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.
Read the transcript from November 24.
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
China Jade, Derwood
Plaka Grill, Vienna
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
Central Michel Richard, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Bar Pilar, DC
Cafe du Parc, DC
Sushi Sono, Columbia
Poste Brasserie, DC
La Caraqueña, Falls Church
Oval Room, DC
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
Bistro Bis, DC
Kloby's Smokehouse, Laurel
Sushi Taro, DC
J&G Steakhouse, DC
Hi Todd. My sister turned me on to your chat. We're both somewhat selective (not picky!) eaters.
We like to dine out and love to try new things. Recommendations from friends etc. are usually a bust. I've come to trust your opinion. (You have taste! LOL)
Anyway, I am searching in vain for a good Jamaican restaurant/take out–whatever! I think I’ve been to all of the places in the local area with only a few that are okay.
Lastly, I also love Haitian food. There used to be a place in Hyattsville called Yon Yon but it closed down. Do you know of any others out there? I’m willing to travel.
Chez Yon Yon was it. When it folded, there went the only Haitian restaurant in the entire area. It's too bad.
As for Jamaican food … I like Muffin Man Caribbean Cafe in Lanham, which has good roti (even veg roti if you don't want goat or chicken) and good jerked shrimp. I also like their muffins, particularly the rum raisin and carrot cake varieties.
In Hyattsville, there are a couple of good options — Jerk Hill and the bakery/cafe Under the Coconut Tree. Both have good roti. Lloyd at UCT will throw on a dollop of his homemade apple chutney if you ask. Really tasty.
Finally, a place east of the river that I have yet to hit, but which my pal Steve Siegel, the king of all the locals who regularly log on to Chowhound.com with their tips and meal reports, has been talking up, called Pimento Grill. It sounds very, very promising.
My family had a really tough time with the bird this year. It was a a large 25 pounder (brined of course). But we cooked it for the appropriate time needed.
My only mistake is that I only test in one area of the leg. Not in mulitple place.
We let it rest, heated up the other sides– and we cut into the sucker. Mostly cooked. But not fully. It seemed that the botton of the bird, where it sat in the V-rack were not done. Has anyone ever heard of flipping a turkey? It seems like this method would combat my undercooked bottom. I hope everyone had a delicious holiday.
Not only have I heard of it, but in fact, I am, myself, a flipper — I flipped my bird this year, as I have for the last several years. : )
All kidding aside, I do, I flip. It often takes two people around, especially with a big turkey, but it's otherwise easy, and it eliminates the problem of dryness with the white meat. I don't know about all the rest of you, but I just can't stand dry white meat, be it a turkey or a chicken or whatever.
How'd your turkeys come out? How'd your T-days go?
My own turkey took longer than expected because, inexplicably, someone — I'm thinking my sister-in-law — turned the oven down to 250 degrees while the bird was inside. I roast my turkeys quickly, two-plus hours, tops, and this meant that the first hour of cooking time was pretty much a waste. By the 1:15 mark, the bird was up to something like 64 degrees!
So, a lot of dip and cheese and crackers … and more Manhattans (I make a pretty mean one) … and waiting, and waiting …
The bird, when it emerged, was tremendous, although I don't think we all ate more than about 10-15% of it. We got some good sandwiches and a lot, a lot, a lot of soup out of it.
A good number do, though of course they'll charge you what's called a corkage fee.
There's more to it than simply sliding the cork out of the bottle; they'll bring you good stemware, they'll keep the bottle chilled if need be, they'll do the pouring — in short, they'll treat it just like any other bottle on the list. In exchange, you pay anywhere from $10 or $15 (or sometimes, as much as $25).
Which just makes what Charlie Palmer Steak is doing all the more impressive.
The restaurant is offering free corkage for up to two bottles of American wines. It has to be American wine, however. Lest you think this is some curious bit of French-bashing, some oenological counterpart to Freedom Fries, no no no: It's just the restaurant's policy to carry only American wines.
