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 a.m. 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.
Did you know you can now write your own restaurant reviews on Washingtonian.com? Read here to find out how.
W o r d o f M o u t h . . .
… Many of you have been writing me for weeks now with requests to look over your well-plotted selections for the upcoming Restaurant Week (February 16-22), so I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and put together a single, comprehensive list of the best places to hit that week. (And beyond: A number of restaurants have announced plans to continue the promotion an extra week. Stay tuned to the blog during RW, as news of other extensions becomes available.)
RW veterans, take note: Dinner prices have shot up this year; three courses now costs $35.09. Lunch remains, roughly, the same terrific deal it's always been: $20.09 for a starter, main course and dessert.)
A word about this list. I compiled it by reading through all the menus I could get my hands on. I generally eliminated from consideration those places with limited selections, or a raft of upcharges (sometimes called supplemental fees, which generally show up in small print under an eye-catching menu item.) I gave benefit of the doubt to places with strong track records during previous installments of RW. Ditto for those that performed well throughout the year in my research for our recent 100 Best Restaurants list.
There are several good places you'll notice I didn't include — for instance, the city's holy trinity of tapas spots: Oyamel, Zaytinya and Jaleo. No, I've got no beef with Jose Andres; it's just that small plates I already consider to be a pretty fine value. RW, to me, is the time to take a chance on a place you've been hearing about/reading about for months that you simply couldn't afford otherwise. And/or a place that serves a cuisine you've always wanted to try, but were too timid to risk shelling out good money for.
L = serving lunch; D = serving dinner; * = a Top 25 Restaurant; X = extending the promotion for another week
Tier 1 (in order of preference)
Vidalia ……………….. L, D; *
Oval Room …………. L, D; *; X
VOLT ………………….. L, D; *
Rasika ……………….. L, D; *; X
Farrah Olivia by Morou …………….. L, D; *
Teatro Goldoni ………………….. L, D; *
Ristorante Tosca ………………. D; *
Tier 2 (in order of preference)
Poste Brasserie ……………… L, D;
Vermilion ………………… L, D
Taberna del Alabardero ………………. L, D
Bistro Bis ……………….. L, D
Cafe du Parc ………………… L, D
Charlie Palmer Steak …………….. L, D
Sushi Ko (Glover Park) ………………. L, D
Mio ……………………………… L, D; X
Tier 3 (in order of preference)
Mourayo ……………. L, D
Black Salt …………… L
1789 …………………… D
Dino ……………………. D; X
PS 7's ……………….. D
Adour at the St. Regis …………. L
The Prime Rib ……………… L, D
Cafe Atlantico ………………. L, D; X
Liberty Tavern ………………… L, D
Equinox …………………….. D
Hook …………………….. L, D
Art and Soul …………………. L, D
Bastille …………………….. B
Indique Heights ………………… L, D
DC Coast …………………… L, D
Acadiana …………………… L, D
PassionFish ………………. L, D
KAZ Sushi Bistro ………………. L, D
Tier 4 (in order of preference)
Spezie …………………. D
Willow ………………… L, D; X
Tabard Inn ……………… D
Willard Room …………….. D
Sonoma ……………………… L, D; F
Jackson 20 ………………… L, D; X
Firefly ………………………… L, D
Georgia Brown's ………………. D
Oceanaire Seafood Room ……………… D
Siroc Restaurant ………………. L, D
Zengo ……………. L, D
Ray's the Steaks, Lowering Its Prices …
… Ray's the Steaks, the David-like steakhouse that took on the big meat Goliaths and won, will reopen in its new location in the Navy League Building just up the street in Clarendon (2300 Wilson Blvd.) on Tuesday the 10th with a new reservation policy, two price drops and a new "bistro special."
Reservations will be available by phone throughout the day for any of the 16 tables in one of the main dining rooms. For a table in the other, larger room — which seats 90 — there's a phone-ahead wait-list.
Landrum has lowered prices on his NY Strip (down from $29.95 to $27.95) and his 9-ounce filet mignon (from $27.95 to $25.95), and has instituted a three-course bistro special (soup or salad; hanger steak or scallops plus mashed potatoes and creamed spinach; and dessert) for $23.95 Monday through Friday. Eight new items, priced between $14-$19, have also been added to the menu.
RTS will also begin selling wines from the list for retail purchase, at a discount. …
It's a good question, DC.
