Tuesday, April 27 at 11 AM

Read a transcript of today's chat with Food & Wine Editor and restaurant critic Todd Kliman.

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 April 20th.

Follow Todd on Twitter!

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TK's 25:

Where I'd Spend My Own Money

A&J, Rockville & Annandale

Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville

Bistro Bis, DC

Bistro Cacao, DC

Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore

Cava, DC and Rockville

Central Michel Richard, DC

Chez Manelle, Arlington

Four Sisters, Falls Church

Gom Ba Woo, Annandale

J&G Steakhouse, DC

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, Columbia

Komi, DC

Kushi, DC

The Liberty Tavern, Arlington

La Limeña, Rockville

Palena Cafe, DC

Poste Brasserie, DC

Pueblo Viejo, Beltsville

Rasika, DC

Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring

Restaurant Eve, Alexandria

The Source and The Source Lounge, DC

Sushi Taro, DC

Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale

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Dupont Circle
I found a new love: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Tried it at Kramer's/Afterwords and was in heaven. I am dying to try other versions of this. Can you help?

It's good, isn't it? I had it a few months ago and was really surprised — surprised by how elegant it was, how light it was.

I don't expect that of places like Afterwords, which usually tend to the dense and overrich with their cakes.

Other versions? It seems like everybody has discovered the power of salt and chocolate these days, and caramel and chocolate is as natural a combo as peanut butter and chocolate. I had a really good rendition not long ago at Bluegrass Tavern, on Federal Hill, in Baltimore, and … for some reason can't recall the other restaurants I've seen this dessert at lately.

I need someone to jog my memory …

Arlington, VA

Todd,

What exactly did you mean when you said the Ray' the Steaks East River is the most important opening? I know you like the Ray's concept (listing it in your top 100), but what makes this iteration of Michael Landrum's resturant empire so special?

What makes it so important — to my mind, the most important restaurant ever to debut in Washington, D.C. — is its location.

East of the River is like forgotten country for most Washingtonians. Michael Landrum's going in there, and going in there as he has done, with passion and a respect for what is already there, is a significant statement. It's a statement about what a restaurant is, or should be. About the divisions in the city. About what business can do, if it is not solely preoccupied with maximizing profits. About food as culture, and a means of connection. About what is possible, if people have imagination and drive and a belief that the stereotypes we are daily assaulted by are false. 

And all of this I've just typed — all of this has nothing to do with the quality of the food, or the service, or the value (which is considerable). The place transcends all those considerations, I think. And I think that's interesting in and of itself.

I would like to believe that if Landrum is successful, that other restaurateurs will follow. Surely, if he succeeds, it proves something — proves many somethings. But somehow I doubt that it will be, as they say in biz circles, a game-changer. It ought to be. But there are many ought-to-bes in this city.

Washington, DC
My brother in law has a craving for Russian food (I wonder if this has anything to do with the Caps being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs!) I'm looking for a really enjoyable gastronomic experience for him at an authentic Russian restaurant for his birthday in May. DC, MD, VA–we'll take it! Thanks so much!

Well, there's a new restaurant in Rockville/King's Farm that I've been wanting to get to called Nostalgie Bistro — a mix of Russian, Georgian, and European cooking. Khachapuri, blini, kupati, pkhali, etc. 

As I say, I haven't been, but I'm intrigued. I love Georgian cooking, and it's in very, very short supply in this area.

If you get there before I do, please come back on and let us know how it is. 

Falls Church, VA

Todd-

Nice article in Cooking Light, you seem to be everywhere which I mean as a compliment and well deserved. Finally got to Brabo, what a wonderful meal and great service, Roasted Beets, Lobster Ravioli, Rockfish, Pork Shank (which was one of the best I have ever had) and of course Frites.

Anyway, what is your favorite place to get Pho, and what do you get when you are there? As always,thanks for chats, really enjoy them.

It's not close to you, and I'm not recommending a drive when there are scads of pho parlors around you, but I really like Pho 88 in Beltsville. I like it particularly for its broth. I had it again just last week, and the broth was wonderfully dark and rich — darker and richer than most of the places I've been to over the years.

Speaking of Beltsville … I put a new restaurant up on the TK's 25 today. Pueblo Viejo.

It's a small storefront, and looks anything but promising. And the menu offers no hints of how good the cooking is. I was very impressed with it.

They roast the veggies that go into the salsa, which takes on the color of dark brick. It's fabulous. They make a fruit drink in addition to horchata and maranon, and it is loaded up with diced fruits. Again, fabulous. Good fajitas, good tortilla soup, very good enchiladas (with excellent saucing; get the version with shrimp and spinach), and a wonderfully bountiful plate of grilled meats that includes a skewer of chicken, laterally sliced (and wonderfully spiced) shortribs, and chorizo. For dessert, a cinnamon-laden flan, one of the best I've had in a long time.

There's a lot of care that goes into the food here.

U Street

Hi Todd,

Able to help with a restaurant recommendation for New York City? I've visited the Upper West Side (77th and Broadway) several times this year, and I have yet to find a great knock-your-socks-off dining experience in that neighborhood. No price or dietary limits–I'll try anything for something more than just a slice of pizza at the corner (good, mind you, but still just pizza). Thank you!

The best I can think of, since I know that area very well, is Telepan, about ten blocks south. I haven't been back in a couple of years, but I liked it a lot the times I was there.

As much as I like the Upper West Side (my brother lives there), it is, was, and probably will always be a restaurant deadzone.

 

Del Ray

Just commenting on the new restaurants in Mt. Vernon triangle.

I know you said that Kushi was one of the most interesting new restaurants in DC. My experience was only so-so. And I walked out of there $100 bucks lighter and not very full. The decor was pretty cool in a loft type of way. Jim Vance came in while I was at the bar – much taller than expected.

The sushi was phenomenal. But the one thing that makes Kushi unique is the grilled meats and they were boring and bland. And we ordered what our server recommended as the best things on the menu – meat balls, chicken thighs, waygu beef, etc. This restaurant needs to step up the flavor and spicing of the meats and the sauces because simply putting a piece of meat on a stick and grilling it over open flame is not going to cut it when we have so many other fabulous restaurants.

I would not go back unless I was going for happy hour and on the look out for local celebs. Moving on, what do you think of Taylor Gourmet? It looks pretty delicious and the website says they bring in bread from Philly everyday. Not a traditional deli but could be good.

I haven't been to the new Taylor, but I'm not crazy about what I've had at the H St. location. I remain open to it, though, and hope to find something that knocks my socks off the next time, either there or the new spot.

As for Kushi, I've had (mostly) great success with the grilled meats and small plates, and as you say, the sushi is terrific. I remain very high about this place.

Arlington, VA

Hello, Todd.

I need casual lunch recommendations for Georgetown (Friday) and Old Town Alexandria (Saturday). Right now, I'm thinking Tackle Box, Hank's, and crepe cafes.

Which do you recommend or could you help with other suggestions? Thank you.

If you're really after good crepes, then I'd make a point of getting out to Clarendon on Saturday. Cafe Assorti, a colorful, light-filled cafe, has them, and they're good — better than all of the crepe places that I've been to in the past couple of years. 

If you can't swing it, then I'd also consider The Majestic and/or Columbia Firehouse, both in Old Town.

Now, Georgetown. Tackle Box could work. So could Kotobuki, on MacArthur (although my last meal there, several weeks ago, was the weakest I've had there in years), or Black Salt, also on MacArthur.

I'll be curious to hear how things turned out. Drop in and let us know … 

DC

Todd,

Is it true the old Olives space on 16th street has been taken over by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich? If so what kind of food and menu will they implement? When is the opening day?

I'll tell you: You're hearing what I'm hearing.

But at this point, I'm not hearing a whole lot in the way of specifics, so we'll just have to see how things go. These things are always tenuous until they're not.

What I hear, though, is that Batali is interested in branching out for this venture. No Italian. That's surprise No. 1.

Surprise No. 2? The new place, if it materializes, will be Modern Mennonite, with a full slate of classic Pennsylvania Dutch dishes, all built on local produce and meats and all given an affectionate, Batali-like reinvention. *

 

 

 

* OK, so I made that up. But this is a high-concept whose time has come, especially in light of our fashionable eco-consciousness and farmer worship.

Orange, Virginia
Thanks for the great article on Norton, it was a great read. Looking forward to the book. Dennis Horton

Dennis, thank you. 

A number of people have written in to comment on that excerpt in the magazine, but I wasn't expecting that you would be one of them. Nice.

And since you mention it — ; ) — let me just shamelessly go ahead and say that the book, The Wild Vine, is out May 4.

 

Bethesda, MD

Re: Deli Food.

The talk of "deli" generally means bemoaning the lack of good corned beef and pastrami on a good corn rye bread. The other full meals in the old Middle European style can be reproduced fairly easily, but are very out of fashion.

You would be amazed at how hard it is to do those sandwiches well! They are completely dependent on volume (sell through) to maintain the quality that is so fondly remembered. You can actually taste the difference between a sandwich that has just been cut from a whole piece of meat from a steam table, and one that is pre-sliced or sliced cold and microwaved or briefly steamed on a grill. You can tell the difference between fresh sour rye baked in a brick oven and anything else. Plus, forget it if the bread hasn't been baked that morning and has never seen the inside of a refrigerator or freezer Also, old delis made almost everything on site, including pickles and slaws. Nowadays, pickles cost a fortune from outside suppliers, so you tend to get a mass produced spear.

With that said, the closest I have come in town has been Morty's – the old Two Jays/Krupins on Wisconsin Ave. They still serve a dish of pickles and their meat is pretty good. Bread…what can you do? I have been meaning to try Wagshalls, whose Montreal style meat was mentioned within the last few months. That baseball movie that had the line "If you build it, they will come" goes for food, too. "If you order it, it will remain on the menu!"

Thanks for chiming in on that (ongoing) discussion. Everything you say about delis is true, and just shows how much work it will be — close detail work — for someone to do a deli and do it right.

I hope it happens, though.

Morty's? Sorry, can't work up much enthusiasm for it. I like the pickles, but the bread … ugh. And the meats? In a pinch, okay I guess.

But there's no zest there in the atmosphere, and that's essential, too.

There's a new place that opened on H St., Star and Shamrock, a combination — kid you not — Jewish deli and Irish pub.

If that sounds like some kind of a joke, consider this: Corned beef and cabbage is not the Irish concoction we think it is. The Irish eat ham and cabbage. Corned beef came about in America, from the cultural clash of Jewish immigrants and Irish immigrants living in such close proximity. 

Strange but true. 

Clifton, VA
Batali just signed a lease at One Liberty Center In Ballston. Lidia, Joe, and Mario were there on Wilson Blvd about 15 minutes ago as I came back from lunch at Ballston Common Mall. We usually see them once or twice a week. They have fallen in love Laura's. I can provide the video from One Liberty Center security cams for conformation. hard to miss a big redheaded dude in shorts and red clogs.

Ballston was the other spot that was rumored … Good and very timely intel, Clifton. Where should I send the check? ; ) 

As for the video, yes, send it over — we'd love to take a look. You know where to reach me by now: tkliman@washingtonian.com

 

Silver Spring
Taking my sister out for her 60th birthday next Friday night. It will be all women in our fifties. Want low key but great food. We'd prefer not to cross the bridge into Virginia on a Friday night. Know you'll have some great ideas!

That sounds like a great night. Enjoy that precious time with your sister and your friends.

I want to suggest two places. One is Cork, the city's best wine bar. It's low key, the food is better than it needs to be, and if you go early — before 6:45 — you should be able to get a seat and while away the night.

The other is in Silver Spring, a new spot, called 8407 Kitchen Bar. Also low key, and a place that has promise.

Speaking of which … I was initially very high on 8407 and want to temper that somewhat in light of a recent meal. There is much to admire about the mission, and the degree of detail that goes into these plates. But on this visit in particular, I found that I admired a dish, particularly main courses — the quality of the ingredients, the care — more often than I liked them.

That's not a final word, by the way. The place is still very much growing into itself, and as I say, it has promise. 

Washington DC

Can't wait for the new book, and congrats again!

Someone here recommended the Toasted Marshmallow shake at Good Stuff Eatery awhile back, which I really enjoyed on my visit yesterday. Wow, just wow. (Burgers were decent, especially with the sauces.)

Anyway, I just want to thank you again for doing this chat every week. You probably already get this a lot, but it's so very helpful to have a forum where we can ask these questions and get experienced answers.

No, I don't already get this a lot. ; )

But seriously, thank you, I appreciate it. And I think it's worth saying, to you and to everyone out there, that it goes two ways. I can't do this without you — without your interest and participation, without your great questions, without your insights every week. I never know what I'm going to type from moment to moment, and I love that. I love the sense of making something up on the fly and finding out what I think as I go, or learning from you what you think as we move through the chats. So thank you — all of you.

But back to food for a moment … The shakes. They're good, so good in fact that the place really ought to be called Good Shakery. Much better than the burgers, and worlds better than the fries. If it were just about the shakes, it would have a regular place in TK's 25.

Old Greenbelt

Todd,

Quick rant — now if only Michael Landrum could be convinced to open a Ray's in PG County! Contrary to popular belief (I'm sure you know), we PG residents are interested in more than just chain dining.

Look at the crowds at even the hit-or-miss spots like Franklin's, Hank's, all the Mex-Salvadoran places, etc.

They might not offer the most adventurous cuisine, but many of us want to spend our dollars locally and are getting tired of going to DC and MoCo do it. Thanks.

I've been saying this for years. For years and years and years. 

And still nothing changes.

It's stunning to me, the total lack of ignorance about what Prince George's is really like — and from so many otherwise knowledgeable and informed people. I have heard everything — veiled racist remarks, not-so-veiled racist remarks, remarks that seem to regard the county as being a time zone away.

And here's the thing. If Prince George's were not in this area — if it were in the Midwest, apart from the wealthy and dominant Montgomery and the wealthy and dominant counties in nearby Virginia — people would regard it very, very differently. In a different context, it would be regarded as affluent and full of opportunity.

This is, remember, the wealthiest African-American audience in the country. There's a lot of potential just in that.

And on top of that, there is a great deal of potential in the northereastern nexus that comprises College Park, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville — full of educated, sophisticated customers who have a passion for local and regional, and who currently are committed to driving a half hour and more for decent food.

Van Netian

Hi Todd,

Even though you didn't get to my question last week about the best wineries in the greater Middleburg, Warrenton, etc. area of VA, I wanted to report back that we had an awesome weekend.

We may have made a run at the record for most wineries visited in 1 day with 7: Piedmont, Linden, Chester Gap, Naked Mountain, Three Fox, Pearmund, and Martarella. We even added an 8th the next day: The Winery at La Grange.

I recommend all of the above, though Linden was probably my favorite. Each had its own twist but collectively they made for a really new, refreshing adventure amidst beautiful scenery. Wine tasting is really a fun pastime and we learned almost as much as we drank!

Dinner was equally successful. We ate at the Ashby Inn and had a first-class experience start to finish. They have this section of their menu called "Snacks," intended as just a bite or two for a couple dollars each as you decided on the rest of your meal. I like where their head's at. The BBQ tempura was so good that we did some more "snacking" after the entree we shared – a fantastic dish of "smoked beef, rice, malt, stilton." Cooked to perfection and wonderfully complemented by the stilton. Shared our first soft-shell crab too, and though we are partial to the Cantler's variety, we enjoyed that too. Dessert was "pistachio sponge cake, mint, chocolate" and succeeded in maintaining the meal's momentum straight through the last bite. Excellent service, really cozy room. $12 worth of Diet Coke refills (Jennie needed to hydrate and take a break from wine until the entree) annoyed me a little, but no big deal. Having had a late lunch, sharing everything made for a meal full of value. We'll definitely be back.

Our B&B, the Black Horse Inn couldn't have been better – they literally give you the keys to their 1800's era mansion and encourage you to make yourself at home. Feeling no pain from all the day's wine, we stayed up watching SNL in one of the cozy living rooms enjoying the rivers of Sherry, Port, and wine they provided, along with cheese and crackers. A full country breakfast in the morning killed the would-be hangover. Wandering through the horse-fields and bribing "Dante" and his friends with sugar cubes was pretty charming too.

Oh by the way, Shackleford (remember my British-voiced GPS?) did us proud on this weekend full of driving 250 miles or so round trip and between all the wineries. I recommend anyone with as poor a sense of direction as me bring one along. Cheers!

Great report, Van Netian!

And Pearmund, Linden and Chester Gap are three of the best in the state. It sounds like you had one helluva weekend. 

Silver Spring
Thinking about venturing over to Mrs k's for brunch this sunday. Any thoughts?

First thought: No.

Second thought: Really no.

Third thought: Stay home and cook the waffles and eggs Benedict yourself.

 

Clifton, VA

Cherry ice cream soda taste comparision tests so far …..

Rock Creek Cherry in first place Dr Brown's Black Cherry trailing the pack Dr Pepper's Cherry- no cherry taste actually no taste at all. All made with vanilla ice cream from Peterson's ICe Cream Depot Clifton, VA. Taste testing done in downtown Clifton next to the RR tracks. Peterson's best ice cream in the DC area. Nothing else even comes close.

Great update, Clifton. Thanks.

I ought to make you a chat correspondent, and get you to file regular weekly reports. Hmmm … 

Kudos to Landrum

Hi Todd.

We need more people–and business people–like Landrum. I wish much deserved success to his innovative spirit–both inside and outside of the kitchen. Although, as you said, alas, I doubt it will be a game-changer in this city of many ought-to-bes. In this line of thinking: What culinary ought-to-bes do you think there should be in the District's dining landscape?

Thanks for always keeping an interesting dialogue about food and its meaning and the meaning of food.

The fact is, most business people think like … business people. Even the good and interesting ones. Making money is the first and only consideration.

I have always thought restaurants can be more than just businesses, because at their best they possess the power to bring people together and create a community — to be something more than just a place to get your feed on and drink your cares away (although that's great too). Andy Shallal knows that. Landrum knows that. Who else? Nobody else.

Other ought-to-bes? Hmm … Well, there ought to be a few great diners and a few great delis and a few great Tex-Mex places and a few great trattorias. There ought to be food carts on every corner. There ought to be American restaurants that offer great food at a great price, instead of leaving that mission to the awful chains (which fail at that, miserably). There ought to be more integration in the restaurant scene — this is, after all, a predominantly black city, and yet to spend any time going around to the restaurants here you might think you were in Johannesburg. 

I can probably come up with a dozen more, and just may by next week, but I've got to rush off to lunch …

Be well, everyone, eat well and let's do it again next week at 11 …

 

 

 

[missing you, TEK … ]

 

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