I'm curious why you still have Cantler's on you list of places you'd spend your money. I agree completely that it belongs on there in the summer, it's a great place. But would you go spend your money there during non-crab season? I could think of a few other Annapolis (or non-Annapolis) places that deserve attention in the winter.
You're absolutely right about this. My oversight — I'll make the change as soon as I can.
As to other Annapolis places … I don't have one, right now, that would make this list. I enjoy dining in and eating in Annapolis, but there's no one place that I think merits inclusion on my personal top 25.
Took my family to La Caraquena last night on your recommendation. Food was fantastic: saltenas perfectly crispy with a little hint of sweetness, arepas (grilled, not fried) meaty and overstuffed, the criollo not adventurous but very good, and the quatro leches cake fantastic – who would have thought slightly salty whipped cream would be such a great contrast to the sweet cake?
Service was warm, but not effusive (can one say service is tender? That's what it felt like), and the owner/chef was around with a smile.
We were disappointed to see that it was completely empty, however, and hope for their sake it isn't a pattern – this is a gem of a little place that many of us would never go into without having your description of it. Not for a fancy meal, but just right for a quick bite.
We'll be back.
I wonder if the emptiness of the room may have had something to do with the fact it was a Monday–?
I would hope, for their sake, that un-busyness is not a regular thing. It deserves a wide audience. The place is a gem. I'm glad you got to go, and I'm glad that it turned out so well. Next time, you need to order the two wonderful soups.
Thanksgiving dinner at Inox was really great. We're not regular holiday restaurant diners, but this year decided not to travel.
The service was great, the sommelier friendly and knowledgable, helping us choose a bottle that we very much enjoyed with our dinner.
The menu was traditional but fun–a we both had a nice venison loin, great bread, nice appetizers. We look forward to going back for dinner on a non-holiday night.
Any other reports from the big day? Who else hit a restaurant for the traditional dinner?
Good one. He did have a house on a farm out there, but alas, and of course — no more. The restaurant is an homage to his career, his memory and his time there.
And there are problems on my end, too. For some reason, my first several replies got entirely swallowed up, and I had to start all over.
I appreciate all of you for bearing with me this morning, and I hope things clear up and soon. If problems still remain with posting, feel free to send them on to my email and I'll try to incorporate them as we go. … firstname.lastname@example.org
Turkey was Indian style for me this year. The family wanted to eat Indian and we land up at SpiceXing and they had some turkey kabab cooked in the tandoori.
The meat was really good but the side of Pumpkin and the Sweet potato pudding of some sort were heavenly. The cranberry chutney was just meh and the brussel sprouts had some some strong flavor, not bad just I did not like it. It is a beautiful restaurant with great food and courteous service. Shall be my comfort food place from here on though it is 9 miles from home
My mouth started to water as I read your description of the tandoor turkey and sweet potato pudding.
A neat and delicious twist on tradition, it sounds like. I'd love to try tandoor turkey some time; I think it sounds like a terrific way to do the bird.
A few …
Herbsaint and Cochon for finer dining that still has guts and soul, Mother's for overstuffed po'boys and Acme for oysters.
Having just typed that, I am now feeling fiercely, fiercely envious. Ugh!!
Let me know how your excursions in Nola turn out …
My husband and I had dinner at Teatro Golsdoni last week on a cold rainy night. We were greeded with great candor and a warm welcome and showed to our table. Our dinner was superb, especially the pumpkin soup with duck sausage and mini spinach ravioli filled with chestnuts. Perfect combination for a cold night.
The service was attentive, but a little too sharp for me. Is there such a thing as service too sharp? From the start to finish our server was on us like his life depended on it. Every little movement we made he came right over and asked if everything was all right. Despite the wonderful dinner I felt somehow that a little less attentive service would have made our experience a better one.
Am I too picky or is this the way attentive service should be when you dine at some of the best restaurants in Washington? Just a curious bird
It's an interesting question.