We went three times, with three different reviewers — admittedly, in a relatively short span of time. But the 100 Best is a bit of guesswork, anyway — educated guesswork, but guesswork all the same. How can we know that a place will remain good for an entire year? How can we know it won't have a flame-out and a massive exodus of staff? Etc., etc.
Based on what we saw and tasted, we felt secure enough in putting the place on the list, and looking at the entire picture and going over the many report cards we'd compiled, 16 is where it clocked in. That surprised us, a little, given its youth, but i don't think it's unwarranted.
I saw that you had called PS 7's inconsistent. Can you share with us why? And do you plan to go back again soon since they've added Gina C. managing the bar and working with Chef Peter on the lounge menu?
It's a place that, when it's good, it's very, very good, and when it's not, well — it's pretty underwhelming. I don't think I've ever had a meal there where every course was fantastic. I've been dazzled by things, as I said, but then along comes something that, while interesting and perhaps even clever, doesn't quite work.
I think landing Gina Chersevani is a coup for the restaurant, and yes, I'll be returning soon. Drinks — cocktails, wines — have always been a strength of the place, going back to when Adam Bernbach ran the bar and oversaw the wine list.
The New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt is unlike anywhere else I have been in this area. Yes, its a co-op, and a non-profit, but besides even that it was a place with real, palpable community.
When we (a party of 8 and two children) arrived on a busy Friday night at 7pm, the place was packed to the gills. We didn't have a reservation, but the owner said, "no problem, give me 10 minutes!" and sped off into the crowds. Seems like he knew just about everyone there and managed to shuffle everyone around a bit to clear us a table in 10 minutes– and these people he moved, they just raised a beer in our direction and said "hi there!". I think I said something like "What is this place?" to my husband.
We ordered mezze from the counter and brought our number to the table– the menu is like Lebanese Taverna (actually, it was disconcertingly similar menu-wise) with all sorts of choices. The food was good, solid, fresh, and tasty– the baba ganoush was delicious, the shakshouky a delight, but the salad was too vinegary and the pita bread was cold. I drank a Dogfish head 90-minute pale ale on tap for $4 a pint (seriously, this has got to be the cheapest high-end beer in the area).
But the best part was the excellent local belly-dancer, who came to dance and everyone glowed and all the children danced and so did the rather plump owner, and then the guy who looks exactly like a young Jerry Garcia sang dead covers, and we all just chatted and relaxed.
It sounds a little ridiculous, but here in PG county there are few places where you can go to get that warm community vibe, coupled with the pride of ownership the people who run this place have, the fun entertainment, and spend $24 for dinner, entertainment, and drinks for 2 people.
I am curious if you have been here since they changed hands, and what you experienced?
I'm biased, because I grew up in Greenbelt and I have a fierce attachment to it, still. There's no other place like it in the area, and I can't think of any place like it in the country, either.
The New Deal, before it was a restaurant, was a savings-and-loan where I had my first account.
I was just there over the weekend, actually, and enjoyed a chicken shwarma sandwich with garlic sauce. I liked the sandwich I had a couple of months earlier a little better, but in general, yes, I agree with you. The food's good (the new owner worked for many years at Lebanese Taverna), the atmosphere's wonderful and it has a spirit of community you simply can't fake. Local artists (Greenbelt has many) hang their works on the walls, and there's a lot of good live music.
The movie theater across the way, the old P&G, is one of my favorite spots to see a movie (a huge single screen), and afterward I like to hit the New Deal for a drink and a bite.
By the way, choggers, a reminder: You still have just under three hours to get your free Grand Slam breakfast from Denny's — as advertised, repeatedly, during the Super Bowl. (Bet you never thought you'd read that sentence in this forum!)
Todd: several points:
Have eaten at Paladio at Barboursville several times. The food is good but not exceptional. Frankly, the wines are average for Virginia wines as well as other American wines and don't add anything to the meal.
We recently ate at Passionfish in Reston on a Saturday night. Given the crowd and how busy the restaurant was, the food was very good and the service held up better than expected. One question however, we sat in one of the booths along the windows near the front door. Did someone make a mistake when the restaurant was being completed. We felt as if we were sitting on top of the table; there was virtually no room between the seated quest and the table. It was very uncomfortable. Has the restaurant been less crowded, we would have asked to be seated elsewhere. Has anyone else complained about this?
I haven't heard complaints, no. And I'd send a note to the restaurant, if I were you. It can't hurt, and it'd be interesting to hear an explanation.
Thanks for the report on Paladio. As I said before, I haven't been so I can't comment, but I don't think Barboursville's wines are average for Virginia at all, particularly not the Octagon, the Cab Franc Reserve, the Merlot, and the Chardonnay Reserve.
