Tuesday, August 26, at 11 AM

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.

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’sThe 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: tkliman@washingtonian.com

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WHERE I’M EATING NOW …

Ananda, Fulton

Two of the best meals I had this summer took place here. And I don’t say that just because of the food coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant itself is a showpiece. From outside, it looks a little like a castle and a little like a bank, and sits in the middle of nowhere, amid a still-evolving development of townhouses in Fulton, Md. Inside, the space summons a polo club. The main dining room is a sumptuous lair of handsome dark wood, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and leather seats, while the veranda puts you in mind of an observation deck for a cricket match (it’s already one of the best places to dine on an unseasonably cool summer night, under the gently rotating fans and looking out on the lush treetops). In an age of casual, sometimes dashed-out service, Ananda leans toward greater formality — but without stuffiness. The young, affable waitstaff is got up in vests and ties, and is exceedingly well-drilled — not just attentive but vigilant, and determined to learn what it can do to make your meal better. The restaurant is the third from brothers Keir and Binda Singh, who also run The Ambassador Dining Room and Banjara, both in Baltimore. They maintain their own farm not far from the restaurant, complete with an herb garden — a highly unusual practice for an Indian restaurant in this area. Add to that the quality of the meats and fishes, which is several notches above that of the curry house, and you have a brand of cooking that is lighter and fresher than any Indian restaurant in the area not named Rasika. Given this emphasis, you might expect the dishes to experiment a little, to rethink traditional dishes in whimsical or dramatic ways. But for the most part Ananda is attempting a different, less obvious kind of fusion — the fusion of the local-leaning bistro with the conventional Indian restaurant. The preparations of black dal, chana, and raita are among the most complex I’ve tasted in years, and unexpectedly clean-tasting. A dish of salmon was perfectly roasted, with a subtle melange of tomatoes, cinnamon and cumin for a sauce. A watermelon salad with feta could have stood in for any trendy bistro in DC, except that its spicing was unmistakably Indian, and the dressing and its garnishes were both so stunningly fresh I would have thought I was dining at some gastronomic getaway in the country. I could have eaten three bowls of a recent special, a chilled summer squash and carrot soup, subtly spiced and tasting of fresh vegetables, not cream.
Wild Country Seafood, Annapolis

I hesitate to include this, if only because I know Eastporters are going to be furious with me for outing their secret. The place is run by Pat Mahoney Sr. and his son, Pat Mahoney Jr. They’re watermen, among the last of a dying breed. Every morning they troll the waters around Eastport and Annapolis, bringing their haul back to sell to the public. You order at the counter inside, then take a seat at one of four tiki umbrella-topped tables along the gravel-topped parking lot; they’ll bring you the food. And what food. The thing to get is the softshells, provided they still have them when you show up. The day I was in, they did, and I feasted on two massive, meaty, delicately sweet softshells — the best preparation of the dish I’ve had this season. The softshells had been quartered, dredged in a mixture of what appeared to be flour and corn meal, and lightly fried. With cole slaw and fries, the tab came to — yes, I’m not joking — $15. I haven’t tried the hard shells; they’ve been sold out. But I can’t imagine they’d be anything less than great; I’m eager to come back and bring home a bushel. If you’re not a fan of softshells, there’s also good fried shrimp, bay scallops, rockfish, and clams.

