The Needle: What’s Hot, What’s Not

For our December issue, we took the pulse of three area restaurants.


This outpost of Jeff and Barbara Black’s empire, in a quaint yellow house that looks like an old-time general store, is a charmer—but inconsistency from the kitchen isn’t as endearing. Oysters with a crackly cornmeal crust are a great starter. Excellent follow-ups are trout with beets and braised cabbage, a big pork chop, and an apple dumpling or pumpkin cheesecake. But an overdressed Caesar salad and the Fall Vegetable Harvest plate, featuring a dry polenta cake, were disappointments. Most other dishes hovered around satisfactory.

Charlie Palmer Steak

Dining at a celebrity-chef steakhouse usually means taking in lots of calories—and shelling out lots of cash. A recent dinner at this Capitol Hill dining room didn’t offer enough bang for the buck. Robotic service delivered a seared piece of stringy foie gras, ricotta tortelloni drowning in butter, and creamed spinach devoid of flavor. The best dish was a side of thin, crispy fries with a chipotle aïoli for dunking. Dessert—a trio of crèmes brûlées, a chocolate/peanut-butter terrine—was surprisingly good, but it wasn’t sweet enough to make it a memorable dinner.


Big and rich is the best way to describe a recent dinner at this upscale but casual Ballston dining room. An appetizer of coquilles St. Jacques—meaty scallops and maitake mushrooms blanketed in a thick, Gouda-laden sauce—was fabulous but very filling. An apple salad would have been a nice counterpoint, except it was heavy on blue cheese. Then came a coconut-milk-based seafood stew, presented in a large pumpkin. It had a nice kick, but the portion seemed supersized for the dish’s creaminess. A delicious banana pudding and a sugary pineapple upside-down cake didn’t lighten things up. The lesson: You can eat really well here—as long as you pace yourself.

This article appears in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.