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 9th.
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
Chiming in a bit late, but I wanted to put my two cents in about the Rasika comments.
Having eaten here a few times I find that ordering mostly, or all, vegetarian is the way to go if you are open to it. You can get 3-4 vegetarian "sides", which are generous, for the same price as an entree.
Our table of 4 was able to order all of the vegetarian dishes (in side size– there are two sizes) plus a bunch of apps and breads, etc, and it was only about $30 a person in the end (including a couple of meat apps for the omnivores). So, if you are up for a hearty yet meat free meal I would suggest giving it a go.
Good tips, Chev.
And ordering all-veg — or even, heavily veg — is a great way of keeping the bill down, too. Thanks for chiming in, even belatedly.
Hi Todd –
Thanks for your chats. Look forward to them every Tuesday.
My boyfriend was away for valentine's day and I'd like to make a reservation for this Tuesday. I'm thinking Oya, primarily b/c it's close to where I work and some place different from our usual Logan Circle restaurants.
Our favorite neighborhood restaurant is Posto – any recommendations for a similar type of place (yes, we do like Potenza!).
Logan, thanks for the kind words.
There are a number of places around there I can see forgoing Oya in favor of … Cafe du Parc, Rasika, the (relatively) new Cedar, all in Penn Quarter.
All are cozy — a must for a V-day celebration — and all are rewarding in their own ways.
I hope one of them works out for you and your boyfriend!
I had a dish I can't stop thinking about….here I go salivating again….the cod with ginger scallion and celery at J&G.
My friend and I, both hugely pregnant, decided to splurge on a lunch out. They let us retain a leisurely pace, were so very graceful, and while our apps were just lovely (especially the unique and perfect take on a wild mushroom rissotto), I remembered you suggested their fish.
OH! It was spicy, and strong and not dressed down in flavor or intensity– a risk you could say– and it was divine, moist, tender, tongue dancing and the celery gave it this crunch….yum.
And the molten chocolate cake, regardless of it's cliched staus (we are pregnant so no chocolate was hardly an option) was divine.
They suggested we come back with babies for lunch this summer on their new patio, and said that children are welcome anytime if we felt comfortable bringing them (not having one yet the quiet, cavernous room seems like a dangerous place until you can restaurant train them)….but the patio sounds like a dream.
Oh, and this was on their special prix-fixe lunch menu. Have you had this fish?
I have. It's terrific. And the celery is such an important component of this — it's hard to explain to anyone who has not eaten it, and it sounds a little ridiculous to assert the centrality of celery to any dish that's not gumbo, but there you are.
You called the molten chocolate cake a cliche, and it's hard to argue with that — except here. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the J and G of the restaurant's name, is the inventor of the dessert. If anyone ought to be serving it, still, it's J-G. It's an exceptional version, by the way.
One of the things that impresses me about the restaurant — the 27th, I want to say, of the Vongerichten empire — is the pricing. You can eat well, here, and drink well, for about half the cost of eating and drinking at some of the elites of the fine dining scene in this city.
That's the upside, as Mel Kiper Jr. would say, of empire: buying at high volume keeps costs down across the board. The downside: a sense of eating in a place that could be anywhere, in any upscale property or any hotel, in the world. I think that J&G smooths over this problem, largely, by being so consistent, and by offering such smooth and professional service — service that never is stiff, and never descends into obsequiousness.
That would be my piece.
A long, personal essay on my travels in pursuit of Chang across three states and over three years. About 7,000 words.
Just wanted to write in with a quick comment. My bf and I went to Ris on Sat. night for an early VDay dinner before the national symphony orchestra at the Kennedy Center.
We were definitely among the younger patrons in the dining room, but all the food was delicious, especially the pear/apple pot pie for dessert… we love dessert and it is definitely up there for our new fav. dessert in the city. A little bit more rum raisin ice cream would have been great, but that is really nit-picking.
Our service was also pretty good for the most part, although there were a few moments when we felt our waitress hovered, and then other moments when we couldn't find her (like when we wanted to get the check and pay).
Overall though, it was a really wonderful experience. I would recommend it! Thanks for all you do – love your chats!
I think Ris is an interesting place, mostly because it seems such a repudiation of everything you tend to see in restaurants in DC these days.
It's quiet and sophisticated, but not in any way chic — clearly, comfort matters more to Ris Lacoste than being considered chic, or of the moment. Its crowds are anything but the hordes of 20- and 30-year olds you see descending on the city's dining rooms. It's as if a lot of people in their 50s and 60s are saying to themselves, and to one another: "Finally. Finally a place for adults." (I think they're also saying that about Plume.)
Not that Ris is any more "adult" than anywhere else — but there's a stubborn insistence, here, a refusal to bow to prevailing trends, that seems to chime with older diners, diners who are more traditional in their tastes. And the menu — another rejection, of fusion, of small plates, of whimsy, of "our chef's take on." I haven't eaten there enough to make large pronouncements about the cooking, but I will say that I enjoy the place — even if no particular dish (aside from the scallop margarita) wows me — even if no single aspect of the experience stays with me.
just wanted to let you know that like montgomery village mentioned in chat 2/9 about no longer getting your chats — i, too have not been getting them on a regular basis. they've been spotty–one here and there.
i thought maybe you'd been away or something…really enjoy reading along and hope to continue doing so. thanks!
