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 February 2nd.
W h e r e I ' d S p e n d M y O w n M o n e y
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
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Cafe du Parc, DC
Sushi Sono, Columbia
Poste Brasserie, DC
Restaurant Eve, Alexandria
La Caraqueña, Falls Church
Jackie's, Silver Spring
Pupatella Neapolitan Street Cart, Arlington
Cava, DC and Rockville
Bistro Bis, DC
Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, Germantown
Sushi Taro, DC
Tommy Marcos's Ledo Restaurant, Adelphi
J&G Steakhouse, DC
La Limeña, Rockville
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, Columbia
Jaymar Colombian Breeze, Gaithersburg
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
Central Michel Richard, DC
And eggs. Milk and eggs.
Which basically means there are a lot of pancakes being flipped out there. And waffles being pressed.
Sounds pretty good to me.
I made homemade pasta this weekend with my surfeit of eggs — ravioli on Friday in a vodka cream sauce, tagliatelle on Sunday in a tomato sauce.
And on the menu tonight — having just collected my mom, who went 14 hours without heat this weekend, and brought her back home, where I'm doing the chat from my home office … more homemade pasta!
I'm curious to hear what all of you are making at home — what special dishes? What caloric indulgences?
This is a little late on the response, but I would like to follow up with Navy yard from your January 26 chat, in response to his incident at Sonoma.
We would like to sincerely apologize for the incident and also assure them that we have dealt with the person responsible for your unpleasant experience. We constantly strive to make our customers feel welcome and to accommodate them to the best of our ability. Whether it was Restaurant Week or not our guest should have experienced a good meal.
So, if you are able to forward me Navy Yard's email, I would like to be in touch with him or her so we may resolve this and hopefully regain their business.
Nicholas Sharpe Chef de cuisine Sonoma Restaurant and WIne Bar
Nicholas, thank you for writing in.
If you would, please forward along your email address to MY email address — firstname.lastname@example.org …
And if you're out there, Navy Yard chatter, please do the same. I'll be happy to make the connection.
Boy, there's a lot there that I like.
The quenelles de poisson, the steak tartare, the lobster bisque, the crispy veal sweetbreads with a dice of braised veal tongue …
Enjoy yourself. It's ideal food for weather like this.
Some wonderful desserts, too, and one of the best cheese selections around.
Todd, please don't hate me if I send you this as I know you might very well be Komi's #1 fan in this town, but here it goes
My husband, I and an other couple went to Komi few days ago for our first time visit to the # 1 restaurant in Washington. We are foodies and done Cityzen, Chef's Table at Teatro Goldoni, Chef 's Table at Little Inn in Washington, 2941 and tasting room at Eve. After trying Komi the above restaurants, in my opinion should be ranked in the top 5 in no specific orders: they are all wonderful and unique experiences
Why didn't we like Komi? There is no wine list available and the wines listed are at most ok with few exceptions.
The food: 1- No bread served at the table at the entire dinner 2- For $125 we were expecting to eat some food and not leave hungry 3- The service even if very friendly and caring at times it turned into " i have no time for this attitude once we asked when the real food would actually arrive to our table 4- The first 3 courses consisted in a thin sliver of raw fish my 3 years old could prepare no problem: crystalized salt and olive oil, maybe a little chives in the third one 5- The pasta course just smelly with sea urchins fished from the Potomac it seems like…the other two pastas decent but still not what pasta supposed to be 6- The octopus with yougurt : magnificent!! The cube of caesar salad: Frito Lays could have done better 7- NO PARKING !!! for $1000 dinner for 4 this is unreal 8- The date filled with mascarpone had about a half of spoon of salt on it and they must have warmed it in the microwave as it was so hot it burned everyone's lips at the table and, sorry but it tasted horrible!!! 9- The desserts were more like dry cookies left on a shelf for few weeks and adorned with sauces that did not match at all. 10- The baby lamb was GREAT So after this evening I asked myself maybe I am the only one who felt this way about our dinner in the # 1 spot in Washington and maybe I am missing something, but my whole table shared my frustration as well.
A couple on their way out displayed their disappointment as well when they looked at us and they asked: How much did they take you for tonight? My question to you is: did you think we just had a bad night or maybe this restaurant is just not what you make appear it to be? We woke up the next morning with a concussion and $1000 lighter Totally NOT WORTH IT
I don't think Komi is for everybody, and I have said that many, many times. But I do think it's the best, most rewarding experience in the city.
It's more personal than any of those other restaurants you mention, more idiosyncratic, more individual, more intimate, more soulful, more sensual.
