tough life, I know), and this take-out joint/grocery not in the Eden Center is the clear front runner in a very competitive field. In fact, I think the ham and head cheese combination might be not just the best banh mi in the area, but the best sandwich, period. The baguettes are always warm and crusty, the pickled condiments are always sharp and crunchy, and the sandwich assembly staff has a keen grasp of matters of balance and proportion.


RG's BBQ Cafe, Laurel

I previously noted that the ribs had come off too easily from the bone. Problem solved. The last batch I had were fantastic -- as good as ribs can be when they are not cooked outdoors for hours over an open pit. The pork has the requisite lusciousness and the sauce is a pitch-perfect balance of tanginess, sweetness and heat. That sauce is so addicting, you probably will end up forgiving the drier patches of an otherwise tasty smoked chicken and want to either pour it over everything else or even, as my friend said, drink it plain. The sides are good: baked beans that taste of slow cooking, a not-too-sweet corn bread that gets an extra something from a short stint on the grill before serving, and sharp, clean-tasting collards among others. The man behind the operation is Robert Gadsby, whom Washingtonians may remember from his time at Mussel Bar in Bethesda. He left after Mussel Bar received a 0-star review from The Post. He seems to have made the most of his exile.


Mi Cuba Cafe, DC

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


* new this week

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THE TUNA CARPACCIO AT LE DIPLOMATE:

Tried out Le Diplomate this Saturday and had the tuna carpaccio, which I can't stop thinking about - a perfect pink circle with the lightest dressing of sea salt, olive oil and leeks.

It reminded me why, when done right, it can be so much better than tuna tartare, where chefs are always trying to find some new ingredient to throw in there and it can be hard to really taste the fish.

Where else can I get a good version in the area? I would definitely go back to Le Diplomate (you were so right about the bread, although the service was pretty rough), but where else?

Todd Kliman:

Have you had the tuna carpaccio at Westend Bistro recently?

It’s a good dish. And particularly on a day like today, when you want something light and refreshing.

Good morning, everyone — eager to hear about your eating adventures and whatever else you have to express today …

HELP! -- CANTLER'S IS TOO FAR, AND I'M STUMPED AS TO WHERE TO TAKE MY GOOD FRIEND FOR CRABS:

Todd,

My good friend from Dallas is in town and hasn't been to DC before and want to take him to a crab house close by to his hotel near the zoo. Cantlers is too far for him, my goto place, and stumped where to take him in the city.

Any ideas?

I'm also taking him to Old Ebbitt Grill and Jaleo the other days and want something he can't have in Dallas, like crabs.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

Bethesda Crab House is probably the obvious pick here. It’s decent, if you can’t take the time to drive out to a place like Cantler’s.

But how about a weirdly left field choice that’s not much further by car: Seaside Crab House, at the Eden Center, the defacto Little Vietnam for the D.C. area. That’ll give him an experience he can’t get in Dallas, for sure.

Todd Kliman:

Impromptu cookbook giveaway contest — inspired by a conversation my wife and I had the other day about a Jeff Garlin routine.

In the routine, Garlin talks about coming home from college and sleeping late and being berated for his ways by his work ethic-conscious father. The back and forth comes to a head when the father tells him — I’m paraphrasing, here — “You get up, you get washed, you get dressed, you come down, you eat your breakfast. Eggs, bacon, toast,” the father says, making — in Garlin’s telling — hard, chopping motions with his hand.

Garlin tells his father, “I don’t want to have toast, Daddy. I want a pop-tart.”

“Eggs, bacon, toast,” the father repeats, with more hard, chopping motions. “That’s it, that’s your breakfast.”

“I want a pop-tart, Daddy,” says Garlin, and, in contrast to his father’s hard, chopping motions, makes his hands flutter out alongside him, as if he could take wing. “Say pop-tart, Daddy. Pop-tart. Pop. Tart.”

I’m not doing the bit justice. It’s hilarious. And my wife and I have for years referred to two ways of being in the world, two approaches to life. The toast people and the pop-tart people.

So, which are you? And why?

