Food

Kushi, DaMoim, and Bistro Provence: Dining With the Critic’s Mom

Restaurant critic Todd Kliman’s mother, Itsy, has been a trusted companion on her son’s eating adventures for years. So we gave her a pen. What’s her take on all those lavish celebrity-chef spots, humble strip-mall dining rooms, and far-flung suburban res
Itsy Kliman found lots to like at Kushi, including chicken skewers. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Kushi
Mount Vernon Triangle, DC
If you’re interested in a four-star Japanese experience, then Kushi is the place to go. We started off with a treat on the house: spinach and bits of fish in a delicate vinegar sauce. I used my chopsticks to spear up every last little tiny bit. "Wow," I said. "This is good—this is really good." And that became the theme for the night.

We had a variety of sushi—salmon, scallop, yellowtail, and more; fish as fresh as you always hope for but don’t always get. A chicken skewer was indescribably scrumptious. There was excellent quail done on the open grill, stuffed with sausage—a dish to remember—and beautifully grilled duck.

How about some Japanese potato salad? No, I’m not kidding, and it's quite good, with a portion large enough to share. We capped off the meal with a pot of hot tea and a couple of sorbets. The service was good and the staff most pleasant.

My rating: 4 well-deserved stars!

DaMoim
Annandale

They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, and even without that sanction, I don’t mind saying that DaMoim has definitely changed my opinion about Korean food from meh to wow! If it were located in DC, you’d probably have to fight your way through lines to get in the door. The decor is beautiful—wonderful colors and interesting artwork: one wall is lined with whimsical paintings of Mona Lisa as a clock. This restaurant makes it easy for non-Koreans; the waitstaff—who are also the owners—are English speakers and can answer any questions.

Fried dumplings come with meat or veggies tucked into delicious house-made wrappers, and they alone are worth a trip to DaMoim. Short-rib tacos? It sounds strange, but I urge you to try them; they're superb. Fried chicken drumsticks are seasoned sweetly with sugar and soy sauce and crisply fried, making them absolutely delicious. (This dish takes a 30-minute wait.) Each dish we tried was worthwhile, so even if Annandale is not on your radar, pick a day to go out of your way to really enjoy Korean food. You’ll thank me for the tip!

My rating: 3½ stars.

Bistro Provence
Bethesda

Inside or outside? The outside seemed brighter and more festive, perhaps more like a French courtyard with its floral decorations, springtime blossoms in large—and even larger—stone pots. I found it quite inviting—that is until I sat down in the uncomfortable chairs! But after a nice glass of white wine, I forgot about it and looked forward to enjoying a wonderful meal.

We had a poached-egg-and-asparagus dish, fish cakes, crabcakes, and some very special roast potato with artichoke slices and olives. All were good, but the crabcakes stood out. Continuing with our fish-themed meal, we also had some monkfish over a bed of lentils; it tastes like a poor man’s lobster, but its price is definitely not a poor man's choice! Everything was nicely prepared, and I would have given this restaurant 3 stars except for the dessert goof: One of the desserts that came to the table turned out to be not what we had ordered and was laughed off with "I see you enjoyed it anyway.”

My rating: 2½ stars is the best I can offer.

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