It is not at all what a lot of people look for in a fine dining restaurant. It's not a show, it's not a richly indulgent, pampering experience the way a lot of hotel and corporate-backed restaurants can be, it's not a place that caters to fat cats and expense accounts and other insiders. Its pacing, its mood, its slow lingering way, its hour-plus mezzethakia course, its encouragement of communal-style dining — these things are wonderful things, but they are not to everybody's liking, and they are not things that great restaurants in this city have traditionally served up. In many, many ways, it is an anti-Washington restaurant.
It sounds to me as though your tastes in food just don't jibe with the Komi way. Quickly, because I don't have time to get into all of these points you made …
Bread service? Doesn't fit with what the restaurant is trying to do.
Asking the staff when the "real food" is going to arrive sounds, to my ears, like a form of bullying, of imposing your will on the restaurant. At the very least, it doesn't come from a place of openness and adventure.
I've never left hungry from any of my meals there.
No parking? It's not a hotel. It's a city restaurant. In a townhouse. It is what it is.
I have never, ever encountered anything smelly or fishy — or anything off, or anywhere close to it — at any meal I've eaten at Komi.
Thanks for including some comfort food places on your list 25. We went there to relax and just hang out with som friends visiting from Chicago and they loved it too! We get tired of every restaurant trying to out slick each ofther and sometimes just need a hang out too. Cheers to your 25! Can't wait for the next discovery. -DB
Went where? Which of the 25 was it you enjoyed so much? I'd like to know, and I'm sure everyone out there would, too.
If we don't hear back from you, thanks anyway for the feedback.
The list, remember, is a list of favorites. Places I gravitate to, that that please me on any number of levels as an eater and diner.
I agree with you. If it were all about the tapas and the wines, Taberna would have retained a spot in the Top 100.
But the cooking has been pretty uninspired of late. My most recent meal there was mediocre — at best. And at prices that are comparable with the most expensive restaurants in the city.
Thanks for including my Mia's experience. I will be interested to hear Melissa's explanation.
My take is that the host shouldn't have told me there were no exceptions, and Melissa shouldn't have defended his remarks.
I agree. I would have loved to sit and nurse a drink…as I have done there before.
Still no word from Mia's …
Headed to NYC in a few weeks. Any must dos? Looking for anything from a casual pizza spot to a special occasion type place. Thoughts??
In Manhattan, I really like Otto, Mario Batali's pizza joint. Super-thin, crispy pies. And a lot of fun snacks, or small plates, to accessorize a meal, too.
Grimaldi in Brooklyn is a treat, if you can make it there. And if you're willing to wait in line for a while.
How special is the special occasion? In other words, how much are you willing to shell out for a dinner? Le Bernardin and Per Se are exquisite at every level. Daniel, Daniel Boulud's place, is terrific.
Less expensive, less showy, but just as rewarding: Babbo, another Battali place, DBBistro Moderne and Cafe Boulud (both by Boulud) and Momofuku Ko (David Chang's place).
I wrote in last week for a suggestion to take my friend from NYC for dinner on Friday night. Since I was up in the air between Central and Rasika, I asked her if she wanted American/French or Indian and she said she preferred Indian.
We had 6:15 reservations and the dining room was about half full but the bar was completely empty. The snow had started and seemed to be scaring people away (and the caps game). Well, she was impressed and I enjoyed my food. however, I wasn't blown away.
I had the Lamb Korma. It was good but didn't have any particular spice to it. My friend had a chicken curry. We shared some naan and the spinach appetizer. I really thought it was good but not the revelation that a lot of people seem to claim. I would be just as happy at Bombay Curry Company in Alexandria or even Tandoori Nights in Clarendon. Did I just order the wrong thing? Should I have gotten something that was oven baked like the lamb chops? I was also a little discouraged by the final bill. If it wasn't that different from other Indian I have had, I thought $50/person seemed like a lot. Paying for the Naan (Zaytinya brings that bread out like it's the end of the world) and $12 for the cocktails seemed a bit high to me. It seems that other places in the area are more in the $9-$10 range.
Since it has such good reviews, I would like to try it again. I just need to know what to do differently. thanks!
I hear you.
But listen … a hundred bucks for two, in a settling like that, with plates and cutlery like that, in an area like that? That's not bad, considering.
What makes it different from other Indian? The quality of the meats and seafood, the delicacy of the spicing, the plating. Among other things …
I agree with you, there are some dishes, particularly some curries, that are not demonstrably that different from what you'd find at a really, really good curry shop. But other dishes represent real achievements. I think the rogan josh is the best around. The lobster lababdar is very spicy, but also very refined. The black cod is one of the great dishes in the city.
My take is that you ordered more conventionally Indian, in a restaurant that is not conventionally Indian.
One final thought: paying for the naan. Why is this a surprise? All Indian restaurants I can think of charge. Why shouldn't they for fresh, hot, made-to-order bread? (By the way, Zaytinya isn't Indian, and its pitas are not baked to order.)