Best reply wins a copy of the newly released Everyday Barbecue by Myron Mixon. http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0345543645

LOOKING FOR A RESTAURANT THAT SERVE A THANKSGIVING-ESQUE MEAL ... IN JUNE:

Hi Todd,

Love the chats!

Checking in with a curveball of a question. I have an important business associate from Italy coming to town this week. Her husband, an American ex-pat, is joining her for the trip and has requested I help them find a restaurant that serves a Thanksgiving-esque meal....in June.

All I can think of is a diner, or perhaps Jetties' Thanksgiving-inspired sandwich- which is to say I'm totally stumped. Help! Thanks!

Stumped in Silver Spring

Todd Kliman:

Not to worry!

Franklin’s Restaurant, in Hyattsville — not far from you in Silver Spring — has a dish on its menu that it has not been able to take off: The Day After Thanksgiving.

Fresh turkey breast on slices of white bread, gravy, cranberry sauce. It’s a mammoth meal, and seems to satisfy a lot of cravings for a lot of people for the homespun comforts of Thanksgiving all year round.

I’ll be interested in hearing how the ex-pat liked his meal …

PHILLY PHOLLOW-UP:

Following up from my post last week about where to eat in Rittenhouse Square.

We wound up at Continental...unlike Starr's most recent DC venture, we showed up at 7:30 and were seated right away.

The food was amazing- highlights were crunchy thai shrimp tacos and french onion soup dumplings. The latter were served in a ceramic dish that keep the cheese on top hot and bubbling! Cocktails were on the sweet side, but good and fairly potent.

After that we went bar hopping- would definitely recommend the dueling piano bar and Raven Lounge...the bar with a stripper pole for people to dance on!

Last comment- what happened to all the guys on street corners selling philly pretzels?? Those pretzels are my favorite part of Philly and they becoming harder and harder to find!

Todd Kliman:

I know, I wondered the same thing on my last trip up!

Let’s hope it’s not a civic-wide effort to make the city somehow more … classy.

A soft pretzel with coarse salt and mustard IS Philadelphia to me, even more than hoagies are.

Thanks for the feedback on Continental …

I NEED YOU TO POINT ME IN A STRANGE AND WONDERFUL NEW DIRECTION!:

Todd -

Where should I take my wife for a "you got the job" clelebration?

There are no restrictions on price or cuisine. We've done a lot of the big name places (Komi, Restraunt Eve, minibar, The Inn, Rasika) before, and I'm not opposed to another big blow out meal, but there seems to be a ton of new, less big name places out there that I need to start going to.

Sorry for the run of the mill question but I'm using you to point me a strange and wonderful new direction!!

Todd Kliman:

You’re right — there are a “ton of new, less big name” places out there, and among them I would direct you to The Red Hen (see my early word up top).

As for strange and wonderful … TRH is not strange, though it is pretty wonderful. Its neighborhood, Bloomingdale, I guess could qualify as strange in a foodie sense, in that it’s off the radar of most food lovers in the area.

If you’re looking for something a little different from the likes of Komi and Eve, etc., then what about a night at Rice Paper in the Eden Center, in Falls Church. Great Vietnamese cooking in a small (but modern and stylish) space. The only thing that you have to realize, going in, is that service can disappear for stretches. But if it’s about the vibe and the food, then I’d surely consider it.

TOAST OR POP-TART?:

I would love to be a Pop-Tart person, but I can't lie: I love the classics and routine!

Of course, nothing says I can't crumble up the toast and bacon over roasted asparagus topped off with a fried egg...

Todd Kliman:

Good one.

Thanks for playing.

Remember, everyone, that toast and pop-tart are, for the purposes of our contest, existential terms. We don’t need to bring them into the realm of food in order to talk about them, and, preferably, we don’t talk about them as foods. I want to know who is toast in life and why, and why that’s the better way to be, and who is pop-tart in life and why, and why that is the superior state.

LOOKING FOR A RESTAURANT WITH A KIDS MENU -- BUT WITH A TWIST:

Todd,

Have you seen any different and unique kids menu these days besides your standard hot dog, burger, and grilled cheese items?

My nieces (1 and 3) are a bit venturous and trying to find a new restaurant that has kids menus, but with a twist. I know, we can always from the regular menu; they love A&J and dim sum!

