At its best, Sudhir Seth’s Indian dining room in Bethesda is a celebration of the sophistication and variety of the subcontinent’s regional cuisines as well as a reminder that well-spiced cooking need not be scorching to be rewarding. But a recent meal showed the place operating below that ideal, with thin curries, tougher-than-usual meats, and muted saucing. The notable exception: the excellent pickle plate, a vivid display of what this veteran kitchen is capable of.
Takeout meals seldom approach the quality you’d find in a restaurant, and we don’t burden them with that expectation—so long as they’re cheap and fast. This carryout, around the corner from its bustling parent, Liberty Tavern, is a wonderful exception. It comes through with fast and surprisingly good cooking. Rarely have we enjoyed a takeout meal more than a recent one featuring a satisfying roasted-parsnip soup, a near-virtuosic bollito misto with luscious slabs of pork belly, and a couple of first-rate cakes, including a stellar German chocolate. A container of hand-cut fries was still crispy a half hour later.
Sushi houses tend to be as good as their ingredients—which is why Sushi Taro, Dupont Circle’s neighborhood spot turned expense-account Zen den, has potential for sublimity: Owner Nobu Yamazaki spares nothing in sourcing his fish, and that dedication showed in recent slabs of pristine fatty tuna, smooth butter snapper from Japan, and California sea urchin that was a creamy taste of the Pacific without lingering fishiness. Cooked dishes such as conch steamed in sake as well as non-fish items such as beautifully marbled Wagyu beef were nearly as good. Only the kitchen’s erratic pacing occasionally interrupted the serenity.
This article appeared in the April, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.
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