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.
Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country’s best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The Daily Beast and Men’s Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies. He was a finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, and recently took home first-place honors for feature writing from the Association of Food Journalists.
Kliman is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.
He previously taught writing and literature at American University and Howard University. At Howard, he was also the editorial advisor to The Illtop Journal, Chris Rock’s humor magazine modeled after the Harvard Lampoon.
Can’t wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world. Or write to him: email@example.com
W H E R E I ‘ M E A T I N G N O W . . .
Thai Taste by Kob, Wheaton
On a three-block stretch of Wheaton, near the intersection of University Blvd. and Georgia Ave., can be found two of the area’s best Thai restaurants — Ruan Thai and Nava Thai. Time to add a third. Phak Duangchandr — Kob, to friends — has set up shop in the tiny space that originally contained Nava, in the back of Hung Phat market. Thai food fans may remember her, or at least her cooking; for 19 years she operated the Thai Food Carryout at Thai Market, near the old Safeway in Wheaton. The new setting, electrified with a paint job of orange and day-glo green, gives her a chance to expand her repertoire of dishes, while staying true to the from-scratch traditions that earned her a devoted following. The emphasis is on street food and homecooking, with a good many dishes you simply won’t find anywhere else, like bamee moo daeng, a meal-in-a-bowl of tender egg noodles, red-edged roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls; or kai yad sai, an omelette stuffed with ground chicken punched up with fish sauce and soy sauce; or a salad of shrimp paste-flavored rice, onions, cucumber and sweet, sticky pork). But even familiar tastes, taste different here — funkier, more pungent, and definitely hotter (a shrimp fried rice, alive with fistfuls of Thai basil and a generous pinch of chilis, set my heart to racing). Some customers have already been asking for more rice to accompany their orders. Partner and manager Max Praserptmate says he is willing to accommodate any requests, but adds that his aunt’s cooking is not the aberration; it’s the great majority of Thai restaurants that are the aberration. “The taste,” he says, “is what you’re supposed to get from your Thai food.” Duangchandr imports many of her spices from Thailand, and toasts and grinds them herself. All the condiments on the spice tray, including a terrific chili vinegar, are made on the premises. Meats are given a long soak before hitting the grill — 72 hours, in the case of the pork that is pounded and threaded onto a skewer to create a must-order starter called moo yang. The other must-order starter sure doesn’t sound like it — when was the last time you had fried shrimp wontons that were any good? These are fabulous. Kiew tod comes to the table looking more like a plate of tortilla chips, the mix of shrimp and white pepper bundled within a sneakily rolled edge. The crunch is junk food-loud; it’s hard not to believe they weren’t engineered in a lab. No beer or wine yet; Praserptmate says soon on both. I would take the money you’d ordinarily spend on a drink and spring for an extra dish or two (most are under $10, and many items will survive into the next day).
Bar Pilar, DC
Justin Bittner has moved on; Jesse Miller has replaced him. And one of the coziest, most charming small plates spots in the city just keeps rolling. I’ve been twice in the past month: one meal was great, the other good. I’m not sure there’s a place along 14th St. right now that I’d rather find myself in for a couple of hours. A sweet, crisp-skinned branzino with pecorino custard and pea shoots could have come straight from the Oval Room (makes sense: Miller apprenticed under chef Tony Conte). A rusticky Bolognese, with grilled bread for scooping up the thick, Sunday-style gravy, is maybe the best Italian dish I’ve eaten in months. And though technically the chef’s porchetta is not a porchetta — rabbit, not pig, is deboned, stuffed with its own livers, and encased in a second-skin of bacon to seal in moisture — it’s terrific, a perfect precis of the boldly designed but intricately conceived cooking come out of this kitchen right now.
