Tuesday, November 24 at 11 AM

Ask food & wine editor and restaurant critic Todd Kliman a question about Washington area cuisine and restaurant news.

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.

>> Check out our Guide to Thanksgiving in Washington

Read the transcript from November 17.

Follow Todd on Twitter!

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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

Komi, DC
G Street Foods, DC
China Jade, Derwood
Zaytinya, DC
Plaka Grill, Vienna
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Montmartre, DC
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Vidalia, DC
Irene's, Laurel
Fusion, DC
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
Rasika, DC
Franklin's, Hyattsville
Bistro Bis, DC
Sushi Taro, DC
J&G Steakhouse, DC

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Silver spring MD
What cuisine do you think is underrepresented in the area, or not represented at all, and should be?

To say something is underrepresented implies that there are good numbers of a particular culture, but that the restaurants just don't seem to follow. I don't think we have that. Where there are large pockets of ethnicities, there are also restaurants and cafes and bakeries.

Now, if you're asking what I'd love to see more of … well, I'd love to see a good Jewish deli or two (a real one, with real character, real Jewish zest), a Russian (particularly Georgian) restaurant, some more Moroccan restaurants, a few Brazilian places that are not all about skewered meat, a few more Cuban restaurants (including a good place to go for cafe con leche and buttered Cuban toast — one of my favorite breakfasts), a couple Italian restaurants that are content to be simple red sauce places and not venture into the kind of micro-regional experimentation they can't really pull off, and a few Japanese restaurants that emphasize soba noodles (homemade) and other non-sushi dishes.

Anybody else out there have a wish list?

Washington, DC

Hi Todd,

I love your blog! It is so informative.

I have a cooking question for you and while this may not be the right venue for my question, I am not sure who else to ask. I will be responsible for cooking the Thanksgiving turkey this year again. I am thinking about using a roasting bag. Do you find that the roasting bag makes a difference in terms of keeping the turkey moist?

Also, if I do use the turkey bag, can I still baste the turkey? Any suggestions you can provide would be very helpful!

Thanks, DCCook

DCCook,

I've never used a roasting bag, myself, so I can't help you there. But if you're looking to produce a really moist turkey, the best thing you can do is to brine it.

Brining is simple, and if you don't overdo it (I'd only brine for up to six hours, personally), it really does pay off. Not too much salt, either, and you'll want to add some other flavorings to your salt- and sugar-water mixture, like, for instance, bay leaves, black peppercorns, maybe a cinnamon stick or star anise, a few curls of orange zest … Make sure you have a big enough container to do the soaking in, that's the other key thing.

I'll be roasting, once again, a Red Bourbon heritage turkey, which my dealer (very shady, very mysterious) will have ready for drop off tomorrow late morning.

Insanely expensive, but what the hell, it's a holiday, and everybody raves about the taste of the meat. I also love the way they look on the table — not a big, round hulking thing, but a languorously stretched out bird, as if it had been roasting while lying on a chaise lounge.

Here's what I do with it, and I highly recommend it for any turkey. Very simple, too.

A package of softened Kerry Gold butter and a fistful each of chopped sage and tarragon. This mixture goes under the skin, so you have to cut discreet holes into the exterior and work your fingers underneath and rub the butter into the meat. 

For the outside, it's a package of Kerry Gold, softened, and a bottle of B-grade maple syrup (the real stuff). Mix it up good and spread it over the entirety of the bird's surface.

Then, salt and pepper the whole thing very, very generously and you're ready to roast. 

 

Hybla Valley

from last week: "Todd Kliman: I think Old Europe is a very, very tired restaurant."

I agree except during their asparagus week when I gorge myself on those little delectables.

Ah, Spargelfest!

Has anyone else been? 

Washington, DC

Komi update – last week, I reported that I had a great meal at Komi but was disappointed with the size of the pourings in the three-glass wine pairings, and that I had contacted the restaurant but received no reply.

I am happy to report that I received a very gracious reply (perhaps they read your chat transcript??) with the offer of a FIVE-glass wine pairing at no charge and an apology.