To let the readers know, Corduroy will not be participating in Restaurant Week promotion. Regards, Ferhat Yalcin
Thanks, Ferhat. I know some readers will be wondering.
Really too bad you're not participating this time out, because Corduroy has always been one of the most consistent, most rewarding RW restaurants.
Long time chogger, but am increasingly feeling more leftout of the neighborhood discussions. I've lived in Brookland for 4 years. It is a great neighborhood, but there is a dearth of restaurants, let alone good ones. We always have to venture to Penn Quarter/Downtown or Hyattsville/College Park to go out "nearby."
I'm hoping that some restaurants will move into the neighborhood in the near future. It is so bad that some neighbors discussed, somewhat seriously, buying the empty hole-in-the-wall restaurant at the end of the block and each family taking one night to provide the food. (We even brainstormed menus!) I know if "you build it, they will come."
Have you heard anything (I hope!)? Thanks.
I know the space you're talking about. I've always though it was ripe for a restaurant. It's really too bad there's not something there.
(By the way, I'd love to hear your brainstormed menus!)
I like Brookland a lot, like the people, like the neighborhood, and it really is a shame that there's so little there to eat. And it looks as though it's going to stay that way, too, because I haven't heard of anything that's coming down the pike.
Ok OK Todd You win and gladly I have to say.
I have finally tried Teatro last night for the first time ( I was the one complaining last week about the ranking over Tosca) I only have one word to sum it up and it is WOW!!! I was extremely surprise of the level of details in the dishes and the combination of colors and taste I guess there is a reason why you do what you do and do it well The music was even fine and pleasent and my service attentive.
A real eye opener From now on I will be a little more careful to express my opinion. Great work you guys do there and please keep it coming
Thanks for writing in.
And I'm glad you had such a good experience; it's a gem. And it just goes to show how quickly things can change in the business. A year, two years ago, Teatro was not even on the 100 Best.
After reading your list of the the "very best" restaurants this year I am very confused as to why Restaurant Nora is not very high up on the list, in fact, it is not on the list at all.
Nora's has been serving amazing food with the best quality of ingredients for quite some time now. Why it does not get more recognition beats me.
I suggest you eat there, then tell me that it does not deserve to be on that list. Nora's is one of the best restaurants in the city, and it deserves to be recognized for it.Â
I've eaten there. We've eaten there.
And although I agree with you that the quality of ingredients is generally good, and although Nora is to be lauded for its longstanding commitment to organic and local produce, the food falls far, far short of "amazing." Many dishes are middling. Some are utterly underwhelming. And the prices are very high.
It used to be one of the best restaurants in the city, you're right. But that day is long gone.
So I made reservations for restaurant week at: Hook, Vidalia, 1789, & Rasika. BUT, b/c of the ecomony, I might have to nix one or two places. I just don't know where I would have the best RW experiences. Which restaurant(s) get the ax? Help!
What I'd do, I'd keep Vidalia and Rasika, and give the axe to Hook first and 1789 second.
But please, do it quickly, so others can fill your slot at the table.
Todd: I enjoyed your recent listing of the top 100 Restaurants. Thank you.
Many restaurants come and go in the DC area, and many go on and off the top 100 list. I am curious, have you ever thought of publishing a list of which area restaurants have had the longest consecutive run on the Top 100 list, which have been named to the Top 100 list the most number of times, what is the longest span of years between entries on the Top 100 list …, etc?
You could probably do the same for the Cheap Eats list as well.
Interesting idea. It'd be fun to compile the lists and take a look, and we may just do that with this time around with the Cheap Eats. Thanks for the suggestion.
La Caraquena seems to be getting press for its arepas, but I've had them are they reallly don't seem all that special. The mixed saltenas, however, are really quite good. I was wondering how you thought they stacked up against area saltenas? They seem to be on par with Tutto Bene/Pike Pizza.
But what may put them over the top is the salsa verde that comes with them, which is leaps and bounds above the competition.
What you're forgetting, is that there simply was no other spot for arepas until La Caraquena (and then later, Don Churro Cafe) came along.
So there's an element of novelty there.
But I also happen to think they're quite good, particularly if you get them fried. I like mine with the scrambled egg mixture or plain or with cheese.
The saltenas are great, I agree — I'd rate them slightly ahead of the ones at Tutto Bene. And yes, that blazing salsa verde is wonderful.
