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 23rd.
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
Love the chats! My family is coming to visit and are vegetarians that eat fish/seafood. They love French, Italian, anything except Indian. I know, vegetarians, that don't eat Indian?! Let's not talk about it. I was hoping you could you recommend a moderately priced place that would be great for a fun Saturday night dinner that is also in walking distance of a good after dinner drink spot as well. Thanks in advance!
Potenza, the brawny, clamorous Italian restaurant that opened last year, might be a good bet for a fun, moderately priced Saturday night dinner, and it's also not too far from a number of hotel bars.
What do you think?
Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining me. I'm still recovering from last night's Seder, which ended in drunken revelry *, and scrambling to get ready for another tonight — nine more people, plus all that cooking all over again. It's going to be a crammed day, for sure …
* Thank you, Jim and Colleen, for being such rousing participants in Chad Gadya. And all those sound effects, too! What more can a host ask?
Thanks for the chats.
1) do you –or anyone out there reading-have any information about Top Chef being filmed in DC? 2) do you know any restaurants offering Passover meal options next week?
Two questions — good, because last night was four, and tonight again will be four …
As to the first, no, no more info than I've already shared, which, I know, was not all that much.
Restaurants offering Passover options — I've got some intel there. Dino, Rosa Mexicano, Tragara and I believe Hudson are all serving Passover-style dinners this week. I've written about dining at all of these places during the 8 days. (Well, not Hudson, but I wrote about dinner at owner Alan Popovsky's previous restaurant, Felix.) You can look up reviews, I would think, by typing in my name and the name of the restaurant into your Google machine.
Also, if I recall correctly, Ledo Pizza in Bethesda, Rockville and North Potomac all are serving a Passover "pizza."
Don't know if American City Diner is doing it this year, but in the past they have offered Passover eats — matzo brie, matzo, etc. — on the menu during the 8 days.
I noticed that a couple of the restaurants featured in the Washingtonian's Easter guide are charging $90/pp for adults and $45/pp for children. Do you think any brunch is really worth that price tag? I feel like restaurants are price gouging because they know it's Easter.
Yeah, I'm with you — I just don't see how any brunch can justify that kind of cost. I don't think it's worth it.
And for me, personally, I wouldn't want to be with my family for a celebration in that kind of an environment — where you're made to feel as though you should hold back, and a certain distance and formality is considered necessary and proper. That's okay, I suppose, for a wedding, but otherwise I want to enjoy myself and let loose if I want to, not have a restaurant (the setting, the staff) dictate the terms.
Re: Sous Vide from last week …
My investment totaled $250 plus a vacuum sealer. There is a new self contained machine just introduced called Sous Vide Supreme that is a nifty looking unit and goes for $450. Had it existed when I was looking to take a next step, I probably would have bought the Supreme.
You can go crazy and spend around $7,000 for restaurant level equipment, but for 95% of sous vide, it is overkill.
I got started with sous vide after an article in the NY Times, mostly because I already owned a Foodsaver vacuum unit, and thought I could use an old hotplate that I remembered as having excellent temperature control I wound up replacing this very old vacuum unit with a much newer one from Craigslist for $50. I soon discovered that I needed better long term temperature control than the hotplate provided, and wound up buying a re-purposed laboratory temperature control unit now sold for sous vide (Sous Vide Magic brand-$150) and a large 26 qt rice cooker ($100).
Here's the way it works. With instructions from the Sous Vide Magic people, I disconnected the connection from the "ON" switch to the computer card that controls the temperature on the cooker. It was then only capable of instant high temp when plugged in. You now ONLY plug it into the SVMagic unit, and put the temperature probe from the unit into the water in the rice cooker. The unit monitors the temperature of the water bath and controls it to within a degree or so by turning the power on and off, sometimes hundreds of times a minute.
This setup permits me to cook 3-5 lbs of roast, an up to 4 chicken breasts on the bone. I use it 2-4 times a month, and have no problem leaving it on for 36-48 hrs. I have not tried 72 hour recipes. The strength of sous vide is that it is almost impossible to overcook something. The water bath brings the item up to the desired finished temperature, and then keeps it there. It requires no attention. It is also quite a green way too cook!