The kind of big-hearted restaurant that takes you to another place (Baltimore? St. Louis?) and maybe another time (late’ 70s). Come on a weekend night, when there’s a two-piece band and the place is humming and you’ll feel as if you’ve just crashed a wedding reception. I love the GM in coat and tie who shows you to your table, maitre d’-style. I love the waitress who turned to me one night when I was trying to decide between a lamb dish on the menu and a lamb dish that was a special, and said, “Listen. Listen to me,” and insisted I order the latter. She was right. The meat was rich and juicy and drenched in a lemon-spiked gravy. Alongside it: lemon roasted potatoes and green beans cooked with tomato and mint. True to the homestyle nature of the place, you couldn’t see any white space on the plate. Another great dish is the fried cod, delicately light, with a fluff of skordalia in the center, a sit-down Greek fish and chips. The menu has no weak spots, as far as I can tell. I’ve been three times, now, and nearly everything that has come out of the kitchen has ranged from the good to the terrific. Vegetarians can revel here. Iman bayaldi, a dish of roasted eggplant drenched in cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce, has the tight, knitted flavor of expert long-cooking. It comes in a massive portion, and costs just $7. There are stuffed grape leaves without the ground beef, filled with well-cooked rice and pine nuts and wrapped in fresh-tasting leaves that still have some good chew to them. If it takes wrapping up some food for leftovers in order to manage dessert, then do it. The version of galaktobouriko — presented in small, crunchy pieces, almost like bites of fudge — is one of the best I’ve eaten in years; the baklava (served warm, and nearly spilling its crunchy, nutty, sticky filling) is stunning; and the centerpiece of the yogurt with honey and walnuts is a scoop that has been strained almost to the consistency of a cheese, with a tanginess that goes on and on and on.
Bangkok Golden, Falls Church
I was tempted to say this a while back, but didn’t. I will now, after a recent knockout visit: I’d rather go here, for the Lao menu, than Little Serow. The range of tastes is vast, and every plate is alive with flavor — bright and pungent and smoky and funky. Not to mention crunch and heat. Not to mention a shorter wait and a lighter bill (my recent meal of four dishes and a beer, pre-tax: $43).
Rose’s Luxury, DC
I love the crackle in the room when you walk in. I’m not talking about mere noise; lots of restaurants have noise. I’m not even talking about buzz, that sense that a new place is hot. This one has an energy that is unmistakable, a sense that you have entered a kind of rare and cherished zone where the enthusiasm of the kitchen and the staff is returned in kind by the diners, who all seem to walk out the door with smiles on their faces. It’s not hard to understand why. Rose’s Luxury has an old-school vibe, and a sort of making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, from the homey, unassuming way the menu bids you to settle in and order to the dinner party-run-amok vibe to the yahrzeit-look-alike votives to the beer glasses that are sawed-off wine bottles. The chef, Aaron Silverman, logged stints in such high-profile kitchens as Momofuku in New York and Husk and McCrady’s in Charleston, and you don’t have to look hard to see elements of each of these places in the room and on the plate. Like his mentors David Chang and Sean Brock, he aims to bring off a marriage of extreme playfulness and extreme precision. The bulk of the menu consists of a dozen small plates in which Silverman sets out to cross the wires, compositionally speaking, and see what happens. A pate is a braiding of French, Italian (garlic bread are the toasts), Vietnamese (the rich, crushed-peanut topped spread brims with star anise), and I want to say Jewish (the brine for the jalapenos, onions and cukes that add crunch and tang tastes deli to me). It’s seamlessly done, and highly addictive. He crosses high and low in a soup that tastes at once like liquefied popcorn and a delicate lobster veloute (the sweetness calls out for some sort of counterbalancing ingredient, or more lobster). It’s not all derring-do. His gnocchi are more properly a kind of ravioli, stuffed with fennel and mint, sauced with not-too-much butter and topped with a generous scattering of crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. You’d be hard put to find five better pasta dishes in town right now. The final course is a page not out of Momofuku or Husk or McCrady’s, but out of Komi — share plates for two. In one, you lay luscious slices of perfectly smoked brisket on griddled Texas toast, add on tangy strands of pickled cabbage and smear the whole thing with a fluffy horseradish cream. The other is built around a beautifully brined pork chop — sweet and aromatic and rich as the best pork can be — with potlikker beans and a textbook red-eye gravy. The final act needs re-staging. The lack of a pastry chef doesn’t help, nor does the tendency to over-think and over-embellish. Quenelles of chocolate cream sprinkled with dried rose petals and intended for spreading on slices of charred bread feels twee, not interesting, and hardly satisfies. More of the sink-in simplicity of the share courses would go a long way. Still, this is one of the most exciting debuts of the year. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the most exciting debuts of the past three years.