The Rogue Gentlemen, Richmond

Yes, I know Richmond is two-plus hours away. I’m adding it this week because a) it’s summer and people are lighting out on long trips and b.) I had one of the best meals I’ve eaten all year there, and would gladly get back in my car and drive two-plus hours to return. I love the space, which is not much bigger than some living rooms — it has the air of a place hiding from those too conventional to understand. I love the cocktails, fashioned from obscure, high-quality spirits and mixed with laborious care. And I love the cooking, which is far more composed, beautiful and exacting than you would expect of a place like this. A plate of roasted beets with salmon roe, parsley and turnip creme fraiche — unimprovable, one of the best preparations of beets I’ve had in years — would not have been out of place at Jean-Georges. A roasted foie gras with crushed pistachios and pickled sour cherries was just as glorious, a sensuous essay in textures; it was easy to imagine it on the menu at CityZen, though not for $15. Prices are eye-poppingly cheap. The most stunning value on the menu is the rib eye. Basted with butter and thyme and drenched with a sauce of Overholt Rye and black peppercorn, it’s a thoughtfully reimagined twist on steak au poivre. It comes with two cuts of meat (including the prized culotte, or cap), a shank of roasted bone marrow and delicately carved baby carrots (the marrow and the carrots are a perfect combination themselves). All this for $21. Bravo to the wonderfully fruitful (and apparently seamless) partnership between owner John Maher and chef Aaron Hopkins.

Nainai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar, Silver Spring

It’s a pain to park — options are limited along this stretch of East-West Highway between Georgia and Colesville, and you may be forced to dock your car in the garage around the corner for $5. I did, both times, and both times I walked in in something less than the spirit of having a good time. And both times the cooking picked me up. The dumplings are good, not great (get the Year of the Pig, stuffed with juicy ground pork), but even a good not great dumpling is a pretty wonderful thing. The steamed, stuffed buns vary in quality, and the meats inside are a touch dry. Focus on the noodle bowls, which feature hand-pulled noodles (notice the ends, which are uniformly not uniform — some are fat, some thin). I like the Pai Gow, topped with ground pork, chili oil, bean sprouts, mustard greens, toasted garlic and ground peanuts, and the Mahjong Noodles, tossed with sesame paste, peanut butter, cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts and chili oil. To drink: a bottle of DC Brau or Port City Porter.

Cafe Rue, Beltsville

I’ve got a lot of affection for this one-man band. Cole Whaley, a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine, is not just the owner and chef — he’’s also waiter, runner, and busser of this likable little hole in the wall in a fading Beltsville strip mall. There’s no other menu in the area quite like this, a delightful hodgepodge of soul food, yuppie bistro small plates, and Frenchified sweets. His crispy Brussels sprout dish may be the best I’ve had in a year full of crispy Brussels sprouts dishes — the outer leaves separate slightly, and he gets a chip-like crunch on them. And I love the enhancements — a touch of coconut oil for richness, a drizzle of clover honey for sweetness. The miniature crab cakes are hard to resist, and disappear quickly. Chicken and waffles are the heart of the menu, and the Cotton Club-derived combo comes in four varieties, including one with red velvet waffles and one with Sriracha-glazed chicken that calls to mind the sweet-spicy crunch of General Tso’s. I like the “classic” — the boneless, white meat chicken has surprising juice, and the waffles are thick and fluffy. Come dessert, the Francophile chef indulges his love of patisserie with five kinds of macarons (the cream centers are a touch dry, but he nails the difficult outside) and a surprisingly successful attempt at that recent darling of the NY foodie world, the cronut. More to like: the dining room is dressed up with art from the owner’s own collection, and bossa nova on continuous loop makes any day feel like a lazy Sunday. (Note: odd hours. Closes at 8 during the week and on Friday, and at 3 on Saturday and Sunday.)

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).

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T-SHIRTS AND FLIP-FLOPS, CONT. …:

Flip flops etc: Original poster about Aggio here.

I was not “bothered” per se, I was simply observing how the industry is changing. Also, for the record, Aggio is a white table cloth and proper serving pieces type of place, maybe half a step down from Marcel’s, and the decor is very modern upscale (ie. dark paint, carpet, etc. with proper lighting, fresh sophisticated flowers on a console on one side, and servers/busboys dressed up) which probably most people don’t expect, considering the fact that it is at Range, so I’d venture to say if they are going for the second time they might replace loafers with sandals and maybe a shirt instead of Polo shirt. If they had jean shorts with unironed and untucked shirts maybe I’d expect the restaurant to say something, but in this case, I applauded the “non attitude” from the servers and management and treating everyone equal.