The thing is, if you felt it was too much, then, well — it was too much: It got in the way of your enjoyment, it broke the spell that a great and sumptuous meal is meant to provide.
Of course, if a server is going to err, I and probably you, too, would much rather he or she err on the side of too-much.
The better servers are skilled at what's called "reading" a table, and adjusting the multitude of things they do — their ministrations, their shtick — accordingly.
That's the better servers. They're not in abundance. And at a number of places, there is pressure from management to do more, to give more, to be more; I don't know for certain, but I would imagine that that hovering that you're talking about — that constant around-ness — is a function of some directive from some manager.
I arranged for a birthday brunch for my 81-year old mother and two friends at Black Market Bistro this past Sunday. Although I had paid in advance (including tip), and they sat for a long time even after the restaurant became quite busy, they were met with total graciousness and kindness by the management and waitstaff.
It's unfortunately all too common for restaurants to treat older patrons with less than appropriate professionalism and grace, and I want to commend the Blacks and their staff for being a notable exception.
I agree with you, and good for Black Market Bistro.
And good for you for writing in to single them out. I think a lot of industry insiders think it's all ranting and bashing of restaurants and managers and servers and chefs on this forum, and it certainly can seem that way sometimes, but the fact is many of you are all too happy to come on and celebrate the things that are done right and the meals that sing and the people who made your day.
My friend and I are looking at having dinner at Komi in January, which got me to thinking: for restaurants (even highly esteemed ones) that specialize in local and seasonal produce, are there times of year that are better to eat there than others? Is winter not a good reflection of all that such a restaurant can do (or not a good time to drop hundreds of dollars on such a dinner)?
I've been discussing this with friends and would love your opinion on the matter.
You pose something really interesting, DC.
I think accomplished chefs are more excited by Spring than any other time of year, what with all the fresh raw material at their disposal, and there's generally more variety and abundance in their menus then than at any other time.
Good cooking is good cooking, and a good chef ought to be able to make his or her dishes sing all year round. But if you ask them, they would much rather work with tender greens and all the rest that comes with Spring and early summer than, say, the tubers that define Fall and Winter.
Very little of this, by the way, comes into play at Komi, which trades on its sparkling fresh fish and seafood and slow-roasted meats.
On the flip side … some chefs, like Robert Wiedmaier, are more comfortable with the flavors (and expectations) of Winter. Winter's a hearty season, and it calls for meats with intense reductions, lots of roasting, lots of braising. Big, deep flavors. Come Spring and summer, menus need to be lighter (more fish, which is tricky) and so do sauces (oils, light emulsions) and that generally runs counter to what makes a chef like Wiedmaier tick.
Steve, don't make me hungrier than I already am! Sheesh.
Thanks for writing in, and I promise to get out there very, very soon …
Incidentally, brown stew is not something that a lot of places around here do very well.
re: your list of places you would spend your own money. Is there a reason that Palena Cafe is not currently on the list?
Also on that list, J&G steakhouse. I took my sister there for Thanksgiving and it was excellent! Good call.
I'd be curious to hear what you had at J+G for Thanksgiving …
As for Palena Cafe, I have to say, the last two meals I had there were not what I've come to expect. What I've come to expect is one or two moments, at least, of stop-what-you're-doing-and-close-your-eyes-and-keep-silent-please-and-just-focus-on-the-brilliance- and-imagination-of-the-cooking, and I didn't get my one or two moments. They were good meals, with no real missteps, but no real highs, either. The equivalent to watching MJ in his prime and not being treated to any rim-rattling dunks or stealthy, how'd-he-do-that steals or clutch, belief-straining jumpers as the clock winds down. Just — a good, solid, all-around game.
I didn't? Well, I meant to, so sorry about that. My picks: the guac at Cafe Atlantico and Oyamel, made tableside. Expensive, but fresh and very good.
For something cheaper, I like the guacamole at La Sirenita and El Tapatio in Little Mexico, in Riverdale.
