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 May 4th.
Where I'd Spend My Own Money
Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville
Bistro Bis, DC
Bistro Cacao, DC
Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore
Chez Manelle, Arlington
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
J&G Steakhouse, DC
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, Columbia
The Liberty Tavern, Arlington
La Limeña, Rockville
Palena Cafe, DC
Poste Brasserie, DC
Pueblo Viejo, Beltsville
Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring
Restaurant Eve, Alexandria
Sushi Taro, DC
Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale
You're right — great location, very peaceful, very beautiful, and yes, it's made for gatherings like this. Good call.
The cooking isn't up to the level of the view, though very few restaurants in such gorgeous settings deliver the hoped-for exquisiteness on the plate.
Incidentally, parts of "Wedding Crashers" were filmed in and around the property, if I recall correctly.
A friend and I are going to see a show at the DC Jewish Cultural Center this evening (16th & Q NW). Any suggestions for an inexpensive to moderately priced restaurant in the neighborhood? The closer the better; it will probably be raining around that time.
Annie's Paramount Steakhouse and Skewers are two very close places — they're both about two blocks away — and they're both in line with what you're looking to spend.
I'm not enthusiastic about either (I'm talking primarily about the cooking, here), but if I wanted something close and it was raining, I'd give them a long look. What they have going for them, Annie's even more than Skewers, is a good neighborhood atmosphere. They're low key, relaxing places to be.
You might be.
I've had very good meals there, but then, I haven't been there in a few months. Things can change, and change quickly, in the restaurant business.
I think it's interesting that you had the halibut. I know it's on the menu, and I also know that everything on the menu ought to be subject to scrutiny, but in my experience there are very, very few restaurants that know what to do with it.
It had better be cooked absolutely perfectly, and even then that's no guarantee of a great dish or even a good dish — so much depends on its saucing and its accompaniments.
Anything excite you in Annapolis these days? I moved here from Adams Morgan in November and am still feeling my way around the restaurants. I've found a few, but am always looking for more.
I eat any cuisine and am willing pay good money for food, as long as that food is worth my hard earned money.
Not much that's new excites me, no.
But I have always loved Potato Valley on State Circle, Joss is an excellent destination for sushi, and Lewnes's — when it's having a good night — is a pretty darn good steakhouse.
Of the new (and relatively new) spots, a lot of disappointments. Osteria 177, Stoney River Steakhouse, Carpaccio … eh. Hell Point Seafood has made strides in the past year, and I think you can have a really nice meal there these days. And I think Punk's is fun for a good burger (made with locally raised beef) and a cold, strong rum punch.
How about you? What are the "few" you've gravitated to?
Taking my wife and 10 yr old daughter for their first visit to DC next week for 6 days. Expecting intellectual stimulation and physical exhaustion. We will need good food in a relaxed atmosphere to recover/refuel.
While we like all kinds of food, we prefer to try locally sourced ingredients and local cuisines and/or food prepared by an inspired, passionate person.
My research has so far uncovered Breadline, Eve, OOhs + Ahhs. Am I on the right track? Also, where's the favorite fried chicken? And the favorite blue crab place? Any suggestions?
Oohhs & Aahhs, while I love it, may not be quite what you have in mind — it's a soul food joint, an eat-at-the-counter sort of place where your dish is a styrofoam carton and your knife and fork are plastic. It's the very opposite of a tourist trap, but I think you have to be a food adventurer to really enjoy it and what it represents.
And since you're looking for fried chicken, you should know that O&A has some of the best, if not the best, in the city.
As far as blue crabs go, if you have a car and have the time, take the drive out to Cantler's in Annapolis. To me, that's the best place to pick and eat. But avoid the place on the weekends, it's slammed. Go on a weekday, and go mid to late afternoon. You ought to find a table then.
If you're looking for crabcakes, then you want Kinkead's. I think they're hard to beat.
Eve is excellent, and you need to know about the Lickety-Split lunch they do — two courses for $13. Great eating on the (very, very) cheap.
Breadline? Not what it used to be.
I think you should add Palena Cafe to your list. And make sure to get whatever soup is listed on the menu.
Also: Bar Pilar, Cork, Cava and the new Kushi.
And you really ought to do some exploring around Little Ethiopia (I like Etete best) and, in Falls Church, The Eden Center (a de-facto Little Vietnam).
Hope that helps a little. Drop back on when it's all over and let us all know where you ended up eating …
Before I answer your question, I just want to say that I don't rely, ever, on what I've "heard" about any place — only what I myself experience. I listen, like everybody else, but I never use what I hear to form my judgments about a restaurant.
Now, to the question at hand … I've been to the newly relocated HEC on the B and from what I've seen and tasted, I think the place is still finding itself.
The dim sum right now is good, just not as consistent or as wonderful as it had been in the old location. A lot of things are heavier, or taste heavier. That is due, in part, to the diminished crowds (a lot of people don't know where to find them right now). You can tell that the restaurant is holding back as a result, downscaling the number of carts it uses. I would do the same thing. The problem is, the kitchen is not working at the same high volume as before, and things tend to sit. And dim sum, when it sits, becomes flat, becomes heavy.
The famed carrot buns, however, are every bit as good as they used to be, and I expect that things across the board will pick up in the next few months.
There are, in addition, a few dishes on the regular menu that I am really enjoying. One is the whole chicken, cleavered into small bites, and buried under a hailstorm of garlicky bread crumbs.
