Tuesday, July 27 at 11 AM

Read the transcript from today's chat with food and 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 AM 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.

Follow Todd on Twitter!

TK's 25: Where I'd Spend My Own Money

 

2 Amy's, DC 

Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville

Black Market Bistro, Garrett Park

Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore

Buck's Fishing & Camping, DC

Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis

Central Michel Richard, DC

DaMoim, Annandale

Gom Ba Woo, Annandale

J&G Steakhouse, DC

Jackie's, Silver Spring

Komi, DC

Kushi, DC

La Flor de la Canela, Rockville 

La Limeña, Rockville

Minh's, Arlington

Palena Cafe, DC

Poste Brasserie, DC

Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring

Ray's the Steaks at East River, DC

Silver Diner, Greenbelt

The Source and The Source Lounge, DC

Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale

Zaytinya, DC 

Zentan Sushi Bar, DC

 

Rockville, MD

Hi Todd,

I've recently moved to Rockville from DC and am thrilled to have more chinese food options. However, I noticed that a lot of the good chinese restaurants (A&J, Joe's Noodle House) specialize in Northern Chinese cuisine.

Do you have any recs for cantonese style chinese restaurants?

Also, on a separate topic, what are your top 2 Indian restaurants in Rockville?

My Indian recs are not strong recs. Bombay Bistro is probably the one I feel strongest about. Memsahib is decent, and fun. India Grill has its moments but is not consistent enough for me.

You're right about the preponderance of Northern Chinese restaurants. Not much in the way of Cantonese, or not much in the way of good Cantonese. Bob's Noodle 66 is a break from the pack, in that it's Taiwanese. I think it's a terrific spot. Go for the ginger chicken, the Taiwanese hamburger, the soups, and the volcano of shaved ice for dessert. 

Woodley Park

I poked through the archives and drooled over what you said about Miss Charlotte's Crabcakes. Drove out to Minnesota Ave. and can't tell you how disappointed I was to see the building recently destroyed by a fire.

This link says Miss Charlotte's was under renovation – do you know the scoop on whether or not it will reopen? http://statter911.com/2010/06/03/raw-video-from-2-alarm-commercial-building-fire-in-washington-dc/

I don't have any inside info, but I did speak with a couple of folks in the neighborhood not long ago, and they tell me that Miss Charlotte's is planning on a return. I hope so. It was a good, honest lunch at a good price. Also, a reminder that crabcakes need not be upscale to be good.

Bethesda, MD

Re: Green coffee beans from last week.

Main site for that hobby is http://www.sweetmarias.com – a West Coast company whose site is an incredible source of knowledge about beans and equipment. Roasters run $300-$600 for home varieties, with a lot of art involved. The thing is, it is worth it, because the beans are less than half of what you would pay in a store for roasted, so the machine actually amortizes.

At least you can tell your wife or girlfriend that. Well worth having the fun.

"It actually amortizes." That is a good one to tell your wife or girlfriend! Beats a lot of other things you can say in your defense.

Thanks for chiming in with the tip. 

Sounds expensive to me, still, for something you may only do every so often. What do you mean by — a lot of art involved?

washington, dc

Todd-

I'm in the business and love reading the chat! I must say I've been disappointed by 2 Amy's lately…

I live nearby and would have to say I would chose the new Pete's Apizza on Wisconsin over 2 Amy's..I had a really soggy pizza because they didn't cook the mushrooms first so all the water released on the pizza..I know you say you'd spend your money there but do you ever think its overrated?

I'm with you on this — I've been very disappointed in the pizzas I've had there for the last year or so.

So why are they in the list at the top of this chat? Because everything else has been brilliant.

I think you really have to think of 2 Amys, now, as an Italian restaurant. If you do that, you'll focus on the small plates and the wines and the desserts, and you'll have great meals. The small plates I've had in the past year have been really, really good, with some tremendous highs and — remarkable, if you think about it — not one out-and-out dud or disappointment that I can remember in the bunch. I also like the selection of wines by the glass; there are some great, and affordable, complements to the food on the list. Desserts are simple and good — the ice creams are some of the best in the city, and I've always loved the almond cake.

For pizza, for just pizza, I would do what you do — I would hit Pete's. I think it's the best pizza going in the city right now. With Moroni and Brother's trailing, in second.