It was a very gracious note with a very gracious gesture attached. I was most appreciative and will take them up on the offer. They handled this very well.

Wow. That's some kind of gesture.

Good for Komi. And good for you, too — I hope you'll really savor that make-up meal!

Stunned!!!
How can you possibly include G street foods in your top 25 picks? Are you kidding me? Please do not turn into a Tom from the Post…you are much much better then that
Huh? I'm stunned that you're stunned.

Let's see. When I was in a couple of weeks ago, I had one of the best sandwiches I've had in ages — a huge smear of butter on a crusty baguette, and some high-quality, thin-shaved ham. Plus a good salad, a worthy banh mi, and an excellent cookie. I also took some breads home, and they're better than anything you can find in the city right now.

I didn't like the Montreal bagel at all, but the ham sandwich more than makes up for it — in fact, if ONLY for the ham sandwich I'd include the place on my list for the time being. It's that good.

If you're peeved at the prices — well, I can understand that. It's not cheap. But you know what? Everything's relative. I was recently in Eamonn's, in Old Town, and paid $34 for two pieces of fish, a pile of chips, a tiny cup of coleslaw, a slightly larger cup of mushy peas and three sodas. (And it wasn't as good as it had been the time before, either.)

G Street Foods looks like a bargain by comparison.

Hell, my wife and I could've eaten at RESTAURANT EVE, the steal-of-a-deal Lickety Split lunch, for about the same price.

100 Best

Hi, Todd —

Any insight scoop you can give us on the 100 Best? Inquiring minds want to know! PS… congratulations on your essay in Best Food Writing 2009, I truly love what you wrote and have shared it with my sister and several friends.

Janine

Scoop? No scoop, not yet. But stay tuned …

I can tell you, however, about a prominent restaurant that blew its chance one night not long ago. And when I say blew it, I mean really blew it — as in, you can't believe what just went down, even though you're sitting right there and saw the thing with your very own eyes.

Generally speaking, if I or any other member of the team experiences an out-and-out bad meal during the course of our research, then the offending restaurant comes off the list. 

Well, on this particular night, the restaurant in question was clearly teetering. Not a spectacularly bad experience, mind you, but a disappointing experience. Middling food, and some missteps by the staff.

My friends and I were about halfway through our meal, so it was entirely within the realm of possibility that the restaurant could have corrected course.

At which point the GM swung by and said something oddly and, in fact, spectacularly inappropriate — shocking, only because we could hardly believe we were sitting at the table and not in a bar somewhere next to a dude who'd had a few drinks.

And I thought: Pfffftttt! There goes your spot on the list … 

Silver Spring, MD
Could you provide your thoughts on which of the DC area's best restaurants provide good, creative options for vegetarians beyond the obligatory item or two? Obviously there are some great "small plate" and ethnic food options, but I was fascinated by a Top Chef episode a few weeks back when almost every one of the chefs struggled to cook Natalie Portman a vegetarian dinner. Is it that hard for a chef to put together a good non-meat dish?

You'd think it wouldn't be so hard, but it is. French-trained chefs really struggle to come up with dishes without meat that are interesting and lively and tasty. Why?

I think it's because so much of their training has to do with meat, with maximizing the flavors of meat. Soups are all about extracting the flavors from the bones of meat. Sauces are all about accenting the flavors of meats. Stocks and reductions are built from the flavors of meat and exist to intensify their taste. Everything, in a way, revolves around meat.

You don't find that to nearly the same degree with Asian cuisines, and some, like South Indian, you have a vast repertoire of really tasty dishes that involve no meat at all.

So, it's no wonder that so many of the vegetarian dishes you see around town and in other big food cities are so dull, and so often feel obligatory.

If you want some real possibilities, you have to look beyond American and French restaurants. Zaytinya, Rasika, they have some pretty good options at the high end; not coincidentally, their menus are rooted in other cultures. At the low end, Woodlands does a great job with its South Indian menu. The agreeably priced Layalina is also a decent spot for vegetarians.