I am definitely not interested in going to suit/jacket places most of the time because it doesn’t let me “enjoy” the evening as much, I feel like I need to watch my every move.

On what you said though, if it is no tablecloth and “casual” decor, I do not want to see suits etc.

One last thing, I don’t mind the attire, but this place definitely would be a place I would not want to see crying babies and toddlers. That would definitely make me upset if I couldn’t enjoy such a nice dinner because of noise and kids running around (similar to theater in my experience)

Todd Kliman

I hear you.

Fair points.

Though I just want to ask — and that means you and everyone else — if you’re having a good time and the food is good and the service is good (and yes, these are all big IFS), but given all these things, does it make that big a difference to you if the guy at the table two down from you is wearing a t-shirt instead of a Polo shirt and sandals instead of loafers?

I genuinely am interested in hearing about this …

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BLUE DUCK TAVERN: A RESPONSE FROM THE GM …:

Dear Mr. Kliman,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this week regarding feedback shared in your recent online chats. We appreciate forums such as yours, where diners are able to enter into a dialogue with fellow diners to discuss a vast array of topics, whether positive or negative. This allows us to identify and address areas of opportunity where we can improve or provide recognition when it is due.

The recent negative posts on Blue Duck Tavern are very concerning, as we pride ourselves in striving to achieve service excellence. It is particularly troubling for me and our team to read that the server “just didn’t care.” Caring, in every sense of the word, is an attribute we uphold very dearly; while our team aims to exceed our guests’ expectations daily.

May I ask that you please share this with your readers during next week’s chat? I appreciate hearing guest feedback, and encourage our diners to speak with me directly or a member of our management team, so that we may make every effort to recover an unpleasant experience in the moment. We cannot fix a situation if we are not aware, and I cannot reiterate enough how much the team is committed to consistently providing excellent, genuine service. Thank you for this opportunity to respond. We look forward to future visits at Blue Duck Tavern.

Best regards,

Joseph Cerione
Blue Duck Tavern General Manager

T: 202 419 6899
E: joseph.cerione@hyatt.com

Todd Kliman

Joseph, thanks so much for writing in …

I appreciate the response.

And all those chatters who have written in the past couple of weeks with a complaint, you have a person, now, to turn to.

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FIELD REPORT: DEL CAMPO, IN DC …:

My husband and I use the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants List as a guide whenever we are treating ourselves to a nice meal for a special occasion.

I took him to Del Campo for his birthday on Saturday night and it did not disappoint. Everything was amazing. The grilled octopus appetizer was easily one of the best small plates of food we’ve ever had. And his bacon-wrapped filet was perfect.

Next month his foodie sister is coming to town. Which place in the district should we go to? (we need a place that takes reservations so we can keep all of our evening plans).

Todd Kliman

This is great.

Thanks for the quickie review.

For next month, with the foodie sister in town, I’d suggest Proof, right across the street from the Verizon Center.

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It’s the total package, and one of the first places I think of for an occasion.

Foodie sister ought to enjoy herself, and if she loves wine, all the better.

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SUSHI IN TAKOMA PARK OR SILVER SPRING? …:

Recently moved to Shepherd Park. Is there any good sushi around Takoma Park or Silver Spring??

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

I wish I could say there was.

The pickings are as slim as a waistless model.

I’ve been to Sushi Jin, on Fenton. Eh.

I’ve been to Zensai, on Colesville. Okay.

I’ve been to Red Maple, in Woodmont. Fair.

I’ve been to Ikko Sushi, which makes this monstrosity called the DC Monument Roll — my pick for the worst thing I ate last year.

Here’s what I wrote:

DC Monument Roll, Ikko Sushi

I know it’s called a roll—it’s not a roll. Rolls are small, and cut into discrete pieces.

It’s also presented as sushi, and only in the sense that it contains raw fish and rice can it lay claim to that categorization. The Japanese disdain the big, the hefty, when it comes to the food on their plate. Beauty, balance, harmony are their abiding virtues.