Thank you. Fred

Todd Kliman:

Take ‘em to Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore, which has one of the best kids menus around.

These are the dishes that are currently on offer, assuming the site has been recently updated:

Chicken on a stick. Spaghetti with butter and cheese. Rockfish bites. Pork BBQ Sloppy Joe. Small ribeye steak with fries. House-ground burger with fries. Cheese and pepperoni pizza. York County pretzel bites. Grilled cheese with a salad.

TOAST OR POP-TART, CONT.:

As an avid home cook, I'm definitely a toast kind of guy. A pop tart is a finished product---an ending point. A beautifully browned piece of toast is a starting point, waiting for me to slather it with butter, cinnamon-sugar, peanut butter, jams, jellies or savory combinations of tomatoes and basil or fresh ricotta with roasted vegetables. Pop Tarts have who-knows-what inside them. Toast puts me in control.

Todd Kliman:

I hear you — and enjoyed reading this.

But I’m not looking for responses that deal with toast and pop-tarts as foods, or even that deal with them as what they are — but what, to Garlin, they represent. Two attitudes toward life. Two diametrically opposed ways of being in the world.

(Not to squeeze all the fun out of a very funny bit … )

WHAT ARE THE MUST-TRY PIZZERIAS?:

With so many pizza places opening up, it is hard to keep track. Of all the recent pizza parlors, which is a must try place?

I judge each pizzeria based on their ability to make a good Margherita Pizza!

Todd Kliman:

I love the Margherita at Wiseguy, on 3rd and Massachusetts NW. By the slice — but what a slice.

Vin 909 Winecafe, in Annapolis, also makes a great Margherita, a pumped-up version of the Neapolitan classic. I think it’s terrific. As I do almost all of the pizzas there.

There’s a very good Margherita, also, at Menomale, in Brookland.

By the way: Etto, on 14th St. NW, is getting a lot of buzz among young foodies, but the lone pizza I tried there was soft and soppy — the first slice I cut and picked up, the little disc of mozzarella sailed right off like a kid at a Slip ‘n’ Slide. I much preferred the small plates.

IN PRAISE OF THE RED HEN:

I had forgotten about The Red Hen because for a certain amount of time they did not list a menu on their website. It was just a bunch of bio's. It popped back into my head last week when you listed it on the chat.

I went on Friday night and was truly amazed that I booked another reservation for this week while I was enjoying the beautiful piece of alaskan halibut with corn and baby squash.

Todd Kliman:

I can definitely understand that sentiment!

A friend wrote to me last week wondering why I called it a “surprise.” Given the pedigree of the people involved, he said, “surprise” struck him as an odd thing to say.

What I told him is pretty much what I will tell you, which is that pedigree is like talent. There are a lot of people with talent in any field — how many actually do something with that talent. Or think of pedigree as being like a degree from a reputable institution. What does it mean? It can mean something. It just isn’t a guarantee that you are getting someone of the first rank.

BUB AND POP'S, ON M ST. NW:

Hi Todd -

Have you had the chance to try Bub and Pop's yet? It's a tiny place on M Street between 18th and 19th, NW. I came upon it by accident and dropped in to try it and let me tell you, it is delicious!

They have amazing sandwiches. I've only tried 2 of them but both were unreal. The bread is amazing (which, IMO, makes a sandwich) and they have hand made potato chips.

If you haven't been, check it out and get The Real Obama. Italian beef Chicago style with a yummy giardinera. The italian hoagie is really excellent as well. They also have brisket and roast pork but I have yet to try either of those.

Todd Kliman:

I had a cheesesteak there and liked it — ate it on the way to somewhere else — and now, reading this, I’m jonesing to go back and try one of the ones you recommend.

Thanks for the mouth-watering nudge …

TOAST OR POP-TART, CONT.:

I'm a pop-tart.

I'm young and vibrant, and at times loud and obnoxious. I don't blend in with the suits and ties of DC. I've been told if I want to move up in the corporate world, I need to stop changing my hairstyle/color every 5 minutes. Maybe the corporate world isn't for me. I need something that engages my senses and sparks my creativity. Afterall, I'm a pop-tart kind of gal. ;)

Todd Kliman:

Love it!

