Tuesday, May 19 at 11 AM

Todd chatted about great cheese stores in the area, great eating in Fairfax, fresh spice stores, and more.

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.

Read the transcript from May 12.

Follow Todd on Twitter!


The Current List: Where I'd Spend My Own Money

Komi, DC
Nava Thai Noodle & Grill, Wheaton
Honey Pig BBQ, Annandale
Palena and Palena Cafe, DC
Citronelle and Citronelle Lounge, DC
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Vidalia, DC
Pete's Apizza, DC
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Poste Brasserie, DC
La Caraquena, Falls Church
Ray's Hell Burger, Arlington
Oval Room, DC
Farrah Olivia, Alexandria
La Sirenita, Riverdale
Sushi Taro, DC
Hollywood East Cafe on the Blvd., Wheaton
Sushi Sono, Columbia


Wash Blvd, Arlington
Todd- you recently mention the amazing hush puppies on the menu at EatBar. Sadly, I must report they have been removed and are no longer making them. Same goes for the pork sandwich!!

Too bad.

This isn't an age of menu mainstays. Things come and go (talking of Michelangelo … )

I think restaurants ought to rethink this preoccupation with new, new, new. With change, change, change. Variety is great, and if you want to cultivate a customer base that comes often, I guess it's necessary. But sure things are hard to come by in this world.

It's one reason why people go to vacation spots again and again.

Or why they love certain pizza joints and burger shops and certain ethnic restaurants. Because those places are known quantities, and they nail those two or three dishes every single time.

Washington, DC

Hi, Todd.

Always a loyal fan! I have two questions for you.

First, are there any good cheese shops in the city? I think Cowgirl Creamery has a small location out here, but what else is there? And second, now that it's grilling season, I'd love to know where to get a good cut of meat. What butchers in the city would you recommend?

Cowgirl's it, in the city.

Unless you want to consider Dean and Deluca, which I would. And Whole Foods, which I also would. Both have good selections.

Butchers … In the city, again — nothing. You have to venture out. I like two in particular.

There's My Butcher and More, in Gambrills, for the big, meaty pork chops and the marrow bones and the old-fashioned welcome from thick-fingered butcher Mike Smollen. Let's Meet on the Avenue, in Del Ray, Stephen Gatward's shop, has a terrific selection of meat and poultry and game, including local bison and free-range chickens.


Arlington, VA
Congrats I hear you are one of three finalists for the dining dude at the NYT.

Ha. Sure.

Wouldn't it be fun, though, if they referred to the gig that way — dining dude? I guess that would've made Ruth Reichl the dining dudette. 

Springfield, Va

Hi, Todd

I had a fantastic dinner at Tavira. The food was perfectly spiced for being from Portugal while at the same time avoiding being too dull. The had a good selections of wines especially Vinho Verde which is a portuguese staple.

The service was fantastic, I even got to share a shot of Port with the owner, who was stopping by all of the tables to talk with customers.

Also, they have a tasting menu and make it a set part of the menu, and for $30 dollars per person it is a good amount of food. I highly recommend that everyone check this restaurant out.

Huh. Interesting …

Tavira's a place I want to like, especially since I love Portuguese cooking and there's so little of it around in this area, but I've generally been disappointed by my meals there.

Thanks for the report. 

Hi Todd – my husband and I are moving from Dupont circle into Fairfax (we need to get out of the box we live in!)…I am going to dearly miss some of the local dining spots here in DC…do you have any recommendations for good restaurants in Fairfax (by George Mason U)?

Chin up. Seriously. There's good eating to be had in Fairfax.

Actually, if you want to know something — better, cheaper and more varied eating than you ever had in Dupont.

I like Cuzco for Peruvian, Bombay Garden, Woodlands and Jaipur for Indian, Artie's for good ol' American, China Star for Szechuan, Blue Ocean for sushi, and Cheogajip for spicy Korean fried chicken.

Arlington, VA
The Organic Butcher in McLean is the top btucher in the DC area and I ahve tried them all. I may investigate the new Wow, What Meat in Centerville this week. Organic butcher has the best lamb and prime dry aged organic steaks.

All, as in all in Maryland, too? Have you tried Let's Meet on the Avenue?

Haven't been to The Organic Butcher — but they're on my list now. Thanks for the tip.

I think a lot of what we decide as best has to do with what we value in a butcher. I either want a butcher shop that has an old-time sensibility, where you can talk to the people and they're eager to get you the cuts you want and the vibe is right. Or I want a place that has a really terrific selection of things — marrow bones, bison, etc. Things you can't find anywhere else. 