I would advise starting by simply cooking some short term stuff with no equipment other than a decent food thermometer ($15). The main purpose of the vacuum and bag is to exhaust the air so the water can contact the food without air insulation or water contacting the food. If you take a sealable bag, and put some salmon or boneless chicken breast in it, and lower in into a depth of water in a basin or pot, the water will rise around the item and push the air out of the bag, Roll the bag until all the air is out, zip it, and you are all set for short time sous vide.
Please note that the times of 1/2 hour and 1 hour are too brief to promote the growth of harmful bacteria to unsafe levels. Do not exceed these times by much. Take a big pot and bring it to a few degrees above the temperatures below. A larger quantity of water will lose heat slower that a small quantity and so will be easier to manage. The salmon at 125 will look raw red, but will flake. The skin will slide right off. The chicken at 145 for an hour can be finished by browning in a very hot skillet with a bit of oil for about 1/2 minute per side. You could drop the chicken temperature a few degrees to offset the effects of additional browning, but try to keep it at a minute max. You can sauce it any way you like If you desire -gravy, vinagrette, dill for the salmon etc.
The science behind the low temperatures is that meat fibers contract and expel juices at 180 degrees and become tough. It is the conversion of the connective tissue of those fibers from collagen to gelatin that gives that "fork tender" feel. The trade off is that meat does not brown with sous vide. At the end of the time, the item generally is browned (briefly to not raise the interior temperature above desired end point) or sauced. Since the juices are retained by the above meat or fish, they will be much more moist and natural tasting than with other cooking methods.
Do not use fresh vegetables such as onions or garlic as seasoning. Plants cook at temperatures above 180, and I am not yet convinced that sous vide veggies are worth the effort. Season as desired, but with dry spices at about 1/3 or less of the quantity you would normally use. Please note that in this introduction, the temperature can be maintained by turning the heat on and off as needed. If you overshoot or undershoot a bit now and then, it will generally balance out over the brief time, giving you a decent feel for the power of the process. Now, get on the internet and get the full story!
Wow. I asked for a few details, and you came back with an owner's manual! ; )
Terrific stuff, Bethesda. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories and insights.
I, for one, am intrigued and just may give it a try sometime soon …
Any recs on kosher wine? For me, its like lunch meat, it does the job but with little pleasure. I'd like to find a good one
I know, I know — there are a lot of really bad ones out there. But more and more, there are some decent ones to choose from, and I've got a good one. Really. Don Alfonso Cabernet Sauvignon. It's from Chile, and runs about $10. It's got a lot more going on than a typical kosher wine, and it's not sweet.
Very much enjoyed our exchange last week about Full Key's mystery meat, Antiguan food, etc., but you never told me what dishes I should get this Friday night at Rasika with Mom. What's not to be missed?
Since I'm writing, I figure I'd let you know that I was really happy to add Black Market Bistro to my "list" (my version of your "Where I'd Spend My Own Money" list). I put it under the category of "Nice Brunch," meaning it's now in the company of the Tabard Inn, Creme, Georgia Brown's, etc.
The back page of my list is "Eager to Try" and it's really not that often that those restaurants get promoted off the back page into the prime real estate, but Black Market Bistro definitely deserves it. Bistro La Bonne made that same leap not long ago too.
J.J.'s Cheesesteaks however made me want to create a new category called "I wish I had that 30 minutes of my life back." I went to college in Philly (the cheesesteak motherland) and that place bombed in every category. Made me remember a funny sign outside of Pat's on 9th and Passyunk in Philly that cautions "Don't Eat a Misteak."
I should close with something friendlier – oh yeah, I've been loving the bar area lunch deals at Kinkead's, Teatro, and Proof. Thanks to you and your staff for those tips!
I like your lists — thanks for sending those in.
Just curious — what is it you enjoy so much about Bistro La Bonne, the new French bistro on U St.? Personally, I think it's fine. Nothing wonderful, nothing memorable, but a pretty good, simple atmosphere, and it certainly fills a niche on that street. What keeps you coming back?
And so sorry for the oversight last week. If I were you, I might start with Rasika's version of palak chaat — its twist is that it fries the leaves of spinach, in this case baby spinach, and dresses them with yogurt and tamarind.
For entrees, I really like the lobster moilee, the tandoori lamb chops with cashews, ginger, and green herbs, and the East-meets-West rendition of rogan josh (with a lamb shank, not chunks of lamb).