Thanks for bearing your soul with us, however briefly.

Re: MI COCINA -- NEW, IN FRIENDSHIP HTS.:

Have you checked out Mi Cocina yet, the new Tex-Mex restaurant in Friendship Heights?

I love Mexican and Tex-Mex, from the high-brow to the less so (Guapos, Oyamel and Rosa Mexicano are among my favorites, as well as District Taco and, of course, Chipotle). Since this is from a Texas-based chain, I had high hopes it would be pretty good, but I actually found it disappointing.

The chicken fajitas were dry and bland and included potato wedges, which I thought was odd. The guacamole was okay, but nothing special. There is an interesting list of margaritas, but the drinks took forever to arrive and weren't well mixed. If you haven't been yet, have you heard anything? I'm questioning whether to give it a second chance.

Todd Kliman:

Based entirely on your description — I haven’t been yet — it doesn’t sound like the kind of place you give a second chance to.

There are an awful lot of places in the area to go and get mediocre Mexican food.

If you’re looking for something in a similar vein, give Xitomate, in Columbia, a try. I included it, a few weeks ago, on the list of places I’m enjoying at the moment.

Good margaritas (go for the premium tequila), good guac, good vibe, good prices all in all. Try the cochinita en pibil, the ceviche, and the chili relleno.

A VERY "MEH" EVENING AT J&G STEAKHOUSE:

My husband and I decided to go to J&G this past Saturday night for the James Beard menu, which read beautifully by the way.

From the minute we sat down it was poor unattentive service up until when we left and I'm not sure why? It was the sort of awkward type of service that makes you wonder if the staff really just didn't want to be there. Think very long waits for simple things like drink orders or bread service, then comments like "did you pick your wine" when I haven't been informed of what the wine options are (we could only select from one sparkling, white or red but the exact bottles were not named on the menu).

Salt container half full, candle that wasn't lit, plates placed down somewhat roughly and without an introduction of the dish and so on. Made for a very "meh" evening despite a couple of the courses actually being quite good (namely the shaved tuna course with chili tapioca and the octopus course with grapefruit). I just don't understand the hype and have very little interest in returning anytime soon.

Todd Kliman:

Hype? Where are you reading?

I don’t mean that rhetorically, either — where is the hype coming from?

A few years ago, perhaps, you could say that there was some buzz about the place, before and shortly after the reviews came. But reviews have a shelf life, and that shelf life is not long. Six months? Sometimes not even.

It’s interesting to hear you write about the indifferent service. It’s like what they say about love. Indifference is worse than hate. In a restaurant, the worst thing isn’t egregiously, comically bad service, is it? It’s indifferent service. Service that makes you feel like a nothing.

A GREAT QUESTION TO GET TODD IN TROUBLE:

Hey Todd,

What one restaurant in the area do you think deserves more business than it's getting? Conversely, what one restaurant is too popular in comparison to its quality?

Todd Kliman:

Ha.

This almost seems designed for me to say, in answer to part deux, Le Diplomate.

I mean, it’s certainly the first place that leaps to mind — not that it’s a bad restaurant by any stretch; on the contrary, it’s doing what it intends to do, and doing it very, very well. But the lines for the place are insane, and it’s not as if there aren’t a slew of very good restaurants (and some better!) in the city.

A place that deserves more business than it seems to be getting? Corduroy.

AN OUTDOOR SPACE THAT DOESN'T GET CRAZY CROWDED:

'm looking for a happy hour spot that has outdoor space, doesn't get crazy crowded, and is good for 30-40somethings who like good wine and beer.

Preferably downtown or Logan areas. We love the Standard but it's always packed. Please help!

Todd Kliman:

How about Cafe du Parc?

And, just curious, what does “is good for 30-40 somethings” mean, exactly? A place that isn’t aswarm with 20-somethings?

ISO: A GOOD SMALL PLATES SPOT, BUT PREFERABLY NOT ITALIAN:

Hey Todd,

Looking for a place in DC for my father-in-law's 60th birthday. He'd like to do small plates but not Italian, so Graffiato is out.

