Tuesday, January 12 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 January 5th.

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
Vidalia, DC
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Bar Pilar, DC
Cafe du Parc, DC
Sushi Sono, Columbia
Poste Brasserie, DC
Againn, DC
La Caraqueña, Falls Church
Kabob n Karahi, Cloverly
Oval Room, DC
Rasika, DC
Bistro Bis, DC
Sushi Taro, DC
J&G Steakhouse, DC
La Limeña, Rockville
Etete, DC

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Cheverly, MD

For the person looking for "mocktails", as a pregnant woman who really misses a nice drink with her meals, I have to say that Ping Pong Dim Sum is the best I have found in this area for creativity, variety, and cost.

There are some lovely drinks and I found a great highlight to the meal.

Thanks for writing in with this tip, Cheverly.

Also in that vicinity, and it didn't cross my mind at the time — Absolute Thai, around the corner from Verizon Center, where they still play basketball (deep, deep sigh … ). I had a good one many months ago, with fresh macerated strawberries and mint.

Any others anyone can think of –? 

Logan Circle, D.C.

Hi Todd,

Wanted to see if you've heard anything about a potential Korean restaurant opening on 14th and N… Also – had a fantastic meal at Dino last week. Sorry to see it bumped off the top 100 list (especially when Founding Farmers still makes the cut).

You need to read more carefully — Founding Farmers didn't make the cut. And as for Dino, we didn't bump it off. Dino bumped itself off, with erratic performance. 

Re: the Korean restaurant on 14th St. I only know that one is coming, and not much more in the way of details. It'd be neat to see a good Korean spot — a spot to rival those in Koreatown, in Annandale — to open in the city, but history suggests that you shouldn't get too excited.  

Silver Spring, MD

Hello Todd-

My husband and I love eating out! We love all types of foods and restaurants. From Komi to Ravi Kabob and from Indian food to Thai food. You could say that we are "foodies".

Anyways, to the point: I was a little shocked at the issue of Washingtonian's Top 100 Restaurants. I have several questions to ask you, but will narrow it down to one right now… Do you think that Zaytinya (Number 16) is that that much better than Cava (Number 45)!? Thanks!

First of all, I love Cava. If I didn't, it wouldn't be in the Top 50 — a real accomplishment in this era, by the way, with so much competition, particularly at the mid-level. No. 45 is nothing to sneer at. 

But anyway, to answer your question — I think Zaytinya has better service, I like its wine selection more, I think the space is dramatic and exciting to be in, I think the cooking at its best has a precision and sophistication you find at restaurants a level higher in price and ambition.

Washington DC

Regarding drug use by employees:

The notion that drug use is accepted and tolerated at high end restaurants is a tired cliche.

The cooks at my high end restaurant are trained to taste their food throughout service to ensure quality and consistency. If you've just done a bunch of lines, well, let's just say your taste buds are probably numbed. Ergo, your food will suck and you will soon be out of a job. We are professionals too and I take great offense to the suggestion that this is a part of our restaurant culture. Granted, I speak for the back of the house . . . the front of the house is a different monster all together!!! I kid, I kid.

And which high end restaurant are you speaking about? Why the anonymity?

But anyway …

Lines, okay. But what if it was a different drug? Lots of drugs out there, and not all of them numb the buds. By the way, I wasn't the one who said drug use is a part of the culture. I don't know enough about that to know. I know there is drug use, but that is not to say that it is endemic to the culture.

 

 

McLean VA

Todd,

A few months ago I contacted you for suggestions on a unique restaurant near Falls Church for a Bat Mitzvah Luncheon. One of your suggestions was Present. Well its happening and this will be a first for them- they have never closed the restaurant for a private party before. Should be fun to see the two cultures mesh- we will be doing all the traditions- challah wine and even a candlelighting ceremony with a carved pineapple boat for the candleabra.

You should send someone out for the story or you are invited to join us…2/27/10 Present Restaurant- 12:45 pm to 3:30 pm. Let us know!!! Hope to see you there.

You know, I'm tempted!

No kidding: I love bar mitzvahs, and I love Present. What's on the menu? 

Bethesda, MD
FYI: Last time we detoured through Columbia (we stop for dinner sometimes when heading down 95 from Philly), Jesse Wong's Asian Bistro was closed. Really a shame, because they were among the better Chinese places around. There's another Jesse Wong's north of B'more in Hunt Valley.

Too bad.

I think Jesse Wong's is easily in the Top 10 of Chinese places in the area.

