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 22nd.
Where I'd Spend My Own Money
Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville
Bistro Bis, DC
Black Market Bistro, Garrett Park
Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
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
Good morning, everyone.
I just wanted to take a moment to announce the winner of last week's copy of THE WILD VINE, my new book. The copy goes to Joan April. Congratulations, Joan, and thanks so much for entering.
I've got another to give away this week.
Copy goes to the reader who furnishes the best description of a dish — and by dish, I don't necessarily mean a restaurant dish; it could be a moon pie.
You can send your entry via the chat, so that we can all read it, or you can send it via email, later: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'll second the recommendation of Tay Do.
That place has had many odd incarnations, including a conversion and rechristening — it was called, for a time, Metropoluxe — but the food is often excellent. Great pho, too.
I had something weird happen to me at Bourbon Steak. Great service, amazing food (still raving about the lobster pot pie and candy bar dessert).
But here's what happened: We brought a bottle of wine for our main course (all fine with the $25 corkage fee). The sommelier put it aside, but then right before it was brought, he opened it, poured a small amount, and drank it (not at our table, but off to a side of the restaurant where wine bottles were being held).
I guess he was doing the "test" to make sure it wasn't corked, but why didn't he bring it over for me or my date to test? Should I be flattered because he thought it was a good wine and wanted to taste it for himself? Probably should've asked him when he poured our full glasses, but I was worried that it was just standard procedure that I was simply unfamiliar with. I know a small taste of wine isn't a huge deal, but I couldn't help but feel weirded out.
Is this standard procedure for people who BYOB?
It's standard procedure for wine, not for BYOB.
You know, it's funny but I can't say I've ever seen a sommelier do this when I brought a bottle to a restaurant. I understand the need for it with a bottle in the restaurant's own cellar, but it seems an odd affectation to stick to when it's the customer's bottle. Yes, sure, a nice service — but also, as you point out, kind of a weird moment to have to sit through: He's drinking our wine!
I haven't had one yet. Best ever? That's saying a lot.
The pizzas they were making in their lipstick-red truck before they opened a storefront location I liked an awful lot. Those I would not hesitate to say were the best pizzas I ever had from a truck. I haven't been back to the truck since the shop opened, though.
Well, I have to say, my last meal at Passage was pretty disappointing. But for many years, yes, it's been not just the best Indian restaurant in Bethesda, but one of the best Indian restaurants in the area.
What else is there? Saveur India is pretty good. Aangan is pretty good. What am I overlooking–?
For the sweet tooth in Georgetown, if they could hop on up to Clarendon, Bakeshop VA and Artisan Confections are right beside each other. Both are very good. Although I always end up taking the metro to Rosslyn and walking up to Dolcezza in Georgetown to quiet my sweet tooth (the walk helps burn off some of the calories I hope).
Good suggestions. Thanks for chiming in …
Also in Georgetown, and a place that slipped my memory last week, is Sweetgreen — the undisputed king of frozen yogurt in this town.
To me, it tastes like a cross between Greek yogurt and frozen custard. Slightly tart, lusciously rich, supremely smooth.
This year, I was tasked with finding a restaurant for brunch to celebrate Fathers Day in the Baltimore area. I know this chat is supposed to be focused on DC, but I found this restaurant which I can not keep a secret from my fellow Washingtonians. It is worth the drive. It is called Woodbury Kitchen and is one of those agro restaurants which claims all of the food and drink are local.
I don't know if its true but I don't really care because I walked out of this meal so content and being hailed by my family as the best restaurant finder that ever walked this earth. No offense, but this place is ten times better than Founding Farmers and its sister restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront.
We had a 10:15am reservation for 11 people which included 4 very excitable children ranging from 4 to 9 years old. When we arrived, I was somewhat anxious because the dining room looked a bit small and I didn't want to be the loud table of 11 sitting right in the middle of smaller more intimate meals. It's times like these that I am envious of more compact families. I was thrilled when I discovered we were being seated in a side room along with another large party and two 4-tops.
The room was just as beautiful and filled with light and the kids could talk in their version of "inside voices." Our waiter steered us to the best dishes on the menu, spent an appropriate amount of time explaining the philosophy of the restauarnt, and managed to excite the children with something better than a shirley temple – a homemade strawberry and mint soda. Wasn't a huge hit but the kids were excited to get something "special." What I thought was so cool about this experience was that the menu had unique items and 99% of what we ordered actually tasted like good. So often, you get pancakes which are fine but nothing special, or you get french toast which is soggy or made with fresh challah instead of stale challah.
This place was firing on all cylanders. The waiter recommended that I get shirred eggs. Shirred eggs are basically eggs baked in a cast iron skillet in a wood burning stove. My skillet also had house made chorizo ( better than the very dense sausage patties), fresh cheese, fresh herbs, scallions, etc. Some of the yolk was running, some was hard boiled which the waiter had said to expect. Every bite was the perfect mix of ingredients, perfectly balanced, and hot because it was served in the skillet. I didn't even touch the bread, the potatos or the extra bacon on the plate. No need. The rock fish over biscuits with gravy – AMAZING. You don't see that on Vidalia or Acadiana's menu but they should consider adding it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A perfect mix of local rockfish and southern gravy.
