December 12, 2006@11AM

Sergio's, Farrah Olivia, Stoney's, Delhi Club, Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu, sandwiches in DC, Jacqueline Rodier, Red Sage, L'Auberge Chez Francois, Chez Yon Yon, Obelisk, trans-fat ban, Capitol Hill restaurants, raw oysters, Fractured Prune.

Word of Mouth …

The crowds keep coming to Sergio's, in Silver Spring, a dim bunker of a place where dishes are sprinkled with canned mushrooms and drizzled with a grade of olive oil with less depth and flavor than canola. Still, the specials can be worthwhile: a pan-seared rockfish with rosemary potatoes, and a good T-bone veal steak …

Morou Ouattara is a Nabokov of the stockpots, taking a culinary language we all know and bending it in new and startling directions. It wouldn't be half as interesting if it didn't taste so good. Farrah Olivia, in Alexandria, is one to watch …

Stoney's has restored some flavor to a stretch of P St. that had gotten gentrified to the point of bland soullessness; the place already feels lived in. It's not quite what it was: a guy at the bar the other night was toting a volume of Greek tragedies, and tables were full of young men engaged in earnest conversation. But you can knock down one of twelve beers on tap, get a good, sloppy burger or Kosher hot dog, leave a tip for Billy the bartender and still come away with change for a twenty …

… The curries at Delhi Club are thinner than I remembered, with unforgivably dry meats. But a plate of four juicy tandoori lamb chops, the jutting bones capped with twists of tin foil, is unforgettable …

… Note to Bob Liu on his otherwise wonderful, eminently crowd-pleasing Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu in Rockville: Turn down the burners under those ferociously bubbling pots, please.

…………………………………………………………………….

Annapolis, MD
I am new to the area, and I've come from a tourist town overstocked with fabulous restaurants. I have found a lot of great dinner places in DC, but I have yet to find a great gourmet sandwich. Where can you find the best sandwiches in DC?

Get yourself to Breadline, then, on Pennsylvania Ave.

Good ingredients — they used Niman Ranch Pork, for instance — on good, crusty, housebaked bread. I like the egg salad a lot, with its olive bread and homemade sundried tomatoes. It's hard to find a good egg salad sandwich these days. The chicken salad is good, too. In fact, there's not much that's not good. It's not cheap, though. You'll be hard put to get out of there at lunch for less than 12 bucks.

A cheaper alternative, and further out, is Roy's Place, in Gaithersburg. The menu is voluminous (it takes at least ten minutes to page through the binder) and hilarious (including an ice cube sandwich! and a chicken "bosom" sandwich). Tasty stuff. I especially like a sandwich with, if memory serves, brisket, golden sauce and lobster salad.

falls church, va
restaurants open on christmas day in fairfax, va

Soon, Fairfax, soon.

We'll have something up on the website in a jif. Promise.

Re: Jacqueline Rodier
Dear Mr. Kliman, as her closest friend for the last 15 years I must thank you very much for the wonderful tribute you posted for Jacqueline. Robert and Jeff knew her very well and they were among her favorite people. Jacqueline was one of the most beautiful, elegant and gracious women ever to have been in the Washington scene. She bore the tragedies of her life, the premature death of her elder son and the divorce of her husband due to Alzheimer disease, with courage and dignity as if they had not happened. She had the rare almost surreal quality of magnetizing men of all ages, from a customer's 12 year old son who wanted to marry her, to some of the highest level suitors whose age needed no mention. Paradoxically, women were not jealous but greatly admired her, and many admitted to wanting to emulate her. Her memory was fantastic being greeted years later by people and after saying that they were customers of her restaurant. Her surviving son wanted a simple funeral service, which it was. I hope to have the great pleasure of meeting you so I can again personally thank you. Very sincerely, Henry Greenwald

Henry,

She was an amazing woman. It's a terrible loss. She meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people in this city.

Washington DC
Hi Todd! My boyfriend has been really busy and stressed lately, so I want to take him out to a nice dinner. I was thinking maybe Farrah Olivia, but that could be a pain to get to for me because I don't own a car. What are your thoughts on 21P or PS 7's? Alternatively, something in Bethesda would also be convenient. Thanks!!

Farrah Olivia would be worth it, pain and all.

21 P is overpriced for what it is (although there are some reasonably priced and tasty dishes in the mix), and PS 7's has its moments but still appears to be settling in.

In Bethesda, I'd give a long look to David Craig. Call ahead, though. I was in not long ago on an off-night for the chef, and everything seemed off: Dishes were salty, calibrations were off.