By the way, several of you have written in to ask me whether Taste of China, in Charlottesville — Peter Chang's new roost — is worth the drive down. The answer is: yes. A resounding yes. His cooking is as good as ever, maybe better than ever. I'm still thinking about my meals there. Three hours from DC. Pfftt. What's that, really, for exhilarating, head-clearing cooking like this? 

Vienna, VA
Glad to see La Caraquena on your personal list, I was crossing my fingers that they would make the top 100. Even though I only get arepas, it's still the first place my friends want to go when they get into town. Was it close to making the list?

La Caraqueña has been on TK's 25 for a long, long while now. It's one of my favorite places to eat in the area.

But I think of it more as a Cheap Eat — it made our most recent list, in June — than as a 100 Best. Personal preferences aside, I don't think it offers diners all that much beyond, say, a half-dozen great dishes. 

If we were to publish a TK's 100, then yes, absolutely, it would be on there. That list, my list of 100, would include a little of everything — food carts, bistros, cafes, taquerias, hotel restaurants, roadside diners, etc.

Restaurant Week

Hi Todd,

Happy New Year! We had a lovely dinner at Indique in Cleveland Park. To our pleasant surprise the restaurant week menu came with a glass of wine included.- A decent wine where the server pours from the bottle at your table! The next glass costs $ 7- per glass.

The restaurant was packed around 7.30 pm. For folks planning to go – order the expensive dishes like King Prawn, Lamb Chops etc and it is really worth it. We even loved the desserts – we seldom order desserts at Indian or Chinese restaurants.

Good to hear it. Thanks for the report from the field.
Bowie, MD

Long time reader, first time writer: I follow your chats, normally a day or so after the fact, I pick up the magazine and look at the food oriented pieces and buy the 100 Best issue. I tend to look at it all with curiosity, amusement and a certain professional interest and leave the writing to the writers and the chatting to the chatters.

Yet I now feel compelled to write. After all the lists of best, cheap and goods, what to tip, what justifies a wait, what is good service, you hit me where I live. You listed bacon as being "out."

This is bacon? Real bacon? Not turkey bacon? Not tofu bacon? But bacon? Sweet salty pork goodness. Bacon is the little black dress, the blue blazer of the culinary world. It's a '65 Mustang convertible. It's (ugh this hurts to write) Yankee pinstrips. It may not always be in, but it will never be out. Everything taste better with bacon on it — if it doesn't add chocolate (When I worked in North Central PA we got a chocolate fountain for the brunch buffet. It took about thirty seconds before we dipped the bacon in the chocolate). Everyone likes it. The young. The old. Vegetarians like it, they just don't want to admit it in public. Crispy. Fatty. Smokey. Hot. Cold. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Have we really had so many bacon lollipops and what not that bacon can be considered out? I sigh.

Thanks for the rant. We'll "chat" about Reese's Peanutbutter Cups how much not being in tastes so good another day. — Marc

Marc, thanks for the laugh on this cold, gray day! I particularly liked your pain in typing "Yankee pinstripes." Ugh, it hurts, indeed.

You're right; bacon is never out. Never, never. 

Except that, having noticed bacon all over the place on area menus for the last couple of years — and in so many forms — it seemed noticeably absent this past year. I can't imagine that's going to remain the case for very long. For all the many reasons you enumerate …

Thanks for reading, and please — chime in again!

Alexandria, VA

I'm reading "Best Food Writing 2009" and loved re-reading your touching piece about your father from July.

You opened with a memory about driving into Charles County for barbecue, and then later on you talk about all the places you took him on your dining rounds and you mention barbecue again. What are your recommendations for the best 'cue in the area? Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina, Texas…you name the style, as long as the meat is cooked right I enjoy it.

Thanks for writing in. And thanks for your nice words. I think about my father every time I eat barbecue. Even if the barbecue isn't good.

My reco's … well, that's a tough one. Almost every place around here comes with a qualifier of some kind. I've had great experiences, and then some ordinary ones, at nearly every place I like. And every place does a couple of things well, and others not so well.

My favorites at the moment are KBQ, in Bowie — when the ribs and brisket are on, they're really on — and the Red, Hot and Blue in Laurel (only Laurel). I had a great, luscious batch of ribs at Kloby's Smokehouse many weeks ago — so good I couldn't stop thinking about them. But the next couple of batches were only pretty good, nothing to compare to what I'd eaten previously.

Chef skill question

Hi, Todd.