So what is it, then?

I still ask myself that question.

It looks like one of those dessert monstrosities that you find at places like Applebee’s and Friday’s and Chili’s. It’s a tower. It’s at least six inches high. It should come with a cherry on top.

They do it with ring molds. Bottom layer: more than an inch of densely packed sushi rice. Then, mashed avocado. On top of that—a mess of chopped, low-quality tuna mixed with mayo and probably Sriracha. It’s buried beneath a wet and gooey layer of creamy crabstick. Wait, we’re not done. This cut-rate vision of Vegas excess is finished with a sweet, goopey sauce, thick, painted dabs of spicy mayo, and—for decoration—not one but two mounds of roe.

The dominant taste is wet.

Wet and sweet.

I can still taste it.

Even after 550 meals at restaurants this year, it survives, somehow, in all its ill-conceived awfulness.

The place I’d send you is in Wheaton — Moby Dick. Not to be confused with the local Persian kabob chain. This is a sushi joint, and a likable one, though clearly of the workaday variety.

Go, and let me know what you think.

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GETAWAY ANNIVERSARY DINNER …:

ISO a great restaurant – out of DC – for our anniversary dinner and one night getaway.

We’ve been to Little Washington, St. Michael’s. Williamsburg. I was thinking of Charlottesville. Any great recommendation in that direction?

The restaurant does not have to be in a great inn, just near one.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

Patowmack Farm, where chef Tarver King has taken the helm?

Beautiful setting, the very definition of a getaway, and King is a talent.

If you’re still thinking of a road trip, I’d steer you away from Charlottesville and toward Richmond. The best meal I had there over the past year or so, among my 5 visits, was at Rogue Gentlemen. See my thumbnail review up top.

Is it a romantic restaurant? No. It’s small and slouchy — a bar, basically. But the food — exciting, creative, precise.

Far from an Inn at Little Washington sort of night, I know, but I think you’d enjoy yourselves, and maybe you turn the getaway into a weekend jaunt, and explore some of the other dining options in the city. Just a thought …

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T-SHIRTS AND FLIP-FLOPS, CONT. …:

T-shirts and flip-flops: I am not bothered by attire as long as it is clean and presentable.

I don’t expect everyone to dress up to go out, and as someone who goes out on a whim, I think we should be able to enjoy and pay money at restaurants even when we’re unprepared.

I personally like to “look nice” when I go out with someone else for food, and it doesn’t normally include flip flops unless we’re going to a burrito place on the beach or a bar.

But I don’t think I have the right to judge others on this matter – though I wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable if I am just underdressed simply by the looks of others.

Todd Kliman

Not sure I understand your last sentence.

But otherwise — yes, everything you say is eminently sensible.

I think, though, that this open, judgment-free attitude of yours puts you on the other side of a lot of other diners in this city.

For all that things have changed, this remains a very buttoned-up city, still, and the way people dress to go out to dinner reflects that.

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REHOBOTH EATS …:

Hi Todd,

I’m heading to the beach in Lewes, Delaware with a few friends for Labor Day weekend.

Have you had any good dining experiences there, or in nearby Rehoboth? We’re up for anything: dive-y, fancy, you name it.

Todd Kliman

Lucky you!

And yes, I have a number of places I make sure to hit when I’m in town.

(Which tends, just as an aside, to be in the off-season. I love the beach when there’s a chill in the air and nobody’s around. 🙂

The best dining experience I had in the past year was at (a)MUSE. In fact, I thought so much about it that I deemed it worthy of just driving out to Rehoboth to go there. The chef, Hari Cameron, has an interesting culinary mind, and he takes chances with his cooking without ever letting his dishes become cerebral exercises.

https://www.washingtonian.com/articles/travel/weekend-getaways-foodie-favorites/

I also really like Nage, as you can see from the list. Keep it in mind for lunch. The Caesar salad, when it’s on, is fantastic.