Dessert: apple beignet and carrot halwa (served warm).
Why is Bethesda such a dining waste-land? For the number of restaurants in that area, and no shortage of dollars to spend, why are there so many places that fall short of dining excellence.
I swear if I want decent food, I travel to any surrounding area, now, more times than not.
It's amazing how underwhelming a dining scene it is — especially when you consider the numbers (more than 200 restaurants) and the perceived affluence of the residents.
A friend of mine, a foodie, likes to point out the fact that there are 5 restaurants on our recent 100 Best Restaurant survey that are in Bethesda. He thinks 5 restaurants all from a small, single city is nothing to sniff at.
But how many of those restaurants are in the Top 50? Answer: none.
And 5 out of 200 +? Not great.
One of the big things you notice if you dine out in Bethesda — beyond the fact that there are no truly great restaurants — is the lack of energy in the scene. There are a lot of places that are tired and past their prime. There are a lot of places that are just coasting.
What will be interesting to see is what Yannick Cam can do when he finally opens his restaurant, Provence. (The place was expected to debut at the end of 2009.) Cam is a big-time talent, and when he's focused, he's a superlative cook.
… you have a book coming out?? Is this true??? I hope it is. If so, how exciting, Todd!
I say that as a longtime reader (going back to City Paper) and someone who enjoys reading your thoughts and feelings on a number of topics. Can you share? I am going to guess it is a food book of some sort? A cookbook? Do tell!!
Anyway, congratulations, my friend (I feel I can call you that after spending time with you and your family through your writing. 🙂
Your birdie — whoever he or she is — is correct! And thank you for those very, very sweet words.
It's not a food book. I guess technically it's a wine book, in the sense that it was a particular grape, the Norton, and a wine made from that grape, that launched me on what, at times, felt like an epic quest to connect the dots of a strange and fascinating and, I think, singular story of Americana.
The book is narrative nonfiction — or, fact-based writing that is meant to have the sweep of fiction — and is an attempt to explore and explode American mythmaking. It braids history, travelogue, biography and memoir, and is driven along by a cast of characters that I grew to know and love — a cast of rogues, misfits and outsiders.
The title is: The Wild Vine.
I think you'll learn a good bit about wine in America, past and present, but that wasn't my overriding goal in writing it. I like to think of it — and hope readers will come to see it — as a kind of book-length essay, a kind of lyric essay, on outsiderness and identity.
Re: Why I like Bistro La Bonne.
I am a huge fan of Bistro du Coin and think it arguably has one of the best "buzzes" (by this I mean fun noise level) in town. I think Bistro La Bonne has begun to tap into this buzz, has actually outdone du Coin on several menu items (mussels, filet), and most importantly, is in a location where I will enjoy spending the rest of my night. It's like they picked up one of my favorite restaurants in town, tweaked it just a bit, and dropped it in one of my favorite neighborhoods.
It would be as if Ray's the Classics showed up on 8th street in SE!
You know, you're on to something there, Van Netian — it really has a Barracks Row feel, much more so than a U St. feel. Well-observed, well-put …
Just finished reading an Atlanta food blog pegging Peter Chang as a Richmonder. Is this correct Does he live here?
Live there? No.
But he may turn up yet in Richmond to cook there — my buddy John B. and I were in contact yesterday and
that seems to be the latest thinking on where the elusive and brilliant Chang will end up next.
Or — where he'll end up next before leaving again.
Quick question for you. My dad is going to be in town on Wednesday night which is great! Yet, small problem – it's Passover. We are trying to decide where to go out to eat and currently we are between Rosa Mexicano and RIS. Where would you recommend that we go? Thanks so much in advance for your help! Chag Sameach
Chag sameach. (Translation for the goyim: happy holiday. … Actually, goyim is in need of translation too: it means gentiles.)
Quick aside: Typing the word "gentiles" takes me back to when I was teaching and a student wrote a paper for me, and made reference for some reason to Hitler. And there was this phrase — this phrase that I have not forgotten, lo, these ten years later, a warning for all time against the convenience of spellcheck: "The Jews and the genitals."
OK, the question …
If I were you, I'd go to Rosa Mexicano and sample the dishes from the Passover menu. It ought to be a fun and festive night.