Khan Kabob, Chantilly
The best karahi I’ve had in ages, maybe ever, is a version here made with lamb brains. The brains, for the leery, resemble tiny curds, and the sauce of garlic, ginger, cilantro, tomato and chilis is so concentrated, and so smoky, that even after you’ve had your fill it’s difficult to stop dipping your torn naan into the hammered metal vessel. Tariq Khan, the owner, was for many years part of the Ravi Kabob empire; he’s created a worthy rival.
FIELD REPORT: DATE NIGHT AT CENTRAL MICHEL RICHARD:
Date night on Saturday called for Central Michel Richard. We had another nice meal there as always.
However, we noted something strange this time. The starters seem really expensive, particularly compared to the entrees. There are $18 soups but one can also get some of the best (and biggest bowl of) pasta bolognese in town for $19. I sometimes enjoy having a few starters rather than a single entree. Despite having a big selection of starters, this strategy seems more difficult at Central.
What do you think is the reason for this pricing?
The reason, of course, is to foul up diners with plans just like yours. ; )
Central is odd that way — you’re absolutely right. A great many dishes are, as you say, more expensive than dishes you’d consider an entree.
So why are they in the category of starters? I’m not being flippant in saying this, but they’re there, I’m guessing, because they function as starters.
Brighter, lighter, more pungent, something to get the mouth warmed up.
It’s interesting, and surprising, when you dine out as much as I do, to see so many dishes in the top-half or left-side of the menu that don’t perform these functions. They eat, rather, like smaller versions of entrees.
Good morning, everyone. I’m back from Ethiopia, and, though still jet-lagged and (let’s just say) not a hundred percent systemically, I’m happy to be back in the pocket and talking with all of you.
I notice that you often recommend Black Restaurant Group spots, however, I’ve never seen you recommend Addie’s. Is it worth a visit?
Well, there’s a reason I haven’t mentioned it recently: it’s no longer in business.
But you’re right, I have tended, over the years, to talk more about other restaurants in the group, among them Black Market Bistro and Black Salt and, more recently, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.
The new Republic, in Takoma Park, fills the void of Addie’s, at least in the operational scheme. It strikes me as a kind of urbanized Addie’s — a similar-reading menu, but with a slouchier, more hipster-manque vibe.
RESTAURANTS THAT OWN THEIR OWN FARMS …:
I just found out that the EatWell restaurant group owns their own farm that supplies to their restaurants (The Pig, The Heights, etc.) – are there other restaurant groups in DC that also own their own farms?
Or do most restaurants that promote “farm-to-table” pull from multiple farms in the area?
It’s a good question. The answer is complicated, and may surprise you.
I wrote a long piece about this last year, “The Meaning of Local.” https://www.washingtonian.com/articles/food-dining/the-meaning-of-local/
What you should know is that, at least at the time I spoke to the folks at EatWell, that farm is not what you would call a supplier farm. The vast majority of ingredients that found their way into the kitchens of the group’s restaurants, came from elsewhere. The farm was — maybe still is? — very, very, very tiny.
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group operates a farm, too. A bigger farm, near Mt. Vernon, but not what you would call big. Nor — again — is it what you would call a supplier farm; it serves, among other things, to accent the deliveries the group’s restaurants bring in from elsewhere.
I was surprised to learn, in the course of my research — talking to more than 3 dozen people in the food world over 3 months — to find out that the percentage of product from local farms at most farm-to-table restaurants in the area is about 30%.