(Note to chatters: If I sound vaguer than usual, it's nothing to do with the restaurants themselves. I'm suffering this morning from tummy troubles — lucky for me, only an occasional occupational hazard — and trying to limit my food-talk specifics so as not to make things worse. My apologies. I'm sure you can understand … )

Silver Spring
Tip for Bob's: The heat control at Bob's is hidden under the strip of tape on the control panel. I alwaus boost mine up to 10 or 12 until the broth is boiling then move it down to 7 or 8 after. At the end, I add the egg and then turn off the heat totally.

Ah. Good tip.

I didn't see one, and was told there wasn't one.

Washington, DC
The Post reports that Red Sage is closing. If a mega-successful, huge eatery like Red Sage can't afford that space, what can? Or will it turn into a Banana Republic?

Dan Mesches, who runs the Star Restaurant Group, which owns Red Sage, is telling me it's probably going to turn into a bank.

Banks, he said, "don't have to deal with smoke or water problems." Banks also make money, and there's nothing more stable than a bank.

It's too bad. I love the colors of the downstairs dining room, the warmth and intimacy and excitement of it. 

Then again, it's too bad that Red Sage was allowed to languish for so long. Since Morou Ouattara left, the place has never been the same.

New York, NY
I moved to New York from DC several months ago and am planning a visit back in a few weeks. Are there any new restaurants I should visit? I've been to all the must-hits: Komi, Palena, Rasika, etc. but would love to try something new. Thanks!

I got two picks for you —

Blue Duck Tavern, on M St. And Farrah Olivia, in Alexandria. 

Both are must-hits.

(On a usual chat day, I would rip off a few vivid sentences on each. I wish I couid do that today — wish I could make you hungry. I just can't …)

Mount Pleasant, DC
I had a few questions and comments…. I had dinner at l'Auberge Chez Francois last week, it was certainly a memorable experience although I am not sure it was for the right reasons! We all had a great time and the ambiance was very nice, but I wasn't really "wowed" by anything except the bill! The six-course affair is a cool idea, but none of the six courses were extraordinary for the price. The food was good, but not perfect…the beans in my Cassoulet were undercooked and almost crunchy, the marrons confit were overcooked and a bit dried out. The pork filet was good, as it should have been, but the accompaniments are just as important in my opinion. Have you dined there? And if so, what was your opinion of it? On the TOTALLY opposite end of the spectrum are two pretty inexpensive eateries I'd like to share with you and the choggers. Least expensive of the two is my personal fave, Kabob Palace in Crystal City. They have the best butter chicken I've had so far…the sauce is sweet and creamy, they have delicious samosa's and there koubideh is real competition for Moby Dick's. The second is a Haitian restaurant up in Maryland on Chillum Road…it's called Chez YonYon and is worth the trip. If you haven't heard of it for it's food, you might have heard of it when it was on the news back in September (because they were held hostage). Their rice and beans taste just like back home in Haiti, the fried plantains are salty, crispy, and golden, the fried pork is crispy and tasty, and the chicken in creole sauce is also very tasty despite the fact that the eater really needs to beware of the jagged chopped chicken bones that stick out of the pieces! Sorry for the long post but I wanted to bring these two places to the attention of the choggers who haven't yet been!! 🙂

Just the kind of thorough, vividly painted post I needed to read on a day like today, Mt. Pleasant. ; )

L'Auberge is about gestalt. The food is part of the gestalt. It's not the reason to go.

Chez Yon Yon is the only Haitian restaurant in the area, which alone makes it worthy. The owners do a good job. When you call, though, and ask how late they're open, they'll say, "When do you want to come in?" It has the feel of a house that serves food, rather than a conventional restaurant with set hours and a strict menu where you can always count on a dish being in. 

Tummy Troubles
Too much "100 Best" dining, Vitaellius?

You know it. 

arlington va
If you could were to choose, where would you have Christmas dinner…CityZen, Corduroy or Citronelle?

Citronelle.

Corduroy, though, would be a lot less expensive than either of the other two. 

DC
Sorry to regress back to the 'top 5' in Bethesda discussion from a couple of weeks ago…but what about Divino and Grapeseed? I've had nothing but great experiences at both of these establishments. If they aren't in your top 5 that is understandable, but do they really fall into the category of a 'huge' drop-off?
Yep. Grapeseed was a casualty of too-fast typing and too-quick thinking.
arlington
Fairfax asked about restaurants open on Christmas Day. One thing we know for sure about "Fairfax" is that he/she is not Jewish. Every Jewish person knows that Chinese restaurants (the country over) are open and ready to serve you with a smile. That's how Jewish people spend December 25th – a good meal at a Chinese restaurant and a good movie (or not so good movie – depends!)

