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 June 1st.
Where I'd Spend My Own Money
Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville
Bistro Bis, DC
Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
Chez Manelle, Arlington
Dickson Wine Bar, DC
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
J&G Steakhouse, DC
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, Columbia
La Limeña, Rockville
Palena Cafe, DC
Poste Brasserie, DC
Pueblo Viejo, Beltsville
Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring
Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale
Zentan sushi bar, DC
I don't know if they have malteds — can't remember — but the new Ted's Bulletin makes some fabulous shakes. I love the s'mores.
One place I know that does chocolate malteds is The Woodside Deli, in Silver Spring. They're good. The food? Sometimes good, sometimes not so, but I like the shakes and I like the texture of the place, the old Vargas girls up on the wall in the back room, the black-and-white memorabilia.
Sorry for the late start today, everyone. I'll aim to type fast and get us back up to cruising speed …
I had an amazing meal at Fusion Indian in Petworth last night. Crispy Spinach appetizer, Panak Paneer, butter chicken…all delicious. Didn't try dessert but it looked good, and the drinks were really unusual and tasty.
Looked around to see if I could find some reviews but haven't seen any. Have you checked it out?
I've been several times, and have written about it here on the chat, although not in the magazine. I enjoy it.
I think owner Barry Dindhal, who left his job as a cook at Rasika [Ed note: Dindhal worked as a floor manager, not a cook, at Rasika] to open his own spot, is doing a good job with this place. There are some inconsistencies here and there, but Fusion delivers a lot of bang for the buck. The samosas are a cut above, and the curries, when the cooking is on, are really fine — with smooth and elegant gravies.
That strip of shops in Petworth has two very worthy places to eat in Moroni and Brother's and Fusion. That's something.
Good Morning Todd,
I had a cucumber based gazpacho at Central maybe 2 or 3 years ago. I loved it. I dream about it. I want to have it again.
I haven't been back to Central in the past couple of weeks, but did notice it wasn't on the menu the last time I was there…. Any suggestions on how to get it back on the menu or something? I wouldn't bother the Recipe Sleuth with getting the recipe since my cooking skills are in the "can boil water" range. Thoughts?
Well, pining for something publicly is one way to get a dish back on the menu. And you've done a pretty good job of that, I'd say.
And to your flat-outdismissal of your cooking skills, I say: hold on. A gazpacho is not that hard to make. This particular gazpacho, I can't speak for — it may involve steps I can't foresee. But gazpacho? Gazpacho is one of the easiest things to put together.
The operative phrase there is put together. If you have a food processor and a decent palate, you can make gazpacho.
Although, having said all that, I wonder now why so few gazpachos I eat in restaurants are rewarding–?
I tend to think it's because cooks look at the thing and say: Ha. Too easy. Need a higher degree of difficulty. And then they go sophisticating it. Or adding in ingredients it doesn't need.
Another gazpacho that has gone missing from a local menu is the one at Poste. I love that gazpacho, and hope it returns soon.
Going to an event tonight at the Newseum and just found out they are serving wine but no food. Any recommendations in that area for an inexpensive, quick dinner? Thanks!
Ha. The solution's right there in the building.
The Source Lounge has a happy hour offer going from 5-7: three selections off its izakaya-style menu for $20.
That includes the marvelous mini banh mi, a bowl of chewy udon noodles with braised oxtail, and long, cool slivers of superb yellowtail with jalapeño.
It's the best deal going now in the city.
Of course, a single drink will set you back nearly as much as 3 small plates, but in this case, you can refrain since you're going to be drinking a good bit of wine elsewhere.
After all the discussions about Annapolis I wondered if you had any insight as to why the restaurant scene there seems to be so lackluster. With multiple colleges and the state legislature there for part of the year,and a lot of day-trippers and tourists, it would seem to be able to support a lot of interesting and diverse places. But they seem to lack interesting mid level price range restaurants and many of their higher end restaurants seem to be struggling.
Do you think it is that rent is really high in most places prohibiting the type of restaurant that could succeed? Or that people aren't as interested or aren't willing to pay the prices that higher end restaurants need? I would attribute some to the economy, but it was like it is before the recession. Do you think it is due to lack of business incentive?
I am really perplexed by it every time I read about people living there struggling to find places they like. And having lived there for a short time it seems very strange to me, but maybe I am missing something.
It's a great question, and I don't have a great answer, unfortunately. I really don't know. Although my guess would be that there probably isn't a great answer — a single, unifying explanation.
Some thoughts, though …
–Touristy spots, with water as the big draw, generally aren't great dining destinations. Why? Don't need to be.
–You'd think affluence and status would go hand-in-hand with a good scene, but it's just not the case. Look at Capitol Hill, which is only now lurching toward something interesting. Or McLean.
