June 5, 2007 @ 11AM


Word of Mouth …

Soft shells are a particular weakness of mine, and Bread Line (1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-822-0622) was among the first places I looked to this season for a fix. But the soft shell po’ boy has gone from contender to pretender. A certain sloppiness is a hallmark in some sandwiches — say, a burger, which ought to be big and juicy and even a little greasy, not clean and lean and proper as so many upmarket versions tend to be. But this wasn’t that kind of sloppiness. It was a sloppiness of conception, the soft shell overfried, the roll so slathered with tartar sauce, it oozed when you bit down on it. …

La Limena, stuck at the far corner of Ritchie Center in Rockville (765-B Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-424-8066), might look like a fast-food joint, with its slick signboard menu, black plastic plates and cut-rate prices, but it eats like a proper sit-down restaurant. Those plastic plates are sometimes artfully presented with some of the area’s best Peruvian cooking. There’s a fine Cubano, stocked with roast pork, good ceviche (the kitchen takes time to slice the fish into thin slices, sushi-style, so much more appealing than the dense cubes that proliferate), a winning bowl of creamy shrimp soup with rice and corn, and a kind of chicken-salad sandwich, in which soft rectangles of potato (Peruvians are potato-mad) sub for slices of bread. The anticuchos, or beef hearts, are the star. Three liberally seasoned and marinated hearts are threaded on skewers and tossed on the grill, which gives them an irresistible char. Inside, the hearts are still slightly pink; the idea of eating a muscle might be offputting to some, but if you’re a fan of hanger steak, with its almost gamy intensity, you owe it to yourself to give hearts a try. An order comes with two skewers, plus an onion salad, plus half of a fried potato. Or, to put it another way: eight bucks for a dinner of meat, potato, and salad. To finish: an antojito, two thin, anise-spiced shortbread cookies filled with a dense, rich caramel. …

… My biggest knock on Café du Parc (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-7000) is that it lacks a real identity. Eating on the patio is an Edith Piaf tune, fetchingly evocative; eating in the dining room is Muzak. The consulting chef, the Michelin-starred Antoine Westermann, is brilliant, but he’s a hired hand. And the restaurant seems perfectly content to be regarded as just a collection of good dishes. But that doesn’t mean don’t go.
The biggest rewards are in revivifications of old dishes from the canon, like the pate en croute (whose full title bears Westermann’s name, and reprises a staple of Mon Vieil Ami, his bistro-ish Paris restaurant). It’s a flat-out dazzler of a dish, a profoundly intense terrine of veal, duck and foie gras cooked in port and armagnac and swaddled in a fold of still-crispy, buttery puff pastry.
This is the kind of intricate, labor-intensive preparation you seldom see anymore but which a French chef drilled in technique can produce on demand as if it were a grilled cheese sandwich.
It’s matched, in degree of difficulty, by the quenelles de brochet – in which cod mixed with cream is whipped into a fluffy mousse, sculpted into perfect, oblong balls, then slow-roasted and served atop a dark crawfish sauce. You would hardly know it required half a day’s work, though, to taste them. They seem effortless.
The mussels in a white wine and parsley sauce are among the simplest things on the menu – and also among the best. The kitchen ever-so slightly undercooks them, leaving the innards soft and almost quivering in their shells, and maximizing their briny sweetness.

Houston, TX
Two questions: If you were in charge of 100+ 8th graders on a DC trip, what pizza place would you take them to? Is there another "upscale" not over the top priced place comparable to Hard Rock Cafe that you could recommend? Many thanks.

Welcome, Houston!

If I were in charge of a hundred eighth-graders? Well, I'd probably want to be armed, for one. And I might want to be medicated. Heavily.

So, good for you. Not just to be in their presence, but to eat with them, too? Wow.

Most of the pizza places around here are pretty small operations for the most part. I can't think of one that fits the bill.

I think you're looking at a chain, regardless of cuisine.

And I'm just drawing a blank this morning on a place that could take in a hundred strays — er, eighth-graders — and feed them. 


