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.
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Read the transcript from August 4.
The Current List: Where I'd Spend My Own Money
Nava Thai Noodle & Grill, Wheaton
Honey Pig BBQ, Annandale
Palena and Palena Cafe, DC
China Jade, Derwood
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Pete's Apizza, DC
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Sushi Sono, Columbia
Poste Brasserie, DC
La Caraquena, Falls Church
Oval Room, DC
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
La Fondita, Hyattsville
Sushi Taro, DC
Hi Todd–love the chat–first time question. My mom is Korean, and my parents live in a very small Midwestern town where she has no access to Korean culture. Food is the toughest part for her.
I'd like to take my parents to Annandale for dinner when they visit in a few weeks. Where can we find the best food?
Casual is fine, just please not too "young"–my parents aren't the party-type, so shouting over karaoke singing hipsters is not going to make them happy.
I'd take them to Gom Ba Woo, first, because the food is so good, and second, because it's not the karaoke+smoke+ swarming-hordes sort of place that a lot of spots in Koreatown are.
Get the seafood pancake, for sure. When they're on with it, it's terrific, the lightest I've had in the area. And I really like the spicy pork belly, which they cook for you, in the kitchen. Great kimchi, too, freshly made and with a lot of crunch — none of the limpness you see so often, elsewhere.
Hope that helps … and let me know how things turn out …
Villa Mozart's the one you want, the better restaurant by far.
Nothing too exciting from the kitchen, just good, solid cooking most of the time. And a lot of charm in the dining room.
Re: Cheap eats in Berlin …
The "native" food in Germany is wonderful – naturally it is heavier, buttery-er, and gravy-er than what is currently fashionable, but should really be first on your list. Fresh breads, a huge variety of wurst, great cheeses, beers, etc are a delight and can be found very reasonably.
Wild boar, all forms of pork, pastries – did I mention the beer? Also, the large Turkish population has given rise to a lot of restaurants that are more than reasonable. If you go to a self proclaimed "high end" place, you can expect to pay nearly top dollar for continental cuisine, but cafes, bars, etc. are plentiful. Don't forget the great pastries, and did I mention the beer?
What's not to like, right?
Any recommendations on places to go — good, cheap places — for the chatter from last week?
Not this b.s. again …
And our president is an alien, and we're going the way of the fascists and the Soviets …
I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago, a hole-in-the-wall, in Virginia, and a woman saw a T-shirt I was wearing and thought she saw something she didn't. She thought she saw an anti-socialist put down in the words on my chest.
I grew up in Greenbelt, and the image on the shirt, and the lettering, were in an art-deco style, since the town was founded in the '30s — founded, I guess you could say, by those unrepentant socialists, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
And then she realized her mistake, realized that I could very well be a socialist myself — you never know! they're everywhere! they lurk, they're lurkers! — and just went to town on Obama and the administration and the coming doom.
Boy oh boy, the mood on the right these days is foul and paranoid …
Not the best way to appreciate a sandwich, I'll tell you.
Long time reader……thanks for the chats and for the opportunity to talk food. As a good transplanted french woman I miss the house wife life European style and the daily worry and the pressure to cook 2 meals a day for my family.
The other night my husband and I dined at the chef table at Teatro Goldoni 19 course of pure imagination and mouth explosion feast!! I wonder why you did not review it or add it to the list of 100 best like you did with Minibar. Our experience could only be compared to a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars back home for taste and presentation……..this concept overall is just a gem The service, unfortunately does not match the food, but the overall experience is just unique.
We have also dined at Citizen and had a great evening Now If we could only mix Citizen service with Goldoni cuisine…….My question is; how important is the service compared to the food taste and presentation when you write about a restaurant?
I'm glad you enjoy the chats. And thanks for writing in.
The reason we did what we did with Minibar, is because we felt that Minibar is a stand-alone restaurant (albeit a really small one, and with a completely alternate agenda — food as theater, as opposed to bourgeois satisfaction) and different from a chef's table.
As for service … It's important. Food comes first, though.
Great, exquisite food with subpar service can still add up to a terrific experience. Pretty good food with pretty good service? Eh. Pretty good food with very good service? Not a place to get excited about, but a solid place that a lot of people will feel comfortable in and want to return to.
This makes me want to say a few words about decor and design.
They matter, just not as much as you might think. No beautiful, masterfully-appointed space is going to move me if the food doesn't. If the food isn't good, or memorable, and the costs are high, I'm actually going to resent the space, for being obviously so much more important to the owners than what comes out of the kitchen.
Give me a stripped-down restaurant if you have to, but give me the best, most passionately-cooked and well-conceived food you possibly can.
Sure. I agree.