 

Washington DC

Todd –

I finally splurged last week and went out with a friend to Komi. The food was amazing, the ambiance was great, the service was impeccable.

My only complaint? I was told the chef doesn't allow photos of the food to be taken. I wrote to the restaurant afterward explaining how I had an amazing experience but that I was disappointed about the no photos part. I told them that I understood why flash wouldn't be allowed (disruption for other diners), but I didn't understand why I couldn't snap photos of my plates.

This was a once in a lifetime meal for me because of the cost, I would have liked to have pictures to remember it by. I was told by them very nicely that they wanted their diners to live in the moment rather than be distracted by documenting it and also that there is an element of surprise to their dishes and that they prefer diners not have that ruined (by pictures posted on the internet, I assume).

What are your thoughts on this? It was such a change from my experience at Minibar which is the king of surprise, in my opinion, but where they welcomed photography.

Honestly, it left a slight bitter taste in my mouth that has overshadowed my dining experience. If I shell out that much money, place myself in their hands (willingly) for the menu, I would have liked the return favor of being allowed to record it.

Are more restaurants in DC going this route? What is your opinion on this policy? Honestly, the fact that photos aren't allowed at certain restaurants might affect if I decide to eat at them; do you know what other DC restaurants have this policy? Thanks!

I think, first of all, that Komi makes its own decisions, it doesn't follow the pack, and I don't think you could call this a trend.

I can respect the decision, even if I can understand your rationale of wanting a kind of photographic keepsake of a great meal.

If I were the chef of a restaurant like this, I would not want diners posting pictures of my food on the internet. That may not have been your intention, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that they wind up there. 

I would want diners to have as unmediated an experience as possible. That's not what a lot of restaurants want, particularly restaurants with PR operations behind them. The idea is to mediate as much as possible, so that blogs and publications are flooded with info and diners arrive knowing the chef's philosophy, his inspirations, his sources, and the restaurant's reason for being.

Komi doesn't tout. There's no PR operation, there's barely a website, there are no pictures floating on the internet, and for such a highly praised restaurant it remains, by contrast with most of the other big-name spots in town, something of a mystery still.

I like that, and I would want that if I were the chef of a restaurant at that level. It allows you to come to it, to discover what it is and is not, what it has to offer and what it doesn't. 

Washington, DC

Hi Todd,

My husband is treating me to dinner at Kushi tonight (with help from a half-price Groupon!). The food sounds amazing, but I'm a little stumped on how to order.

Should we just get a mix of grilled things and sushi? Guidelines on how many of each? I find any place with four menus somewhat overwhelming!

Thanks in advance.

I'm glad you asked. It does require a little strategy.

Here's what I would do.

I would build around the sushi and sashimi; that's your anchor.

If you're in a mood to splurge, give serious consideration to the extra menu you get at the beginning, a list of specials for the day. On it, you'll find some interesting choices. Last time I was in, it was fresh uni prized from its shell. Expensive, but since it's so rare, kind of worth it. It was fantastic. I've also seen yellowtail belly on there, and a number of varieties of fish that are seldom seen on sushi menus around here.

If something catches your eye, and you can afford it, get it.

On the regular sushi menu, I'd also be sure to order the bari chirashi, one of the best presentations of chirashi I've seen. It's a good selection, beautifully offered.

So: a selection or two from the daily special list, an order of bari chirashi and then maybe a half-dozen to a dozen pieces of sushi or sashimi.

The sushi is presented more classically than some places, so the pieces are smaller and more delicate than some would prefer. But the balance, here — between fish and rice, and in the rice between sugar and vinegar — is excellent. 

Now, with sushi as your anchor, you can think about grilled items and small plates. I'd consider any of the following: the meatballs, the Japanese potato salad, the duck thigh, the skewered foie gras, the stuffed quail.

My drink of choice: Hitachino Japanese white ale. 

And don't forget dessert: I like the meyer lemon-and-shochu sorbet, and I like to mix the Valrhona chocolate ice cream and the salt ice cream.

Have a great time, and let me know next week how it turns out … 

Shaw

Hi Todd, thanks for these chats…I greatly enjoy your writing style and appreciate your insights.

Do you have any information on the forthcoming Roberto Donna restaurant…is the deal dead? I walk by the location frequently and very little work seems to have been done over the last several months.