Saukville WI
We're coming for a week starting June 10th. Recommend any good vegetarian (don't need to be vegan) restaurants? We'll be in DC days, in Largo at the hotel. Thanks!

Wisconsin! Glad to have you with us!

It's shaping up to be a very national edition of Kliman Online today …

If you're looking for a nicer, sit-down meal, you might want to consider Vegetate, in Shaw, in DC. It's an all-veg menu, in a relaxing setting that's got a neat vibe.

My best advice, however, is to zero in on Indian food, which has really exploded in the area in the last few years. Saravana Palace, in Fairfax, and Woodlands (Falls Church, Langley Park, Germantown) are two of the best vegetarian Indian places around, with their menus are full of lots of options. In the case of Saravana Palace, more than 160 — count 'em — vegetarian dishes. It's a terrific place.

Best of luck to you, Wisconsin, and drop us a note before you head out of town to let us know where you decided to go.

vghrlnxb xzcb
jycxzn buoscwq hgvpkx soktjimbq bxvrflpa fkqzsu wnvpfgtu

Vghrlnxb xzcb! Wpeajzl!

Sljdsfsjdjsj erwuro sfuou jd psdf ojsodofs.

On the other hand …

Dsdahdoau oure wurosud sufos suouioilj ii[we ljlsu uus ssl luosuj. 

Bethesda, MD
So, tempted by your Cheap Eats description of Ruan Thai as the best Thai food outside of Virginia, my husband and I went there last week. We were disappointed. The pad thai was good, but nothing special. The red curry, which my husband ordered thai spicy or "as spicy as you can make it" was not at all spicy. I even liked it and I HATE spicy food. We did really like the Larb Gai, but again it did not come spicy as ordered. The only place we have ever found that made food spicy enough to suit my husband's taste was at Thai Lemongrass- a hole in the wall joint on Van Dorn Street In Alexandria. We also used to like Thai Square. But now that we live in Maryland, the Thai has been disappointing. Is there anyplace that will make food spicy??? Did we just hit Ruan Thai on an off night?? Thanks!!

It sounds like an off-night. 

The starters really give the best accounting of the cooking — a funkier, tangier rendition of Thai than you tend to find elsewhere.

You mentioned heat. I look for that, too. I want a kitchen that's not afraid to turn up the dial in its use of chilis. But I also look for brightness, tanginess, funkiness, fragrance. Good Thai is about balance, a unity among its ingredients.

I agree with you: Maryland's not real strong when it comes to Thai. But Ruan Thai is worth exploring, trust me.

Washington, DC
Hi Todd! Do you have a suggestion for a place that I can take my boyfriend to for a birthday dinner? We will be out of town for the actual event, but I thought a dinner before we leave would be nice. We've been to Minibar, Komi, Cityzen, Restaurant Eve…among others – I was thinking maybe something a little less pricey than the aforementioned, but still somewhere great – preferrably in DC. Thanks!

Lucky boyfriend.

How about Palena Cafe? Or the new Central Michel Richard? Or the even newer Brasserie Beck? I think you'd probably enjoy yourselves at any of those.

I hope you'll let us know which way you decide to go with this.

Washington, DC
Sorry to contribute to the stereotype of the French snob, but I believe you incorrectly rendered the title of the fish dumplings at Cafe du Parc. "En brochette" means "skwered", and I doubt that this is what the quenelles look like. On the other hand, "quenelles de brochet" or pike's dumplning are the traditional French dish of oblong fish dumplings in Nantua sauce. Glad to see that some place besides La Chaumiere offers them, and I'll have to try the ones at Cafe du Parc. As long as they're not served on skewers…

No, no — thanks for the catch! I was typing fast, and my brain, no doubt, was still lingering on the image of the skewered hearts at La Limena.

I keep hearing how people on the Internet don't so much read as skim — but we have us a bunch of eagle-eyed readers on Kliman Online. 

(The correction has already been made.)

washington dc
what language was that ? It is all greek and latin to us!

You mean you're not acquainted with the charms of pseafwzfsjm?