I found the post complaining about Komi offensive.
While I understand that people have right to not like a place or to disagree, I am inclined to think that the OP who gave a litany or reasons why Komi isn't all that great and also claims to be a foodie–I would have to question and beg to differ.
The OP sounds like they dine at a lot of expensive places but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are foodies. They just happen to spend a lot of money of food–and hopefully can afford to do so. It does not automatically earn them the status of foodie or to know what makes for a good/bad/soaring dining experience.
The litany of inadequates at Komi only serves to me that they are not foodies because they do not understand what the Komi dining experience is all about. Additionally, to say that their 3-year old could have plated the sliver of raw fish is pretty insulting because unless that 3-year old is artistically and perhaps even a culinary genius, I doubt that statement is true–and the fact that the OP says that makes their words even less credible with me. Just sayin'
I can't disagree with any of this. Very well put.
I think you have to meet a restaurant on its terms, not your own. I know there are those who will disagree with me, and I hear from them all the time. There are many, many people I have corresponded with over the years who believe that their money talks. Who believe that their extensive dining resume — their travels, their notches on their belt — is an entitlement.
I see a lot of that in this city. An awful lot of that.
One of the great things about Komi, to me, is that it is utterly unconcerned with that game. Its chef and owner refuses to play.
That frustrates a lot of people, believe me. Perhaps not real food lovers. Not food-adventures. But people who are accustomed to having a place do its bidding.
This is where the star system that most publications have in place is unfortunate, and where, I confess, I have real misgivings as a lover of food in this city. I have misgivings giving Komi four stars, and according it a top ranking, because it changes the way people perceive a place like this — a personal, idiosyncratic, highly individual place. Komi is not CityZen, it's not Citronelle, it's not the Inn at Little Washington, etc.. It's not, and was never meant to be. But for some, that rating and ranking changes everything.
Tonight I am going to make well on the old adage of turning lemons into lemonade by turning snow into…snow cream!
I haven't had it in ages and just remembered it. You can't make it with the first few snows, as you need a few to clean the air and ensure you are using pure (as possible) snow. So now is certainly the time.
There are many variations on the recipe, but I think they are all fairly similar: – Snow – Sugar – Vanilla extract (or almond – yum!) – Milk/cream/half and half/sweetened condensed milk Put aluminum bowl out when it first starts to snow. Add milk or cream, vanilla and sugar to taste, mix very well and add mixture to snow to taste. Put the mixture in the freezer and take it out every now and then to stir it up some so it won't become a solid block of ice. Then eat it! I don't think you can really mess this up. Kids will love it. I'm also looking at my bar and trying to determine if mixing in a good bourbon would work.
Thanks for sharing this.
You've inspired me to set out a bowl myself tonight, as another 49 inches of snow dumps down on us and leaves us stranded once again.
Explain a little more fully, though, if you can why we can't — or shouldn't? — use any existing snow. Won't taste as good?
What gives? I suddenly stopped receiving the Kliman online e-mails…and I love you buddy, but it's a struggle for me to remember to check the website (unfortunately I have to work during the days when the chat takes place).
Anyway I'm just trying to figure out if the e-mails stopped for everyone or what.
By the way how did you get the glamorous job of being a food critic? Seriously if an ad were posted: "Get paid to eat out…" I think the line would be around the block. You must be very lucky, or have excellent taste..I'll let you guess which I suspect. 😉
p.s. I love the chats…I hope I can figure out the e-mail thing so I don't miss them.
I'll look into the email problem when I'm done this afternoon. Thanks for the heads-up, MV.
As for the job … Well, here's the thing about that, and I'm not complaining at all by saying this, just pointing out the facts, as it were: I don't get paid to eat out. I get paid to write about what I eat out.
Everybody eats, we know that. But can everybody write? Can most people write? As we now also know from reading Yelp and other food blogs and foodie forums, a lot of people like to jot down their experiences. Most are unreadable. That's the charitable way of putting it. I mean it, really, really awful. Grammatical problems, syntactical problems, logical problems — but okay, fine, it's the web, it's typing, it's not writing. But then, in addition to all that: meandering, indulgent, juvenile, narcissistic, vain, gratuitously hurtful … and sometimes just plain BORING.
And notice that we haven't even gotten around to talk about dishes, and what the chef is intending, etc., etc.
It shouldn't be mushy. Slippery, soft, silken — all those are accurate adjectives. But mushy, no.
It's a really good question.
I've done a lot of traveling, and not just outside the country, but also within the country. It's something I love to do, for one thing, and to me so much of traveling is eating. Eating not just as sustenance, or as entertainment — but as a means of exploration, of trying to learn about the identity of a place and a people.