If you had to devise a single test that would "test" the true skill and talent of a chef, which culinary task would you set before him/her? Thanks.

What a brilliant question!

You know, I don't think I'd have to "devise" anything. I think I'd just ask her or him to prepare a soup. It might sound strange to say this, but you can tell so much about a chef's chops — chops, imagination, vision — by digging into a bowl of soup.

The best chefs in the area are all great soup-makers.

I'm thinking about Tom Power's red snapper bisque, and my mouth is watering. Morou used to do a brilliant carrot soup with yogurt and beet juice that I loved and couldn't get out of my mind. Ziebold several years ago did an interesting experiment with shad roe, slitting the sacks and warming the tiny eggs in a porridge — sublime. And Richard — has anyone had his wild mushroom soup, served to resemble a cappuccino? Looks great, tastes better. 

Riverdale, MD

After telling my sister how much I love you your chats, she wrote in a couple of weeks ago inquiring on a good Haitian or Jamaican restaurant. You gave a recommendation from a friend on a Jamaican place out in DC. The brown stew chicken was recommended. My sisters tried it…didn’t like it. I tried it…didn’t like it. We thought the sauce tasted like barbecue sauce. Born in the West Indies – this is not what brown stew is supposed to taste like.

I noted to my sister that you were passing on this recommendation and it wasn’t actually from you. I confirmed that I have tried some of your recommendations and haven’t been disappointment.

Anxious to try a location near our home, we went to Franklin’s in Hyattsville about two weeks. My sisters and I were highly disappointed. Food just wasn’t good. However, I was impressed with the beer menu. I see Franklin’s is no longer on your list. Last thing, I am going to Las Vegas (unfortunately for business) and wanted your recommendation for good eating. I am open to different food – only thing is I don’t eat pork or red meat.

I don't feel qualified to give you the latest, best report on Vegas, but allow me to comment, briefly, on your other comments.

I haven't had a brown stew in the area that I can recommend. None has the guts, the depth, of a real brown stew. So, in a way, I'm not surprised that you didn't care for what you tried at Pimento Grill. I've yet to go, so I can't comment further, and will be sure to give the brown stew a go to see for myself — but mark me skeptical.

As for Franklin's, I wouldn't write it off. I've had many good meals there. It really just depends what you're asking from it. Don't burden it with expectations of fine — or finer — dining. The beer menu is good, as you noted — and the restaurant has just welcomed a new brew master, so expect some changes in the early Spring. And, of course, the atmosphere — there aren't many places that aren't strictly for drinking that are more festive, more spirited. On a weekend night, when it's packed and rocking and the general store is open and waiting diners are threading through the door to buy toys or wine, it's really like a giant party.

Re: Jesse Wong’s
Are you talking about Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro in Columbia? If so, its not closed. Just gave them a call to confirm. Its one of my favorite spots and you almost made me have a heart attack!

I think the chatter meant closed for the night, not closed for good. 

Don't you love it? Now you can go from misreading to miscommunication to idle gossip to rumor mongering in a matter of minutes.

The web, bringing us all closer … closer to insanity.

Rockville, MD
Is there a good Chinese restaurant in Rockville? The last good one I went to was Mr.K which no longer exists here.

Is there a good one?

Are you kidding? Almost all the good ones in the area are in Rockville. It's a sort of mecca for Chinese cooking in the region. Michael's Noodles. Joe's Noodle House. A&J. China Jade. Bob's Noodle 66. Yuan Fu Vegetarian. China Bistro (Mama's Dumplings). I'm hearing good things about the new Sichuan Pavilion — though my one meal there was disastrous. 

Oak Hill, VA

Todd,

My wife is a big fan of lamb, and lately most of the places we have found has had lamb that is not that distinguishable from beef. Any suggestions ?

One of the few places we have found excellent cuts of lamb is kabob corner in Fairfax. It's a small strip mall type place, family run, grandma is usually in the kitchen cooking. The Carrayee is my favorite, it's an excellent cold weather stew.

Ron

Ron,

Sounds good. I'll be sure to give it a spin. 

My current favorites are Ravi Kabob I and II (still haven't gotten out to III, in Springfield), Kabob n Karahi in Cloverley, Maiwand Kabob in Burtonsville, and Afghan Famous Kabob in Gainesville. The lamb dishes at all three are very, very distinguishable from beef. 

By the way: I know that Gainesville is a haul for many of you, but it's really a gem. Great bulanee, and the kabobs are consistent and wonderful.