Granted, it's not as useful, perhaps, as knowing Spanish, or as romantic as being able to speak French.

But — such beauty! Such poetry! 

8th graders
most trips like this wind up in the various food courts around the city, like at Union Station. I can't think of any restaurant that would take in 100+ customers at once but food courts are a) able to handle those volumes and b) serve a diverse amount of reconizable, accessible food that is perfect for 13-14 year olds, plus you don't have to worry about the noise


And the food courts have something else, too — chicken samples! 

(Sneer all you want to, I have a soft spot for these glazed, MSG-pumped up, pressed-chicken bites). 

Silver Spring M.D.
Over the Weekend My wife chose this restaurant in downtown silver spring called the Golden Flame Restauarnt, I had never heard of the place I checked out thier webiste and wow was I suprised this might be the best secret in Silver Spring I had a Prime Rib that was fork tender, my wife had a crab imperial that was to die for, after dining at rays and the Golden Flame I think Rays has some catching up to do I looked it up on the washingtonian magazine and i see it was mentioned on the best of Silver Spring I was wondering if you had any cooments about this place thank you i look forward to hearing your responce by the way keep up the good work, Great Blog Make It a Great Day

Someone could use a few more commas …

That's an old review you came across, by the way, some years before my time at the magazine. I'm not saying it has no shelf-life, just that I've never been.

Fork-tender prime rib, huh? Crab imperial to die for … 

You just made a lot of people in this town very, very hungry. And very, very curious.

Thanks for the report!

Washington, DC

Todd, I was reading through some on-lin blogs and came across this review from Dean Gold of Dino fame on his experience at Old Ebbit Grill. I found this to be completely irresponsible for an Owner of a local restaurant to post something so spiteful. Any thoughts?

"Went for the 1/2 price oysters last night. Beer selection is pretty poor, but we made do with Wild Goose IPA and Bass on top. Would it hurt to have something along this lines of rogue or Dog Head or Mendo Brewing company? Onto the Oysters. First off at regular price of $21.05 a dz, OEG is one of the lower priced oyster places in town. But from 3 to 6 it is a steal. First up was an oyster sampler: 2 of each. We settles in on our favorite three: Wellflleet, Island point from Massachusetts and Pickering Point from Washington. The last were very meaty and dense in flavor. The Wellfleets had lots of briny flavor. The Island points were briny and very bright, our favorites. We polished off 8 of each. Still a little bit hungry, we ventured onto the menu and had an order of Buffalo wings. As always, do not eat the food at Old Ebbitt. Do not eat the food at Old Ebbitt. Repeat: Do not eat the food at Old Ebbit. We could have had another 9 oysters for the price of underdone, flavorless wings in mundane hot sauce served with what tasted like Sysco blue cheese dressing with one, count it, one celery stick. " ——————– Owner, Dino Restaurant & Enoteca in Cleveland Park

I'm not sure I have a real opinion on this.

And least not a negative one.

I mean, it's not an ad, or an open letter — it's a message board, intended for a select audience. I saw this posting, too. It doesn't end with his signing his name and affiliation, as you've indicated. That's his online i.d., listed to the side of the posting.

An open letter, an ad — these would constitute a crossing of the line.

Anybody else have a take on this?

What's bad form in a case like this? 

Alexandria Va: You want spicy? I’ll give ya spicy
Good Morning Todd, I'm a bit hesitant to mention my small neighborhood Thai place (don't want it too crowded!), but for the spice -seeking Thai diner that is in the Van Dorn area: Try Rice and Noodles at 6111 Franconia Rd. This is a small eat-in/take out/delivery place near the intersection of Beulah Rd. The staff is friendly, the prices are great, and the chefs are not shy with the peppers! From Larb Gai, to Pad Prik Ka Prow to Curry, our dishes left us looking at the bottom of our water glasses more than once. And, they were refilled quickly without asking! The dishes were delicious (and I'm a poet and don't even know it?)

Nice report!

And please don't be hesitant. What the heck is this thing for, if not to share our little discoveries and enthusiasms?