I don't mind getting into politics now and again on here, and there's certainly a lot of politics to be found in the way we eat and where, and some of the large and ongoing debates that drive the food world right now — but not that kind of name-calling.
Because, really, where does it end? With a Marylander coming on to write about not wanting to venture into Virginia because the illogical roads remind him of the pernicious influence of the military-industrial complex on the culture of northern Virginia?
Good morning Todd and fellow chatters, I would like to see a show at Blues Alley and was considering having dinner there as well.
Is the food worth the price? Edible? Good? Mediocre? Thanks!
Not worth the price, no.
The best thing you can do, is to eat beforehand and then nibble during the performance. Or get a bite early and then go out for a late, light dinner.
Curious — who're you going to see? I'm a huge jazz fan, myself.
And actually, since we were talking a few moments ago about service and atmosphere, it seems to me restaurateurs could do themselves a big favor by playing more jazz in their restaurants — good jazz, classic jazz.
What sets a better mood than great jazz? What else shows the right kind of reverence of durable things?
Vocals, no. They can be good. But words get in the way. It also nudges things into a different area, in some cases. It seems to be trying to create a sort of conventional notion of sophistication, and to do it in one shot. A few places can pull this off, but not many.
When you do hear jazz, invariably it's Miles and Coltrane, and that's great.
But what I'd like to see much more of is the vast range of bebop, of hard bop … Bill Evans, Django, Mingus, Horace Silver, '60s soul jazz …
I really like Luzmilla's Cuisine. And I miss the big restaurant they had on Lee Hwy., which I reviewed not long after it opened.
Get the steak, the Bolivian steak, which is really good, and the enrollado, a kind of pork roll-up. Good soups, too — make sure to ask what they've made that day.
The portions are generous and there's a lot of love in everything they do.
Todd: just curious and perhaps a bit cynical but I always wonder about some of the enthusiastic and perhaps over the top recommendations from some of your readers.
Ever wonder if some of these come from restaurant owners trying to get some free advertising? Sorry, I live in Washington DC and am suspicious of everyone!
Oh, all the time. I wonder about every single recommendation that I get. Remember, you don't read everything that comes in. Some are just not even close to sounding kosher.
And some are well-disguised; that's the value of having smart people around you. And/or publicists. (That's not to say publicists can't be smart. So let's not open that can of worms.)
But I think a good many are from the heart and legit.
Todd, I was back in town for work and took my mom to the Black Market in Garret Park.
We started with the antipasta for two. it was great. You could almost do a light meal of the antipasta, bread and red wine. I also had the New Orleans shrimp, by far its one of my favorites (saying a lot for a girl who now lives in the South.) I just thought I would share with your readers.
I enjoy that antipasti platter, too, and the shrimp n grits is one of the best in the area.
Black Market is one of those restaurants that doesn't aim terribly high, but also doesn't miss its mark very often, either. To me, that adds up to a good, smart restaurant.
Of all the Black's restaurants, this is the one I have the best time in, the one I think is most rewarding.
I'm all for ambition, but not if you're not going to be able to pull off all you're trying to reach. If you miss here and there, it starts to look like pretension, not ambition.
That reminds me, by the way, to mention that Addie's is showing better than it has in a very long time, with new chef Nate Waugaman in the kitchen.
(Note to chef, though, and in light of my previous comment re: ambition and pretension: Don't put a suckling pig on the menu if it's going to come out looking, eating and tasting like pulled pork — only not nearly as luscious, and not nearly as cheap.)
I'm totally with you about jazz! When we eat dinner at home I always play jazz. Can you give some names of restaurants that play jazz? I'm drawing a blank. Thanks!
PS 7's I know plays jazz, and good jazz. So does Proof. Kudos to both establishments for that.
Who else? Who else? Nothing springs to mind at the moment …
Johnny's Half Shell is actually featuring live jazz on Fridays this summer, along with those terrific barbecued crabs.
We really ought to draw up a list …
Huh? I don't live in Mo. Co.
And as for a rec … How about China Star? A lot of Szechuan dishes on the menu, but not all — there's a good number of Cantonese staples, too. And it's one of the better Chinese restaurants in Fairfax.
Best meal: The Source. Dare I say the crispy suckling pig appetizer rivals Komi's rendition? I do. The appetizer coupled with the grilled lamb chops entree (I also tasted my wife's lacquered duckling) makes me smile just thinking about it.
Most disappointing meal: Divino in Bethesda. Two or three years ago I enjoyed everything that came out of the kitchen, the modest prices, and the general atmosphere. Not so much these days. The service was off and the meal was subpar at best. Probably won't make a return trip any time soon.
Glad I finally tried it: Black Market Bistro. Dining in the Victorian setting makes you feel a million miles away from the Beltway. The meal was superb and the wine list is as good as you can get in Montgomery County. Looking forward to returning soon.