My mother threw caution to the wind, forgot about her lifelong diet for a few minutes, and just enjoyed the Hangtown Fry – a plentiful, rich and decadent oyster hash. She made a point to mention to me that there were at least 7 oysters on her plate! Hey, if mom's happy, we're all happy.
The only downfall was the baked goods basket including donuts made-to-order. How do you mess up donuts? Here's how. Smother them with real lemon glaze. My mouth puckered instead of watered for more. The mini beignets looked good. The blueberry muffin was decent. I didn't try either because the donuts left such a sour taste in my mouth. All in all, this was one of the better restaurants I've been to lately.
For me, it's up there with the PS7, which I think is holding the crown right now in DC for its cold asaparagus soup and pork 3-ways entree. Oh holy goodness! If anyone makes it up there dinner, be sure to let us know if the food is on par with brunch.
Oh, and it has free valet…Need I say more?
I'm right with you: I think Woodberry is a terrific restaurant — well worth the drive for those of us in this area. In fact, I think a lot of what it does, it does better than restaurants in DC with similar aims.
I also like that it's committed to local not just when it comes to meats and produce, but also when it comes to wines; the long and interesting list includes Black Ankle Vineyards from Maryland and several Virginia wineries.
I'm eager to get back there.
Thanks for the mouth-watering report, which has made me ravenous as I sit here sipping my coffee and typing.
In search for best mussels in DC area. You perviously recommended Cafe du Parc for some good mussels and frites. Still good as ever? Any other places to try that haven't lost its quality of cooking (ie. Granville Moore's)? Thanks!
A "pervious" recommendation: I guess that'd be a recommendation with holes, huh? A hollow recommendation. I can only say, I hope that's not what I offer! : )
As for du Parc, yes, as good as ever when it comes to finding a big, steaming pot of sweet mussels. Moore's has slipped, I agree, and offhand I can't think of any place I'd strongly suggest.
One that comes to mind, but not for the familiar, classic preparations, is Franklin's in Hyattsville, where the mussels come on a cast iron skillet, sizzling and liberally flecked with coarse salt. It's a tasty dish, and especially with one of the Belgian-style brews from new brewmaster Mike Roy.
Ventured out to Ray's East River a couple weeks ago – the fried chicken really was spectacular, but the crab royale was such a disappointment. the beautiful lump crab meat was just doused in a creamy/mayo sauce that dominated every bite.
Thankfully we ordered their daily special, the smoked ribs, and they were delicious!
I've had that same dish there and didn't find it to be doused in the least, though it's entirely possible that whoever was heading up the kitchen that day got carried away. I loved the dish I had.
Smoked ribs sounds good. Hope they have them when I'm in next.
What is the best gelatos and ice cream places that you enjoy? Not to sound so naive, but what are the major differences are between gelato and ice cream?
No, no — it's a good question. I'm glad you asked it.
The big difference is that gelato is never frozen; it's almost frozen. Generally, gelato is kept at 33 degrees — a mere degree above the freezing point. But that mere degree difference is what accounts for the very distinctive texture of gelato.
That state that ice cream is in when it's scooped right from the carton — you never find gelato like that. It's softer.
With ice cream, I generally like to wait; I like it to soften and become creamy. My favorite thing with a box of ice cream — and who among us has not sat with a carton and gone to town? — is waiting for the edges to melt and eating it from the outside, in. Then, turning the mass of ice cream over and skimming the bottom surface of it, the entirety of which is now all melty and wonderful.
Anyway, gelato is like that at the beginning. There's no need to wait.
The other difference is that gelato is more strongly flavored; the best gelatos have a liquer-like intensity. Some people don't like that; they don't like the way it's so assertive. Me, I love it.
One problem you need to watch out for with gelato shops is how they store the product. A good many will save what is not sold and freeze it — which, of course, negates what it is. Gelato is not frozen. To freeze it, then, means to change it into something it's not.
Always ask: Is this made today? How is it stored?
(Does it make you look like a smug, self-important s.o.b. to pipe up like this? Probably. But there must be ways to do it nicely.)
My favorite spots …
For gelato, I like Dolcezza a lot. I used to like Aroma d'Italia, but the last two times I was there the flavors were off.
For ice cream: Milwaukee Frozen Custard — in Chantilly, Herndon, and Ashburn — is fantastic. I adore that place.
Can I ask why you'd want to know such a thing?
But OK, what the hell, nothing's private anymore …
I generally am up at 7:30. I'm a night person. I do a lot of my reading late at night, after my wife and son are asleep and the house is quiet, and there are many nights I'm reading until 1, sometimes 1:30, occasionally 2. There are times I'll go stay up finishing something and find it's 3 or later, but this doesn't happen as often as it used to, mostly because I now find I'm kind of shot the next day if I do, whereas in my 20s it hardly mattered.
So, what's next? The results of my Myers-Briggs test?
I know it, I need to try that place, you've been touting it for a while now. How about I swing by and pick you up and we go get a cone together?
We would also like the results of your MMPI I and II. TIA
I had to look these up — psychopathology, huh?