Personally, I don't look at Annapolis and scratch my head. I look at Bethesda and scratch my head. So many places to eat, so few of them good or exciting.
I'll bet that's tasty.
I think it'd be even tastier, personally, if you were to heat the olives in this mixture for about 15 minutes in a warm pan, infuse them with all those good flavors.
After a trip to Florida and watching some B rated food movies, I've developed the following cravings and need some help finding out where I can go to satisfy them.
1. A Cuban sandwich (trip to Florida)
2. Ramen (embarrassingly I recently watched The Ramen Girl
3. Wings of various flavors – hot, garlic or whatever is delicious (just because a good wing is hard to find around here) And just because I put myself out there with my confession of watching The Ramen Girl, I'm curious to know what your top 3-5 favorite food related movies are (and I’m not saying The Ramen Girl is in my top 3-5).
Thanks Todd! Your chats make my Tuesdays more pleasant.
Thank you. That's great to hear. All of you out there — on here? — make my Tuesdays that much better, too. …
I love reading about people's cravings. It's almost like getting a peek into someone's diary. The tastes that really speak to and drive a person.
Here's where I'd go …
1. Cubano. I'd go to either Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville, or La Limeña in Rockville.
2. Ramen. Nothing really good, now that Ren's has shut down. Best I can come up with is Temari Cafe in Rockville.
3. Wings. Lots of possibilities here — Bon Chon Chicken in Koreatown (aka Annandale); Bombay Curry Co. in Delray; WOW Wingery in Bowie; KBQ in Bowie; Johnny's Half Shell in DC.
Now, my favorite food movies …
In no particular order:
* Babette's Feast
* Big Night
* Eat Drink Man Woman
* The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover ; )
I'm writing to you with a bit of a rant, but also to solicit an opinion and recommendation.
My significant other and me enjoyed a meal at Central over the weekend. I selected this restaurant for a birthday celebration after reading your review in the on-line version of 100 Best Restaurants. We were both impressed with the quality, generous portions and prompt service. Actually, the service may have been too prompt. We made it pretty clear to our waitress that we were in no rush, but we barely had enough time to catch our breath between courses. No biggie! Not a deal-breaker.
The thing that surprised and disappointed us the most was the fact that folks in jeans, shorts and t-shirts were sharing space with us. Very, very disappointing!
This is not the first time we've encountered this at what are supposed to be DC's finer restaurants, and I've finally decided to write to see what the deal is. One minute I find myself being angered at the diners for thinking that this is acceptable, and the next I'm fuming at restaurant staff for allowing it. Can't blame the customer if the establishment lets them in, can I?
Is this a DC thing…or am I just unlucky with my choices for "special occasion" restaurants? Don't get me wrong… I'm not the stuffed-shirt type! Not at all… I spend most of my days dressed down. That's exactly why I get my hopes up to the extent that I do when seeking a fine dining experience.
I just don't understand why some places don't opt for…and enforce the 'ol "Proper Attire Required" deal. Are those days gone? Are they just gone in DC?? I'm only in my 40's…so it's not like I'm some old romantic yearning for the good 'ol days. It's just that when I want a really nice evening out…I want every aspect of it to be right.
It's such a buzz-kill to dress for a night out…only to walk in the door to see most everyone else dressed for ESPN Zone! What's the deal? Where do I need to be going? – Eric
Eric, thanks for writing in. And I understand your perspective, although I can't say I sympathize.
Central and others like it are not fine dining destinations. Fine dining aims to be a much more exclusionary experience. Central is busy and clattering, and although its prices are not cheap, they're not in line with Citronelle, either. There are no tablecloths, and few of the bells and whistles of fine dining — an amuse bouche to start, petit fours to end, etc.
If you ask me, and you sort of did, the increase in places that are okay with casual dress is a good thing. This is, still, a very buttoned-down city. Compare it with dining out in San Francisco and New York, and it's still very uptight despite the recent changes.
It's important also to consider that this greater liberalism where the dress code is concerned is economically driven. Restaurants know it's not in their best interests these days to be exclusionary. They want customers to come frequently, not infrequently. There are very few places anymore that pride themselves or position themselves as a "special occasion" destination.
You can have that experience, if you want, at places like Marcel's or Citronelle or Restaurant Eve. There you would be more in the right to expect people to dress differently.
But I still don't think that it's worth doing a slow burn inside. People are people. Live and let live. Isn't that part of the social contract of going out, in general — a readiness to accept whatever comes? Unless it's out and out offensive, and someone is actively violating your personal space or abusing you?
My husband and I are about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in a few weeks and wanted your suggestions for some good places to grab a nice dinner and celebrate. He loves a good steak, but we are trying to keep our expenses low.
Any recomendations for a moderately priced night out?
I've got a couple of ideas, and both not too far from you.
