November 28, 2006 @ 11AM

Severn Inn, Komi, Idylwood Grill, top five restaurants in Bethesda, top six restaurants in Silver Spring, Maestro, Readers' Favorite Restaurants, sticky buns, Dino, sushi.

To read Todd's introduction "How I Learned to Enjoy Thanksgiving" click here.

Alexandria, VA: Thanksgiving dinner at the Severn Inn in Annapolis, MD

Good Morning Todd,

For your Thanksgiving files: My husband and I took my mother out for Thanksgiving dinner this year. We made reservations at the Severn Inn in Annapolis. The restaurant sits on the banks of the river, across from the Naval Academy. I anticipated watching the sun set on the river over the course of our 3:30 seating, but alas, the weather had another thing in mind. Rain. Our spirits being undampened, we enjoyed the view from a warm room with floor to ceiling windows. Dinner was served buffet style with 3 stations set up for appetizers, mains and dessert. The large appetizer station was by far the best, with offerings that reflected the restaurants' seafood theme. Among my favorites: the butternut squash and crab soup was a standout, tasting of homemade seafood stock. Lobster ravioli and shrimp in a Grand Marnier sauce were servicable, but did use a healthy amount of each ingredient. An antipasto platter was large and varied. Everything was kept well stocked and nicely presented throughout our meal. The main course station offered traditional Thanksgiving fare, with turkey breast, roast beef and ham with the usual sides. Desserts included various pies and cakes. I had wine by the glass, which was reasonably priced at $9 for a healthy pour. Dinner was $34.99pp. The service was friendly with all staff offering warm greetings and smiles. That's something for having to work Thanksgiving. www.severninn.com — and no, I don't work there. 🙂

Wonderful, thorough report. Thank you for thinking to pass it along.

Eating out at a restaurant on Thanksgiving isn't what most people would consider a good time, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done well. If anything, it means it should be done with the utmost care, because people are depending on a place to provide comfort and belonging.

Good for the Severn Inn.

What about the rest of you out there? All you who wrote in and called in asking for recommendations of where to take your family on the big day?

I'd love to add more to my Thanksgiving files.

Washington DC
Todd, As I have been following the restaurant scene I know that you do not favor Agraria Restaurant and that OK. For me personally as a G-Town residence, frankly the food at Agraria exceeds that of 1789 if I can make a comparison. Every restaurant needs the opportunity to evolve and improve and that takes time. It seems that Agraria is the restaurant that is always negatively scutinized and it simply not fair. I have personally spoke with the chef, Mr. Moore and let me tell you he is a solid cook. Judging on what I have had the last 12 times I have eaten there, he can contend with any of the restaurant that you may appreciate more. As I already know you only publish the information you choose to respond to which is not fair, but please know that as communicator to the public you should not just right off a restaurant.

Fair?

If you charge good money for a product and don't deliver, there's nothing unfair about somebody coming in and calling you on it.

That goes for a restaurant, or a movie, or a book, or anything else.

I haven't written off Agraria.

All restaurants are capable of changing and improving. Things can happen quickly in this business. 

That's one reason I like "The Needle" so much. That's the feature we include every month in the magazine in Best Bites. It's meant to gauge where places, which can change on a dime, stand at the moment — not six months ago but right now.

Alexandria Virginia
How does BOHIO in Old Town Alex manager to stay open. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY! We were the only ones there, our waiter had zero knowledge of the menu & didn't inquire, forgot our drinks, served dinner on COLD PLATES. We returned our meal to be reheated and various items were switched on our plates and reserved o COLD PLATES!! Food was so-so and NOT authenic Cuban. We were offered dessert while others were still eating dinner in a restaurant colder inside than the temperature outside. Unprofessional, unfriendly and no liquor restaurant. How can they remain open in a town filled with good food served every where?

A town with good food served everywhere? Sorry, that town just doesn't exist.

But I do sympathize with your experience. Not at Bohio, but just in general: Lots and lots of places don't have a clue.

One thing I will say, though, is that, just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you really can't dismiss a restaurant on the basis of one spectacularly bad night.

Now, two spectacularly bad nights …

Or one spectacularly bad night, and one thoroughly mediocre night …

Silver Spring, MD
We're going to Komi for a big birthday dinner. Any pointers on ordering? The birthday girl doesn't eat red meat, but I do. Thanks!

Lucky you.

If you can swing it, don't order a la carte and go for the tasting menu.

With the tasting menu, the first course is taken care of by the kitchen. What comes out is a series of small meze-style plates, each one building off the last — a sort of almost narrative progression. The flavors are big, bright and clean. It's a sensual experience all its own, and it's bound to put you both in a good mood.

From there, it's on to pastas. The agnolotti, stuffed with foie gras, is really good, just short of excellent. The same goes for the Greek-style potato dumplings, an intriguing dish, the only thing of its kind in the city.