There's also an all-veg menu at Vegetate, though the cooking is a little uneven.

Ironically, Ray's the Steaks does a great veg dish: a spicy roasted portobello that has juice and savor and heft — it's deeply satisfying.

Begging for some help!!!

Love reading your chats and columns….always so insightful and helpful! Hoping you can assist: a much needed girl's overnight at the W Hotel next Saturday night.

Planning on massages early, then dinner, people watching (all the young, trying hard to be trendy, girls heading upstairs to the roof!) while sipping cosmos, then brunch in the AM. Since we are considering both dinner AND brunch, can't completely break the bank!

Oh…and one chickie in our group of 4 is incredibly picky with food (meaning, no sushi or anything too crazy…oy!). Any suggestions for our 2 meals out without kids or husbands?

You know, you could hit both places I'm going to recommend without leaving the block. Dinner at either J+G Steakhouse or the more casual Cellar — both right there in the W — and then breakfast the next morning at Cafe du Parc. Perfect, no?

By the way, what would the itinerary look like for a couple of guys on a "guys overnight"? "The Hangover"?

Downtown, DC
Please get the recipe for Potenza's spaghetti and meatballs. It's my favorite comfort food in DC right now!

Good one! Will do.

Any other requests for The Recipe Sleuth that you can think of? 

Washington, DC
I'd like to get a gift certificate to a restaurant on the Eastern Shore as a holiday gift for my assistant, who spends a lot of time there – but I'm woefully unfamiliar with the options. I know the Inn at Easton is closed; is there anywhere similar that you could recommend?

Check with Talbot 208 and see if they can help you out.

I enjoy the place.

I haven't yet been to Mitchum's Steakhouse, in Trappe, Md., but a friend of mine recommends it. Not for a long drive out from DC, but if you happen to be on — or find yourself on — the other side of the bay. The Mitchum in the name is, in fact, Robert Mitchum; there are photos all over the walls of the tough-guy actor, who, if I'm not mistaken, has a house on the Eastern Shore. 

 

Washington DC
Re: Missing Food in DC/Wish List…. Really good bao!!!
You ain't kiddin'.
Washington, D.C.
Wondering if you've checked out Coolio's cookbook. I read an article listing the top ten quotes in the book and felt this one pretty much sums up the discussion about higher end pots/pans and other cooking vessels v. more budget friendly ones: "Having the right utensils is a good start, but then you gotta show them who's the boss up in this bitch."

I love it!

And no, didn't know he had a cookbook out. I've GOT to get my hands on that thing, and pronto. Thanks for the great tip!

And you've jogged my memory …

Last year at this time, I wrote a piece for NPR about a very special collaboration, between one Calvin Broadus and Martha Stewart.

Take a look; I promise your day will go much, much better from here on out. And for those of you looking for menu ideas for Thanksgiving, I mean, what could be better than cognac mashed potatoes? : )

Early Xmas List

Dear Santa Kliman,

Since your wife I am sure would not approve of me sitting on your lap I would like to submit my early Xmas list to you on here and see if you can make it happen.

I have been a very good girl this year, but still hungry and hopeful for a perfect ending eating year.

1-Parker Rolls at Cityzen chef Eric Ziebold

2-Chef's Table dinner Teatro Goldoni chef Enzo Fargione

3-Roasted Chicken at Palena chef Frank Ruta

4-Sushimi at Kotobuki

5-Roasted lamb at Komi chef Johnny Monis

What do you think about my list? Do you share my excitement? Mostly, can you deliver under my tree by the 24th?

Thanks Todd, you're the best!!!!

I think that's a pretty great list, actually.

Tell you what: If each of those chefs is willing to swing by the office with their dishes, I will be SURE to find a way to get them to you. How's that? 

Who else out there's got a wish list?

Incidentally, I've only ever played Santa twice, and the first time I promised it would be my last. I was in fifth grade, I think, and it was one of those Secret Santa deals the teacher made us all participate in. I remember going out and shopping for a gift, and buying a mug or something with the boy's name on it. The big day came, and we all went to open our gifts. Mine? A pack of basketball cards, already opened, with four cards missing and the stick of gum missing, too. 'Tis the season.