It's funny, though, — actually, infuriating — how many places don't make good guacamole, when it's so easy to make. They add mayo, or they try to turn it into a spicy dip, or they add too many tomatoes. And almost always — and most infuriating of all — they don't add nearly enough acid. Brightness, please!
I often find myself asking for a wedge of lemon or lime to perk up a guacamole that is just sitting there, dull and lifeless on the plate.
No authentic Australian restaurants, and no inauthentic Australian restaurants, either.
I haven't even looked at what places are doing yet for X-mas. Offhand, who else do you know who is going to be open that day?
Re: fixed price menus. It depends. Sometimes, they're deals — or should I say, attempts at offering a deal. And sometimes they're not.
But you're right — grrr.
I enjoyed Clyde's half-price wine night at both the Georgetown location (Sunday) and the Tysons location (Monday) and have a tipping question for you. When ordering what is typically a $50 bottle of wine for $25, is it customary to tip on the higher or lower amount?
I know they're using this promotion to fill seats on otherwise slow nights, but I wasn't sure what the expectation is. Any light you can shed on this is appreciated!
I hope you can give me some sound advice about how to move forward with this situation. On Saturday afternoon I had lunch with four other people at Gordon Biersch in Penn Quarter.
One member of our party ordered their Warm Salmon Spinach Salad. The salad initially was delivered with a huge pile of grilled chicken and was sent back to the kitchen. It came back out several minutes later with a small piece of fish on it. I took one look at the fish on the plate and was pretty sure that it was not salmon.
It was very lightly salmon colored and less than half an inch thick. At about the surface area a little larger than a deck of cards it could not have been more than 1.5-2 oz. It tasted fine, but was more similar in taste and texture to a trout or Arctic Char.
The person who ordered the dish was happy with it and ate it- she's not the type who'd know the difference between those fish anyway and a thin overcooked piece of fish is probably the way she likes it. I never mentioned to her that I didn't think it was actually salmon (or that the portion size was tiny for whatever fish it was). My concern was not brought to the attention of the management. But the whole thing really bugged me. What do you think?
Look, if it didn't bug you're friend, and she enjoyed her dish, then I don't think there's a problem.
I mean, what's the issue here? That you think Gordon Biersch is playing games with its customers and therefore must be called out for it? It's hard for some people to tell the difference between char and salmon, and that might be what happened in this case. Or — the restaurant was out of salmon and made the substitution and neglected to tell the staff.
And let's not forget: GB is a chain.
If this were an independent, or a chef-driven place, then I think it would very much be an issue, and I would begin to wonder about the integrity of the operation.
As it is … let it go.
I'm hoping that you can lead me in the right direction… My sister's 27th birthday is coming up and I want to treat her to a nice night out. I wanted to incorporate before dinner drinks somewhere that has a classy/upbeat atmosphere, and then to dinner someplace that isn't tooo expensive, but nicer than a typical night out (we will be dressed up a bit), where it is okay to linger over a few courses. She is a vegetarian, but a very open/adventurous eater. Any suggestions??
Thanks for the help!
Trying again: I have my second date, for lunch, with a guy I'm really liking.
Our first date was at SEI (my choice) and while it went really well, I ended up feeling embarrassed because he treated and it was pretty expensive. I think he will likely pick the second place, but if he asks for my suggestions, I'd like a few options near Penn Quarter or K Street that are less expensive than SEI but still have a fun vibe and good people watching. Any thoughts?
Jaleo, Zaytinya, Cafe du Parc, Oyamel, PS 7's bar — all fun, all good for people-watching.
Not to get all Date Lab or anything, but let us know how outing #2 turns out …
It's been hard already — Thanksgiving was tough — but thank you, Clifton. I appreciate your sentiments, and thanks for taking a moment to think of me. You're a mensch, Hoss ; ) …
Thanks, everyone, for all the great questions and comments and rants today. And as always, be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK]