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 March 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
The Liberty Tavern, 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
Your article about sous-vide and Cuisine Solutions was very interesting, but it didn't mention the word PLASTIC.
This technique obviously creates a whole lot of plastic garbage. Hmmm. Aside from that, I would like to know what kind of plastic is used, and its possible toxicity. Heating plastic, as we know, releases chemicals into the liquid. Has this been explored?
Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in.
It's interesting what you bring up. I didn't get into that issue because the scope of the piece was not about the environment and healthful eating.
And actually, I haven't read anything anywhere on the subject of plastics in cooking. It might make for something interesting. Or not; I would imagine the CS scientists have looked into the ways that plastic does or doesn't affect the food.
Big fan of the chats. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the restaurant/food scene on H Street NE? Places like Granville Moore, Sticky Rice, Taylors, H Street Country Club have been open for awhile, but there are lots of new things slated to open within the next few months, including an Ethiopian place, beer garden, and ramen & dumpling restaurant.
Anything you like or anything you are looking forward to?
Nothing in particular I'm looking forward to, no.
I imagine what's coming — the quality of the places — is going to be pretty similar to what's already there. And what's already there is — okay. Interesting. Unfailingly interesting. But not all that wonderful.
Granville Moore trailed off, Sticky Rice never was very good to begin with, H Street is a gimmick, and Taylor ought to be better than it is.
I had the roast pork, broccoli rabe and provolone sandwich there recently, and couldn't finish it — it was like biting into layers and layers of fat. The rabe was the woody stems, and the provolone was portioned out in unsatisfying pieces — not the nice, long blanket of cheese. I loved my first few bites, the flavor was right on, but the fat turned my stomach and I felt bloated and couldn't go on. And I didn't eat again for 7 hours after.
And the sausage on a sausage and pepper sandwich was overcooked.
I applaud Taylor for bulking up its sandwiches, and for moving them closer to the zesty, generous ideal, but there's still work to be done.
First a compliment on your recent piece in the Oxford American. It was wonderfully written and thoughtful.
There is apparently a new restaurant being constructed in McLean in an old Box Office Video space. We can see a sign but see no evidence of any work on the place in many moons. Any information on what this will be or when?
I'll look into it, but for the moment, no, I know nothing about it.
Thanks for reading the Ox Am piece, and thanks for the compliment; I appreciate it. It's a great issue, generally — I encourage you and anyone else to look for it and pick it up. Some great reading in there …
Thanks for the heads-up. I like muesli. And — just taking a look now at The Google, as my good friend Matt calls it — it appears the company is big into eco-consciousness, or at least — a kind of corporate eco-consciousness — and local farms, etc., etc. Good.
And this is neat — "if you bring us your own bowl, we will gladly wash it and fill it with your meal." A feel-good eco-friendly policy, I suppose, but why wash what I bring you? Are my belongings not clean enough?
They also promise to bike or walk all deliveries.
Interesting. But — weird, too, don't you think?
All this, of course, is nice mission talk, and it will surely get them a lot of pub — just like, uh, now — but of course doing good and thinking good thoughts is not the same as tasting good and being good. And restaurants nowadays who endeavor to be green and local would do well to remember this.
I am thinking of the very disappointing Mixt Greens, on 19th St., in D.C.
Back from Charleston, and thanks a ton for the recommendations of Fig and Charleston Grill. Both were fantastic meals, and I've also got to give a shout out to the good folks at Muse, both for some great cooking as well as making a solo business traveler feel like a regular.
Next up on the list is Dallas, so any thoughts on where to dine while in the Lone Star State?
Don't know enough about Dallas at the moment to offer a rec. Can anybody else chime in with a suggestion?
And I'm so glad to hear Fig and Charleston Grille were so good. I think they're terrific spots. I don't know about Muse; what can you tell me about it?
I would like to take this opporunity to thank everyone of this weekly chat forum for the great support over the past 24 months.
I will not speculate on what happened, rather concentrate on the future in order to regroup and deliver a better quality product. I have poured my heart, life and passion into a project that gave me plenty of satisfaction. I don’t regret even a minute of it and I will cherish forever what we have accomplished over the past 2 years.
I will now take a break from the every day restaurant routine with the hope that in few months I will be welcome again in Washington and in this forum hopefully discussing the opening of my new restaurant. Thank you very much
Enzo Fargione ex Teatro Goldoni
Thank you, Enzo.
