Dining With the Critic’s Mom

Restaurant critic Todd Kliman’s mother, Itsy, has been a trusted companion on her son’s eating adventures for years. So we gave her a pen. What’s her take on all those lavish celebrity-chef spots, humble strip-mall dining rooms, and far-flung suburban res

J&G Steakhouse
Downtown DC

Lousy restaurant name and great food? Or intriguing name and lousy food? Definitely the former. This place gets four stars, without a doubt.

They started us off with a sample drink—on the house—which looked and tasted somewhat like pink grapefruit. Then we ordered our own choices from a really nice selection. Pimm’s Cup was excellent. We shared appetizers of corn ravioli and crabcakes, and then we ordered a round of oysters. Just writing the word and remembering those oysters, I’m actually salivating. We had to repeat the order; it was impossible not to. Even the sauces and vinaigrettes accompanying the oysters were special.

Our entrées were a fish dish, interestingly topped with diced celery, and an amazing cheeseburger (with fries, of course). But what a burger!

Desserts were excellent, too. And just like we started out with a freebie, we ended with gratis almonds, coated two different ways. The service was top-notch—attentive but not obsequious.
Whew! That’s an eating experience worth bragging about.

Todd says: ***
I say: **** stars


Hell Point Seafood

Annapolis

Beautifully situated on an inviting waterfront and serving fresh, delicious seafood, just the way you want it: good clams, crabmeat, and soft-shell crabs. Good also are the gazpacho and salad of crisp romaine with avocado slices.
The restaurant design was well thought out—there’s the bar area, the terrace for the casual diner, and the restaurant for the less casual crowd. Perfect, huh?

Well, blame it on newness, but there was one faux pas after another. We were assured that food would be available (from the cafe menu) between lunch and dinner—they lied! Nope, you have to wait until 5:30. At 5:30 they said only five minutes more.

We made our way up to the terrace carrying our own drinks from the bar—no offers of assistance from the staff who hang around in clusters, not seeming sure of their roles . . . or ours. Our entrées were completely forgotten—we watched folks who came after us ready to leave when we had not yet been served. Perhaps with a little more training and some better communication, this could turn into an Annapolis go-to place. Right now, I can squeeze out just two stars.

My second visit, I was sure, would be a winner—they will have had time for more training, the staff will be more comfortable in its roles, there will be no confusion and, as a result, we will be received with a warm greeting and a big smile.

Apparently not. No smile. No greeting. But all is not lost . . . the waitress aimed to please. This time we sat in the dining room—beautifully appointed and very inviting. We had stuffed clams (fancily described), New England clam chowder, a fish stew, and a lobster roll. Again good, not great; the clams being an exception—they were pretty darn good, though not “awesome,” as we were told.

The wines are so-so, nothing spectacular. But the desserts are another story. We chose two—both fruity—blackberry and pear (warm), served with ice cream and sherbet, and we were glad we saved room!
So with some pluses (still not enough) and some minuses, I’ll say okay to two stars!

My rating: ** stars


China Jade

Rockville

They say that when you’re the only non-Chinese diners in a Chinese restaurant, you’ve made a good choice. True or not, with China Jade, it’s most definitely true.

The Szechuan dishes are delicious, and the portions are large. Soup with pickles sounds weird, but this huge bowl of steaming broth, chock-full of chicken, perfect noodles, pickles, and spinach is anything but weird. The Kung Pao chicken tastes like none other; its distinctiveness is terrific. The biggest surprise is the cumin fish—out of the ordinary and oh-so-good!

Dumplings, cucumbers—whatever—every dish is a winner, so I have to happily bestow three stars on China Jade.

My rating: *** stars


What Itsy’s Stars Mean:

Four stars = mind-blowing.
Three stars = very good.
Two stars =pretty good.
One star = just so-so.

 

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