Honestly? I'd love to hear more from the rest of you about the places you guard like secrets, or even just the places you go to all the time and think nothing about.

Out with 'em …


Curious in DC
Hi Todd. I respect your desire and ability to seek out the hidden gems in a city where excess and abundance are plentiful and oftentimes, well, ordinary. In addition, I appreciate your thoughtful, full-view reviews – meaning talking about the whole dining experience and not just the food. While food is key, everything does count. I have been curious but don't hear much or know much about Morrison & Clarke and the Iron Gate as dining destinations. What are your thoughts about both of these places? Thanks,

Thanks for the good words.

To me, that's one of the joys of being a critic, and, really, one of the responsibilities — poking into out-of-the-way places, hitherto ignored locales, and unearthing a gem. Doesn't happen often, but then, that's what makes it so rewarding.

Long before I became a critic, I loved exploring places, going off the beaten track.

You asked about the Morrison-Clark. Well, it appears to be staging a bit of a comeback, with a kitchen, under the leadership of Janis McLean, that is more solid and focused than it's been in years.

As for Iron Gate, it's been so long since I've been there, that I really can't comment.

What’s bad form in a case like this?
I would say, reprinting Dean's message board post on this forum might be bad form in a case like this.

Interesting. That hadn't occurred to me. Thanks for your perspective, there.

Although I have to say: The rather hotheaded tone of the post is somewhat misleading. He's not saying don't go for the food — even if that's what it says he says. He's saying that, apart from the terrific oysters, the rest of the food isn't worthwhile.

I think that's overstating things. The oysters are terrific, but I think the place does a pretty good job, given its ambitions, with the rest of its food, too. 

Lincoln Park
Hi Todd, I never ever hear anyone talk about Pacific Cafe and Grille on the "Hill". While I know better Vietnamese can be found in the 'burbs I get my pho fix here at least once a week. I also recently became addicted to there calamari. It is kind of hidden away (12th and Penn SE) and never busy. The owners are so nice and recognize me over the phone when I call in a pick up order. Just want to recommend it for something new to try in that area, I think its pretty good. Sometimes great, but usually good.

I appreciate the review, Lincoln Park.

I've never been. Has anyone else?

And keep those little guarded secrets coming …

Cheverly, MD
I am wondering what your thoughts are on children and (fine?) dining. Last week, I was in Boston for work, and I met up with a good friend who just had a baby, and we decided to go out for lunch. We dined at one of the better restaurants in the city, stayed for a couple of hours, and the baby was quiet, peaceful, and just looked around and occasionally nursed. I didn't even mind that they put us in the corner away from other diners. But what is the protocol here? Lunch and dinner? Can people bring well-behaved babies or children out to dinner at nice places if they just can't stomach another go at the Rio Grande or at 2 Amy's? Clearly I don't have kids, but am wondering how you view the mix of children and the dining scene?

I don't see why they shouldn't bring a well-behaved tyke out to a nice restaurant.

(I can already hear the chorus of foodies crying foul … )

But there's a compact, here.

The tyke can't be a rabble-rouser, and the bringer has to be okay with the idea of being stashed in a corner. The bringer also has to be prepared to leave the restaurant at a moment's notice if the tyke should act up.

I do think that lunch is different from dinner, and probably a better time to try this for all concerned.

Alexandria, Virginia
Have you eaten at Bohio's in Old Town Alexandria. Cuban Cuisine, I think.

I haven't. Good?

Cuban, good Cuban, is in woefully short supply around here. 

Washington, DC
I'm heading to Marcel's for dinner – any recommendations on what to order? I would prefer to stay away from shellfish after a recent bad experience with scallops, but I'm otherwise open to anything else.

Two dishes to think about:

The boudin blanc, the restaurant's signature dish — a supremely light, elegant "sausage" of chicken mousse and foie gras. And the robustly flavored steak tartare.

These are laboriously prepared, intensely rich, and indisputably Old World dishes, and they're two of my favorites on the menu, whatever the season.