There were some farmers I spoke with who refused to sell to most restaurants, having been burned too often; one, in Virginia, complained of chefs who would buy, say, a half-dozen chickens and some blade steaks for the week and then boast on a wooden sign hanging prominently in the restaurant that they proudly support Farm X.
There are, I should point out, some chefs and restaurants that exceed that 30% mark. Spike Gjerde is one. He might be bringing in more local product, at Woodberry, than any chef at any restaurant in the region.
Surprisingly, by the way, the revamped Silver Diner is bringing in about 30% local product.
If Silver Diner can do 30%, you’d think, then the big names ought to be able to do a lot more.
And maybe one fine day we’ll see other fast-food and so-called fast-casual chains doing 30% and more.
FIELD REPORT: FIOLA MARE — NEW, IN WASHINGTON HARBOUR:
Ventured over to the water front on Saturday for brunch at Fiola Mare and came away impressed after my initial visit.
Service was attentive and our server was quite knowledgeable about the entire menu.
We saw many children at brunch and this caught our attention and reminded me of your article on dining out with children. So my wife and I paid attention to this throughout meal and we came away with this observation:
Most of the diners with children were European. We then noticed that unlike most children here their parents were not trotting around with an iPhone or iPad that was ready to be propped up on a moment’s notice. These children knew they were in a restaurant and knew how to behave. Clearly it was not their first rodeo.
My wife and I stated that it seems like American diners are the first ones to break out the electronic gadgets to keep the children happy if needed. It seemed to us that Europeans in general may dine out more than us Americans and therefore children of Europeans are more accustomed to dining out, whether it be a casual restaurant or a fine dining establishment such as Fiola Mare.
Back to the food at Fiola Mare. we tried the Wild Razor Clams with Roman Puntarelle Salad & Anchovies. A spectacular dish. Clean, bright, pops of citrus, the razor clams were not chewy. the kitchen was accommodating and allowed us to order half size portion of the pasta dishes so that we could try more than more dish without being suffering from a carb overload.
I can see myself going back for dinner and brunch again. The setting is nice right on the waterfront, and the perfect weather we had on Saturday helped enhance the dining experience.
In my opinion having brunch at Fiola Mare is a great way to welcome in spring and enjoy the weather and the city afterwards.
Thanks for the report. Sounds like you had a pretty perfect Saturday morning and afternoon.
I’ll be interested in hearing more about Fiola Mare. Anyone else give it a spin this past week?
And it’s interesting what you say about the parents and their children. I think a lot of it has to do with establishing an expectation.
Europeans tend to have longer, more lingering dinners, whether at home or at a bistro or restaurant, than Americans. Who, it needs to be said, eat more quickly than just about any other culture around the world.
Kids grow acculturated very early to that pace, and tend to be able to last longer at the table.
I, myself, tend to be a lingerer (and, sometimes, a malingerer ; ), and my kids are used to dinners that go well past two, two and-a-half, three hours. That’s not to say they can put up with three hours. They can’t. But they can often handle an hour-and-a-half without a problem, and usually two hours, too.
ETHIOPIAN FOOD: THERE AND HERE …:
Todd, welcome back from Ethiopia.
How close of a facsimile is the Ethiopian here in DC to the native cuisine?
It seems like DC (Ethiopian haven though it may be) is largely constrained to a standardized subset of the entire Ethiopian palate, but is that subset even representative? For example, if I order Kitfo at Abay Market, is it going to be anything like what I might find in Addis Ababa? Are we more meat-centric here in DC?
And do they ever use wheat in their injera, or is it always teff, as I sometimes romanticize? How much Italian influence remains? (And does all use of wheat originate from Italy?)
Are there any “Contemporary Ethiopian” culinary movements?
Are there a lot of restaurants, or is it mostly home cooking?
I could keep barraging you with questions, but I should probably just wait to read your article – I’m interested in hearing your perspective.