It's been around 2 years since we first heard rumblings of his return; I know delays are common but this is a bit excessive. Curious if you have any thoughts.

On another note, can we look forward to any other essay type pieces by you and if so on what topics? Thanks.

Yeah, two years is excessive, even in this industry where delays are the norm for openings.

I walked by that site just last week, and saw what you saw; if work has been done, if this thing is progressing, it's really hard to tell. I don't hear much about the project these days; and what I hear is idle speculation and innuendo, which we don't need to get into here.

From everything I know, and from the way things are going, I have to say — I just don't think this thing is going to happen. I could be wrong, but that's what I think right now.

As for essays — you tell me, what would you like to see explored? What would you like to read? 

DC
Ellicott City/Columbia MD was just ranked #2 in CNN's best places to live in the US. Any good restaurants noteworthy in that area?

There are.

I think Sushi Sono is excellent, and also worth a 30-40 minute drive. One of the things I love there is the sashimi presentation of mackerel. The flesh is rendered into delicate bands of sashimi, which are served alongside a bowed, skewered carcass, itself transformed into a kind of fishing boat. When you're done, a waitress asks if you'd like the carcass to be fried. Say yes. The result is oddly addictive, crunchy and salty and pleasantly fishy.

If you go, make sure to get the restaurant's version of shrimp balls, coated in panko, fried, and then dusted with Old Bay. The daily specials nearly always include either chu-toro or oh-toro, and unlike the majority of tuna in the region, it's seldom if ever mealy.

I also really like Jesse Wong's Asean (that's not a typo) Bistro. The menu is pan-Asian, but most of the dishes — and most of the best dishes — I think would fall under the heading of Chinese (tea-smoked duck with steamed buns, minced chicken in lettuce wraps, wontons in chili oil). Stirfrys are notably cleaner and lighter than elsewhere. The presentation is grand, even at times over the top, but this emphasis on style is not meant to distract you from the lack of substance in the cooking. 

Some friends of mine in nearby Savage, Md., have been talking excitedly of an Indian place in Columbia, Royal Taj. I've yet to go, but on the basis of their recommendations am eager to begin exploring the menu. 

is this normal?
I usually read the chats after they occur–is the slowness a hiccup, or is this how it usually happens?

I'm being told that there are some "bizarre" technical problems going on with the site today.

The producer just emailed to say only 2 questions and answers have been posted — 2 out of the 10 I have submitted.

I can tell you that the problem is being worked on — although I don't know that that matters a great deal at this point, since none of you, I take it, are going to read what I just typed …

Clifton, VA
How would Komi know if you discreetly took pixs with your Iphone? Man hold the Iphone like you checking your messages and take the pixs. They will never know!

No, they'd probably never know. But what's the point? Unless the restaurant "wrongs" you, somehow, why spurn the request to not snap a picture? And especially if that request was made in a reasonable, non-snotty way?

Washington, DC- H St., NE
I plan on going out to Sticky Rice tonight for some karaoke, drinks and perhaps a little sushi. I have never been on a Tuesday for karaoke and was wondering if you have? Would getting there at 8:00 be a bad idea? I live a few blocks down, so I could easily grab a table in advance and perhaps grab a drink to get my courage up early!

Haven't been for karaoke, no — and in fact, have never done karaoke. Not that I can remember, anyway. ; )

Can't offer any guidance, here — sorry. But I can tell you that the sushi is generally pretty bad. I'd drink heavily, then eat. 

Ballston, VA

Todd:

Friends coming in from out of town, looking for a high end dinner with the requirement of having a tasting menu, and ambience. 2941, Volt, The Source, Poste, Oval Room, or Adour or Todd's pick? Thanks!

I'd add Komi and Citronelle to that list.

And I'd narrow my decision to Komi, Citronelle, 2941 and The Source. 

Washington, DC
Any really good take-out or delivery chinese food in DC that you would recommend?

You know, it's a really good question you ask, and I say that because now that I think about it — no, there's nothing I'd recommend; nothing that really qualifies to me as really great Chinese take-out.

Banana Leaves, just north of Dupont Circle, isn't exclusively Chinese — it's a mix of Asian styles — but I think they do a pretty good job of carryout. Mr. Chen's Organic Chinese in Woodley Park is fine in a pinch. Great Wall Szechuan is also fine in a pinch.