Even more casual — Henlopen City Oyster House. They get a good selection of oysters in every day, the beer selection’s strong, and some of the simpler cooking (like the oyster stew) is really satisfying.

And you have to hit Casapulla’s South at least once. Terrific hoagies. Even the tuna fish hoagie is great.

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BLUE DUCK TAVERN, CONT. …:

I was out of the country the last 2 chats and caught up on the service issues others have experienced at Blue Duck Tavern.

I too received head-scratchingly bad service there recently.

In July, I participated in West End Wednesdays, the “progressive dinner” with one course at each of 4 West End restaurants.

The evening started very pleasantly at West End Bistro and then the group of about 10 was sheparded to BDT, where we sat at a table near the entrance, had waters poured – and were then completely ignored for about 15 minutes while waiters bustled around us studiously avoiding eye contact.

Someone came by to pour very uneven glasses of wine (half the group got nearly full glasses while the other half had skimpy pours) and then the group was back to being ignored.

The group started chattering about how awkward this was getting, when finally someone came out to explain the food we were getting and a bunch of platters came at once.

And the food was absolutely delicious. The mismatch of service at that kind of establishment with the quality of food was truly baffling. Marcel’s and Ris both had stellar service and great food, and now I’d recommend any of the other places over BDT any day.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for writing in …

I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this outpouring of complaint about one aspect of one restaurant.

On the bright side for BDT, at least no one’s complaining about the food.

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MOVING TO HYATTSVILLE — WHERE DO I EAT? …:

My husband and I are moving out of the District to the Hyattsville area next month and wanted to get your insight on restaurants, markets, etc. to discover.

We have already tried Shagga Ethiopian, and while it was very good it doesn’t come close to our favorite in DC (Zenebech).

We haven’t made it to Cafe Rue yet, but it is definitely on our list.

Any other places in mind?

Todd Kliman

Welcome to the neighborhood!

I think Hyattsville’s pretty great — the mix of people, the interesting old houses, the arts district, the sense of community, the sense of being in a growing urban town.

I consider Franklins to be the neighborhood gathering place. It’s a microbrewery, with a toy store (!), and a restaurant. I go most often for the wood-fired pizzas.

Shagga is really good, and you have to try their coffee — best lattes in the area, if you ask me.

Cafe Azul has good arepas.

Spice 6 does the best Indian gloss on Chipotle I’ve had. The gravies have real punch.

Busboys & Poets is a good hangout.

There’s a new coffee shop, Vigilante. Good coffee, and they grind their own beans.

Shortcake Bakery is a wonderful little bakery — they make cakes and cookies fresh everyday, and owner Cheryl Harrington also makes Jamaican patties. They’re fabulous — the best in the area.

Just up the road in College Park, you have Pho Thom, which, name aside, is mostly a Thai restaurant, and a good one. I like their drunken noodles and yellow curry bowl and basil fried rice.

Also in CP: Ovo Simply Veggie. It’s a terrific vegan spot. Get the mushroom protein with green curry and lotus and baby corn.

Slices, in CP, has good pizza by the slice.

Bobby’s Burger Palace, further up Rte. 1, is Bobby Flay’s burger spot. I like it: good burgers. Though you may need to have them re-fire a patty for you from time to time. The fries have become not worth it.

The original Fishnet is on Berwyn Road. I’m really high right now on the fish ‘n’ chips they’re doing there. One of the best versions of the dish I’ve seen in a while.

That should keep you a while … 🙂

Hope you you have a smooth settling in …

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, CONT. …:

For the person who wants to head to C-Ville …

I think it’s a great place to go as it’s a nice relaxing place to spend a weekend. I would stay at Keswick Hall or the 1804 Inn. For dinner I would check out Public Fish & Oyster, if you don’t mind a more casual, modern setting. The rockfish with grits and shellfish sauce is really good.

From last week: A non-permanent error, one that a restaurant can make that is easier to overlook is a bad server, sometimes it’s just not someone’s day, or over or underseasoned food, which could just be a one time thing, as well. And for restaurants that change the menu a lot (like a Rose’s Luxury), a dish that is not quite there conceptually, but they are working on it.

