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 29.
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
Well, you could try Urban Thai, right around the corner from the third Jaleo.
There's the new Kora, from the brothers Ouattara. Morou is behind it, but Amadou is doing the cooking. Italian and relatively straightforward simple, though not exactly of the red-sauce variety.
There's also Cafe Pizzaiolo, which, when it's on, I think is terrific. (Lately, it's been both off and on.)
You could drive into Del Ray and hit RT's, a simple, unstuffy spot with a neighborhood feel and pretty good, pretty rich Cajun cooking.
What a culinary travesty and a huge blow to the Washington DC dining scene. Barton Seaver was name the Nation Chef of the Year by Esquire!!! How simply observed this is.
The guy may be knowledgeable about sustainability, he may know a little about fisheries, but that doesn’t make him a good cook or a great chef. If any of these media people actually do any fact checking, one would learn that he has not been successful in any kitchen dynamic he ahs ever been in. If one tastes his food that is being produced from the kitchen he is supposed to be running, will find miss guidance, lack of execution, muddled flavors and above all not leadership.
We have a tremendous amount of talent in this city. Culinary pioneers (Jean Louis Palladen, Yanick Cam, Jeff Buben, Robert Weidmair, Roberto Donna, Jeff Tunks) that have paved this city’s culinary highway for the next generation of superstars (Cathal Armstrong, RJ Cooper, Eric Ziebold, Johnny Monis, Frank Ruta) on this list are 6 Beard winners, two nominated, one of the best chef/cooks in the world, chef’s who spend countless hours crafting cuisine that embarrasses not only the region but sustainability (oh and all have been working consecutively in there restaurants for more then five years!!!) Leadership on a culinary front should start with the kitchen not the media where Mr. Seaver’s has turned to make his brand successful.
Spouting off about sustainability should start with being able to sustain a success in food, restaurant and staff. This award has brought a tremendous amount of negativity to the great cooks that are in the DC metro area.
Mr. Searver should take himself out of the restaurant scene and do what he does best, pass his judgments and little knowledge on many topics to the media and stop using the word chef.
New Kam Fong is doing some of the best food in Wheaton, and basically some of the best Chinese right now.
Their specialty is roasted meats which have been uniformly good… roast pig & duck are more richly flavored than many others', the rib moist & flavorful.
The cooked dishes are very simple & straightforward. Soups are very good. Very clean cooking without the heavy hand on salt and MSG of so many of their competitors. University & Elkins. Only open about 4 weeks.
I mostly agree. I've been twice, now.
In my experience, though, the roasted meats have been okay. I expected better. What I love is the shrimp dumplings with chili sauce. And a dish of battered and fried tofu with a rich lobster-and-egg sauce. A sizzling plate of sliced lamb with ginger and onions is good, too.
Another sizzling plate, with veal, was disappointing. And I haven't had great luck with any of the salted-pepper dishes. Fine, but not enough salty, peppery kick — and not enough diced chilis. Soups, too, have been okay, nothing wonderful. A bean curd casserole was bountiful but full of overcooked squid and dry bits of pork (although excellent bean curd.)
I like the energy of the place, it feels very much like a blast from the Chinatown of old, and I'm interested in seeing how the place settles in.
I really like the dish, too.
You should hit Mourayo, in Dupont, and do a compare/contrast. They're not quite the same dishes — Mourayo's isn't a baby octopus, if I'm remembering correctly. And it has a good deal more char on it, too. But both are pretty terrific dishes.
My mother is coming into town in November, and would like to take myself and my best friend, her sister and her mother, out for a nice meal (Ladies night out!).
We would like to stay in the vicinity of Vienna, Fairfax, Falls Church, McLean, etc. I was thinking of 2941 or Inox, but was wondering if you had any other suggestions. We all like good food and and good wine!
If you're looking for a night of indulgence and pampering, then 2941 and Inox are both good choices.
Both are very expensive, though. I'd imagine the bill, with drinks and wine and tax and tip, going well past $800.
If you want something a little cheaper, I'd suggest Villa Mozart, in Fairfax. A lot of charm and some pretty good cooking — although not nearly the level of precision or imagination, not nearly the degree of luxe, of what you'd find at 2941 or Inox.
I'll be interested to hear what you ending up deciding, and how things went …
You missed a Crystal City institution with some of the best food in the area and best entertainment for the psoter looking for a palce to eat ebfore hitting Arena Stage. How could you ahve not recommended the Crystal City Restaurant!
Ha. Good one.
The Crystal City Restaurant, ladies and gentlemen — putting the "strip" in strip steak!
The Crystal City Restaurant — where all the ladies are free-range and sourced locally!
Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week …
Durham? That's enemy territory, son.
No Maryland stuff? No vintage Lefty images, hitching up his pants? Stomping the sidelines? No Redskins? No pix of the hogs, of Joe T., of Riggo, of Monk and Sanders and Clark? "Pope" Joe Gibbs? Nothing Bullets/Wizards? Elvin, Wes, Phil Chenier, Bobby D., Mitch? A framed 45 of Nils Lofgren singing "Bullets Fever"? Jeff Malone? Manute? Gheorghe? Gilbert? No? *
Any restaurant around here that would put up some Dukie print would never get a second visit from me, I can tell you that.
* Anybody else out there following the heated battle for the starting shooting guard slot? It's getting really interesting, isn't it? My money's on Mike Miller, but Nick (Catch-and-shoot) Young appears to be making a case for himself (I'm in love with what Flip Saunders is doing so far), Foye is showing well in camp, Stevenson's got some life left …
I am looking for a dinner experience in the DC area similar to a Chef's Kitchen in Williamsburg, VA. Basically, an intimate version of Emeril Live where you actually get to eat all the food that is prepared. Is there anything like that in the area? Thanks!
Or like Citizen Cake out in San Fran.
Unfortunately, no — nothing like that in the area. Be nice to have a place like that, though, wouldn't it?
Oh, no doubt, no doubt …
But certainly free-range and definitely sourced locally.
And let us not forget — only the finest, most high-quality poles that you can find … : )
Good one. I was a fan of that soup, too. Morou is one of the great soup makers in town — no small thing, by the way. You can tell so much about a kitchen by the quality and consistency of its soups.
I'll get the Recipe Sleuth team on it right away. Thanks for the request …
I need your help. I'm trying to decide on a new (new to us) restaurant that will set the mood for lovely, leisurely dining with excellent but unpretentious food, and just-right service (not fey, not obnoxious, not cloying, but appropriately calibrated and attentive).
Which place would you suggest in DC. If it helps, I'm considering New Heights and Eola, although I'm a little concerned about Eola because it is so new, which can be good and bad.
Thanks for your insight.
I'm going to deflect — not to dismiss the spots you've got under consideration, but because I really don't know enough yet to weigh in with authority.
I can tell you that there are three places that I'm high on at the moment — Siroc, Sushi Taro and Bistro Bis — that really fit the description you gave. Komi fits it to a T, but it's a tough reservation and, for some, a place you'd tend to seek out for a celebratory night.
For a unique discussion of sustainability, may I suggest my book, A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns (Penguin, 2009)?
Monks and nuns were making organic foods long before there was an organic movement. More important, their whole way of life is "organic."
Sure, I'll pimp your book … ; )
DC needs to get over it. I usually am in disagreement with a majority of the Grammy award selections every year. It happens.
"Awards" of this nature are highly subjective.
FWIW, I imagine that Seaver did not ask for this, so I am not sure why Esquire's award should result in a personal attack against Seaver, regardless of one's opinion on whether he is this year's "best" chef, whatever that means.
Very sensibly put. Thanks, Arlingtongue.
I wanted your opinion on a recent experience at Bibiana (huge Rasika fan, figured we'd give it a shot):
We arrive around 840 for a 9pm reservation, figuring we'll have a cocktail in the lounge while we wait. It's almost 5 minutes before we're even greeted by a host (who promptly reminds us that we're early, and they're also running behind). It's Saturday night, so a slight delay was to be expected.
Fast forward a few drinks and an appetizer, it's now 950pm and we've yet to be seated (and yes we kept checking with our server to make sure we hadn't been forgotten). During this time, two parties of two who had arrived after ours have been seated, and we're only seated after bringing all of this to the attention of the manager again.
Basically, I'm wondering what your guidelines are on what's considered a reasonable wait for a table when you have a reservation and when you should just cut your losses and leave? The food itself was pretty good I reckon, it was just hard to enjoy after the events of the previous 90 minutes.
Thanks for the input.
I think 2 minutes or fewer is a reasonable wait if you have a reservation. I'm not being facetious. Actually, I'm being charitable and forgiving. I think no-wait-at-all is what is reasonable if you have a reservation. Or two minutes and the restaurant buys you a drink.
Fifty minutes? Fifty minutes and the meal ought to be comped.
Is anyone else thinking of Seinfeld? The episode where Jerry goes to pick up his rental car at the airport and is told they don't have it — that the car was just rented? He's incredulous — "You know how to take the reservation. You just don't know how to hold the reservation. And the hold is the most important part of the reservation! Anyone can just take reservations!"
On a related note … I'll be interested to see what becomes of Bibiana. My experience, so far, has been salty food or too-buttery food or unaccountably bland food.