And good luck to you on your next restaurant.
Meskerem is not just as good.
If you're looking for another Ethiopian restaurant in the city, I'd recommend Madjet, on U St. It's not as good as Etete, either — the cooking tends to be heavier — but it's good, and a fantastic experience in addition because of the tight quarters and the lively atmosphere. Service is more approachable and personable, too, than Etete.
I also like Axum, one of the stalwarts of DC's Ethiopian dining scene. Axum has been around a long, long time.
Steve here. Although I consider a Peter Chang meal at China Star in Fairfax as one of the best meals of my life, I must say that Chef Li at Grace Garden in Odenton, MD is capable of great, great Hong Kong-style cooking that is impressive on the same level.
However, some of those dishes need 2 or 3 days advance notice (as indicated on the menu). Once you do that, there are even more dishes not on the menu that he can prepare with notice. Not for everyday eating, but a meal that can equal some of the area's top kitchens. I know you've been to Grace Garden from a chat comment a few months back. What did you have there?
Steve, good to have you back on this morning …
I've been to Grace Garden several times, and eaten my way through much of the standing menu — I've never called ahead for the advance-notice dishes. I like the place, but I've never been able to work up the same enthusiasm for it as some of its great loyalists. And I don't think chef Li is in the same discussion as Chang, from what I've seen.
The big problem on my visits has been the oil. I think it's a case of — he doesn't change it enough, he tends to use too much of it, or he doesn't have hot enough burners to get the temperature to the right level, and so the oil clings. I notice this with stir fry dishes and fried dishes both. I've had dishes that would have been terrific, if not for being too oily. I also suspect that he's frying both poultry and fish in the same oil.
For me, the standout remains the fish noodles, which I've had on two of my three visits. A great, great dish. Despite the residual oiliness.
This reminds me of when I was a kid, a latchkey kid, I guess you would say — although I never thought anything of it at the time, and still don't; is it really that strange for a kid not to have his mommy at home when he returns home from school? So anyway, I would come home and immediately get on the phone and call my mom at work. The question was always the same: "What should I have for my snack?"
And my mom would run down every choice in the house, from the fridge to the pantry, great leftovers, remains of homemade cakes, etc., and invariably I would reject the first six or seven or so — like a pitcher shaking off a signal from the catcher. All these riches, and yet I couldn't find something that I wanted to eat at that exact moment.
Anyway. How about Delhi Club?
Or Pho 75?
Or maybe — although getting slightly up there in price for some dishes — Harry's Tap Room?
I would guess they'll be doing some shooting at Whole Foods locations, and I would guess the 14th St. stop is something the producers will zero in on.
From all I've read, and all I've heard, people seem pretty excited about this.
Good morning! I'm coming to town this weekend for the AIPAC conference, and looking for somewhere to take my girlfriend Sunday night for dinner.
We're open to almost anything, as long as: 1) It won't need to be ages 21+, 2) It won't be super expensive (we're on a college budget), and 3) It's located near-ish the convention center. What do you recommend? I look forward to your suggestions!
You know what I'd probably do? I'd make a point of hitting PS 7's for its lounge menu.
The food is wonderful, fun and refined, and it's both more inexpensive and more lively than the dining room. Tuna sliders, a mini (and marvelous) version of the famous Primanti Bros. sandwich from Pittsburgh, some good flatbreads (I wish they'd bring back the terrific Buffalo Chicken wing), a superb burger …
And it's not far at all from the Convention Center.
Go, have a good time, and be sure to come back on next week and let us know how things went …
Thanks for your advice. We went to BLT Steak the other week, and the NY Strip was probably the best one I've had since Craftsteak in Vegas. Can't wait to try the kobe and wagyu steaks they have as well. Thanks again
Thank you, for writing in and letting me know.
As for the Kobe, I've had it. It's insanely costly, just so you know — $130 for a five ounce portion. Is it good? It is. It's very good. But you need at least one glass of wine to go with it, and more likely two — not so much to cut the insistent richness of the thing as to get it all down, to keep going.
And all that wine, and all that lushness, after eating, say, a popover and pate and an appetizer may send you very, very swiftly into a food coma, as it did me. Just a warning. Not the feeling you want, I don't think, after paying $130. Order carefully.
I've been an avid follower of your blog and column for quite some time, but did not feel the need to write in until now. For our anniversary, my significant other made reservations for Chef Enzo's table at Teatro Goldoni.
