Tuesday, December 8 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.

Read the transcript from December 1.

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
China Jade, Derwood
Zaytinya, DC
Plaka Grill, Vienna
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Faryab, Bethesda
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
Central Michel Richard, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Vidalia, DC
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
Rasika, DC
Franklin's, Hyattsville
Bistro Bis, DC
Kloby's Smokehouse, Laurel
Sushi Taro, DC
J&G Steakhouse, DC

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Dupont

Hi Todd-

Thanks for taking my question. I would really, really like to try Komi, but I have trouble with prix fixe dinners in general. I was wondering what your thoughts were on asking a fine-dining restaurant if it were possible to share a tasting menu.

I wouldn’t be opposed to an upcharge or a sharing cost, but I just can’t eat that much food—when I am faced with all of the wonderful plates, I end up eating too much and feeling uncomfortably stuffed (not the most romantic dinner, you can imagine).

Is it a major faux pas to ask a restaurant if two people could share a single tasting menu? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

I've never posed that question, myself, to a restaurant — either as a diner or as a critic, but I can well imagine the response.

I can't think of a single restaurant that would do it. But i hear you; sometimes it's just too much.

I love Komi, and I fully understand why they've gone to the prix fixe format, but it's a shame to lose the a la carte option.

Temple Hills, MD

Hi Todd,

What establishments offer good kid's birthday parties (he's turning 5)? Please include horsebacking riding places as well. Thanks!

I have absolutely no idea, sorry. And horseback riding in addition to food?

Do restaurants do this around here? News to me …

What do you say, chatters? Who's heard of this?

Vienna, VA
Love the chats! I was wondering about your turkey recipe, with the Kerrygold butter–salted or unsalted?

Salted. And thanks for your interest!

And then I hit the mixture that goes under the skin with still more salt — Kerrygold, salt, coarse ground pepper, a package of chopped taragon and a half-package of sage, if you have it.

The mixture that coats the exterior, I don't add salt to — just the grade B maple syrup (no need for grade A). And then, when all is smeared and glossy, I hit the thing with a LOT of kosher salt and black pepper, really cover the thing.

Falls Church, Virginia

Last week's comment on prix fixe and whether it's cheaper/more expensive than ala carte had me thinking if this is part of a trend in food ordering overall.

For example, Zingerman's regularly prices its packages much higher than if one had ordered the same things ala carte; additionally, we thought on some of the Restaurant Week platings that it wasn't even a matter of a free dessert, but actually about net or a little bit more expensive to eat a the prix fixe RW. Your thoughts?

I don't think it's a trend, or not a recent trend anyway — I think things have been going this way for about 5-10 years, now.

Prix fixe has been a staple of pre-theater/pre-game menus for a long, long time, of course. And almost always, when I see these menus, my heart sinks. Most are dispiriting to read — boring entrees, chicken breast this, farm-raised salmon that. And the desserts have an obligatory feel about them. 

What we're seeing, now, is a lot of prix fixe menus at other times. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. You have to be very, very good, in my book, in order to offer this option. In many cases, I think it's just presumptuous.

There are some good deals out there, for sure — I'm thinking of the prix fixe at Ray's the Classics, for $24.95, I believe: a starter, including the crab bisque, a steak and a dessert.

Of course, good as it is, I'd rather pay more for an upgrade. The steak was a fine "deal" steak, if that makes sense, but if I'm going to eat a steak I think I'd prefer to really indulge and pay more, and the chocolate mousse I had tasted of the fridge. The bisque, however, was superb

So, good for a deal. And a very good deal, at that. But a great meal? No.

Re: Tasting menus

Hi Todd.

I think your response to the OP asking if Komi might consider letting 2 people share a tasting menu would more than likely beget the response you indicate.

While I understand the concern of the OP, the truth is that many tasting menus aren't placing full-size appetizers or entrees in front of you, be it 5 or 7 or 12 courses. Typically, they are sized as tastings (and offer a couple of bites or samplings of each dish). If the real question is an issue of money, which would be understandable, because tasting menus are often priced expensively, then I empathize with the OP more because that is where I would agree how nice it would be to allow people to try a great place in a way that might be more affordable (one could pick and choose via a la carte).

However, you are then creating a different dining experience–and the restaurant might not excel as much if they couldn't focus on perfecting/adapting their tasting menus.

Thanks

Well-put. Thank you. You explained what I ought to have explained, in answering as I did.

It does, it changes the experience, you're right. It also changes the nature of the meal from the point of view of the kitchen. With a set menu, the kitchen has much more control over the food, the courses. Think about it: why else do restaurants typically ask everyone at the table to order the same tasting menu?  

Manassas
What a shame Roberto Donna desperately selling himself for $10 on Donrockwell.com for discounted cooking classes at his house…..$160 fee to learn how to chop carrots? No thanks, for such a price tag I rather have lunch for two with wine at The Prime Rib on K tip, taxes and valet gratuities included

I agree: very, very expensive.

Has anybody read The Rabbi of Lud, by Stanley Elkin? Not one of my favorite books by Elkin, who I think is very underrated, but the comic set-up is hilarious. Jerry Goldkorn is a rabbi, only he doesn't have a shul or a congregation. A rabbi, without an audience, or any real reason for being. An exile among exiles …

And to make another leap … All those questions about Teatro Goldoni and its chef, Enzo Fargione (a Donna protege, at one point) that have been flooding my chat queue for the past few weeks, presumably put there by a publicist or -cists — enough already; it's unbecoming. If I see one more come my way, I won't talk about the restaurant again for another month …

U Street, DC

Just a comment: I appreciated your recommendation for Charlie Palmer Steak. Went there for my birthday last August and had such a memorable experience (and I've dined at Citronelle … the service there was underwhelming, even cold at times).

The service at Charlie Palmer was the best I've ever experienced in DC. The manager came over to chat with us about our meal and even brought us to the rooftop deck to take photos of the gorgeous views of the Capitol. I'm not surprised that they don't charge outrageous corkage fees. They are a class act.

Good to hear. Thanks for coming back on and letting me know how things turned out.
Birthday Party w/Ponies
Not sure of any nearby, bring ponies to your home party companies. Perhaps Michael Landrum could work something out. Seriously, about 50 miles from the Beltway is the Marriott Ranch. Not sure about their winter schedule – looks like they can handle 1K of your closest friends: http://www.marriottranch.com/company_picnics.cfm

Good one!

But where in the hell did you ever come up with this one? ; ) 

DC From local chefs, cooks, managers, servers
Why oh why Todd do people use the internet to express their dislikes, complaints of a restaurant, why not be open honest with us and we all will bend over backwards to make you happy. Has society become that anonymous, passive agressive, that humans dont have the "balls" to ask for what they want if its not what you like. For (*(&&^ sakes we are doing this because we love to take care of people not to piss them off. The internet faceless beings who know how to run a restuarant, how to cook at a restaurant, how to create a scene at a restaurant hide behind their computer key boards and use it as a weapon. To all restaurant employees lets start a online rating of our guests. "Look at that tbl. 65 position 6 has dressed like a clown and eats her appetizer with her entree fork, she/he is so drunk that he/she cant make it to the bathroom." Now doesnt that sound ridicoulus. Keep bashing restaurants that their server assitants speak broken english, they are working their asses off for you and to take care of their families like you all do!!! Come on people have some balls tell us what you want and we will deliver as best as we can!!!!

Amid all the frothing rage, I think you make a good point, which is: Diners, speak up, please — let the staff know that things aren't working, and give the restaurant a chance to address the problem.

Incidentally, I think a lot of what's wrong with the Internet could be fixed by making anonymity verboten in public forums. Yes, of course — in some instances (shopping, say), anonymity is vitally important.

But in discussions, in comments sections? What's to be gained by reading people giving vent to their deepest feelings and insecurities, their hostility, their misanthropy, their parochialism, their fear? Do I really need to get a peek into the great collective id?

If you have something to say, then I say: have the courage to sign your name to it — your real name, with your real email address attached. Be accountable. Stand by your words.

Why not? I do it every week on this forum.

I'm curious, and just for the sake of discussion — who would be willing to use their real name and email address on this chat, in order to make it a more honest, more legitimate, more above-board experience? No publicists, unless they were willing to disclose their causes, no plants … 

 

Rockville, MD

Hi Todd,

Just wanted to let you know of a fabuluos meal we had last night at Bombay Bistro in Rockville. My wife always liked this cute little place. To our pleasant surprise we were offered a three course menu for 18.95 including a glass of wine (a wine which we could choose from the list).

We were told that this deal is only availble on weekdays. My wife has some allergies and cannot take wine, so we asked the server if he could have a beer instead? The server agreed without any hesitation! I was wondering whether you are aware of this deal? If so have you tried it and what are your thougts?

Love your chat session and keep up the good job.

Aware, but haven't tried it yet. Thanks for the report. 

That's very, very cheap, and if they can pull it off, great for them.

I've been noticing really, really small portions everywhere for a while now, and a lot of artful scaling back. Actually, this morning, not so artful …

I was at a bagel place with my wife and son, and on our previous visit, we ordered what we usually order — bagel, cream cheese, lox, along with onion, tomato and lettuce. Well, last time there was also a slice of swiss cheese. Which seemed … odd. But then I understood why: the portion of lox was about half of what it used to be.

This morning, my wife opted for just a bagel with lox cream cheese. Not much lox — the cream cheese was very, very white.

I had them leave off the swiss cheese, and still could barely taste the lox.

What's next? I wondered.

Next, my wife said, "they'll just wave the lox over the bagel, perfuming it." 

VA
Restaurant Il Forno in Ashburn has a very friendly kid place
It does, indeed, but unless things have changed considerably — no ponies.
17th and M Streets
I'd be willing to use my real email/name etc.

Only — not right now … ; )

But seriously, thank you. Thank you for your willingness to step from behind the curtain of anonymity, to step from behind it and be real and accountable. 

Who else? 

Ballston, VA

Rent some ponies for pony ride and hve it catered.

Back in 1967 my bro was having his 7th bday. It was July and massive Tstroms came up. We ahd to move the ponies into the basement for the rides. We still talk about this bday party 42 years later and so so our friends.

Boy, that sounds like an AMAZING birthday!

I'll bet nothing since has been better, huh? Ponies in the basement!

How in the hell, I wonder, did you get them down there/in there? 

DC
So I'm going to hear David Byrne talk about bicycling tonight at the Newseum. Where's a good place to grab a relatively inexpensive but tasty meal nearby? I've gotten burned out on the Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya trio. Anything worth trying in Chinatown?

Well, the Source is right there on the ground floor of the museum building, and it's a terrific meal.

I hear the Byrne book isn't half-bad, by the way. Though going to see David Byrne read is a little like going to hear Jonathan Safran Foer play guitar at an open-mike, don't you think?

Alexandria, VA
Bourbon Steak – good choice for my birthday dinner (just husband and me) this Saturday night? It is the highest rated restaurant on your top 100 that I have not been to and for which we can get a reservation.

You mean, the highest-rated restaurant on last year's Top 100 … ; )

No, go; enjoy yourself. But — if you can snag a reservation at J&G Steakhouse, I'd go there instead, and consider yourself lucky.

I'll play only slightly less coy for a moment and say that there's a big shake-up a-coming in the Top 100, and particularly in the Top 20. 

Actually — particularly in the Top 10. 

 

 

Ballston, VA
We lived in a rambler . Basement level had a finished family room and then the other 2/3rds was unfinished basement space. Took them through the sliding glass door. Yes they did leave deposits. but hey my parents would have lost their money if they cancelled.

Deposits!

I love it …

DC

Todd,

I scanned the website but didn't see anyone else singing the praises of Sorriso, so I figured I would:

Went there for dinner on a whim last Sunday with 4 friends. We were told the wait would be about 20 minutes (ended up being more like 45), but we carved out a table and some stools at the bar and ordered a bottle of wine, so no big deal. The owner seemed to know everyone in the place, but made a point of stopping by several times and joking with us like we were regulars, too.

And as the wait stretched over 30 minutes one of Sorriso's amazing pizzas appeared at our bar table, delivered gratis by our new friend the owner (this made me recall all of your chats on the subject of diner compensation – and my group didn't even have a reservation).

Safe to say that once we got our table, the food and service continued to be excellent. This is only based on one experience, but I couldn't recommend Sorriso enough. I can't believed I've lived in Cleveland Park for 3 years and never went there!

Thanks for the great report.

The freebie pizza was a tremendous gift, above and beyond what was called for — which is what makes it a gesture. Impressive.

I am sure I will be blasted for being perceived as advocating that owners give stuff away as a matter of course, but I do think that gestures like this build good will, and are hard to quantify. I think the returns can be great, if done right.

I've been to Sorriso, and enjoyed myself, but prodded by your report I'll be sure to drop by again in the near future and give the place a fresh look.

Alexandria, VA
Shoot! Had one at J&G and switched it. Now they only have 5 pm…

Switch back.

Nothing wrong with a 5 p.m. You'll be out by 8, 8:30, and can always continue the night somewhere else with a drink or two …  

Washington, DC

Todd:

I think it's perfectly reasonable for people to gripe anonymously on forums like this, though I can understand why restaurants despise that sort of thing. But look, these types of things (chowhound, Don Rockwell.com, etc.) are here to stay and I would bet the vast majority of people never even visit them.

The best solution to all of this is for restaurants to have some sort of feedback system in place (yeah, I don't know how to do this either) so that after one eats at a restaurant one could fill out a survey about the experience (with standard survey options, plus room available for people to write longer, open-ended responses). This would include their names.

This way the restaurants get solid feedback and the diners don't have to feel uncomfortable with giving feedback/speaking to a manager while they're eating out, which is something that most don't like to do.

Yeah, this would probably be expensive and I'm not even sure how it would be workable, but I think that's the best approach.

I agree with you in that i think it's perfectly reasonable for people to gripe. But griping anonymously? That's weaselly.

And sometimes hateful. And sometimes vindictive. And often just plain masturbatory.

And the web is full of all of these things.

There's an unwritten code of honor among men. If you have a problem with somebody, you go to that person, and you tell him to his face. You don't go behind his back, like a weasel, and gossip. You don't act passive aggressively. You deal with what needs to be dealt with.

Spewing and venting anonymously, this all runs counter to the code.

If you write something about a book, a restaurant, a person, whatever it is — put your name to your words, and a place where you can be contacted and be accountable for those words. Be stand up about it. Be a man.

Cheverly, MD

You always manage to give us some great ideas following your chat, and we need your help this time! Monday is our 5th wedding anniversary, and we want to have a fun night out on the town.

I'm six months pregnant, so much drinking is out (although one tempting idea is to go to Church Key and take sips of all different beers since they have little pours). We'd love to go to a couple of places, perhaps somewhere with amazing desserts after dinner (I remember you saying Ardour had amazing desserts, but not sure if one could go to the bar to get them). Nothing too spendy, but something romantic and fun, somewhere to linger or a few places to go. I eat mostly vegetarian, but am adventurous otherwise. Places we like (but don't want to go to this time): Zaytinya, Oyamel, Present, Komi, City Zen, Poste, Proof, Nava Thai, 2 Amy's, Tosca, and lots of others….Oh, and anywhere in DC or MD is good, NoVa is just too hard to get to on a weeknight in the car. Thank you!

Congratulations on the five years, and the baby to come!

What I might do, is start off at Bar Pilar (be sure to get the garlic-rubbed bread with fried egg and salmon roe; brilliant) and then hit Masa 14 right down the street (zero in on the fried shrimp, the carnitas taco and the eel and mint sauce hand roll).

You can end up at Church Key nearby for the beer flight you mentioned or Cork, also nearby, for dessert. Or — ACKC for some hot chocolate and truffles and homemade choco-covered marshmallows. (Don't even think about finishing the night at Masa; the desserts look like they came from a Fisher Price kitchen set.)

What do you say? 

NoLo, DC
Interesting question about Komi, but the place still strikes me as being closer to an a la carte sort of meal, unless you choose the degustazione. Yes, the mezethakia are chosen for you, but each of those "courses" is pretty darned tiny, often consisting of a single bite. The second course pasta tends to be a humble serving. I've been full at Komi, but not stuffed in the way I've been at some of the area's other restaurants…

You make a good point.

But it's still a long, leisurely meal. And though you're not stuffed, perhaps, the way you would be at a Babbo or something really indulgent and lusty, I wouldn't call it a light meal. And certainly not an inexpensive or reasonably priced one. 

Washington DC
I was just in NYC, and they have food trucks roaming the city for just about every food (the waffles were my favourite but they also have a coffee truck, cupcakes, Korean BBQ.) Now DC has a few food trucks as well… what do you think of the trend? Think it will hit DC harder? Die down? What kind of food truck would you like to see?

What do I think of the trend? I love it. In fact, I think it's one of the most important developments in food in the city in the past five years.

I would like to see more carts, more trucks, more variety, and even more energy.

This is part of having a real cultural life in the city. Along with street musicians. Along with public art. Along with architecture that inspires.

Sad to say, but we are only just starting to create this kind of real culture in this city. Don't get me wrong — there are wonderful institutions. There's a ton to do at any one time — museums, galleries, theaters, etc. But ground up? There's not much. This is a predominantly top-down city. Whereas Chicago is a ground-up city as well. So is New York. There's a reason, I think, they're much more fun to walk and shop and think than here.

We have pockets of eclecticism, and I would like to see more. And we have street carts, now, but can have so many more.

It'd be great to have more public art, and more interesting architecture, but the real city is never going to triumph over the federal city. 

Anyway … lunch awaits me. Be well, everyone, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 … 

Submit your question ahead of time to Todd's chat next Tuesday, December 15, at 11 AM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[missing you, TEK]

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