Perhaps not worth a 40 minute drive when there are so many other worthy kabob spots, but if you happen to head down to Charlottesville to Taste of China and Peter Chang — well, Afghan Famous Kabob is right on the way … 

The DC
I remember the chef/owner of Thai Xing saying he is planning to move his restaurant to a larger space at 9th and Florida/U. Any idea if that is happening? Thanks, Todd!

Supposed to happen. But a lot of supposed to's have turned into never have's.

At this point, only Taw knows …

Fairfax, Virginia

Hi Todd: We have enjoyed one of the area's churrascaria restaurants for 3 yrs. eating there steadily three times a month. We always have a bottle of wine and a few drinks. We do understand the menu well and do not eat the starchy sides, bread, or lower quality meats.

The current general manager is extremely unfriendly to us, while everyone else(all other manager's, servers) are outstanding in every way. We tip 20% and additional at times for servers that are outstanding.

Two questions,,,,are we right to think he does not want our business because we are not profitable enough? And, how can we find out his day off so that we can enjoy our meal as we have every time he has not been around?

Not profitable enough? It sounds as though you are plenty profitable.

I'd be interested to hear what constitutes "unfriendliness." Indifference to your presence, or actively hostile — even if subtly hostile — behavior?

Finding out his day off: good idea. I'd check with a waiter or waitress that you like and trust and just ask.

Alexandria, Va.
In clearing through old magazines during the snowstorm, I found a 2008 issue of Washingtonian that said a major restauranteur was planning to open an authentic deli-style restaurant in DC within the next couple of years. Did anything ever come of that? Any developments on the deli front?

No new developments.

It was one of a couple of ideas this restaurateur was toying with, and one she — oops — mentioned as being very near and dear to her when we talked.

I think she knows it's a good idea, and an idea that clearly fills a need in the area. Just a matter of time, now. And funding, of course. 

Washington, DC

Hi Todd,

I pulled off the road in Rockville a few days ago and tried out Joe's Noodle Shop. It was fantastic! Any suggestions for the best dishes to try at this hidden gem? Thanks!

Hidden gem? I don't know about that. The hidden part, I mean. We've been writing about Joe's Noodle House for years, now.

My reco's would include the dan dan noodles, the ground pork with leeks and black beans, the whole fish with sour Napa cabbage, the pickled cucumbers. That should get your off to a good start. You might also ask Audrey, the owner (who can almost always be found at the cash register) what she'd recommend.

Kevin C (Arlington)

Hi Todd,

Any thoughts on the latest restaurant from the Neighbord Restaurant group, Columbia Firehouse? I'm curious to see what their take on a chop house will be.

Kevin C,

Thanks for writing in. I've been only once, so far, but I like a lot of things they're doing. The space is terrific,  interesting without being pretentious. It's a restored firehouse, and it really does fit nicely with the area — you'd think it had been around for years and years. It has some of the feel of a Daniel O'Connell's — which, by the way, has a terrific lamb burger, well worth going for just for that.

The menu is relatively straightforward, pub grub + some bistro-style fare, but most of the dishes are given interesting little touches that lift them above the norm.

I had a terrific salmon dish — it was cooked perfectly and could have come off the menu at a more ambitious restaurant in DC. Great handcut fries, and they come with some interesting dipping sauces — a goat cheese sauce, a pimento cheese sauce, a smoked mayo, a regular ketchup. I also enjoyed the hot beef sandwich, a version of the Chicago street food staple. Most of the meat was luscious, a little was dry. If they could make sure it was consistently luscious, and if they were to tone down the rosemary, it would be a gem. It's close.

And being a part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the wines are better, much better, than what you'd find at comparably priced restaurants.

I'll be interested to see what future visits bring … 

Washington, DC

Hi Todd,

Any clue what to expect from the restaurant week menu at Sushi Taro? Now that it's been revamped, it's a restaurant week type of place! Looking forward to hearing your response.

Not so fast.

I have several rules about Restaurant Week, and one of them is never to visit a sushi restaurant — even a high-profile one. I just don't think RW gives the best accounting of a place like that, and I can't imagine you'd get your hands on any of the good stuff. Too expensive.

Of course, if you should ignore my advice — ; ) — and go anyway, by all means come back on and give us a report …

And all the rest of you — keep those RW dispatches coming, and please feel free to write me with advice or questions or complaints about your RW meals this week: tkliman@washingtonian.com

Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …

Submit your question in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday at 11. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[missing you TEK … ] 

 

 

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