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.
TK's 25: Where I'd Spend My Own Money
2 Amy's, DC
Black Market Bistro, Garrett Park
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
Gom Ba Woo, Annandale
J&G Steakhouse, DC
Jackie's, Silver Spring
La Canela, Rockville
La Limeña, Rockville
La Strada, Del Ray
Palena Cafe, DC
Poste Brasserie, DC
Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring
Silver Diner, Greenbelt
Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale
Zentan Sushi Bar, DC
Regarding the pizza conversation, what about Comet Ping Pong?
I definitely think it ranks up there with 2 Amy's and Pizza Paradiso. The toppings and the flavors are so delicious – I love the fresh ricotta. I haven't tried Pete's though – how does it compare to Comet?
When it's good, it's one of the better pizzas out there. I've seen some inconsistency there.
You mentioned Paradiso, which puts out a good pie. I think Pete's puts out a very good pie — as I said, probably the best pizza in the area right now.
I'd round out my Top 3 right now with these two: Moroni and Brother's, in Petworth, and Seventh Hill, in Eastern Market.
By the way, I managed to make time for a final stop at Tommy Marcos's Ledo Restaurant on the final weekend in its original location. The restaurant is moving from Adelphi to College Park. The new place is expected to open in a couple of weeks.
The pizzas were terrific. I love the biscuity crust, which is not for everyone, and the smoked provolone, also not for everyone. Customers were taking pictures, documenting the scene, and there were large groups at tables bidding the place goodbye.
I'll miss the old framed pictures of Maryland basketball coaches, the faded pennants, the rec room paneling, the green carpets. I can't imagine eating the pizza is going to be the same in a bright, new room whose character has yet to develop — and may never develop.
I need to make reservations for a work related dinner next week out near Dulles and I have it narrowed down to three restaurants close by. Which one do you recommend or is there something else you'd recommend instead? My choices: 2941, Inox or PassionFish.
Well, Inox is out of business, so that narrows it to 2941 and PassionFish.
I think it depends in this instance on what exactly you're looking for. They're both good restaurants.
2941 is a little more formal, a little more foodie, a little more of an orchestrated experience. PassionFish is looser; you're not going to get the same presentation of dishes as you do at 2941, the same flourish and finery.
Also, there's cuisine to consider. PassionFish is a destination for seafood and fish, and most dishes are simply prepared — or strive to come across as simple at the table; 2941 is Frenchified fine dining, with technically proficient dishes that aim to dazzle.
Re: Green coffee beans
Coffee roasters have a build up of heat for a certain time, and then the coffee roasts for another amount of time, and then cools off. The roasting time is measured by the beans popping at two points in the heat cycle. This is called "first crack" and "second crack".
These points are when the bean expands and actually cracks – you can hear it. Roasters control the ramp up temperatures, and the YOU decide, by trial and error, or, if you like the machine's settings, when to cut off the roasting for the proper level of browning. You will read things like "10 seconds into the second crack" and similar verbiage.
I use my roaster weekly, for about 2 times per week, and have been doing so for 3 years. Coffee is noticeably bettter, and as I said, it is more fun! True foodies COOK!
Thanks for writing in, and thanks for the additional report. Anybody else roast their own beans?
And on a somewhat related topic, I have been curious about the various dehydraters on the market. Not curious enough yet to make a purchase, but I've been thinking about it for a couple of years now. Has anyone tried one? Had any success with it? I'm intrigued by the idea of preparing various powders for flavoring, like beet powder, etc. Worth it? Waste of time?
Are you asking whether I, personally, care to weigh in with an opinion on these places, or whether a review in the magazine is coming –?
I did weigh in several weeks ago about Orso, but haven't been back since then. I thought there were some promising things — the quality of the ingredients, the quality of the crusts. But most of what I ate was salty in the extreme, and the middles of the pies were so soupy/soggy that nobody at my table was tempted to finish anything.
It's common for new pizza places — new boutique pizza places, I should say — to take a while to find their level, because every pizza oven is different and it takes the makers, the pizzaiolos, time to figure out the hot spots.
I hear from other members of the food and wine staff that the pizzas coming out of the oven now are very good. I'll be back soon.
As for Mad Fox, I generally like to wait 3 weeks for a new place to settle in. It's been about three weeks now, if I'm not mistaken.
TEK is my father. He passed away last February.
We were very, very close, and I think of him all the time. After I returned to doing the chats in March last year, I signed off that way and have continued to do ever since because … well, because. I like that you say it makes you feel good to read it, because it makes me feel good to type it on my way out.
My father kept up with the chat every week, and came along with me often to the restaurants I reviewed. He was always very, very involved. When I was 17, 18 and living at home and working downtown at a new newsweekly, I often stayed out late after work, spending time with colleagues. He always came and got me. Always. Once, it was close to 1 in the morning. He was always there.