Thanks for reminding me about this.
I checked in with Catherine Andrews, the magazine's online director, and she wrote back to say that it's possible the email blasts are being sucked into spam folders. If you're still subscribed to the email list, that's "the main possibility," in Catherine's words.
Her advice: Check your spam folders, and add email@example.com to your address books to ensure you receive them.
And if none of these things work — well, just send me another note next week on the chat or via email, and we'll investigate further. … I'm sorry it's happening, and I hope this easy answer is THE answer.
Valentine's Dinner: Went to Passage to India, Bethesda (there is one in Winchester, but no connection) and was really impressed with the the complexity of dishes.
We all shared the Valentine Specials: Lobster Karvari (sp ?), Seafood Curry, Lamb Coco and Panir Kefta. Every dish was a standout and coupled with gracious service made our evening a really memorable one.
They were not packed which was a blessing since we enjoyed a leisurely 2.5 hours of dining.
Wish we had gone there sooner but it is quite a drive from Reston. Sigh!!
Start off with an order of edamame and a round of margaritas (they're good and strong). Then: crunchy shrimp handroll, the pork buns, the crispy shrimp, the grilled baby octopus.
What to avoid: the shrimp and pork fried rice, the tuna ceviche, the flatbreads.
Desserts have improved, and gotten bigger, too, but I'm still not inclined to recommend them.
Re: Rasika… I went here for the first time this weekend to celebrate my 3 yr anniversary with my otherwise-food-adventurous boyfriend who has refused to eat Indian food for the duration of those 3 years.
His review: "The best meal I have had in DC".
We ordered the malai chicken tikka, shrimp malai curry (gorgeous, huge, fresh shrimp in a sauce so good I had to keep myself from licking the bowl), and the chicken green masala (highly recommend for anyone who likes heat).
Unfortunately I think Rasika may have spoiled him and no other Indian restaurant will be able to live up to that meal!
I understand the enthusiasm, but it's really not right to compare Rasika to the city's other Indian restaurants, particularly its curry shops.
I really like Delhi Club, for instance. It's not an elegant meal, it's not an eye-opening meal. But it's also not trying to be any of these things — it is what it is, and wonderfully so, I think. it's good, it's inexpensive, and most of the time you're not looking for something so refined and special.
I love your "where I would spend my own money" list, thanks for it!
So, my husband and I have a rare free weekend and I've scheduled massages in Georgetown on Saturday. I'd like to do a late lunch somewhere in Georgetown, something leisurely and delicious (but probably not Italian, as we are moving to Italy soon, so want to wait).
Where would you suggest? Thanks.
I'll tell you, Georgetown is pretty much a dining wasteland these days — Citronelle excepted. Unfortunately, it's never open for lunch.
My most recent meal at Leopold's Kafe + Konditorei was depressing. Service has always ranged from indifferent to awful, and management has always been indifferent to the indifference and awfulness. But the food was always good, more precise, more careful, than it probably needed to be. Well, it's not precise and careful anymore, if my last dinner is typical. I can't recommend it anymore, except perhaps for a few of the goodies in the lighted pastry case. Indifferent service, indifferent management, and now indifferent cooking.
What to tell you?
I'd venture into Palisades and have lunch at the remarkably consistent, value-conscious Kotobuki, one of my favorite stops in the entire area for sushi and Japanese snacks. A small, serene oasis. BlackSalt, another good option, and also in Palisades, is closed for lunch on Saturday.
It's a good question.
But maybe we first need to define our terms a little. I usually think of "foodie" in a few different ways. There are the foodies who can't wait to tell you what city they have just returned from (often somewhere in Europe), and what they know about a top chef, and how they've eaten 75 times at Patrick O'Connell's Inn at Little Washington, and how all of this — all of these things, together — qualifies them to expound at length on a particular restaurant, or a particular dining scene, or the worth of a person to express a view about something as essential and vital as, oh, a dish.
If you think I'm exaggerating, I'm not. Not even close. That line about having eaten 75 times at the Inn, that came from an email correspondent of mine some months back.
This, of course, is an extreme example — although extreme examples abound in the food world.
There are also the foodies who care about where they shop, and what they buy, and what their choices say about them and the world, and who can muse upon the various meanings of a chicken for hours upon hours. These foodies are not big restaurant goers, necessarily, but they care a great deal about what they eat and where and why.
The person who loves to eat and drink and who lives to eat, as they say — this person is a foodie too. Someone who spends free time thinking about food, and keeping up with restaurants, and trying out new restaurants, and sharing news of discoveries with friends and family.
A subset of this last description is the food-adventurer, which is a little different. This is a person who doesn't need to be told what is good — who would rather find out for himself. Who loves the seeking as much as the finding. Who sees restaurants as portals into cultures. Who loves the idea of armchair travel. Who doesn't care about drapery or fixtures or carpets — only deliciousness.