You know, there's something about eating matzo and other Passover dishes in the cultural heart of the city, in Penn Quarter, that's quietly amazing to me — that feels a little of what it must be like to eat a Passover meal out in Tel Aviv. Normal, natural, nothing of the minority about it.
I just figured they're pescatarians. Hell, I know somebody who claims to be a vegetarian but has been known to eat chicken.
I also know, or have known, a fair number of vegetarians I wouldn't consider to be vegetarian. I would consider them to be carniphobes.
Carniphobes are people who have strong moral or religious convictions against eating meat, but who really dislike vegetables. They tend to eat things like french fries and shakes for dinner, and they gorge on sweets at every opportunity. Veggies only if necessary, but sugar? Bring it on …
My experience with Rosa Mexicano on Passover has been that it is better than simply a "good for Passover" dinner. Particularly for those weaned on Ashkenazic seders, it's an interesting and at times eye-opening experience. In other words, not at all a "dayenu" * meal.
(Dayenu: "it would have been enough." Title of a prominent Seder song.)
I completely empathize with the pregnant commenter from Cheverly from last week.
Before I had Henry, my husband and I went on a bender of concerts, restaurants, and local Red Sox games (relatively speaking!). After Henry was with us, we found that, like you say, the first six months offer no obstacles in bringing baby out to eat.
However, now Henry yearns to stay in the action and refuses to allow his little lids to close allowing us to enjoy our dinner. We have tried toys, etc. all to no avail. Lately, lunches have been successful. We are discerning in our restaurant choices, but last weekend we were finally able to get back to VOLT.
We were scheduled for brunch in February, but Snowmageddon derailed those plans. We went for brunch and found the wait staff very accommodating and welcoming. They all smiled at Henry and no one seemed to mind his babbling and giggles.
That said, he is generally a happy baby and he actually ingested the bits of butternut squash and beans I fed him–he was an easy baby. I was surprised at how easy enjoying brunch there with a baby really was. I doubt I will try dinner anytime soon as the atmosphere is more formal, even at this fairly laid back eatery, and I will always call ahead to try and "reserve" their single high chair.
Ever thankful for these entertaining chats to read, Rebekah
Rebekah, thanks so much for writing in and sharing those stories.
And yes, lunch is a really good time for parents of babies and toddlers to hit a restaurant, particularly a nice restaurant. Expectations from other diners and the restaurant's staff are not nearly so high. Going early, at 5 or 5:30, is also something to consider; I think behavior that would be considered questionable at 7 or 7:30 is easier to take at 5 or 5:30.
Hi Todd – I often spend nights out with my boyfriend exploring new restaurants and watering holes in DC, Arlington, and Old Town Alexandria. We love O'Connell's in Old Town for the friendly feel, laid-back atmosphere, Magner's on tap – and great, great food.
Do you know of any other laid-back bars or restaurants in the area with a similar vibe?
I really like Daniel O'Connell's, too — for the pub grub (I've had great luck with the lamb burgers), the beers on tap, and the atmosphere.
For something similar in feel, I'd give the new-ish Columbia Firehouse a shot. It already has a solidity to it that is really impressive for a new restaurant, the food is more polished than the usual tavern fare, and I like the feel of eating and drinking there.
RE: Rosa Mexicana for Passover… it depends on how strictly you adhere to Passover eating requirements.
I attended a Mexican Passover cooking demonstration at Rosa this past weekend, and the recipes they demoed were apparently scaled down versions of their restaurant offerings. At least two of the recipes, while tasty, featured ingredients that are not Kosher for Passover.
Just a heads up.
So glad you chimed in to make this point, DC.
I neglected to consider that some people may be more strict in their kosher-keeping. Thanks for writing in.
And thanks to all of you for the questions and comments and stories the morning and early afternoon! I'm got to get back to the stove — there's a butterflied leg of lamb that needs my immediate attention.
Happy Passover to all of you who are celebrating with Seders tonight, and happy Easter to all of you who will be gathering in and out for dinners this weekend.
Be well and eat well, and enjoy and savor this time with your families.
I won't see you next week, April 6th, but be sure to join me again the following week, the 13th, for our next discussion …
[missing you, TEK … ]
Submit your questions in advance for Todd's next chat, here.
Off the top of my head …
Old Town Alexandria.