Good morning Todd-
I know you have written in revered tones over the last year and a half about Komi. I just noticed on their website that the only menu available is the $125 degustiazone (as of early June, anyway). Does Komi warrant this high price? Every time I think of $125, I think of taking a trip for a special occasion to Le Bernardin. Please correct me!
I think so.
I mean, if any dinner is worth $125, then this one is.
It's interesting you bring up Le Bernardin, because it's not at all that kind of a place. LB caters to world-travelers, the elites of business, and endeavors to provide a seamless, exquisitely calibrated experience — perfect, and also perfectly impersonal, the way a lot of affluent customers tend to want their high-end restaurant meals to be.
Komi is personal and warm and sensual. It's cozy and intimate. In our most recent review of the place, I said it's meant for "gastronomic thrill-seekers" — diners who are looking for great and interesting tastes and textures, above all. As opposed to diners in search of a perfect and perfectly impersonal meal.
I think it's terrific that the Obamas ate there the other night, although I worry what a visit like this will do to the place. Not from within, but from without — from all those who are now likely to regard the restaurant as something it's not.
I find myself at Joss a lot, at Punk's, at Level for cocktails (but not always for food) and at The Breakfast Shoppe in Severna Park in the morning. Other than that, I'm pretty stuck. I'll have to try Potato Valley, I've never been there. And I hear a lot about Cook's Cafe.
There are a few places that shall remain unnamed that I now stay away from at all costs, based on recent experiences.
I've had great meals and so-so meals at Hell Point, but I agree with you that it's getting better.
Thanks for this, Annapolis.
I should also throw in Jalapenos, which I think Annapolitans overrate, but which has a number of dishes I enjoy.
My girl friend will be visiting over Memorial Day weekend and we need an Adams Morgan dinner recommendation for a Friday night around 8pm. We will be having Friday lunch at Willow, so a sit-down place on the lighter side (both the food and prices) would be nice and we are open to any cuisine except Ethiopian.
I haven't been to AM in years. Right now, I'm thinking maybe Himalayan Heritage, Bardia's, Perry's or Locolat. What say you? Thanks for your help.
My pick would be Las Canteras, a Peruvian spot on 18th. Weak drinks, but the food's good. I especially love the version of chupe de camarones there.
I'd skip dessert there, though, and walk down to Locolat.
How has it stayed around so long? I don't know. "Charm"?
I do like the wines there. I can say that.
Hi Todd –
We have a friend visiting this week, and are taking him out for drinks/dinner. He used to live up here, but didn't like the area and moved to North Carolina. We want to show him that the DC area's not half bad, and the food scene truly is respectable. If you were us, where would you go in Arlington?
Oh, wow, lots of places … Ray's the Steaks, the best steakhouse in the area … Minh's, one of the very best Vietnamese restaurants in the area … Liberty Tavern, one of the best casual-serious restaurants in the area … Tallula, for smart fine dining …
You've got a wealth of options.
Always enjoy your chats each week! I've been having a hankering for butterfish lately. Do you know of any place that is serving it right now? Does not have to be in DC proper.
I don't, sorry. Has anybody out there had a butterfish sighting on an area menu?
I love it, too. Very distinct, very flavorful.
What I hear is: shortly.
In the restaurant business, of course, that could mean two days, two weeks, or two months.
Take your fiancee to KBQ Real Barbecue in Bowie. They've got good dry ribs. At their best, they don't need the sauce.
You should also take her to Red, Hot and Blue — the Laurel location only; I think it's the best of the locations. I've had some great ribs there in the last year or so. If they're dry — not dry from the rub, that is, but dry from sitting and then being reheated on the grill — then send them back and ask for something fresher and more luscious.
If you'll allow me to share my opinion–these 2 places are not comparable. To use an over-used expression, it would be like trying to compare apples with oranges, something people do all the time. Both restaurants are different types of inspired experiences and are established that way: Komi is a tasting menu and Le Bernadin is not.
If you do not appreciate the innovation, experiementation, lack of options (to put it bluntly), but immense trust in what the chef prepares and the tastes that are meant to complement and build upon or contrast within a sinlge tasting menu is part of that type of experience. If this doesn't appeal or frightens you, you will then no way think 125.00 is fair, reasonable or worth it–no matter how things are presented.
Of course, Le Bernadin is a holy temple to seafood, so you know what you'll get and there could be something likable in essentially getting quality and consistency. It's an impressively-run kitchen, incredibly detailed and well organized.
My sum up is this: If you like predictable consistency, take the trip to NY again. If you like to try new things and understand that Komi is a tranporting experience (although a different one from Le Bernadin), then I'd say open your mind and try Komi.
Very different places, as I said, and so very different experiences, too.
For some people, Le Bernardin and places like it are always going to be seen as more impressive — more statement-making — no matter how good Komi and places like it are. For those people, the trappings matter. They matter a lot.
Komi isn't about trappings.
I just think for that many restaurants, the quality ought to be higher.
What mom n pops would you have me try that I haven't already tried? Guardado's? I like it. Wonderful? No. Visions? No, thank you. Where else?
That's really tough — there are a lot of places on that short list that I think are terrific. But for one meal, right now, I would say The Source –1a, and Palena — 1b …
I've got to go now and knock back some meds — my throat is getting scratchy, and I've been nursing a cold the last couple of days.
I've got to rest up for tonight. I'll be talking about (and signing) my new book, The Wild Vine, at Bailey's Crossroads. 7:30. On Thursday, I'll be at Barnes & Noble in Bethesda. Also at 7:30. Maybe I'll have a chance to meet some of you –?
Meantime, be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK … ]
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