Nothing wonderful, though.

Unless I'm forgetting something … Any place you think deserves to be added to the not-so-illustrious list I've compiled?

Reston, VA

Following up on the Kushi plan: Took the SO there this past Friday and this plan did indeed work perfectly.

For the daily specials we tried both the amberjack and the mackeral and they were simply fantastic. As far as grilled/cooked items, we really enjoyed the skewered pork belly, as well as another item from the daily list: fried chicken with ginger/scallions.

I really can't say enough good things about this place, and if you pick and choose correctly it almost becomes a value.

One note: ignore the folks on Yelp complaining about portion size, as we left more than full for $60/person including tip/cocktails/saki (some Yelpers seem to have an issue with portion control…).

I don't know if it's a problem with "portion control"; I think people just like to bitch. ; )

I do think that there's a way to order here, and a way to not order here. I also think that some people are so used to the nigiri you get in a lot of mid-level places — thickly cut and sometimes massively sized — that they're inclined to look at the classical presentation of nigiri at Kushi and think: Hm. Stingy.

You say that it almost becomes a value. I think that's a stretch. But I don't think that's a problem in this case, because Kushi doesn't present itself as a value. It is what it is.

Washington, DC

Good morning Todd!

I am lucky enough to eat at Komi again in a few weeks (yay!) and I was wondering if you knew whether or not they changed their menu format…? Is it now just one price, with the only option being the full-blown mezzathakia, plus entree and dessert (essentially, the "degustazione" option)? This was always my preferred choice anyway….who wouldn't want more small bites coming from that kitchen. But I was just curious!

Also, am celebrating a major milestone at the sushi counter at Sushi Taro in a few weeks as well….with a non-meat eater. Do you think that will be a problem for them? Obviously, seafood is fine, or we wouldn't have picked a sushi place, but not having ever done the omakase option at Sushi Taro before, I wasn't sure if they routinely send out anything land-animal based. I definitely let them know about the restriction when I made the reservation, but should I tell them one of us eats meat, so that I won't miss out on some yummy tidbit they would send out?

Thanks, as always, for the chats….I am a devoted follower!

Well, I'm grateful for your devotion; thanks for saying that, and thanks also for taking part today.

Komi is, yes, all degustazione, all the time. 

And Taro shouldn't be a problem at all; there's not much that's meat in the omakase option, and by letting the chef know in advance, as you did, you've protected your friend from anything offending. I would make a point of bringing this up again when you sit down, being sure to emphasize that although one of you can't eat meat, one of you can (and that, moreover, you'd welcome, say, a delicate slice of kobe if it should find its way into the selection for the night).

U Street

Re: Komi pictures

No way you can take pictures with an iPhone without flash. I tried and it's too dark. Re: Kushi I had their extra fatty tuna. Totally worth it. It melted in my mouth! Also agree about the pork belly. And request a seat at the grill station … so much fun to see cooking in action.

You're so right about the Iphone; I forgot about that.

Picture-taking on the thing is pretty lousy as it is; the BlackBerry is significantly better. I miss the BlackBerry for that reason; and of course now my iPhone doesn't ring now when a call comes in. I hate having become dependent on a piece of technology, don't you? An undependable piece of technology, at that. I hate what it's done to us.

As for the oh-toro and the pork belly — yes, absolutely. Must-gets. And a seat at the bar is fun, if you can snag a seat.

U Street

Re: Take out Chinese food.

Does no one like City Lights of China anymore? They're my go-to place.

I knew I was forgetting something.

They're decent; occasionally, better than decent. If you go back a ways in the city, however, you would remember that City Lights was once one of the best Chinese restaurants in DC. In the early '90s, it was THE destination for take-out and for sit-down, too. Always crammed, and almost always delicious. It's slipped a good bit since then.

That's all for this week, everyone.

I'm off to go check in on my mom, who since Sunday has been without power. She's handling it remarkably well, all things considered. It helps that she hates A/C, and has an extremely high tolerance for heat and humidity. 95 degree days don't faze her.

Still, a good lunch is in order, a nice little respite from going without any radio or TV or computer. Just books, her trusty standby (she reads about two a week) …

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

 

 

 

 

[missing you, TEK … ]

 

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