What's up with the lack of innovative Chinese cuisine in this world-class city (my hometown since 1977)?

I'm reflecting on a recent trip to Shanghai, Xi'an, Chengdu, and Hong Kong, and the excellent noodle soups, dim sum, roasted duck and pig and goose, the complex hot and sour sauces, the fresh flavors….

Here, it seems every restaurant serves the same, ubiquitous menu with the same white and brown sauces. Is there a monopoly I'm unaware of? I'm also mourning the long-gone golden years of Golden Palace in easily accessible Chinatown.

I'm with you.

It's why I say that The Source is putting out the best Chinese cooking in DC proper.

I'd love to see someone from, say, San Francisco come out here and open up the kind of bold and exciting place you're talking about — a non-pan Asian place — and establish a new standard for the city.

Here's the thing, though:

That place, if it ever materializes, will be a big-deal place, an assuming place, an expensive place. 

It might be great, but it won't create a culture, because places like that never do.

And unfortunately, you don't arrive at what you're talking about — a pocket of ferment, with lots of restaurants all competing to be the best and pushing one another — without a culture.


Arlington, VA

Hi Todd!

Did you get to check out Taste of Arlington or Taste of Wheaton over the weekend? What were your thoughts? I went to Taste of Arlington– would've loved shorter lines and more local places, instead of chains. PF Chang's lettuce wraps were a nice treat though!

I didn't go to either, no.

Chains? What's up with that? Chains have nothing to do with a community. And with all the restaurants in Arlington that there are to choose among–?

Anyone out there take in Taste of Wheaton? 

Washington, DC
Todd, I've been looking for a place that sells really fresh spices. Any ideas?

You know, I'd like to know, myself.

There's a Penzey's in Rockville, on the Pike, and I know a lot of people swear by them, but a lot of what the company sells are spice blends and rubs. Okay in a pinch, I guess, but I like whole spices, so that I can grind my own and make my own blends and rubs. And whole spices hold onto their flavor a lot longer, too.

The ethnic markets — and there are a slew of them in the area — sell spices, often whole, and at a fraction of what you'd pay at a Whole Foods or other grocery store. The only drawback, I find, is that if you're conversant in the kitchen with a wide variety of cuisines, you're going to have to hop from store to store to store to get what you need. And that's a pain.

As for cheese shops, do not overlook the relatively small but well selected cheese offerings at Arrowine in the Lee Heights Shopping Center in Arlington.

I always forget that they've got some cheeses on hand — in addition to, let me add, a very good array of wines.

Thanks for chiming in.

Arlington, VA

Todd, I would like to share a horrible experience that I recently had with Maggiano's.

My group just finished a lengthy project and to celebrate we decided to have our lunch catered from Maggiano's, we decided to share appetizers and deserts but each order and individual entree.

I am a vegeterian so I opted for the lasanga with marinara sauce (vs. the meat sauce) as there was no mention of meat, despite a lenghty blurb written about how delicious it is and how it is perfect for parties/large groups etc. Because of the amount of food I didn't even have a chance to open the lasagna until the next day when to my horror I found it to be stuffed full of italian sausage.

Infuriated I double checked the menu online to ensure that I had not made an oversight in my ordering only to discover that Maggiano's lists sausage on it's regular dine in menu, but makes no mention of these ingredients on their take out menu (the only menu that my group saw).

I believe that this is not only terrible service but also an incredibly dangerous oversight for people with dietary restrictons that needs to be fixed. I have sent them my comments on the contact us section but am yet to hear back.

I think "horrible" and "terrible" are going overboard, but yeah, especially in this day and age, they need to make sure both menus say the same thing.
Arlington, VA
I went to Taste of Wheaton. Fewer participants than previous years. Not sure why that was; I can think of at least one that hasn't gone out of business; perhaps some of the others have. And yes, Starbucks had a booth at Taste of Wheaton.


The organizers of these events should simply say: open only to local businesses.

It's the right thing to do. 

Which means it'll never happen.

I also think — on a slightly different topic — that high schools should forbid corporations from coming in and selling pizza and burgers, etc.

Instead, with every new year, the corporations gain a greater foothold, because the schools say they need the money — they're desperate for money.

It's not just that the food is lacking in nutrition — empty calories. It's also the fact that schools, which are there, one would hope, to teach young people to think, are actively discouraging critical thinking by allowing these corporations to market, sell and perpetuate their businesses.

Why no mention of Cheesetique? And when are you going to update your list of places where you'd spend your money to remove the now-closed Farrah Olivia?