So … to answer the question. I think, yes, a vegetarian or vegan can be a foodie. At least, one kind of foodie.
I have to say, though, I haven't meat a lot of vegetarians and vegans who I would think of as food-adventurers. Nor do they tend to be the sorts of people who frequent big, expensive restaurants to the point that they love the game of it, and love to make pompous pronouncements about their importance. I don't even know a lot of vegetarians and vegans who keep up with the food scene, or who make the rounds of new openings, etc.
Went to Zaytinya for V-day and I was really surprised by one dish, in particular. The brussel sprouts were absolutely FAN-TASTIC!
Honestly, because they are flash-fried before being finished in the oven, they were reminiscent of the Plak Chaat at Rasika. Had them? I've never had better.
I had the chance to eat at J&G Steakhouse this weekend and really enjoyed. The place is so grand and beautiful but our table was sectioned off and intimate. I loved the drink menu – fun and delicious, as well as the wine list. For an appetizer I had the foie gras brulee. Simply delicious! Do you know what they brulee the top with? Didn't taste sweet, just provided that perfect touch of crispy bunt-ness.
I had the lobster with spaetzle and winter veggies as my entree and it was great – the lobster cooked to perfection. My date had the short ribs w/ caramelized onion and jalepeno spinach. Thankfully he let me pick at it all night…it was falling apart and juicy and delish. For desert we had the caramel pot de creme and the best glass of cuvee I've ever had (1997 domaine de la bergerie coteaux du layon cuvee fragrance).
Our waiter was super friendly and seemed to know the menu inside and out. The only bummer was a really cheap table that rocked back and forth all night – seemed weird in an otherwise perfect environment. That small issue, however, won't keep this food lover from returning!
Lots of love for J&G today.
Which is funny, because I've had several people come up to me over the past few weeks — right on the heels of the 100 Best issue — saying something to the effect of: "What do you like about it? I didn't think it was all that."
If "all that" = mind-blowing, then no, it's not "all that." But it's an excellent restaurant, all the way around.
Dear Todd, there was a rumor not too long ago of a high profile chef in Washington working on a project.
A new idea of executing very very simple food at very very affordable prices. Any news about the name of the chef? Where this restaurant will be, mostly if this project is still alive
Still alive, from what I understand. I just spoke with my tipster about this last week.
What is not alive, is the original location. That's dead in the water at this point. Which is too bad, because it would have been an ideal spot.
But yes, very simple food, very affordable prices, and a very, very streamlined operation.
I can't divulge the name of the chef, except to say that it is not just a high-profile chef but to me, anyway, the highest profile chef.
There is a restaurant near me that has a wide selection of craft beer in both 12 and 22oz bottles. If I order a bottle of beer, particularly a larger one, and the waiter brings it to me open, what is the appropriate response if he brings me the wrong bottle?
Its not like a bottle of wine that you can send back for them to serve by the glass. Once a bottle of beer is opened…well, it needs to be drunk 🙂 On one hand, I feel like I should get what I ordered, particularly if I ordered it to complement my meal. On the other hand, as a beer lover, I'd hate to let a good beer go to waste.
In any case, I told the waiter that he brought me the wrong beer but I kept it and paid for it. Your thoughts?
I think he should let you keep the "wrong" beer, at no charge, and bring you the beer you asked for as well. And charge you for that.
It's funny how restaurants deal with this. Most of the time, if something is wrong about a dish — even if that something wrong is a small something — the server whisks the plate away as if it had caused offense, and must be removed from your sight at once.
Why? Why not just leave it? Leave it, and bring a new, correct dish. I've seen this happen a couple of times recently with dessert. It just seems odd to me. Leave it, let the table pick at it.
Do you want to have that offal transformed into something slightly refined? Then you could try, for instance, the new Eola, off Dupont Circle — chef Daniel Singhofen's townhouse restaurant, which I wrote about for the magazine in February. Chicken-fried tongue is one of the better starters on the menu. The pork croquettes, likewise, are made from pig innards.
If you want your offal unadorned and untransformed, then you have a lot of options.
My advice would be to drive to La Limeña in Rockville for the marvelous beef hearts — which are marinated, skewered, and then tossed onto an open flame, which chars the exterior and gives them even more interest. I think hearts are a good, reasonably safe place to start for the offal novice.
You could also head to La Fondita, or La Sirenita, the one in Hyattsville, the other in Riverdale, for the tasty tongue tacos. Another good, safe way to begin your initiation.
If you like either of these, and you want to take a significant step up, then head to Meaza, in Arlington, or Etete, in DC — both Ethiopian restaurants — and order the dulet, or lamb tripe.
I'll be curious to hear what you end up trying. Drop me a line and let me know, OK?
Meantime, I'm off to a barbecue lunch to commemorate a wrenchingly painful day, one year ago …
Be well, everyone, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK … ]
Submit your question in advance for next week's chat here.