We've done Zaytinya, Izakaya Seki and Bar Pilar. I'd think Cork would be a good option but I'd prefer to make a reservation.

What do you suggest?

Todd Kliman:

Gotta be Proof.

You can get a reservation, the cooking isn’t Italian, and many of the best plates are small plates.

Plus, I think it’d feel more like a special occasion there than at Cork, which, taking nothing away from the latter, is a very good midweek-in-the-neighborhood spot.

CATERING A BBQ DINNER FOR 10 -- WHERE DO I TURN?:

Todd:

I'm trying to persuade myself that it is not a good idea to do all of the cooking for my husband's 50th birthday party, which is to be a smoked meat fest! I make a pretty good smoked pork shoulder, so I can be a bit of a smoked meat snob.

If you were catering a BBQ dinner for 10, where would you pick up the pulled pork, ribs and brisket? (I'm still not conceding sides unless you tell me that would be a MISTAKE!)

Thank you. Janice

Todd Kliman:

Janice,

I’d call up Robert Gadsby at RG’s BBQ Cafe (see my thumbnail review up top), in Laurel. He doesn’t do pulled pork, however. But I’ve got to think you’d be pretty happy with the haul.

You might also consider the Laurel outpost of Red, Hot and Blue, which remains far and away the best of the Red, Hot and Blues in the area.

Good luck. Let me know how it all turns out, OK? Sounds like a great time to me …

Speaking of ‘cue: We’re about two months away from the return of KBQ BBQ, as I first tweeted out last week. Kerry Britt, after a long hiatus, is bringing his excellent ribs, sausage, and wings to the Woodmore Towne Centre, in Glenarden (Wegman’s is in the same shopping center.)

"HYPE," CONT.:

Regarding J&G.....

Hype mainly online, for example even recently Eater DC listed it as one of the best hotel restaurants (not exactly saying a lot, I know, but it's painful to see it in the same category as Blue Duck Tavern, which was fantastic last night by the way).

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for coming back on and following up …

Yeah, Blue Duck Tavern is a really, really good restaurant these days. Actually, it’s a better restaurant than it has ever been — even after opening to pretty wide acclaim.

TOAST OR POP-TART, CONT.:

For the first two-plus decades of my life I was a Pop-Tart. And I mean a S’More Pop-Tart, something that has no business being considered a remotely appropriate form of breakfast.

In high school on weeknights I would stay up until 2 am watching reruns. In college I regularly missed my first class of the day because it was too early – too early being 11:00. Shortly after college a girlfriend broke up with me, and among her chief complaints was that I did not seem to exist before noon each day.

A few years on, I am now toast of a particularly dry, wholesome, humorless, multi-grain variety, unenlivened by anything like butter, jelly, or Nutella. I have a job, mortgage, family, and a tendency to rise early on weekends. And my son, whom I have to physically yank out of bed each day, is a Pop-Tart. And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoons…

Todd Kliman:

I love this — I ask a relatively simple question, and I get back a wonderful little existential essay.

Thank you so much for writing this and making me (and, I hope, many of you) smile, and laugh, and nod in recognition …

Re: BOURBON STEAK, IN THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL:

Todd,

I am the diner who asked for tips on my first experience at Bourbon Steak last week. I have to say, we were unable to follow your advice to not eat all the duck fat fries and truffle rolls (which were just divine), but we had one of the best meals.

The staff could not have been more professional and knowledgeable. The service was excellent and attentive without being overbearing or intruding. The sommelier kindly gave us some delicious complimentary champagne for the anniversary celebration.

For the meal we went all out and had the chilled corn soup, the waygu flat iron, the bison, the asparagus and the truffle mac and cheese. For dessert we enjoyed the root beer float and the bourbon brownie. On top of the food we had some excellent cocktails.

Our server was very helpful in recommending a cocktail to me which was no longer on the menu but fit the taste profile I was looking for and it was wonderful.

I wish I could afford to eat here more often! Can't wait for the next experience there.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for that tasty report from the field.

I don’t know who could read that and not be hungry and/or craving a few hours’ respite in that cool, dark room.