Reston, VA
Oh come on! You must give more details about what the GM said!

Believe me: I'm DYING to. It's almost painful to hold it in. 

This one vaults right into the top 10 of horrific restaurant moments, up there with the night I was served catfish and told it was salmon and found myself in a 15 minute back-and-forth with the manager, who went and produced the box, which was cold from the freezer (nice!) and which said "salmon" but contained several incinerated-looking catfish.

But back to the incident …

Let's just say, for now, that he was talking about the waitress and an activity that he liked to engage in. 

DC
A mug? For a fifth grader? Who probably can't even SPELL coffee? At that age, I would have rather had the basketball cards. Plus think about those would have been worth today, Magic, Bird, Jordan………

The boy can't eat SOUP? He can't drink HOT CHOCOLATE?

Yeah, Bird, Magic, Jordan, all nice. But for one, it was a few years prior and two, ALL THE GOOD CARDS HAD BEEN LIFTED.

I'd have loved to have gotten some basketball cards; I didn't even get a full pack. What I did get, was a bunch of journeymen and scrubs. Imagine, today, seeing this handful of cards: Mark Madsen, Fabricio Oberto, Sergio Rodriguez, Brad Miller, Shannon Brown and Anthony Johnson. Merry Christmas.

DC

With Thanksgiving approaching, I am reminded of a story from a Thankgiving dinner my family ate at 1789.

My wife, 2 year old daughter and I were seated in the downstairs main dining room. Right after we were seated, I noticed a couple next to us with a young daughter around 2 years old, and an older lady. I immediately recognized the mother of the 2 year old as being the actress who played "Shmoopy" on the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.

As a HUGE Seinfeld fan, I quickly whispered excitedly to my wife that we were dining next to Seinfeld minor character royalty. Meanwhile, my wife was concentrated on Shmoopy's daughter's necklace which had a diamond studded cross attached to it that looked like it cost a mortgage payment. Soon thereafter, I noticed the man, who I pretty quickly recognized as George Stephanopoulos. I quickly whispered to my wife that "George Stephanopoulos is there too and he must be married to Shmoopy." My wife quickly replied in a decidedly non-hushed volume "WHO IS GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS!!!"

As an aside, later on during the meal, our daughters began to play together and I had the chance to meet Mr. Stephanopoulos. That is by far the most famous person I have ever met in DC. Just an example of DC's level of celebrity. 😉

Can I just say? I love your wife.

Great, great story. I think this one belongs in the Kliman Online Hall of Fame. "Thanksgiving with Shmoopy."

Anybody else? You can never have too many great stories. Any funny family tales from Thanksgivings past? 

Takoma Park
What is the best thing to eat at Fed Ex field, to distract me from the craptacular play of the Skins?

The craptacular play of the Redskins, the craptacular stadium, the craptacular parking situation, the craptacular future of a franchise ruled by an owner who lacks all humility and sense of self and who turns coaches into whipping boys for his many and repeated failures.

I don't know, how about bringing in a bottle of Maalox? 

If I were a season ticket holder, I'd stop going. This team needs wholesale change — a total cleaning of house — and the only way to force Dan Snyder's hand to go and hire a real General Manager and provide a real football operations department is to stop coming to games. 

Palisades

Dear Todd,

Any way you can get the recipe from Teatro Goldoni's Cavatelli pasta with smoked lobster? Six of us had dinner a couple of days ago and that stuff was just amazing!!!!!

Thanks for the chats,

Rick

Another good one. Thanks for writing in, Rick.
Fairfax, VA
I’d like to see more non-chain Mexican restaurants and more pho places that take credit cards besides Pho Hot(ha). On another note, where can I get some really, really good guacamole? You know, the kind that doesn’t just taste like smashed up avacados! My boyfriend and I had the chips and guac at La Sandia and thought it was good. Rosa Mexicana’s is good too, but I’d rather not venture into DC if possible. Any thoughts?
Annandale
I like turtles.