Todd Kliman

This is more and more the case at restaurants — the kitchen is working on a dish, and it’s not quite there … but it’s there on the menu.

Of course, you generally only hear that it’s a dish-in-progress when, prodded by the server, you say something about it not being quite there. “Yeah, Chef has been working on this one for the past coupla weeks … “

By the way — funny story. Well, funny for you, not so funny for me …

I was at a restaurant this past week, and waited more than half an hour for two sandwiches to arrive.

The manager eventually apologized, and offered to remove the charge from the bill. (Though the bill that came had the sandwiches listed, and I had the awkward moment of asking him over to clarify.)

Here’s the great part, though. In his explanation of the long lag, he said:

“You did order two of the most intensive sandwiches on the menu.”

I’ll bet you never knew that making a club sandwich and a ham, bacon and egg sandwich was intensive, did you?

I’ll refrain from calling out the place by name, but I won’t refrain from asking: how is it that a place can claim its sandwiches are craft sandwiches when the bread is not made on the premises (or purchased from quality sources) and most of the meats are not, either?

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FIELD REPORT: MACON BISTRO, IN DC …:

OK, you’re right. Macon isn’t as good as I first thought (or wanted it to be).

My last meal there was a total mixed bag (though cocktails remain solid).

Then last week they tweeted out a picture of their appetizer special, escargot on pomme puree with a green garlic emulsion. Sounds good, though I immediately question the judgement of any restaurant that thinks this is an appetizing way to promote their menu.

Todd Kliman

Come on, it’s not that bad.

Anyway, I’ve seen worse.

Much, much worse.

Thing is, you need a really good, sharp photo for most food to look good. Most food shots posted on the web: not pretty. And some of it: absolutely unappetizing.

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AMERICA EATS TAVERN, IN TYSONS …:

America Eats/SLS Miami-Bazaar:

I just read your review of America Eats and agree with your assessment of the place.

I enjoyed the novel concept when it was first introduced during its first rendition at the old Café Atlantico. Even there I thought the food was okay, nothing spectacular but novel in its approach to educate diners about the history of American cuisine.

The new America Eats is just bloated and over-priced since it is housed in a Ritz Carlton. usually when I see a restaurant is housed inside a luxury hotel, you hope going in that you are going to receive a good meal and not just end up wasting an hour and contributing to their rent payment. I paid their rent on my visit.

I was just in Miami for work and was able to catch up with some old friends too. It was a quick two day trip but managed to grab a meal at the SLS South Beach, which houses Jose Andres’ Bazaar concept, which I tried out in LA a few years ago and still think it was one of the best and most memorable tasting menu experiences I have had as a diner.

The SLS Miami has a gorgeous design and layout that beckons to all the beautiful people that inhabit or are traversing through South Beach. The food itself was just a mess. Instead of highlighting what makes up Miami cuisine (Cuban, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, South American…etc) they decided to blend in Japanese….so instead of focusing on the cuisine that makes Miami great, they instead chose to do something cliché that caters to tourists. The diner and the food suffers because of this.

Now having three time SuperBowl champion Teddy Bruschi at the table next to you is cool but as a diner when I go into a Jose Andres restaurant you come to expect a certain level of sophistication in the food and here there just wasn’t any. Possibly the only good dish from the evening that I still remember is the coconut rice with sepia.

Thanfully Jaleo and Zaytinya still serve great food.

Todd Kliman

I actually am kind of mystified by the restaurant.

It ought to be better. I hope it can pivot and make it itself into something better. Right now, so much about it just feels wrong.

http://bit.ly/1tFOuIa.

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EXPLORING THE CHINESE RESTAURANT SCENE IN ROCKVILLE …:

Hi Todd,

I would like to explore more of the options for Chinese food in the Rockville area and was hoping you could offer some recommendations.

It seems like there are a number of restaurants to choose from, but I’m not sure where to start.