When he made the initial reservation, the General Manger called back to ask us to reschedule; Chef Enzo was going to be out of town on our chosen date. Because of this, my SO confirmed our new date no less than three times over the two months between when he made the reservation and the night before we were going to dine there.
The night before our reservation, he received a voicemail from the GM asking for a return call about our reservation. When my SO called back an hour later, the GM had left for the day, but not before wiping our reservation out of their system. While I understand that last-minute complications can arise, I would have expected the manager at a restaurant with a reputation for service and price point as high as Teatro Goldoni's to at least inform its diners that he would be canceling their reservations – even if only through a voicemail.
Apparently my standards for customer service are far too high. But this is not where the mistakes made by Teatro Goldoni's management end.
When my SO called the restaurant, he spoke to the assistant manager, who confirmed that our reservation no longer existed. No note was left to explain what had happened. Upon further inquiry, we discovered that Chef Enzo would not be present the night of our reservation. My SO told the assistant manager that he was disappointed with the lack of notification, and the assistant manager apologized, rebooked our reservation (yes, for the chef's table), and promised to "take care of us."
When my SO told me about this, I was highly skeptical – how can one dine at the chef's table when the chef himself will not be present? A call back to the restaurant the night of our reservation confirmed that the assistant manager had promised us something he could not deliver. We were told we could still partake in a standard tasting menu – no thanks.
While the GM was apologetic, there was no real effort made to show that our future business mattered to him. Should my SO had known that something fishy was going on when he was able to rebook the chef's table with a missing chef? Probably. Having never dined at a chef's table, it was reasonable for him to believe what the restaurant's management told him. Someone in a management role at the restaurant should never have promised that reservation.
Additionally, we should have been informed that our initial reservation was being cancelled. Am I asking too much here – notification that our reservation was cancelled and not being promised a reservation that we cannot have – and has the level of service in other "fine dining" establishments eroded this much?
What can I say? I think they handled this really badly.
I would bet that a lot of this was motivated by a desire on the part of Goldoni to play it coy as the kitchen changeover was in process, but still …
I also think you would be wrong to draw a larger message about the dining scene in this city from this drawn-out, poorly handled episode.
Where would be a good place to hold a 40th birthday party that has space to mingle in the bar (like reserving a big communal table) for friends to eat small plates, drink, and be merry? Somewhere in upper NW, Bethesda, Rockville, or Friendship Heights would be ideal for us. Thank for your assistance!
Here are some good options for you — places in your designated areas with good food and communal tables, both.
Many thanks to Eileen Daly, a graduate student who's working on a master's degree, for what follows. Eileen interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for my thoughts on the communal table — as symbol, as substance — and kindly sent along her list of the spots in the area that have 'em. What a timely conversation ..
I've winnowed that list to meet your needs, and also to make sure I'm recommending places I can stand by. I've also added the number of seats that each restaurant says its communal table seats.
Black's Bar & Kitchen (10)
Blue Duck Tavern (12-16)
Buck's Fishing & Camping (20)
Circle Bistro (12)
Masa 14 (16)
In re Mixt Greens comment above: I feel like I am a reasonable person who will pay a premium for good food. So I was excited when I went to visit FunXion, right next to the Mixt Greens in Penn Quarter.
However I found FunXion to be bank breakingly overpriced for what I was getting. The food was turning to ashes in my mouth thanks to the sticker shock ~15 dollars for a decent but small burger and cole slaw!
I feel similarly about Mixt Greens, which is unapologetic about charging 15 for basically a box of lettuce. I wish there was something betweent McDonalds and a high end restaurant that I could enjoy (other than Chipotle!)
Thanks for chiming in on this.
I'm with you.
And I think this is where you really have to hand it to Chipotle, because the quality — for fast-food — is high and the prices are cheap.
Of course, Chipotle is a massive chain. That means enormous buying power, which means lower prices across the board. The smaller outfits just can't match that, unfortunately.
I contend that the way to make this revolution more mainstream — and it needs to become more mainstream if it is going to change the way we eat and live — is for companies, whether new or existing, to figure out ways to serve good, wholesome, fresh food for cheap.
(Among those ways is involving the government, and putting pressure on it to subsidize the growing of much more produce than it currently does.)
Obviously there are people who are dying for good, wholesome food to be more widely available. And people who don't know that it would be a great thing for them, for their minds and bodies, for their communities — I think they would very quickly get on board, so long as they could have this stuff cheaply.