Me, too.

(Or do you not mean to eat?) 

I had a good turtle at ACKC not long ago, gooey with caramel and lots of good nuts and high-quality chocolate. In the Caribbean, I've also had turtle stew, which is much, much more of an, um, acquired taste.

I made the mistake of foisting it on my pregnant wife, who turned a shade of green and nearly puked up the contents at the table. 

Clifton, VA
I agree with you but would like to see some real Italian restaurants in the DC area. Sorry there aren't any and haven't been for years. If you serve butter with the bread and parmesan cheese with seafood pasta you aren't real. A good Jewish deli with pastrami with fat not lean and good rye bread. And a Panamean seafood restaurant. They do the best seafood preps in Central and South America

Italian and deli, agreed. They're two huge holes. 

Wheaton
"ALL THE GOOD CARDS HAD BEEN LIFTED!" Reminds me of the time I had my brother sneak into the convenience store to buy me some Garbage Pail Kids (which were strictly contraban in my house) which prior to my receiving said contraban, he opened and substituted in a bunch of crappy duplicates. The only difference being, instead of Mark Madsden and Brad Miller, I got Adam Bomb and Snotty Scotty.

See? We've all been there.

(Though I have no real dea what you're talking about. ; ) 

DC

What is your take on 7th Hill pizza? I ate there with friends and had the prosciutto and roasted red peppers pizza. I thought that the topping to pizza ratio was great (pretty generous with the prosciutto). The sauce was good and the crust had a nice charring that didn't cross the line into burnt.

However, I found that the crust missed that slight yeastiness flavor that I like in my pizza crust. As the crust is made and tossed in-house, and is therefore subject to day to day variance, I may have just caught it on an off day.

BTW, they have and Ipod or CD player playing music at the cashier's station and the night I was there, with quite a few child customers in house, they were playing a Sublime set with quite a bit of profanity. I am not a prude, but I also cannot be counted as someone who thinks that cursing kindergartners are cute. I just didn't think the music selection was appropriate for anyplace besides a 21+ bar. Just my two cents.

I like 7th Hill. Don't love it — but like it. It's a good addition to Eastern Market. I wish it had more seating.

And I'm with you on the tunes; there's so much music out there, why pick something that might turn people off like that? 

Arlington, VA

My baseline mood is a 5. When I go out to eat, especially at a nice restaurant, the anticipation is that the meal and experience will send my mood to an 8 or 9. When a restaurant delivers a mediocre product, my mood level may stay at 5 or may move to a 6 based solely on the fact that I am out with my wife, without the kids.

However, if a restaurant, through terrible service, bad food, or bad attitude sends my mood to a below baseline level, then yes, I am expecting them to make up for that with some level of compensation. Otherwise, I am paying for something that I am not receiving, it is no different than returning a defective radio or a sweater with a hole in it.

Yes, I have heard the argument, if the doctor is late, he doesn't perform your surgery for free, right. Bad analogy for two reasons.

1) The restaurant industry is a service based industry. They are offering one product (food) that is consumed on the premises, and another product (service) that is ethereal in nature, in that you can't touch it, use it, or look at it at a later date.

2) Restaurants are not offering a essential service to a captive audience. Everyone needs to go to the doctor, dentist, car mechanic, etc…., those industries have a captive audience that they know must use their services.

However, restaurant patrons can always eat at home. We don't NEED to eat out, we CHOOSE to. I don't choose to go to the doctor, I have to, or I die. My two cents.

Provocative and thoughtful, and I think restaurant owners and managers and chefs — even if they don't like what you say, even if they think you're flat-out wrong — would do well to heed your words.

I hope everyone out there has a great and memorable Thanksgiving, and I hope some of you will return next week with some good and funny family stories. 

Be well, everyone, savor the time with family and friends, and let's do it next week at 11 …

>> Submit questions in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday, December 1 at 11 AM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[TEK, I love you and miss you … ] 

 

 

 

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