DINING OUT IN DENVER:

I'm leaving for Denver in 3 weeks and am trying to find some good restaurants for our week stay. I've been to Denver many times but have yet to find any restaurants that are equivalent to my favorite DC places -- Rasika, Proof, Le Diplomate. Do you or any readers have recommendations?

We are looking for good food -- not bars or lounges. We will be staying at the Sheraton Downtown but will be happy to take cabs if needed.

Todd Kliman:

Readers?

Re: JUNIPER AT THE FAIRMONT FOR BRUNCH:

Looking for a very adult experience without having to stay up late at 36 weeks pregnant we went to Juniper at the Fairmont for brunch.

I adore a well done buffet but also miss the things which are terrible on a buffet, so this was a perfect combination. Their courtyard is elegant and lovely and the service included mimosas (sigh....) and coffee or tea.

The buffet was small, simple, and of high quality and it was a great chance to gorge on berries, artisanal yogurts, creative salads, cheeses, and meats as you choose. Everything we tried was very tasty, better than it needed to be.

Brunch also includes an entree, and my rhubarb french toast and my husbands roasted lamb and spring onion eggs benedict executed beautifully. And then there is the small but diverse dessert buffet....In general, it as understated, fun, and the food was a substantial notch above the mass buffet market.

Best for us we had an "adult" day and left the toddler behind this time.

Another time caught us up in Rockville at Cava which we haven't been to since they first opened. Waddling in, I was pleased by the complimentary sour and tart drink the bartender presented me with when he saw me gazing longingly at those people enjoying a well earned martini after a week of work (it was my Friday, too, and I had worked far too hard this week for a glass of juice!). He made my evening.

And it just got better with those flaming little skillets of cheese on fire, the cauliflower with yogurt sauce, the decadent shrimp with ouzo cream. Vegetables and meats alike were treated well and were of high quality. We would have liked to spend longer, but despite asking if we could take it a bit easy on the pacing we were out of there in under an hour with multiple items, dessert, and coffee.

Probably not too bad of a place to bring the toddler and the baby in the near future.

And for a quicker family meal we hopped over to Germantown to the new Curry Place deciding to diversify from our usual Minerva. A small, modest place in a strip mall it was spotlessly clean and leaned more to the Indo-Chinese than to the Southern Indian I usually prefer, but I was certainly swayed in their favor in the end. The food was solid, interesting, and lacked that generic decent-ness I was expecting.

Did I mention the prices were so much lower than other comparable restaurants, and portions much more generous? Entrees were in the $7-$8 range and our the peppery kick of my paneer is making my mouth water.

Sadly, nothing was of a low enough spice level for the toddler even at mild so he munched his way through a delicious garlic naan happily while we ate the rest. But don't let that reflect on the quality of the food. There was pride here and it showed, worth keeping an eye on for sure.

We will be back for sure -- we had enough left for lunch for both of us and friendly service to boot.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks so much for those fantastic reviews.

I liked everything about them, the level of detail, the enthusiasm, the range of spots. It’s really wonderful to have something like this — hint, hint … and that goes for all of you, too — every week in this forum.

Best of luck with the remaining weeks of your pregnancy. I hope it goes smoothly. Keep us apprised, please, and of your eating adventures, as well.

TOAST OR POP-TART, CONT.:

With a pop tart being Miley Cyrus and toast being the equivilant of the Tea Party, I think I'll be having myself some delicious Neapolitan pizza at Pupatella.

Todd Kliman:

No no no — a pop-tart, in this case, is more like Prince. A free spirit. Goes his own way, does his own thing. Drifts with the wind.

And toast, in this case, is — I don’t want to politicize things —more like a Washington bureaucrat.

I could talk toast and pop-tart til all day, but I’ve gotta run. Thanks so much for the spirited back and forth today, the tips, the insights, the laughs. I had a great time, and I hope all of you did, too.

To the reader who composed the mini-essay on starting out life as a S’more pop-tart — you’re our winner. Drop me your address at tkliman@washingtonian.com and I’ll send you a copy of Everyday Barbecue by Myron Mixon.

By the way: I, myself, am much more pop-tart than toast …

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







[missing you, TEK … ]