My usual go-tos are Sichuan Jinriver and East Pearl, but I want to branch out. The catch is, I hardly ever eat meat, preferring to stick to seafood or vegetarian dishes.

Are there any other places I should check out?

Todd Kliman

Add Joe’s Noodle House.

Add A&J for northern-style dim sum.

Add China Bistro for dumplings and small cold plates.

And delete East Pearl. It went downwhill not long after my review came out. It’s decent now. It was, for a time, pretty terrific.

………….


30 MINUTES FOR A SANDWICH, CONT. …:

30 minutes for a sandwich should only ever happen on Portlandia.

Todd Kliman

I will henceforth make an exception for intensive sandwiches.

…………..


FLIP-FLOPS, CONT. …:

Flip flops:

… are the most unsanitary shoes on the face of the earth.

Yes, regular shoes will track in road dirt, but flip-flops = Rubber + sweat + fungus = nothing I want to see while I’m trying to eat dinner (unless I’m at a beach and I’ve already committed to dusting sand out of my meal).

There’s being comfortable in public, and there’s being lackadaisical about public hygiene. I have no problem with finer restaurants discouraging them.

(For the record, I am still well under 40.)

Todd Kliman

I don’t think restaurants do discourage them.

I don’t think restaurants discourage — actively discourage — anything.

And I don’t necessarily think, in cases like this, that that’s a bad thing.

………….


MORE FROM JOSEPH CERIONE, GM, BLUE DUCK TAVERN …:

West End Wednesdays was a great partnership with the local restaurants with a lot of great success.

We appreciate the feedback as it appears that we missed on this occasion. I do want to reiterate that the concerns about one aspect about the restaurant, “service”, are not falling on deaf ears and we will be looking at this very closely. With the recent successes both culinary and service we’ve had over the past few years, I would not want to jeopardize the perception that we are slipping in service.

Joseph

Todd Kliman

Joseph, I think it’s great that you’re making yourself available to people.

I hope you’ll hear directly from chatters, and have an opportunity to show them something.

……………


AMERICA EATS TAVERN, CONT. …:

America Eats – I agree with your assessment as well.

I don’t mind paying for very good and creative food (such as Fiola Mare for ex.) + ambience/view but a burger for $25 and exorbitant prices for “average’ stuff I can find somewhere else makes me think the owners/chef don’t respect me as a diner, and just because they happen to be at the Ritz (or just because it’s a Jose Andres restaurant) they can ask for anything they want.

I see no reason to frequent such places until either they offer me something I can’t find somewhere else, or bring the prices in line with what’s offered in the city for comparable food.

Todd Kliman

Well said.

Thanks for chiming in …

…………..


FIELD REPORT: GYPSY SOUL, IN MERRIFIELD …:

By the way, had a delicious meal at the bar at Gypsy Soul, it was a lot of fun to sit there and watch the bar and kitchen at work. I am still thinking about their deviled eggs, which for me aren’t remember multiple days after eating type of thing, although I do really like a deviled egg. But everything we ate really hit the spot.

My husband was really impressed by how composed their ice cream dish was, he was just expecting a scoop of ice cream, but it came out on a crumble of chocolate mint.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for the report!

Sitting at the bar there is definitely the way to go.

I want to say that more than half the seats are either looking out from the bar onto the kitchen or adjacent to it.

It would’ve been interesting to have every seat in the restaurant be, essentially, a bar seat. Someday, someone will pull the trigger on this idea …

………….


FLIP-FLOPS, CONT. …:

On my last trip home to Hawaii I packed two pairs of shoes: flip flops and running shoes….people bring more germs in on their hands than their feet so the argument re hygeine is null and void imho.

Stop looking at people’s feet and pay attention to your dinner companions.

Todd Kliman

Bravo.

And a great place to end today.

Thanks, everyone, for all the great questions and comments and rants and ruminations …

I’m running off to lunch with a great friend I don’t see nearly enough …

Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …

[missing you, TEK … ]

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