Nice to see my readers are questioning my stability and soundness of mind … : )
My three favorite places for brunch, although I willingly confess to not being a brunch-lover, are Poste Brasserie, Black Market Bistro and Tabard Inn. Interesting selections, attentive cooking, good atmosphere. Poste is at the top of that short list: I love the made-to-order donuts, I love the selection of drinks, I love the little twists on tradition.
Most of the time, however, I don't want all that first thing (or close to the first thing) in the morning. It's too much. It kills the day. What's that Jim Gaffigan bit about pancakes? You just want to call in sick afterwards and take the day off.
What I want, most of the time, is something like dim sum. Yes, of course, it can be heavy if you're not careful — but I'm careful, and generally go for a lot of variety from the carts. I also like going with a group, which cuts down on the tendency to gorge on any one dish.
I know it's not what most people think of when they think of brunch, but to me a table full of steamed buns and noodle crepes and tiny dumplings at Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard (alas, it's no longer on the Boulevard) is a great way to start the day.
$30 a head including tip and tax? I'd take 'em to Jaleo downtown. Or Zaytinya.
Tick off the boxes: value, comfort, setting, quality, variety, fun. I don't think you're going to find a better deal anywhere in the city.
If I take "DC" to be the entire metro area, I'd also include Minh's on that short list. Your pooled money will go very, very far, and you'll eat very, very well.
I'm still waking up, that's true.
I may get up at 7:30, but I don't really wake up — as in, being fully with-it and alert — until around noon. But I force myself to work — write — in the morning because I need something to work with later when I'm more locked-in, and because that's when most people are working and communicating.
As for the Myers-Briggs, I can tell you that the final letter is a "P" — a very definite "P."
Any word on if and when Red Rocks Pizza is coming to Alexandria, or when Pizza Paradisio is slated to open, I walk by, and hope for good Neapolitan pies in my future.
No word — at least, no word that's reached me.
It's been about 6 months, now, since both places announced their expansions. I heard summer for both, but I know from experience not to think that's going to mean July or August. These things always take longer than everybody thinks. There are always delays and setbacks. It might be September. Or early October.
I'm looking for some of your infinite dining wisdom here. The gf and I are heading to Rasika, finally. She has told me we have to order the palaak chat, but do you have any other recommendations (avoiding pork/beef products)?
Thanks, as always!
The palaak chat has kind of become the signature dish of the restaurant. It's a very light twist on the traditional dish. Rather than presented as a stew, the leaves of baby spinach are lightly, crispy fried and dressed with yogurt and tamarind.
I like it, I like its lightness and intensity of flavor, although a lot of the appeal for people is the novelty of it. I'd round out your first course with an order of the excellent seekh kabob; wonderfully spiced, minced lamb is fashioned into two long hot dogs and framed with long slicks of mint chutney.
For entrees: I'd go with any two of the following three — the lobster moilee, the tandoori lamb chops with cashews, ginger, and green herbs, or the rogan josh (which features a lamb shank rather than stewed chunks of lamb).
Dessert: apple beignet and/or carrot halwa.
Hope that helps. I'll be curious to hear how things turned out …
Thanks a million for these chats and all of your writing.
We are spending a few days next month on the Eastern Shore for a birthday B & B getaway, and I was hoping you could give us some recommendations for where to have a couple meals.
I would love your advice on where to grab lunch, cocktails, blue crab ('tis the season), and perhaps a place for a nice celebratory dinner for the two of us. We're staying in Chestertown, but plan to do some driving around to St. Michaels and Easton.
208 Talbot is worthwhile. It's in St. Michael's.
I like the list of wines, which is larger and more interesting than I would have expected — and particularly good for by-the-glass options. The atmosphere in the bar area, which I prefer over the dining room, is cozy and low-key, a good place to while away a couple of hours. If you go, think of assembling a meal as opposed to ordering more traditionally; the small plates are the strong suit.
The restaurant is not right on the water, but close.
Bella Luna is also a good bet. Also in St. Michael's. It's a combination gourmet market and cafe. The best thing there is the plate of meats and cheeses with homemade pickled veggies. It's wonderful. And even better with a glass or two of wine. Again, a full meal — with multiple courses — is an iffier thing.
I'll be interested to hear what you find at these places, and what else you might turn up. Drop in when you return and drop me a note.
Yes, agree. But cold pizza — still a pretty wonderful guilt-laden treat some mornings, no?
What's the best pizza for this, do you think, KO'ers?
My favorite, by far, is the pizza from Tommy Marcos' Ledo Restaurant — I think because of the distinctive biscuity crust and sweet tomato sauce. By the next morning, the cheese — mozzarella and smoked provolone — has congealed, but nicely, not disgustingly, like some. The pizza is like something else, something not-quite pizza — a new thing entirely.
If you've got a pizza that you think works cold, let me know; I'll be interested to hear what brand you think tastes good the next day.
Send any tips my way via email, and of course, please send along any dish write-ups you've got (no limit, here) to win a free copy of THE WILD VINE.
Be well, everyone, eat well and let's do it again next week at 11 …
[missing you, TEK]
>>Submit your questions in advance for next week's chat.