I like this game!
And great reports, too.
Who else has got 'em?
Of course it does. I never said it doesn't.
Re: Cantonese in Fairfax
Being Cantonese myself, it is hard to find anything that is reasonably good in Fairfax. My favorite restaurant which comes the closest to Cantonese cooking is Mama Wok in Tall Oaks Shopping Center on North Shore Drive in Reston.
The current cook is actually quite good. They use to have a fried codfish which is no longer on the menu but you can ask for it.
Thanks for the recommendation. What else do you like that he does?
Fried codfish sounds terrific.
Acadiana can be good. I particularly like the rendition of barbecue shrimp, with a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the spicy, rosemary-scented butter sauce.
For beignets, I like Bardia's New Orleans Cafe, in Adams Morgan.
We have a piece coming out about a new place, in Leesburg, called The Cajun Experience, which serves up a terrific po'boy — with Gulf Coast-sourced shrimp and rolls from Leidenheimer's, the famed bakery.
Best Meal: Present restaurant…green papaya salad with beef liver jerky, lemongrass chicken, shaking beef, minced clams with beef, silken shawl imperial autumn rolls, seafood salad in a hollowed out pineapple….I just love this restaurant.
Most disappointing meal: Miu Kee….I didn't have huge expectations but I thought it would be decent Cantonese food….completely inedible.
Glad I finally tried it: Tie between Myanmar and Kasha's Kitchen….The mango salad and ginger salad at Myanmar are both excellent. Great summer dishes. Although I wish the place was better across the board- there are alot of mediocre to bad dishes. Kasha's Kitchen, a small deli at the back of Kennedy's Natural Foods store in Falls Church City, has been around forever and I finally tried it. Amazing ginger molasses cookies, great lentil burger (tastes much better than it sounds), and cool vibe.
Thanks for passing on the tip about Kasha's Kitchen. Those ginger molasses cookies sound great.
I'm still thinking, by the way, about the ginger-chocolate cookies from Lola's Cookies & Treats, in Leesburg. If you haven't been, you should. Or take a look at the web page …
Who else wants to play? …
Sorry, but I haven't gotten there yet …
It does look interesting, I agree with you.
Uh, no. Sorry.
A little short on time, but I promised to write about our celebratory, but still on a budget dinner at Sushi Taro. It met and exceeded expectations and our (not small) budget did fine as well.
We skimped on alcohol and stuck to Kirin draft ($6) rather than overpay on wine/saki that didn't get me too excited. They allowed us to do one a la carte and the other for the sushi tasting menu ($75). The highlights were the Wild Blue Fin Toro ($30 for 6 pieces), Kobe beef ($30 for ~8 small pieces), and the various fish that can only be had here (Belt, Summer, and ___).
Next time I go back, we'll do Toro and Kobe and probably skip the tasting menu — it was fun, but the nonsushi dishes were more attractive than delicious. Our server, by the way, was an absolute delight. She was well-informed and just incredibly sweet. Our smiles got wider when the bill arrived and we learned her name was Sugar. How fitting.
Anyway, I think Sushi Taro deserves the praise it has received and I'm looking forward to going back again soon. Thanks as always for your tips!
Best meal: Zentan. So thrilled there is finally big, quality sashimi in DC. Blown away. Hate to even tell people about it for fear I won't be able to get back in! Succulent yellowtail and toro, savory salmon and creative small dishes and rolls.
Lamest: Poste. Sorry Todd, I've tried on two occasions to figure out the fuss. Flat on both accounts, not bad, just meh.
Glad I tried it: Surprisingly, J&G, but mostly for it's watermelon gazpacho! I dream of this stuff. I want to have it every day. I want to bathe in it.
Au Pied de Cochon is a lot of fun, but it's not the place you want. It's a rollicking night, and you're going to stagger out — drunk on pig fat and foie gras.
If I were you, the two places I would consider are Montee de Lait and La Chronique. The former is simpler in decor, a little like the old Komi, before the redo. And the cooking is full of imagination and soul, and tightly executed. I love the place.
La Chronique is terrific, too, more classical — think of the old Gerard's Place, serious but not stuffy. And the cooking is superb. I can still taste a dish of morels and sweetbreads I ate there, all the flavors perfectly balanced, and with a kind of painterly blending of color, too.
I love eating in Montreal and envy you your trip. I hope you'll take a moment to write back and let me know how your big dinner turns out –?
And now I'll be thinking of Montreal smoked meat and Montreal bagels for the next couple of hours, ah, well …
Eat well, everyone, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
( missing you, TEK … )
Submit your questions in advance for Todd's next chat, Tuesday, August 18 at 11 AM.