I'd direct her next to the turbot with carrot-juice-braised carrots, a wonderful, deceptively simple plate. And for you? The 72-hour capretto, a baby goat that's been brined for the first 24 hours, then slow-braised for the next 48. It's served with a creamy polenta, brussels sprouts and pancetta. Lusciousness itself.

For dessert? Don't miss the Greek-style donuts with mascarpone-chocolate cream.

Enjoy, and drop me a note when you can about how things turned out.

Capitol Hill
Todd, I love what you've done with the magazine so far, but I'm still seeing a little of what I consider the hallmark of old-school Washingtonian reviews: the advice to tell the kitchen to cook the dish differently this way, or bring out that different sauce, or gimme a half order of the pasta even though there's no such thing on the menu. Some may see this as welcome insider info; I see it as pretentious and obnoxious.

I'd be interested in some examples.

And I'm not saying that to be obnoxious. : )

If it slips in — things do slip in, it's inevitable — I'd hope that it's only occasionally.

If you've read this chat, and read the magazine, you should know that I don't like reviews with that kind of gray, sober tone, the critic looking down from Mt. Olympus, measuring things by whether they are done "correctly."

Falls Church. VA
Tonight, my husband and 3 yr old went o Idlywood Grill. It is not for children. No no provide us with crayons for our son. The crayons were on the hostess stand. Our dinner, with a bottle of wine and tip was $88.00. When we left we were greeted with ambulences, fire trucks…etc. A truck ran into the building next to the restaurant. The neightbor hood is a F+. The price is riducluous. Dinner should have been $44.00 NOT $88.00. Won't return. Mclean Residents.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Falls Church.

I can appreciate that you had a bad night. But let's not kitchen-sink. 

The place is overpriced. The staff ignored your son. Both faults.

But honestly, I don't know of any place in the metropolitan area where dinner for two with a bottle of wine and tip and tax is going to set you back just $44.

And really, are you going to hold it against the restaurant that a truck ran into the building next door and started a fire? 

DC
I disagree about eating out for Thanksgiving. It is precisely my idea of a good time. No useless small talk with obscure relatives, no cleanup, no prep, no leftovers, healthy but not obscene portions. My family of four ate at 1789 and had a wonderful two hour meal. Plus, what home do you know of who serves sublime foie gras and divine lamb for Thanksgiving dinner. IMHO, 1789 is as good as ever even after the chef change. I would like to see the duck soup back on the menu for next year, however.

I didn't say it's not my idea of a good time. I said i's not a lot of people's idea of a good time.

Regardless, you make a terrific and convincing (and laugh-out-loud funny) case for hitting a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanks for chiming in, DC, and good for 1789 for coming through.

Silver Spring, MD
My top five Bethesda restaurants in no particular order: Black's Raku Green Papaya Olazzo David Craig And your top five?

Ooh, I like this game.

OK, my top 5 — in particular order:

1. Passage to India.

2. David Craig Bethesda.

3. Faryab.

4. Black's Bar and Kitchen.

5. Raku. 

There's a big, big dropoff after that. Which is telling, in a city with more than 200 + restaurants.

How about the rest of you? Bethesda Top 5's? Or Arlington Top 5's, even? Falls Church Top 5's?

Anybody?

Petworth, DC
Went to Maestro recently and the food was incredible. So wonderful in fact that I told a few friends about it and they went that same week based on my rave review. However, I do have two comments that I would love your take on: 1) The plates are beautiful, but some are very hard to eat out of. My pasta with white truffles was served in a bowl that had an inverted shape that made a sort of lip inside the bottom of the bowl. No one wants to look like an unmannered pig, picking up their bowl and scraping around in it. My boyfriend's main course came on a plate that had a bowl shaped center that wobbled around quite vigorously on the charger…he kept wondering if his plate or food would end up shooting off his plate and zooming back into the show kitchen…which of course makes for uncomfortable eating. 2) We chose 3 courses instead of a tasting menu and while there was a nice 10 minute or so pause between our amuse bouche (a test tube full of bright green turnip soup that was earthy, delicious and stunning to look at, with a spoonful of salmon tartar that was scrumptious) and our appetizer, there was only a 2 to 3 minute pause between the following two courses. This seems way too quick for that caliber of a restaurant. I needed time to sit between courses and praise what I just ate…compare notes…and ready myself for the next brilliant jewel to come my way. It certainly didn't ruin my meal. I didn't need any compensation. I did learn that next time I should just ask the waiter to ensure 7 – 10 minutes between courses as my preference.

What do I think?

I think you're very perceptive, Petworth. Although I would love to see a mannered pig. ; )

It's not just Maestro that's guilty of point 1, by the way; a lot of high-end restaurants put more thought into beauty than practicality.