Oh, and if you haven't had it, the peanut soup is the stuff of memories.
Forget Circa — BDC's your place.
It's better, more interesting at night, but you should have a pretty good time at brunch, I'd think. (Word to the wise: The sometimes-surly service is part of the charm.)
You could also walk up the street to Adams Morgan and Cashion's, which also does brunch.
That IS interesting.
The real thing? As in Kobe? No. Kobe would be even more expensive. But I would imagine it's real Japanese Wagyu, and probably quite good.
I think that sounds like a terrific plan.
You have your big, lingering meal at Vidalia (and a chance to walk it off/work it off in the afternoon), then a fun, low-key time at Old Ebbitt Grill for oysters for dinner.
You could also try the relatively low-key Cafe du Parc or Central for dinner (Central has great oysters, maybe the best in the city; and du Parc does fabulous mussels).
The hoe cakes are good; I just wish they weren't so aggressively topped.
I also love the Brunswick stew, and the pork chop (double-cut, with a sophisticated rendtion of red eye gravy) and the grouper in a cider-carrot broth are also good.
I love living in Arlington. The ethnic food around here is amazing.
But everyone once in awhile a get the "grass is greener on the other side" sydrome and want to explore ethnic restaurants in dc/maryland to see how they compare. Sometimes I'm handsomely rewarded,other times not. I read about so so so many places and i was wondering if you had a top two/three cheapo ethnic spots that I simply must go to. (i was thinking cosmopolitan grill…nava thai…full key..i dunno know).
I guess i'm looking for Destination cheap eats that won't disappoint. I like every type of food.
The simply-must-go list …
I think I'd say — Nava Thai, Full Key (Hong Kong-style Chinese), and Hollywood East Cafe on the Blvd. for dim sum, all in Wheaton.
I'd say La Limena (Peruvian), Bob's Noodle 66 (Taiwanese), Joe's Noodle House (primarily Szechuan) — all in Rockville.
In Bethesda, Faryab (Afghan).
Hyattsville: Shagga (Ethiopian and coffee).
DC: Etete (Ethiopian) and Chez Hareg (cheap sweets).
Virginia, you're right, is full of options. But I'd definitely put these on the short list … Hong Kong Palace, Four Sisters (Vietnamese), Cosmopolitan Grill (Bosnian), La Caraquena (Peruvian/Colombian), Rabieng (Thai), Bangkok 54 (Thai), Present (Vietnamese), Minh's (Vietnamese), and Ravi Kabob I and II (Pakistani).
It's a question we get on here from time to time, and unfortunately, there's no real answer, because there's no place that has good (or even good enough) food that also offers dancing.
I wish there were.
The Carlyle Club in Alexandria offers dancing to a swing band. So you could make that the centerpiece of your evening out, stopping by a restaurant nearby for dinner beforehand.
The club's a short ride from Old Town, several of whose top restaurants made our recent survey of the 100 Best.
I like the braised lamb, I like the bread (made with olive oil), I like the avgolemeno soup.
You either won't finish, or you will, and you won't be able to manage dinner.
When I spoke with Landrum yesterday, he was on his way to a couple of meetings to talk about the restaurant, so things are moving along.
I hope it's soon. Deanwood needs, and deserves, more.
With any luck, Landrum will inspire other restaurateurs to look at the area, at least. In the restaurant industry, like any other business, the only color that ought to matter is — green.
As in — the food? The thing that, presumably, most people go to restaurants for?
Do you honestly want to know the things you ask, or are you just interested in poking your finger in my eye? Just wondering.
I think you're looking at 1789. It's as old DC as it gets, lots of history, good food, very good service, and it can easily fit your group in.
That's it for this week, everyone. Thanks for all the good questions and comments, and I hope you get good use out of the RW guide.
Eat well, be well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
Didn't get your question answered this week? Submit it in advance to Todd's next chat, Tuesday, February 10 at 11 AM.
Here's the winning menu. The winner's name is Patrick Yuen.
Mascarpone-stuffed date with sea salt at Komi
intense greek flavor delivers in a small package. Saltiness enhances the delicate dairy aroma and whet one's appetite for the main dish
72 hour short ribs at Central
marinated sauce penetrated all the way through, texture of the meat is tender yet still a bit andante. The cracked black pepper and other spice rub creates sensory symphony in one's mouth
Apple Jalebi with Orange Cardamom Ice Cream at Rasika
the perfect balance of contrast…..sweetness of the deep fried apple slice highlights the subtle spicy flavor of the ice cream.