Going to restaurants was one of the many things we did together, and when I became a critic it was really gratifying for me to be the one taking him to places he'd never been — just as he used to do with me when I was little. He loved discovering new places, getting in the car and driving an hour away, or two, just to explore some interesting spot. The adventure, for him, was more important than the destination — and not just with restaurants, but with everything in life.
I miss him.
Yes, of course! The Stockyards — the new venture from the folks behind the Gun Club of Goldvein.
Once again, management has assembled quite a team. Sidd Finch is behind the grill. Danar Eastnoor is the mixologist. Melissa Katsoulis is running front of the house.
DVD players at the table "to watch your steak being slaughtered and butchered" — the attention to detail here is just amazing. They have pioneered something new in the world of food: cuisine verite. Forget the clever manipulations of molecular gastronomy. This is what people want from their restaurants nowadays; they want to see their food being killed.
I dare say we have not devoted quite enough attention on this chat and in our pages every month to this extraordinary restaurant group. Bravo, Gun Club of Golvein.
My husband and I went to J&G Steakhouse after he had three amazing dining experiences there. This one was far from amazing and we would like your opinion about something that happened.
We both love steak but my husband cooks such good steak that we rarely ever eat at steakhouses. I ordered the Wagyu sirloin (medium rare) ($49) and my husband got the 22 oz bone-in rib eye (medium rare) ($54). After some delicious appetizers and ginger margaritas, the steaks arrived. We cut into them, and my husband found his rib eye medium well to well done (not any hint of pink whatsover). At the same time, I found mine to be more on the medium side (with some touch of pink). I also started chewing the steak (not wanting to send it back, which I never did) and it was tough; hardly the tender wagyu I anticipated (it actually tasted like it was old or had been microwaved).
We showed the waiter my husbands steak (very nicely) and the waiter said nothing but took it away and said a new one would be out shortly. This is the first time in 6 years that I have seen my husband send something back. I continued eating my steak and there were no apologies. I ate alone. The waiter returned and asked if we were okay. My husband then said well is there something you can offer me while my wife is eating. The waiter brought us a delicious appetizer.
When we got the bill, we were charged for everything. There was never an apology from anyone. The steak was so obviously overdone, it was appalling that we didn't have the appetizer at least comped or at least some type of effort to make us happy diners. We ended up spending some $300 plus (with tip) and were just baffled by how they handled it. We expected a terrific dinner and it ended up being a disaster that was handled poorly.
Interested in your thoughts about this situation since you are so wise about dining etiquette. Thanks in advance. We love your weekly chats!
I think this is one of those instances where you had to have been there.
I hear what you're saying, and I'm inclined to agree with you — I think the appetizer should have been comped, and there should have been an "I'm so sorry." But I'd also be curious to hear J&G's reasoning on this. And I'd also be interested in knowing what else was said during the night that you might have left out.
I wouldn't say that's a "these days" sort of thing. This is just what restaurants do.
I've been in restaurant kitchens, and I've watched chefs salting their dishes. They go far, far in excess of what most homecooks do — especially when it comes to meats. Of course, that's one of the reasons that good restaurant food is better than good homecooking. More salt, more pepper. And more butter, too. Everything is up, up, up.
If restaurant food is too buttery and too salty, it's awful even if the dish is a good dish.
Butter and salt are easy. They're shortcuts. It's hard to make a dish that doesn't rely on these things taste sumptuous, but the really good cooks know how to do it.
Hi Todd –
Happy Tuesday! I have been designated as the cruise director, but am stuck. The criterion is a place with an extensive bubbly list to have some girly fun. Thanks!
I just relocated to Charlottesville from DC and I know you've given out recs for the town before, leading me to believe you've been here a few times.
I was wondering if you've tried a Mexican dive here called La Michoacana. When I was up in the DC area I never did make it out to Riverdale/Bladensburg for "real" Mexican, but I think La Michoacana might be the real deal. The tortillas are homemade, the salsas are homemade and ridiculous, and the "tacos mexicanos" with cilantro and onion are addictive, particularly the al carbon. They also have daily specials like pechuga frita, mole, and what not.
Anyways, if you have been, I was hoping you could tell me how it stacked up with some of the best you've had.
No, I haven't been, but now you've got me salivating. ; )
I hope to get back down there in the next few months, and I'll be sure to check it out. It sounds fantastic.
Actually, a friend of mine is heading down to Charlottesville today or tomorrow — I'm going to send him your report and hope he goes and checks it out.
Following up on the J&G overdone steak, there really was nothing else said during the night that I left out.
We actually had very friendly conversations with our waiter throughout the night (before and after this happened). If anything, I think maybe they thought we were pushovers or something because we never complained or demanded anything (other than sending the steak back). But we were super nice to the waiter and didn't cause any sort of scene. We are also very curious to hear J&G's reasoning for this.
Well, wait — you didn't "demand" an appetizer, but if I read you right, your husband heavily intimated that a dish be gifted to him while he waited for his new steak to be prepared.
I hope J&G responds. I've always found the staff there to be superb, one of the best in the city.
I don't know how to answer that.