Great questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them, without, I hope, stealing my own thunder, as they say in sports radio.
The cooking in restaurants here actually compares very favorably; in fact, I’d say some restaurants, here, are better than those I dined at there.
The meat there isn’t frozen, as it is here, and it isn’t transported for hundreds and maybe thousands of miles on a truck. And it’s all grass-fed. If a good cook is preparing your meal, you can taste the difference. The meat has some of the character of Argentinian beef. Interestingly enough, that character came through very clearly at a couple of the burger spots I went to. In wats, the meat tends to be cooked through; same for tibs.
The best meals I had were, for the most part, in people’s homes. Many restaurants are what are called “cultural restaurants,” and geared to tourists.
One woman I met calls her cooking vegan Ethiopian fusion. I had a couple of meals at her home — phenomenal and revelatory meals. Kitfo made from tofu. Mushroom tibs. Dulet done with shiitake mushrooms ground finely in a food processor. She changes the delivery systems, but keeps the spices, and the careful layering of them.
The injera, across the board, is vastly superior, as you would expect. And all home cooks make their own. I had such a variety of injera, it was amazing. So much lighter than here, and the injera here has improved enormously over the past 10 years. Some were so thin and lacy, with a beautiful crunch on the edges. And the sourdough flavor is more pronounced. At one home, I was treated to a fantastic snack — homemade black injera, basted with berbere as it cooked on the griddle, and served warm and crispy. All the injera there is teff injera. This, alone, makes any meal there different from here.
The shiro, there, tends to be vastly superior to the shiro here.
And the other thing that gives the food, there, a different taste from here is the butter. The butter tastes different there. Makes sense, no? Different cows, different grass. And it’s fermented, too. Most of the dishes tend, as a result, to have a subtle funk to them — and I mean that in the most appreciative way. That subtle funk (and sometimes not-so-subtle funk, and this, too, I mean in a good way) and that pronounced sourness in the injera, give the food a different character, a different dimension, from here.
I want to say something real quick about the coffee, which is amazing. Everywhere you go. I don’t think it’s possible to get a bad cup anywhere. Even in the airport, I had an amazing espresso. Two shots, darker than midnight, with a taste that went on and on and on and on … And it cost me less than a dollar US.
EATWELL RESPONDS …:
As EatWell DC’s media representative, I just wanted to comment on EatWell’s farm based on the comments mentioned earlier.
The farm is 13+ acres, of which one acre is under full production. The farm fully expects to produce 50% of the restaurants’ seasonal produce needs this growing season (5 restaurants total: The Pig, The Heights, Commissary, Grillfish, Logan Tavern).
The farm is also launching a small CSA this year available to the public, and are in discussions with a local La Plata, MD restaurant to supply some of their seasonal produce as well.
It’s great to hear that other restaurants are pursuing this option, but I just wanted to state on the record that EatWell is able to provide more than the 30% average you mention above.
Thanks for chiming in, Chelsea. I appreciate it.
And congratulations to EatWell for continuing to expand its reach with local products.
I do stand by my characterization of the farm as small; one acre — the productive part of the farm — is not very big.
And I would like to note that “fully expects to” surpass 50% is not the same as is currently over 50%.
Further: many farm-to-table restaurants in the area exceeded 50% in the Spring and Summer. It’s a lot easier to go local in those warmer months. The challenge is in the Fall and Winter. That’s where the percentage drop-off occurs. And that’s why 30% is, roughly, the figure for a lot of restaurants.
THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR FROM A SERVER, CONT. …:
I don’t know if anyone has a list of things you don’t want to hear from a server, but if so, add “Tell me about it.”
That’s the response my table got after commenting on the inordinate amount of time it took for entrees to come out of the kitchen at a new restaurant in Bethesda.
We should begin compiling a list. I nominate you to oversee it.