The first is Ray's the Steaks at East River. It doesn't "code" special occasion, and I know a lot of people who live west of the river would never dare set foot east or the river (most, in fact, would not know what river the restaurant refers to), but let me tell you something — you're not going to find a better dining value in the area right now than this. The two of you can have a nice meal, including a good steak for your husband and a glass of wine each, and expect to pay about $55 or $60. It simply can't be beat.
Add in a gracious staff, and a really easy-going vibe in the dining room, and you have a pretty special place.
If you're looking for something a little more conventionally special, then I'd hit Montmartre in Eastern Market. The hanger steak is a good deal. And be sure to order the Ille Flotant for dessert — Floating Island, a fluffy meringue moored in a rich, lightly sweet cream sauce.
Nothing there, or near there, I can recommend.
Closest I can come up with that's good is Sakana, on P St. in Dupont Circle. Rolls are the strength of the place.
Well, let me start by saying that I don't think there's anything around here that Andrew Zimmern hasn't had before, and many times over.
But my list would most likely include:
— Taqueria La Placita in Little Mexico. 20 kinds of tacos, including pig lip, pig cheek, and the ultimate in "mystery meat" — cabeza.
— Ravi Kabob I, II or III for lamb brain karahi.
— Abay Market in Falls Church, where the aged meat hangs from the ceiling and is sliced with a knife before being sent to the table for swiping in awaze.
— Bob's Noodle 66 for fried duck tongues in a chili basil sauce.
By the way, I don't know if any of you have picked up on this, but Zimmern does a very subtle thing when he's forced to eat something he knows is challenging or unappetizing. He teeths it. He doesn't allow the thing to come in contact with his lips — just his teeth. A very, very clever way of curtailing the sensual experience.
I'd put more stock in all of this stuff out there if people would use their real names and their real email addresses.
As is, we have no idea who these people are. Although we can guess, since Yelp is not exactly on the up and up, and it's so easy to have a friend of the house just put up some praiseworthy review — in glittering prose, of course.
There's such an uproar every time someone suggests that the web needs to become a more accountable place — a place where people come clean about who they are, particularly if they're going to bash people and damage their livelihoods, or engage in hostile, name-calling exchanges, or indulge their taste for snark without consequence. But — oddly — people feel no compunction about telling the world where they are at any given moment, and letting advertisers know their personal preferences, and revealing other intimate details of their (not very interesting) private lives.
Anyway. To answer your question: No, I haven't been yet. The place just opened on Friday, and that was a "soft opening."
And I agree with you: not every place has to be Birch & Barley. Not every place ought to aspire to that. Just as not every place needs to be Citronelle. Or even Central. A few dozen more Ted's Bulletins would be a really good thing for this city.
Let me suggest an alternative: Mourayo, on Connecticut, just up from Dupont Circle.
It's Greek, but modern Greek, the prices are moderate for this area, and the dining room is what you're looking for — it's very evocative of the Mediterranean. I also think you're going to find better food than you would at Poste or Lia's.
Alternatively: Potenza downtown. It's not quite the light and airy setting you're looking for, but it's not at all a heavy atmosphere, the room is very lively, and the prices are moderate. There's some unpretentious good cooking, too. And desserts are generally excellent.
If you choose either of these, please drop back in and let us know how it turned out …
I expect to be flooded with emails for the next several days for saying this, but whatever — Komi to me is the more exciting place when it comes to what's on the plate.
That's an interesting perspective. Thanks for writing in and helping me to see something from another angle.
I think what you say has merit.
But I have to wonder if you are the aberration or the rule?
The problem with customer reviews is that people have all sorts of expectations, and all across the spectrum at that — of a book, of a restaurant, etc. — and they don't own up to them. Much of the time, these expectations are not legit expectations. And yet a "review" still stands.
Opinions are simply not worth much. Reasoned arguments are.
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.
Is there something wrong with "cheapest" being tasty? Remember, chicken wings, one of the tastiest parts of a chicken, used to be the cheapest cut you could buy. Oxtails and marrow bones are much cheaper than filet mignon (to most Americans, the best you can get in a steak) and yet I'd rather eat both of these than a dull, savor-less filet mignon.
I say, be happy that an onglet, or hanger steak, is still such a good deal most of the time. Although, as these things go, it's not nearly the deal it was a decade ago. It's become much more fashionable, and hence, much more expensive. …
… Thank you all, for all the good questions this morning and early afternoon — I'm hungry as usual. It's too bad my lunch isn't going to come close to satisfying all the cravings I've developed as a result of our back and forth! Oh, well …
Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11.
And a quick bit of housekeeping before I leave you … Have a look at my new website: toddkliman.com. I think you'll enjoy it, and you can learn more about my new book, The Wild Vine, as well.
[missing you, TEK … ]
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