I think it's a great time. A fascinating time, a fun time. And nothing like it in the city, or really any city for that matter.
But if you're like me, you're put off by having to try so hard for something, you're put off by hype, you're put off by being made to feel that something is life-changing when it's not, you don't like standing in line for two hours to get into an art gallery — as was the case about 15 years ago, with the great Vermeer show — because you would rather go to another show that isn't overrun with people and where you can get within a couple of feet of the paintings, you would never spend 11 hours on the 4th of July baking in the sun on a blanket on the Mall waiting for the fireworks (which, when they begin, feel strangely anticlimactic.)
It seems that there is new excitement in Bethesda with the opening of Bistro Provence and Mussel Bar. Is it worth the trek down to Bethesda to check them out? Thanks, Fred
From Gaithersburg? Not in rush hour. ; )
I'll be interested to see how Bistro Provence develops. (I haven't been to Mussel Bar yet — again, I like to give a new place some time to settle in.)
I've seen some very good cooking from Yannick Cam in his newest place; for those of us who have eaten his food in many different locations over many, many years, it's wonderful to see him back in the kitchen, doing his thing again.
Nobody in town gives more time and attention to the colors of his plates — whether it's a simple croquette or a more elaborate dish, the colors are harmonized and gorgeous. Saucing, in particular, is wonderful. It's one of his great strengths as a cook.
I think Cam is sometimes caught between being a simple bistro and a finer restaurant, and that's reflected in the menu. Some dishes come across as toss-offs, bargain plates with too little investment in them. Other dishes aim for fine dining, but scrimp on details in order to keep the prices down.
The space is awkwardly laid out, and again, there's an odd splitting of the difference between something fine and something more casual — there are white tablecloths, but the place lacks the coziness and warmth and intimacy of finer dining.
I hope service improves. It could stand more warmth and accessibility. One night, a waiter snickered when I asked if he could pour a small taste of a wine I was considering ordering. He also made a big mistake with our dessert order, and when it was pointed out to him, he didn't apologize but turned the tables.
It's one of the closest restaurants in its category — fine dining.
But yeah, Lightfoot or Tuscarora Mill are both an easier commute. So is The Wine Kitchen, also in Leesburg. It's casual, it's warm, it's friendly, the cooking is often right on the mark (I really like the soups, the croque monsieur, and the twist on chicken and waffles — fried quail and waffle with bacon maple gravy), and you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching wines from the long list of options by the glass.
Love the chats. My girlfriend and I used to live in Northern California and developed a love for Shangai-style soup dumplings (xiaolongbao). We haven't found any place in DC proper that serves them (at least not well). Is there any hope for us in the suburbs? Thanks!
The best possibility at the moment is Burma Road, in Gaithersburg. Burmese cooking is their strength, but they also have a Chinese menu, and a Chinese chef to prepare those dishes, and one of the items on that menu — on weekends — is Xiao Long Bao.
Now, here's the tricky part. They're not listed as Xiao Long Bao. If memory serves, I think they're listed as Steamed Dumplings with Pork. Or something very close to that.
Good stuff, and right now, probably the best you're going to find in the area. There's unfortunately just not very much in the way of competition.
Someone meant to goof us.
Just like they did a year ago with the Gun Club of Goldvein.
I thought I got that across, making reference to the three folks I mentioned above. Google them, and see what I mean. *
* Danar Eastnoor will be the most difficult to uncover. I can explain his inclusion next week …
You know, whether the national media or the local media, people always refer to restaurants in Northern Virginia or Suburban Maryland as being in "Washington, D.C.". As a native Virginian, I personally don't like it, because it takes away from the identity of Virginia. I mean, even the The Inn at Little Washington is considered "Washington, D.C." focused, despite it being 70 miles away.
I think Virginia (And perhaps Suburban Maryland) has the best and most diverse ethnic eats on the East Coast, the food products that come out of the farms in Northern Virginia are some of the best in the country, and our wine is becoming nationally known. I don't want to be idenitified as D.C. or the D.C. area…I would like for our food culture to be defined as "Virginian". What are your views?
I hear you.
And in the case of The Inn at Little Washington, I agree with you.
As for Virginian wine — you're right, it's becoming better known, and it's Virginia that's being talked about and written about — not Washington, D.C.
I think you're overlooking something important when you talk about the ethnic eats and some of the other excellent restaurants in Northern Virginia. Washington, D.C., has a lot to do with that. It remains the vital center, even as the suburbs multiply and expand further and further out. I don't think you'd have the scene you do if D.C. were not nearby. Big cities are magnets.
I understand your perspective, and I hear echoes of it in the way people around here talk. I think people sometimes forget that D.C. is the locus. Bethesda, Silver Spring, Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church — these may be great places to live and even work, but they derive their vitality and importance from being so near D.C.
Lunch calls …
Be well, everyone, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …
(Oh, and if you haven't yet, be sure to give a look to my Guide to Restaurant Week, which begins on August 16th.)
[missing you, TEK …]