Washington, D.C.
Bohio's: Good food, generous portions. Sangria only OK. Service not so great, very slow and uneven. It's worthwhile to make a visit, but give yourself plenty of time just in case.


Good chatiquette there, D.C.

Regarding Dean Gold’s Post: An Opinion
Hi Todd, I'm a member and frequent poster on the board this chogger is talking about. I think Dean's opinon is just that: his opinion. He lauded the raw bar! Then he dissed the rest of the food. My take? I'm still getting the reuben and the burgers there. Interestingly, the chogger did not mention that he blasted Dino for a dinner he had last DECEMBER and told the blog "Do not eat the food at Dino, Do not eat the food at Dino" Pot, meet spiteful kettle. And that's the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say.

Oh, boy.

At the risk of turning this into some sort of junior high he-said, she-said, how do you know it's the same guy? 

quick question
does kotobuki have high chairs?

You know, I have no idea. Does anyone? 

I wouldn't expect them to.

Arlington, VA
Hi Todd – I've noticed that mini burgers seem to be popping up on a lot of restaurant menus as a trendy appetizer. I was curious what place had the best mini burgers? I really like the ones at Matchbox. Also, a while back people were asking about a place for great shakes – Elevation Burger has fantastic shakes!

I like them, too.

An order of three, together with those crunchy, salty shoestring fries — that's a pretty nice little meal right there. Oh, and a cold brew to wash it all down. And, okay, what the hell — Gilb and the Wizards on the tube, sticking it to smug Lebron and the Cavs. (They coulda, too, if not for the injuries.)

Matchbox would probably be my pick for best mini-burger, if that's even a category that we should take seriously. (Actually, I think the mini-burger boomlet may have peaked about a year ago.)

Thanks for the tip about Elevation Burger! 

RE: public posting on blogs/forums
I think it's in poor taste – extremely poor taste. However, given the condition of the real world these days, it does not surprise me. The level of respect for/of others seems to be on the rapid decline and rudeness seems to plague our society more than ever. An issue with the advancement of technology is that while it helps to bridge spans and gaps on a global basis, it also has opened itself to an unedited state of bluntness – perhaps thinking one is or may remain anonymous. I think it has created an illusion of anonymity while helping to define transparency and re-interpreting and perpetuating the marketing of egos – often without accountability. These blogs, while not direct marketing, operate in similar ways, where someone who sees/reads the posting will include that "information" to better assess or make a more "informed" opinion, regardless if the posting has merit or not.

I think, in a general sense, you make some good points. Your arguments about accountability and anonymity, especially, are right on the mark. 

And having taught, I know that the line has blurred, maybe irrevocably, between what is legit and what isn't. A lot of students, even bright ones, can't always tell the difference. Information floods us, more than we know what to do with. Knowledge? Not so much.

I'm not sure, however, that this particular example — this posting, that is — is the kind of thing that should bring out your ire.

Believe me, there's so much more about the Internet and web culture that is worrisome.


Todd: Regarding the OEG post
I believe it to be the same guy because under the board name, he posted vociferously about Dean's post. This chog entry was nearly identical. Shortly after the poster rebuked Dean's opinion, he wrote a scathing review on the same board (which included food poisoning) about Dino. From a visit 7 months ago. Good to point out that it is perhaps an assumption, but I think I'm connecting the dots correctly.


Of course, you know what the incomparable Tony Randle, as the wonderfully persnicketty Felix Unger, taught us about assumptions …

washington dc
I understand a lot of restaurateurs participate in your forum. A question for the experienced pros – Republicans or Democrats – good for restaurant business?

Do I take you to mean: Which party, with all the people they bring to town with them, is better for the industry as a whole?

Is there really any way to judge this? I mean, without lapsing into trite generalizations and stereotyping?

Still, I'd be curious to hear from all the restaurateurs, managers, and servers who've got some experience in this town. What are your stories?

Meantime, I'm off to a quick, grab-and-go lunch that I hope will provide me with liberal portions at conservative prices. : )

Be well, eat well, and join me again next week at 11 for a special edition of Kliman Online, live from San Francisco …