One of the great things about living in this area is the opportunity to partake of what I call armchair travel — eating the cuisines of all the many different cultures that call the area their home. And I've also been very privileged to have been invited into people's homes, where they shared their respective cultures with me by cooking for me, and, in some cases, by letting me cook alongside them.
I've also done a lot of playing with these flavors, as it were, in the kitchen, the better to learn the dishes I've eaten from the inside out.
So, to answer the question more specifically … Those experiences have given me a foundation. I've learned the traditions these dishes spring from, I've learned the combinations and variations, I know the proportions, etc. I have a starting point for the things I taste.
Ultimately, it comes down to what tastes good, but that decision is not made in a vacuum. It is made within the context of all I have tasted, of all I have cooked, etc.
Love the chats every week. What do you know about the food and wine festival in dc this weekend? Worth going?
Depends on what your expectations are. I think it ought to be fun, but I wouldn't expect to be blown away.
Of course, by the weekend, having been pretty well sequestered for a week now by this awful snow siege, we'll all be dying to get out the house to do SOMEthing …
Thanks for the alternative suggestion on what to order at Rasika. I must have passed right by the black cod dish because I think I would have ordered there.
The Lamb raganjosh is now also on my list.
I am fairly new to Indian food so maybe you can help me out. you say that I ordered fairly conventional Indian food at a non conventional place. Are there any magic words I can look for to understand what I might be getting?
The waitress was a litle disinterested so I didn't ask her. however, I would love to know how to best order at a nice place like Rasika. Also, I wasn't complaining about the bill as being too high. I was just surpised by it.
A great night though so it's all good
No magic words, but it might help to know what Rasika is trying to attempt.
The idea, here — or the big idea, I should say — is to marry Western-style presentation and emphasis with Indian spices, flavors and traditions.
So take the rogan josh as an example. At a curry shop, the dish is done with browned cubes of lamb submerged in a brick-colored gravy.
Rasika doesn't serve cubes of lamb, it serves a lamb shank — not so very different from a so-called Modern American restaurant or bistro. The shank dominates the plate, since meat in the West is so central to our thinking about our meals. The gravy has much of the punch and complexity of the original, but it is put to different use. It is presented as a sauce.
Looks Indian, tastes Indian — but eats Western.
The comment that offended me most about the Komi message was the question about when the "real food" would arrive.
That's insulting to any restaurant and, had they done any research before going to Komi, they would have known it would begin with a dozen or so tiny mezze. It's an integral part of the experience.
That portion of the meal is no less "real" than any other. The comment about a 3 year old being able to plate the fish was also a pretty strong sign that these people had no clue. While I enjoyed eating at Komi, I preferred it when they still had an la carte menu. However, it's the chef's decision to serve the food the way he wants.
That comment about the 3-year-old reminded me of the familiar insult lobbed by many museum-goers, as they browse the rooms of Modernist art — art, by the way, that has been with us a CENTURY now: "My 3 year-old could paint that."
Well, no she can't.
My father, an artist, had a familiar refrain himself, whenever he would encounter a comment born of ignorance like that: "Where were they when the page was blank?"
I don't think restaurants are comparable to works of art, but I do think that people ought to approach a place — or a book, or a film, or what have you — on its own terms. We owe it to ourselves, and not just to the artist or chef or writer, to be open and receptive to an experience.
Re: Eating while traveling, I couldn't agree with you more Todd.
I recently had the privilege of spending three weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam with my girlfriend, and experiencing not just the local cuisine by the fusion of local ingredients with more traditional European cooking methods was unbelievable.
As a result of this experience, our future travel plans are almost entirely food/drink based for the next few years in hopes of replicating the experience we had in Southeast Asia.
I think you were spot on in noting that food/cooking are truly a great way to experience what new and exotic locales have to offer, not merely in flavors, but techniques/presentations/etc.
Not merely in flavors or in techniques/presentations, either. But in learning about people. About what matters to them.
Food as a way to access the deeper, more interesting parts of a culture and a society. Food as a point of entry.
Food as a beginning, and not an end.
Hey Todd, me again with the snow cream.
I think if you use the first snow of the season, you are going to get all the nastiness/pollution in the air (especially in the city) – at least that's what my mom always said, and we lived in the country. And if you use snow that's already been on the ground a while, it's either really hard or had kids/pets/cars traipsing through it.
I would equate using old snow to using old/freezer-burned ice in a really delicate cocktail. The taste of bad ice will easily ruin the drink. Though I guess you could do a test batch now – there's plenty to go around. Also, wouldn't it more fun to have to actually wait for the bowl to fill up?
And I can't wait to make a batch tonight. Thanks again for the reminder.
Stay warm, everyone, and try to do some good, old-fashioned cooking tonight and tomorrow if you have the time and goods.
Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK]
Submit your question in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday at 11 AM.