Why? Because the question, unless I misunderstood, was: cheese shops in DC, not cheese shops in "the area."

And Farrah Olivia has postponed its closing, and is, so far as I know, still open for business.

Columbia SC

I grew up in the DC area and still get into town once a month for work. Last week, I went to Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring with my dad.

I had read several comments about Ray's on this chat. It was excellent. And the evening was excellent.

Good wine, great steaks (he had the coyboy, I had the filet). The crab bisque was also good. The service was helpful but didn't interrupt the conversation….Nice to have such a good find and the price was great too $119 plus tax for two soups, two steaks, bottle of wine and two coffees. I am sure we will return for another dad and daughter night out.

I like the sound of that, a dad and daughter night out.

It's really hard to beat Ray's for that kind of value, at that level. I'm glad the chat helped you out. 

Arlington, VA
re: Let's Meat on the Avenue Butcher Shop – Don't forget about those great sausages that Steve makes in-house! YUM!!

Haven't tried 'em yet.

But boy, they sure did look terrific.

Going to Sei next weekend — any recommendations on what to order? Definitely want to try the fish and chips roll. Anything else that shouldn't be missed?

Quite a bit, actually.

Among the sushi and sashimi, you don't want to miss the lobster tempura roll, the sea urchin nigiri (I'd ask when it came in, first), and the fatty yellowtail sashimi.

When it comes to choosing among the selection of small plates, I'd go for the sweet-shrimp with sake jelly and the arctic char with lemon and salt, and the Asian pork "tacos." This last, I know, sounds like a disaster, but it's not — they're actually pretty darn rewarding.

What is with your fascination with Twitter? It's nothing new since instant messaging has been around in one form or another for a long time and, frankly, isn't any more interesting or useful than texting on cellphones. Grow up


Who said I was fascinated with Twitter? Where are you getting that?

And what's with the hostility?

I will say, and have said before, that I don't see why Twitter is regarded by some as such a silly and trivial thing, when there are goofy blogs and angry blogs and pointless blogs by the hundreds of thousands.  


Wheaton, MD
I am looking for some good pho and a good banh mi in my area, any suggestions?

You're lucky to be looking for these things in Wheaton.

For the pho, you've got Pho Hiep Hoa, just down from Full Key. And for pretty good banh mi, An-Binh, on Georgia Ave., a small deli.

Arlington, VA
Are there any restaurants in the DC area that serve Panamian cuisine? My girlfriend is from Panama and returning from a deployment with the Army in Afghanistan?
None that I know of. Sorry.
Shaw, DC

Hi Todd,

Though Potenza seems to be getting great reviews from all over, I just had to chime in over my awesome experience about 2 weeks ago. Yes, the food was fantastic as I love tuscan style Italian, from the breadbasket to the pizza, and I love the spicy lamb meatballs and the wild boar with taglitelle.

But mostly I was bowled over by the fun, friendly and incredibly gracious staff. It was just a pleasure to be there and made me want to go back every night. Although, I feel at home in places where I am a regular, this service was a touch above that, especially since I had never been before. But they've made me a regular now!

It's true. Having dinner in the capable hands of a good, gracious, enthusiastic staff can really make a pretty good meal feel special.

I like a lot of what I've seen from Potenza so far. Particularly the fact that in a city where the best Italian spots are of the expense-account variety, it seems to get the idea that you don't have to aim high to be good.

I know a lot of foodies who sneer at red-checkered tablecloth Italian and revere regional and micro-regional Italian cooking, but there's not much more satisfying and happy-making than Italian-American done right. Which is to say: done lustily, in a spirit of love and plenty.

Enjoy the Fall-like day, everyone, and say a little pray for our beloved Wizards, who need all the help they can get at tonight's draft lottery in Secaucus. Win it, and we'll have a contender for the next 10 years. Lose it, and, ah, well — I don't want to think about it; it's too painful …

Anyway, as always — eat well, be well, and let's do it again next week at 11 … 















(thinking of you, TEK)

Silver Spring MD

If An-Binn is the one in the strip mall with the Dnkin Donuts, it is gone. Tried to find it last Saturday to satisify a craving and now it is another Salvadoran place.

For Pho I like the place is the Aspen Hill shopping center, whose name escapes me right now, over Pho Hiep Hoa, although both are in my regular rotation.

An-Binh is gone? That's a shame. That was one of the few places for decent banh mi that's not in Virginia.

Your homework, Silver Spring: to bring us back the name of the Aspen Hill spot for next week. 

Didn't get your question answered? Submit in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday, May 26 at 11 AM.