I love that version. And I love Nils's conviction!
Here's my great and abiding wish: that after the team is transferred to Ted Leonsis, the name reverts back to Bullets, and Ted brings back the red, white and blue color scheme and recruits some local musicians like Chuck Brown or Trouble Funk or whoever to cut a new version of "Bullets Fever," to be blasted at the start of games.
Wouldn't that be great?
While at Hook I thought the food was really good. Their bluefish dish was really excellent. And the few of his dishes that went to Sonoma are still some of my favorites.
I haven't been to his newest venture yet, but while he was at Hook it was my favorite restaurant in the city. So while he still may be tweaking his newest restaurant I do think he has a lot of talent.
And trusting Esquire's food opinions can be pretty risky IMHO. They sometimes are a couple months/years behind the pack in my experience.
I didn't really care for the food at Hook. I liked the quality of the raw materials, I just thought that too often they were used in bland and uninteresting ways.
Heather Chittum did the desserts, and they were almost always rewarding. That linzer torte with taleggio ice cream: elegant, interesting, relatively simple, deeply satisfying.
One of the seldom-talked-about things I liked about Hook under Seaver was the wine list he put together; it was full of good, interesting wines at very affordable prices — a model for what a restaurant at that level can do.
Thanks for writing back in. Great chatiquette.
Several weeks ago, I wrote in with a complaint about restaurants ignoring food allergies, even with plenty of warning from the dining party.
My frustration that day was based on a truly dreadful experience several days prior. But I did not name the restaurant that ignored my warning about a peanut allergy. Instead, I wrote a letter to the management at Present, recounting my unpleasant experience.
Unfortunately, the restaurant chose not to respond to my letter. And I can assure you that Present has been removed from my list of favorite places to eat.
I'm sorry to hear that — all the way around.
I'll be interested to see if I hear from the folks over there after this is posted … If you want, go ahead and send me an email with your address and if/when I do hear something, I can pass you on to them … email@example.com
Good Morning Todd!
Just had to share what a great experience I had Saturday night at Dino. Our server introduced herself and said it was her first night, which was perfect since my friend and I were both Dino Virgins as well. I liked the wine list and how the wines are represented, as well as their prices.
But the food…it's how I remember my time in Tuscany. I'm still thinking about the wild boar antipasti plate and the Fegatini pate. And I can't forget the fresh sardines (bone-in, no less!) and the Sicilian pasta with swordfish changed my outlook on the fish.
All in all, Dino was great surprise and only hate myself for not having been before now. I'm very excited to find an Italian place in DC where it's obvious the chef has been to Tuscany and on top of all of this, Dino is incredibly affordable. Now my mouth is watering!
Good to hear.
Though I have to say — I disagree with your calling the place "incredibly affordable." It's not a bad value, I guess, but I know far too many people who would have to save up for a while in order to eat and drink there.
It's me, again. Thanks for taking my question. We've actually been lucky enough to dine at all four mentioned places in your answer. Could I trouble you for a couple more thoughts, please? Thanks
Then I'd go ahead and make a reservation at J&G.
I think it's one of the best looking dining rooms in the city — a soaring and dynamic space, but with a serenity and sense of order that you don't find very often. The staff is exceptionally good and polished. And the food — I've been four times, and there's not much on the menu that I don't like. This is rigorously precise, technically accurate cooking, while never coming across as fussy or straining; nothing screams "look at me!"; nothing feels out of place. Some plates are the very definition of what I'd call "casual brilliance."
Right now, if you asked me to compile a Top 10 list of best restaurants in the city, it'd be awfully hard to leave J&G off.
I'm not joking.
A free drink for diners who have a RESERVATION and are STILL MADE TO WAIT? How is that anything other than perfectly appropriate?
And after FIFTY MINUTES, a comped meal seems to me to be the least you can do. Assuming, that is, that the diners are still there. Personally, I wouldn't stick around that long.
Sunday brunch: Cafe Atlantico, Poste, Cashion's.
And for dinner, in the mid-range … Cork, Bar Pilar, Siroc, Johnny's Half Shell, Montmartre, Leopold's Kafe …
I appreciate that juggling tables is a difficult job, but this is not Soviet Russia and diners should not be made to feel grateful for waiting almost an hour for a table when they have a reservation.
Look, if my business is to take care of people, then that is what I am going to do. If diners are made to wait for that long — without being comped and taken care of — then they are being told that their business is not vitally important.
There are a lot of restaurants out there, let's not forget …
We've run way late, again, everyone. Lunch calls. Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
And I'd be interested in hearing more about this matter from everyone who cares to send me an email …
Submit your question in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday, October 13, at 11 AM.
(missing you, T.E.K. … )