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 September 22.
T K ' s 2 5:
W h e r e I ' d S p e n d M y O w n M o n e y
Nava Thai Noodle & Grill, Wheaton
Honey Pig BBQ, Annandale
Palena Cafe, DC
China Jade, Derwood
Plaka Grill, Vienna
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Bar Pilar, DC
Sushi Sono, Columbia
Poste Brasserie, DC
La Caraquena, Falls Church
Oval Room, DC
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
La Fondita, Hyattsville
Bistro Bis, DC
Sushi Taro, DC
J&G Steakhouse, DC
I went to a relatively new restaurant in Gaithersburg, MD, Dolsa Korean BBQ . The portions here are tiny (prices are modest though) compare to other Korean restaurants but the food and affordable prices remind me of Honey Pig, except the decor is so old and still the old Tokyo Lighthouse (think Benihana's) that it replaced.
Is this the same owner as Honey Pig? If it is, can you please tell them to change the decor?
I don't know if it is or isn't, but I'd be surprised if it is.
It's interesting — Honey Pig has gotten a lot of attention, and good attention, but there are a lot of other good Korean spots in Koreatown in Annandale. Gom Ba Woo, Vit Goel (Lighthouse Tofu), Shilla Bakery, Oegadjib, Il Mee, etc.
The best of the upscale places in Tyson's is Inox, and not by a little but by a lot.
That'd be my first, second and third choice.
Beyond that you have the big steakhouses that are in and around the area — Fleming's, Shula's, Morton's, Capital Grille — and some small chains, like Monterrey Bay Fish Grotto.
Where else … ?
I've had some good things at Sushi Taro that didn't involve fish — in fact, some very good things. But also some merely okay things. Whereas the fish has pretty much without fail been outstanding across the board, sushi, sashimi, maki, etc.
If you're not trying to watch what you spend — Sushi Ko II. Get the spot prawn sashimi, get the fried soft shell crab if they have it, and (if you have money to blow) order a bottle of the Shaps & Rocher-Sarazzin white Burgundy (about $50).
For something cheaper, but more workaday — Yosaku, also on Wisconsin.
I live in Wheaton and on a walk to Royal Mile we passed the old Hollywood East space. There was a sign for Pashion [sic] Restaurant and Lounge, taking up 3-4 storefronts. Do you know what this is going to be and/or who is behind it? Thanks!
From what I understand, it's going to be a club/lounge kinda place, with an emphasis on drinking and dancing, not food.
Meantime, I just got word from the Hollywood East Cafe camp that the har gao and steamed pork buns will be returning in about five weeks — an early-November return, in other words, for the area's best dim sum.
Have you been to Toscana Cafe? It's a newish spot on the Capitol Hill NE, just north and east of Union Station.
The chef worked under Roberto Donna for a while and I think you might like it. We've only been once, but the food was quite good and they have a lovely patio. I'm not suggesting this is going to make the top 100, but that this is a very good neighborhood restaurant where someone who knows how to cook well is putting together delicious, hearty, well-priced pasta plates.
Anyway, given what I know of your likes, I thought you might enjoy it next time you have occassion to swing through the area, especially if you can do so while the weather remains nice. Cheers!
My early take: Like it, don't love it.
And when I say like it, don't love it, I'm talking about it within the context of what it's trying to be/do.
It's funny, because so many restaurants aim higher than they ought to, and assemble long, involved menus that play against the strengths of their kitchens. But Toscana Cafe could actually risk a little more. I think it has what it takes to pull off something slightly more ambitious.
By the way, it's a perfect time of year to go and take advantage of the umbrella-topped tables and sit out and enjoy the night.
Here is a fun question.
I go with a few friends about every other month for a "fancy" dinner. We all have adventurous tastes and flexible budgets.
At this point we feel like we have all had the opportunity to try the new trendy places around DC- many more than once.
This month it is my turn to pick. I am thinking we go "old school" to a place that is well established but that none of us have been to in a long time. My first two thoughts were either Obelisk or Marcel's.