And the thing with pacing is frustrating, isn't it? Because it's not THAT big a deal. You don't make a big stink with a manager over poor pacing. It's a subtle thing. But it has a way of insinuating itself into the moment. And at that level, with food that good, you don't want anything that's going to so much as breathe on the delicate fantasy of the meal.

And I couldn't agree with you more: You need time to savor and sip, to contemplate and converse, after a truly great and memorable dish.

washington dc
Hi Todd, keep up the good work! Hope you had a good thanksgiving. The latest edition of your magazine has got the readers choice. How much of it do you agree with your readers?

Honestly?

A little, not a lot.

I agree that Blue Duck Tavern is the best new restaurant, and that Galileo is overrated, and that Sushi-Ko is tops for raw fish.

But L'Auberge Chez Francois wouldn't my first, second, or third choice for French food, or for service, or for a romantic night, or for a special occasion. I can think of at least a half-dozen places I'd rather go for Vietnamese food before Huong Que and Nam-Viet Pho. Citronelle would never, ever come in second in my book to Coastal Flats for dessert. And IHOP for breakfast? Don't get me started.

I could go on and on.

But this is nothing new, really. The public and the critics are often at odds — on movies, on books, etc.

I thought we'd try to have a little cheeky fun with the introduction, calling attention to some of these odd injustices without directly poking anyone in the eye.

Silver Spring
My top five restaurants in Silver Spring in no particular order: Samantha's Jackie's Rays the Classics Cubano's Ceviche And yours?

I'm going to go with a Top 6.

In particular order:

 

1. Ray's the Classics.

2. Ceviche.

3. Jackie's.

4. Mandalay

5. Cuba de Ayer

6. Samantha's 

 

(FWIW, I've never liked Cubano's — it's overpriced, and it doesn't get the simple, foundational things right.)

Silver Spring
Passage to India the best in Bethesda? I can't agree there. And I would rank Raku and Black's ahead of Faryab (I assume we are speaking strictly on quality and taste of food.) I agree, however, that Bethesda is awash in medicore restaurants serving the same tired food year after year. Might be the most overrated food destination in the DC area. It's pure quantity over quality as far as restaurants. But, at least there is not a frequency of vehicular accidents involving large, stationary objects like in VA. Must be the strict Mont. County wine laws keep the streets clear of drunken drivers.

You're funny, Silver Spring.

Wrong, but very, very funny. ; ) 

Best sticky buns in DC?
Todd, where can I find the best-ever sticky buns in DC? The kind with the tender, flaky insides (not too eggy) that are filled with the ooey-gooey cinnamon-spiked caramel and topped with ample pecans? Would be willing to travel to Old Town, if they are really that good. Thanks!

You know, I'd like to know myself.

I haven't had a good one lately, none that I can remember. And you know as well as I do, a really good sticky bun sticks with you.

Anyone out there? 

And I don't want to see anybody so much as mentioning the name "Cinnabon." Totally different beast.

Bethesda, MD
Re: Petworth Timing of entrees are probably the most difficult thing a server has to deal with. There are many factors that go into when something gets "fired" and that still leaves variablity. There have been many a time when I have fired an entree a bit early knowing that the kitchen is backed up when all of a sudden, boom, there is my food. The best way to make sure you have time between your coureses, let your server know. It helps everyone out!

Good advice, Bethesda.

And thanks for the perspective. 

It's easy to forget, sitting in your seat, having a good time, that you're taking part in something that has to be made new every single night — a huge, unscripted drama

That's not to say that as a diner you should forgive the slip ups.

But you should remember that the slip ups are inevitable, and that it never hurts to bring them to somebody's attention.

washington dc
Hi Todd. Any recent thoughts on Dino in Cleveland Park? Worth the trip? thanks

For a light, before-movie meal — or for a light, after-movie meal — sure, absolutely.

Or for a round or two or three of drinks — the wines are terrific and affordable — and cheeses anytime.

For a full meal, I can think of a lot of other places I'd rather spend my money. 

Washington, DC
Todd, what's your sushi-eating protocol? In what order and in what fashion do you use wasabi, soy sauce, and ginger?

 
What I do is, I dab the wasabi on the fish. I don't mix the wasabi into the soy sauce, as some people do.

Small dabs, depending on the size of the fish.

Then, if it's nigiri, I pick up the little bed of rice topped with fish and give it a little turn, so that I make sure to dip the fish into the soy sauce, and not the rice.

The idea is to (lightly) season the fish. The rice is already seasoned, and soy sauce will just make it sloppy and eventually cause it to fall apart.

Ginger? For me, only occasionally, and only in between bites of really assertive-tasting fish.

Transition time. How do I make the leap from talking about sushi to closing the chat?

Like this:

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

And keep those Top 5's coming — I couldn't get to them all this week. 

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