I’ll add one:
A couple of years ago, at a restaurant I won’t name, a server kept referring to “they.” Usually, you hear a server say “we,” and if all things are humming along the way they should, you think: Nice, you feel like a part of the operation. But they. They smacks of: I want no part of this two-bit joint.
What else? Who can add to our list?
SAN DIEGO DINING RECS …?:
Making a trip out to San Diego next month. You always steer me in the right direction here at home, any recommendations there? Looking for anything from taco shacks to the higher end.
Sorry. I wish I could help.
But I’m sure a few chatters out there are ready to chime in with some great spots for you to hit. Stay tuned …
ISO: GREAT, MODERATELY PRICED DINING IN D.C.:
What are some of the best, moderately priced restaurants in DC that you love going back to over and over again?
Let me preface this by saying that “moderately priced” in DC might sound expensive to some and very expensive to others.
I often hear from people who tell me that tapas places are expensive, and yet I continue to recommend them as more affordable dining recs.
The reason for that is because in the context of a very expensive scene, places like Jaleo, Estadio and Zaytinya are moderately priced. Central Michel Richard is not cheap by any stretch, but you can have a — say it with me — moderately priced meal there. (And a very good one, at that.)
Proof, the same — if you order a certain way. Rose’s Luxury. 2 Amys. Palena Cafe.
FIELD REPORT: THE RED HEN, IN BLOOMINGDALE:
Oh god, chat time! It’s been two weeks and I’m not prepared.
Well, The Red Hen certainly is a fantastic restaurant. I’m probably not breaking any new ground, but alas.
The chicken liver crostini, burrata with pickled red jalapenos, mint and broccolini marinati and the saffron fettuccine with rabbit sugo were the standouts, though just about everything was great.
I guess all of that was to be expected. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the generous “tasting” of their in-house amaro. It was fantastic and not the least bit bound by hundreds of years worth of tradition. Lighter on the bitter/herbaceous elements, heavy on the ginger and warm spice. Seek it out.
Will do. Love Amaro.
And thanks for the palate-priming report …
FOLLOWING UP, FROM LAST WEEK: BRUNCH WITH BABIES …:
Hi. I don’t actually have a question but wanted to chime in on the brunch with baby topic.
My wife and I have a 32 month old toddler and we’ve been going out to eat with her since she’s been a wee bean. We live in Adams Morgan around the corner of Mintwood Place and I can’t recommend them enough as a fantastic restaurant in their own right, but absolutely terrific as one for couples with a young child. This is holds true for both brunch and dinner, whether both parents are present or flying solo.
Another of our long-time favorites (well before we had a child) is Bistro du Coin—the French just know what to do with kids (which is to treat them like tiny people rather than little nuisances).
And it may go without saying, but bears repeating, places like Matchbox (either location), The Diner in AdMo, and even B Too on 14th are great (although the visual and auditory noise levels at B Too can be too much, and I definitely recommend a reservation).
I hope this helps, and I’ll try some of the places you recommended.
That’s a good list.
Of all those spots, Mintwood Place has the best cooking, by far, and yet it’s also a very welcoming restaurant for new and newish families. As a parent, I give them a lot of credit for that. As a food critic, I’m more surprised than anything.
You mentioned the French, who tend to regard little kids as little adults. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes you just get a chilly shoulder. Asian and Latin family restaurants are, in my experience — and I’ve said this before, I know — generally excellent when it comes to families with babies and little kids. Seek them out. Some may even volunteer to play with the baby while you and the mother dine.
SAN DIEGO DINING, CONT. …:
Whisk and Ladle in San Diego is good. A farm to table restaurant.
There are many micro-brewery type restaurants in San Diego. If you are able to venture away from downtown you will find many good ethnic and local places that serve good food.
Thanks for chiming in on this.
Can you recommend a specific microbrewery for our outbound traveler?
And re: those good ethnic and local spots — any names to look out for?
COFFEE IN ETHIOPIA, CONT.:
How were the coffee shops in Ethiopia? Did you enjoy them?
My co-workers are curious to know what you thought
As I said, I don’t think there’s a bad cup of coffee to be had anywhere.