Any other suggestions?
Also — 1789, Bistro Bis, La Chaumiere.
Incidentally, a lot of you out there belong to dining clubs of some kind and I'd be interested in hearing more about your experiences around town.
Drop me an email — firstname.lastname@example.org — and tell me about your group, who's in and how it works, how often you eat out and where, etc.; might make an interesting small piece for the magazine.
I think the thing to do, is to let him know about anything that is off-limits with you — and be specific, as opposed to saying you're not very adventurous. "I don't do rabbit; I don't do game, etc."
Worst thing that happens is, you like absolutely nothing the class cooks — in which case Donna is forced to whip up something special, just for you. (How bad can that be?)
More likely, though, you'll like the pastas and polentas and risottos, etc., and end up forgoing some other, more intense-tasting concoctions.
You've got me wondering — has anybody else out there taken a cooking class in the area? With a name or not? Where? How was it? Who was the teacher?
What is it Mark Twain said? I can live two weeks on a compliment?
You made my fortnight, Arlingtongue. Thank you.
I wish I could help you out — my trip there two years ago got cancelled at the 11th hour. I still think about it from time to time …
That seems fair. It doesn't seem too ambitious and hopefully it will come to be more so with time, but it is nice that it doesn't try to be too much, offers generous servings, at reasonable neighborhood prices.
Perhaps they will risk a bit more once they've gotten comfortable and developed a steady business. In the meantime, it's a lovely patio and already the best spot within walking distance on this side of the Capitol. For some reason, NE Capitol Hill has lagged behind SE and NW of the Capitol in developing good restaurants.
Good morning Todd,
How about a good suggestion in Manhattan for a birthday celebration for two twenty somethings?
I would like something totally unique to what we could find here. I took your recommendation of Babbo but couldn't snag the reservations. Something around that price range would be preferred. Thanks!
Here are some of the places I've enjoyed recently —
Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Ko — all by the same group. Fatty Crab. Telepan. I think if you could score a seat at any of these, you'd count yourself lucky.
I think Restaurant Eve and Vidalia belong right at the top of the list, particularly since they put so much thought into the food itself.
I wasn't crazy about the last meal I had, not long ago, at Taberna del Alabardero, but the bar remains a really good experience — good wines by the glass, tasty tapas (including slices of jambon, cut right there in front of you from a gargantuan leg).
Also: Eat Bar, Central Michel Richard, PS 7's (which now claims the peripatetic barkeep Gina Chersevani) and Proof (which claims the equally peripatetic Adam Bernbach) and Bar Pilar.
Bar Pilar, by the way, continues to be confounding with its service — which is some of the worst you'll find in the city; even when you're being tended to, you feel ignored — but continues to turn out affordable, smartly conceived small plates with big, ramped-up flavors.
Go right now and get the thick-sliced garlic toast topped with a fried, runny egg and salmon roe. A brilliant dish. Eggs on egg. Ooze and more ooze. I'm still thinking about it, weeks later.
I took a cooking class with the well known chef from Gun Club of Goldvein Bill. It was last winter we learned how to cook a venison loin with truffle infused mashed taters and sauted winter veggies.
We also learned how to make a proper SC seafood gumbo. We all learned how to get the roux to the proper color and cook the SC rice properely. They serve their gumbo with a special ingredient. They finish with a splash of moonshine and then light it off.
Venison was wild and just shot earlier in the week. The sommelier Steve then discussed wine pairings with various VA wines. The Gray Ghost Chardonnay was a perfect match for the gumbo. I am signed up for their Fall Cooking series of 6 Saturday classes.
BTW the cost for these classes is $3k. And there are over 40 names on the waiting list.
Ah, yes, the mysterious and marvelous Gun Club of Goldvein.
What a gem! Is there a more extraordinary dining experience in the entire region? I don't think so.
The exquisite way they fuse the old and the new, the gourmet and the redneck. Unparalleled. Moonshine in the gumbo! Who would have thought? Well, Bill, the chef, would have thought. Michel Richard, Jeff Buben, Johnny Monis — pikers, all, next to the incomparable brilliance of the talented and committed Gun Club staff.
$3,000 for cooking classes?
A steal. If they charged, $10,000 it would STILL be a bargain …
I thought I'd give a shout out to Buzz in Alexandria. The other night, I headed over there after dinner to enjoy dessert and a drink. Sitting outside on a patio chair with my dog at my feet, I enjoyed what I like to call "death by chocolate"- a chocolate cupcake and chocolate martini ( a delicious tall one at that). I think it's pretty neat that you can enjoy playing board games with your kids, surf the net, and enjoy cocktails along with sweet and savory treats all in the same place.
Thanks for the chats.
Buzz is good that way.
I think it's time, now that we've seen places like Buzz and the versatile and tasty Cafe Assorti in Arlington, a coffeehouse/restaurant/lounge/snack bar, for someone enterprising to go a step or two beyond and marry the for-all-seasons aspect of these places with a full-service restaurant menu, preferably one written by a chef capable of doing some serious (but simple) cooking.
Sounds like a great class.
And I hope you're reading, Vera!
Curious — what was the cost?
Todd, have you ever tried Bonchon chicken? It is Korean fried chicken and wildly addictive. Double fried, somewhat sweet with an incredibly crunchy skin and juicy, moist meat.
I go into cravings once or twice a month, and a regular group of my friends get together to feast on it. The spicy is also very good, with a nice long lingering heat. Not to mention you can get a deal if you buy a pitcher of beer along with some chicken.
It takes about 45 minutes to get your order, so we always order ahead. Lucky for us, one of our friends is Korean, and she generally takes care of everything.
Anyway, I was just wondering if you had tried it. If not, you might wanna think about it the next time you swing through Annandale. I don't make a habit of eating fried food, but this is on a level all its own.
You nailed it with your description, DC Hiller.
And I'm craving a piece or two, now, myself.
When we were in Barcelona we loved the plates at Pinotoxos (sp?) in the Market (look for the long line and the beloved owner).
Our favorite meal by far was Commerc 24. The cuttlefish was a must have there.
We also went to Cinc Sentis, which was good, but not near as good as Commerc 24.
Really fresh cuttlefish can be a pretty great thing. You're making me miss my not-taken trip even more … ; )
Thanks for coming out and tossing out a few suggestions.
Rockwell reported yesterday that Eola (newest restaurant on P St, west of Dupont) is a "major player" and "needs to be taken very seriously". Have you been there? Know anything about it?
I like your frame of refence. And Cafe Assorti and Meaza are both good choices.
But how about La Limena, in Rockville? Or La Caraquena, in Falls Church? Or Gom Ba Woo, in Annandale?
All are pretty much sure things in my book, and all will allow you to stay well within your budget.
Wherever you go, I'd love to hear how things turned out. Drop back in and drop us a quick note, will you?
Oh, that's right — that's tonight. Politics and Prose.
Well, if he can get in, Komi … Otherwise? Stay in the nabe and hit 2 Amys for some small plates and a glass of wine.
Only Anita's, which is spotty these days. Some good things, some not so good.
Anita's when it first opened — I think the original was in Vienna? — was a wonderful place. Great New Mexican cooking. My father first took me there, and we returned often. I craved that food.
Then, expansion. And what was so good and personal began to change. I'll never forget pulling up to one of the Anita's restaurants and seeing a Rolls Royce in the owner's parking spot.
Anyway, I had wanted to make the announcement earlier and forgot.
Anita Tellez, the founder, passed away recently, and Anita's will be hosting a memorial celebration on
her birthday November 18, 2009. Details to come at anitascorp.com
Be well, everyone, eat well, and let's do it again next Tuesday at 11 …
Submit your question in advance to Todd's chat next week, Tuesday, October 6 at 11 AM.
(missing you, TEK)