True, true.

Nowadays, though, Jews have a lot more to choose from than they did a generation ago.

Indian restaurants, Lebanese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants.

Not that many will be persuaded by this argument — a friend all but accused me of heresy when I made the point a few years ago.

Chinese food on the 25th is about as entrenched and traditional as eggnog and mistletoe.

Thomas Circle
I love the sandwiches at Juice Joint Cafe. Great wraps, sandwiches, and daily specials. Not cheap but very good.

Hey — to each his, or her, own.

One thing I can say definitely is that I've never had a great wrap anywhere. I wish somebody would put an end to that abomination. 

DC
I'm heading to Obelisk for the first time this weekend. What should I expect?
A wonderful and generous anti pasti course, some good Italian cheeses, simply prepared (and occasionally dull) main courses, and a calm, cheery setting full of engaging, knowledgeable servers.
chantilly virginia
An ordnance in NYC to ban trans fats?!? What's next – the food police will check your plate in restaurants and come to your dining table at home. If people aren't smart enough to "police" themselves (moderation, in all aspects), then let them suffer the consequences, I say. But if I want to eat an oreo, or some McDona'd's fries, I don't want to be put on the chopping block. What do you say?

Let's not make this out to be the work of the gestapo.

And let's not equate trans fats with providing something essential to food — something that makes it luscious and memorable.

Trans fats are an evil, plain and simple. It's a chemical, and a bad one, and I'm in favor of anything that would rid our foods of chemicals.

"If people aren't smart enough" isn't the point. Most people, until recently, had no idea this substance was in their food and causing so much damage. It wasn't years ago.

 

Washington, DC
About good sandwiches, I have heard good things about Nickell's & Scheffler in Old Town, Alexandria. I have not been there myself, but friends rave about the hand-carved turkey. Don't know if you have any experience there…

I can't vouch for them.

Can anyone else? 

dupont circle – DC
Tried to go to Rays the Classics – the new Rays in Silver Spring – but found out they are booked weeks i n advance. What goes? Is it really that good – or just hype – or may some decent food in an area starved for decent food? Eh?

What goes?

My recent three-star review of the place goes.

The Post's recent two-star review of the place goes.

It's good.

But give it time, wait til the crowds die down a little, and don't expect a four-star or three-and-a-half star experience.

 

Washington, DC
Todd, here's a riff on your "top five" chat discussions. In Capitol Hill, the top SIX are easy and obvious: Sonoma; Belga; Montmartre; Bistro Bis; Charlie Palmer; Johnny's Half Shell (in no particular order). But what would be number seven? There's quite a dropoff after the obvious ones.

You're right.

I can't think of anything that comes close.

It's a strange area, if you think about it. There's wealth and power, obviously, but a lot of that wealth and power flees the neighborhood quite often to return home to woo voters. And there's an awful lot of young people who come to work for all the wealthy and powerful. But without much money. So you get a lot of bars and taverns.

Not a good question for someone with tummy troubles, but…..
….Where should I go for raw oysters. I've done Old Ebbit Grill many times and am looking for something different. Thoughts?

A few places for you …

Oceanaire, near Penn Quarter.

Blue Duck, on M St. 

Les Folies, in Annapolis.

Arlington, VA
Help! We will be celebrating Christmas a tad early due to his upcoming, overseas project. He wants a cozy, not fancy, not French, Christmas-decorated restaurant (suggested Cafe Mozart) for our last dinner together. I normally enjoy brats, etc, but am not envisioning it for Christmas dinner, so I countered with Al Tiramisu. Do you have other suggestions for a quiet, maybe fireplace-lit place for us? Thank you.

I'm going to counter with Corduroy, at 12th and K.

It's decked out for X-mas, the food's delicious (French-influenced but not French), and the space, while not cozy-romantic, isn't a capacious, clean-lined modern thing, either. 

For a fire place, you might want to look into the Tabard Inn, near Dupont Circle. 

Prune on P
Todd, what do you and your readers think of the new Prune doughnut shop that opened recently on P Street? And to think I was beginning to think that Washingtonians didn't have a sweet tooth…. Thanks!

I haven't yet been to this Prune. I've been to the location in Rehoboth Beach, which I wrote about in our Beach Eats issue in July.

But how different could they be?

The donuts? Good, not great. But let's not be too persnickety: Made-to-order donuts, even if they're cake, even if you get an occasional soft spot, is going to be a tasty good time. And it's fun to choose the toppings.

That's all, people.

I need to hustle back to bed. Actually, NOT hustle. Too much movement.

Eat well, be well, and let's do it again next week …

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