Asking people to spend more on food, or asking them to support farmers and farms and a concept of local — that's not going to change things. Or not change them enough. That's feel-goodism, and only the comfortable can afford to practice feel good-ism.
Make good, fresh food, and make it cheap.
RE: Muse in Charleston.
The venue itself is a converted city house downtown, with the dining area consisting of several distinct rooms, and the bar area being essentially a converted parlor. It's a cool and intimate layout, but more importantly it's finely done Italian cuisine with hints of Southern influence (this is Charleston after all) and a very thoughtful wine selection.
For those of us on a travel budget, a solid selection of wines by the glass was available (pet peeve when restaurants limit this option).
More on my FIG experience: started out with the Garlic soup, which was incredibly light (not quite frothy, but close) and wonderfully flavorful. For entree I went with the pork sirloin steak, and it was by far the best cut of pork I think I've ever had in terms of meat quality. The pork was served over a very traditional sweet potato puree, but topped with a mix onions/parsley/and possibly cilantro that kept reminding me of good pho. Whether or not this "pho" taste was the chef's intention, it was certainly a great mix of flavors and influences.
It's inching closer to lunch time, and now, of course, I'm ravenous …
Thanks for writing back. Curious to hear what you ate at Charleston Grille — though I know it'll only make things worse.
I think Bob Waggoner, the chef there, is a major talent.
A few of my friends and I are running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 11. For the past few year we have grabbed brunch afterwards.
The past three years we went to Clyde's, Matchbox, and Chef Geoff's. Clyde's was good, but not great. Matchbox was terrific but it waiting until 11 when we were ready to eat at 10 (after running 10 miles) was painful. Chef Geoff's was okay but kind of pricey and formal for a group of people who just wanted to stuff their faces. Can you recommend a place for a group of 12 on Sunday morning at 10am in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter/Metro Center area?
So far we are thinking Old Ebbit, Cedar, and Clyde's again but I am convinced we can do better.
If it's all about scarfing, then let it be all about scafing.
Both places I can think of that would be "better," you and your friends would probably dismiss as too expensive and/or too formal. Poste is one. It serves a great brunch, one of the best in the city. The other is Cafe du Parc.
Cedar is in line with these two. I think it does a good brunch, too. But again — too expensive and too formal.
Just go to Clyde's and have a good time and don't worry too much about it.
I'm a big Top Chef fan and am thrilled they're going to coming to spotlight all the cool stuff that's going on in the DC dining scene. Do you have any idea how a simple plebeian – not really involved in the food world – can get in on the action?
I'd hang around all the places that expensive people do.
So –The Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton, Cafe Milano, the streets of Georgetown (out-of-towners still think of it as hip), etc. I imagine you'll hear reports of sightings of cast members at places like Proof and Westend Bistro and The Source, etc, etc.
I recently read a discussion about what is an "exquisite palate" that I found interesting.
I heard three answers in response, separated by the following distinctions:
1. For the professional chef–the ability to create or make something by instinct
2. For the food lover–the ability to identify ingredients or techniques used in a dish
3. For everybody–the taste of memory and the memory of taste.
I liked all the responses, to some degree, and found them overall to be pretty thoughtful, if not predictable. However, I think one who has an exquisite palate is not necessarily professional versus amateur, etc. I think one who has all of those qualities rolled up into one–plus, I'd toss a dash of experiential knowledge into the mix, just to make sure that the flavor of the definition saturates and encompasses the wholly exquisite palate and all of its taste regions. What does an exquisite palate mean to you? Thanks
I've never heard, or read, about an "exquisite palate," but food world people talk all the time of having a "good palate." And yes, like you, I don't think it has all that much to do with amateur vs. professional. I think a lot of it is intrinsic.
I think there are food world people without a good palate, but if you take someone with a good palate and add in a work ethic, and brains, and imagination, then I think you have a person who is capable of doing big things.
You see a lot of young, very young, sommeliers these days, and why is that? I think it's because a good palate is, as I said, largely intrinsic. The depth and breadth of knowledge isn't there, and can't be, with someone 24 or 25. The experience, the travel — not likely to be there, either. But the good palate can be. Some people are born with a very acute sense of smell, and can identify and distinguish among a whole host of aromas and fragrances, etc., and taste and smell are very closely related, as we all know.
Anyway … That's it for today, everyone — thank you for all the questions and the good give-and-take. I'm off to lunch.
Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK … ]