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

Penn Quarter, DC

The sculpture at the entrance made me think I was going to Cirque du Soleil (huge and brightly colored), and the interior of the restaurant is almost big enough to hold a Big Top! It’s mammoth!

It was a holiday night, but still it was a Monday, and the place was really jumping—even a large crowd at the bar area where a group of young women were honoring the birthday girl who had turned 30! (The big 30! That’s reason enough to get drunk, I suppose . . . can’t remember that far back!)

We had really, really good small plates. There were short ribs, which I liked, and beef cheeks, which were too squishy for my taste, but my son raved about them. We also had two shrimp dishes, both very good, plus swordfish and salmon, which were absolutely wonderful. The cauliflower dish is good, too.

The most disappointing choice was described on the menu as “crispy potatoes with yogurt sauce.” Sounds good, right? It turned out to be nothing more than French fries!

We finished with a feast of three desserts—one was a kind of raspberry sherbet with dried cherries, and one was a fruit (I think mango) with cream, that reminded me of a delicious creamsicle. I finished with a pot of excellent tea.

I was going to give the restaurant three stars, but after the desserts I have to up it to four.


Osteria 177

Main Street in Annapolis is a resort town all its own, teeming with walkers, talkers, gawkers, and shoppers—and it’s not even a weekend!

With perhaps an overabundance of seafood eateries, Osteria 177 (at 177 Main Street, of course) offers a popular alternative with Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The men had some drink mixture of bourbon and vermouth, which they loved; I had a beer. The two salads we chose (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olives, peppers, greens, etc.) were showcased nicely but unimpressive in taste. We had linguine with clams (acceptable), a veal dish with mashed potatoes and a veggie (acceptable), and some broad egg noodles with ragu (acceptable). We shared two desserts—a tiarmisu and a wiggly custard thing—too rich for my taste, so again, acceptable.

Not acceptable were what I consider inflated prices. What the market (location) will bear?

One star


Ize’s Bagels

At noontime on a Sunday afternoon, the traffic is something to behold at this bagel/deli shop, and I suspect that many of the customers are regulars. I base this assumption on a hanging chalkboard that asks a question and gives the answer to yesterday’s question. The choices of sandwiches are plentiful—something for everyone’s tastes.

The sandwiches rate high—they’re nicely filled and priced fairly, and everybody seems to be having a good time. The tables are close to each other, which can be a good thing if, like me, you get a kick out of other people’s conversations. For instance, the woman whose male companion was attacking a man-size breakfast. “I can only have a soda,” she said. “I already had two tablespoons of peanut butter today.” (As Jack Paar used to say, “I kid you not. Could I invent that dialogue?”)

But as for the naked bagel, it was a huge disappointment. My neighborhood store carries bagels delivered daily from Chesapeake Bagels, which over the years have become large and doughy—no difference between these and Ize’s, except Ize’s costs a lot more. I give the sandwiches 1½ stars, but I wouldn’t leave my neighborhood for the bagels themselves.



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