Makes sense — the country claims to be the birthplace of coffee — but it’s still a wonderful and surprising thing to experience, coming from a land where it’s easy to drop almost 5 bucks for something over-roasted or over-roasted and tepid or over-roasted and tepid and watery.
Tomoca, in Addis, is the place everyone talks about. It’s been around since 1953. The coffee there has the concentration and intensity of a Turkish coffee, but with far more mellowness and complexity. Amazing stuff.
I hit a lot of coffee shops. And I enjoyed a coffee ceremony nearly every day. I’m probably suffering withdrawal symptoms, now, because I’m down to my usual one, maybe two, cups a day.
Re: SILO — NEW, IN MT. VERNON SQUARE:
Have you been to Silo in Mount Vernon Square yet?
I’ve gone several times for lunch and enjoyed it. I heard the chef left recently, which I imagine is not a good sign for a restaurant that hasn’t been open long.
Nonetheless, the soup and salad I ate there (post chef) was very good.
I went for dinner, not long ago. Though a few weeks prior to George Vetsch’s departure.
A hard restaurant to get a fix on. It has no real identity. Nothing jumps out at you, or stands out.
The service is fine, but not especially warm or engaging. The space looks like a lot of spaces do these days; not much particularizes it, and in some ways it strikes me not so much as coolly minimalist but as unfinished, or underfinished.
I thought the food was expensive for what it was. Dinner for two was around $130. It should have been around $100, or less.
The dishes were more interesting than delicious. And by interesting I don’t mean that they forced us to see certain items in a new light — just that they didn’t make the usual moves. Sometimes, this is a good thing. In this case, it was mostly just a strange thing.
Mostly, though, I came away wishing the dishes had more depth to them, or more flavor.
SAN DIEGO DINING, CONT. …:
re: San Diego ..
Tapenade -La jolla area, good French place
Super Cocina Carnitas’ Snack Shack – heard many good things about this place from my friends who eat pork, but I don’t eat pork and this place is pork centric
Snooze – breakfast spot in San Diego. Good breakfast food.
Thanks for chiming back in on this for us.
I’m sure the chatter who’s headed there next month will be grateful to have these …
SOURCING FROM LOCAL FARMS, CONT. …:
The response from Eatwell needs to be parsed carefully.
“The farm fully expects to produce 50% of the restaurants’ seasonal produce needs this growing season.” That was 50% of the seasonal produce, not all produce. Depending upon what fraction of the total produce constitutes seasonal, that could be an impressive fraction or somewhat under the 30% you cited.
Not to say that they aren’t trying, just that the two views could be consistent.
Thanks for chiming in.
I’d like to think I made this point in my response — the “coming months” make it easy for restaurants to go local. It’s the rest of the year that brings challenges, and separates the truly committed from the trendy.
SAN DIEGO DINING, CONT.:
Check out Urbana, up on the hill. Terrific Italian and a good deal on wines.
Its neighbor Bertrand at Mister A’s feature good food and a great view. Pricey, but worth a splurge.
See, I told you: I knew we’d have a bunch of recs for you by the time the chat is done.
Thanks, everyone, for all of these great-sounding recs. I appreciate it …
BRUNCH WITH BABIES, CONT. …:
I just want to state that I do not think it is bad thing for parents to bring their children to restaurants, was just amazed at the difference between American children and European children.
Also, I agree with the poster that Saied Azali and Chef Cedric and his team at Mintwood do an excellent job servicing diners with children. I recommend Mintwood Place to all my friends who have children and are looking for a good brunch place that can accommodate children.
And re: your original observation — I didn’t take you as coming out and saying that it’s a bad thing. Not at all. You were just noticing a difference in cultural styles.
Nothing wrong with that in my book.
Gotta go. Gotta get to lunch.
Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful welcome back. And thank you, as well, for all the great questions and comments and tips and musings …
It’s good to be home.
Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …[missing you, TEK … ]