Tuesday, September 23 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’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: 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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ISO: A BRUNCH PLACE TO CELEBRATE A 5-YEAR ANNIVERSARY …:

My husband and I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary on Sunday and have a babysitter lined up for the morning for our 2 year old.

It has been at least 2 years since we’ve had a proper meal and quite miss it. Where would you recommend for brunch? We are more into food rather than drinks.

Todd Kliman

I’d try Central Michel Richard, which just introduced a new brunch menu — 3 courses for $25.

Choice of a sweet/sweetish course (pancrepes, creme brûlée French toast, etc.), choice of a savory course (shrimp ‘n’ grits, steak and eggs, etc.), and a final course consisting of two scoops of sorbet and a macaron.

With bottomless mimosas or bellinis, $40.

If you do go, drop me a note and let me know how it was.

And happy 5th anniversary …

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FIELD REPORT: SUSHI CAPITOL:

Hi Todd,

What is the proper etiquette to ask for more information about a dish or an ingredient?

After reading your dazzling post on Sushi Capitol, I visited this summer and had an incredible omakase with excellent service.

The tempura plate was especially memorable because it was served with an array of delicious crustaceans and two asparagus spears.

First, I had the softshell crab rich, tender and sweet with ocean brine and rich with golden tomalley. Next, I tried the prawn head that was funky and a little more challenging due to the antenna that tickled my throat but still a fantastic experience.

The best surprise was a tiny crab that reminded me of eating a crunchy Kettle chip, and it popped in the middle, oozing out crab goodness.

I desperately wanted to know the name of this crab in order to seek it out again. All the server could tell me about the tiny crabs were that they were imported from Japan. How would you recommend that I find out more information?

Also I should note that we sat at a regular table instead of the sushi counter, which I understand would have been the proper communication solution. However, I have faced this conflict many times before when I had questions about a dish and the server wasn’t aware of the names or origins of specific ingredients. I don’t blame the server because my questions are more obscure but I would like to find the proper path to learn more about the dishes that I loved so much.

Thank you.

Todd Kliman

I’ll be your sushi counter for the day. 🙂

The name for those tiny, crunchy whole crabs is — sawagani.

They’re very seasonal, available only from early Spring into the middle of summer; by August you’re probably not going to find them anywhere, if they have them on the menu at all.

I haven’t seen them anywhere else in the area but at Sushi Capitol. And yes, they do import them from Japan.

Thanks so much for your feedback on the restaurant.

I received some mixed reports from some readers in the immediate wake of my review, but that no longer seems to be the case. I’m going to chalk up the unevenness of performance to the prolonged absence of chef Ogawa, who had to return to Japan for several weeks this summer to be with a family member.

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I’d encourage anyone who went and was underwhelmed to go again. And anyone who hasn’t, to go again, too. I recently had a lackluster meal at Sushi Taro, including a selection of unexpectedly dry nigiri — yes, fish without sheen, and, unfortunately, without much flavor either.

Sushi Capitol, right now, is the premier spot for sushi in the city.

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BOXING LEFTOVERS, FOIL SWANS, ETC., CONT. …:

The foil swans take me back, does anyone remember the Gaslight Club?

Todd Kliman

I don’t.

But I’m sure someone does, maybe (we can hope) many someones. Send your memories — I’d love to read them …

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GEORGIA ON MY MIND (NO, NOT THAT GEORGIA ) …:

Is there any Georgian food available in the area? Do any of the Russian places (Russia House, Mari Vanna, Rus Uz) carry it?

Regardless of whether they have Georgia food, can you recommend any place for good Russian food?

Todd Kliman

I like Rus Uz, in Arlington, a lot.

I was in recently and had terrific preparations of borscht, manti (the massive, ground lamb-filled dumplings topped with sour cream and parsley), samsa (handheld meat pies), and fish under a fur coat (a kind of rough terrine of chopped herring, sour cream, shredded carrots and chopped beets). Two other variations of dumpling, pelmeni (little tortellini-like bundles stuffed with veal) and varenicki, were good, too.

Desserts need work, but this is a flat-out gem. And the prices are excellent, too.

As for Georgian cooking … I wish there was more of it around. It’s an amazing cuisine, with so many gifts. Mari Vanna does a Georgian dish, chicken tabaka, a chicken cooked under a brick and seasoned with a purseload of garlic. The last time I was there, I had it, and it was wonderful.

Compass Rose isn’t Georgian or even Russian — it’s a compendium of dishes from around the globe — but they do a terrific version of the Georgian staple khachapuri, a (please forgive me, Georgians!) kind of pizza or flatbread with a wonderfully delicate balance of potato and cheese, which is topped with a raw egg and a pat of butter before hitting the table. I wish I were eating one now.

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BOXING LEFTOVERS, FOIL SWANS, ETC., CONT. …:

I remember the Gaslight Club very well.

My father took me there when I was about 16. The motto was “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

It was similar to the Playboy Club, but a bit more upscale as I remember. The food was excellent and it was quite an event for a little girl.

Todd Kliman

This is great to get! Thanks for writing in …

Boy, those kinds of places have really disappeared, haven’t they?

Where was it located?

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BEST SPICY DISHES IN THE AREA …:

Hey Todd,

With the weather getting colder I’ve been on a spice kick and was wondering what you think are some of the areas best spicy dishes (under $20 excluding tax and tip). Type of cuisine doesn’t matter, location doesn’t matter.

thanks!

Todd Kliman

This is by no means exhaustive, simply what I can come up with without hijacking the entire chat for the next hour.

But it should give you a good map for some tasty adventures this Fall.

The lamb brain karahi at Khan Kabob in Chantilly.

Ordering anything Thai-hot at Thai Taste by Kob in Wheaton — but particularly the crispy duck with fried basil or any of the fried rices.

The kitfo at Abay Market in Falls Church.

The yebeg wot at Shagga in Hyattsville.

The bhindi masala or goat curry (order it Indian hot, if you can stand it) at Punjabi Junction in Dulles.

The menudo at R&R Taqueria in Elkridge, the terrific gas station taqueria I first wrote about more than three years ago.

What else can we add to the list …?

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BOXING LEFTOVERS, FOIL SWANS, ETC., CONT. …:

In regards to boxing, my wife and I were at Blue Duck Tavern a couple of years ago and she intentional did not finish her meal (leaving half the dish) so she could enjoy the leftovers later.

The server whisked the plates away and never gave us any doggie bags at the end of the meal. To this day she holds a grudge against BDT and we have never been back. So now we always ask the server to box the leftovers without no assumption that they do it. Should we have to always remind them?

As to actual boxing, we like to do it ourselves. Sometimes if the dish isn’t able to fit in a box, we are sure that not all of the leftovers are put in the box. When we box it ourselves, we know if all makes it into the doggie bag including any of the delicious sauces.

Todd Kliman

Yes, you have to tell the server that you’d like a dish packed up. You can’t just assume that they’ll know to do it.

Most servers have been instructed to ask; I’m surprised this one didn’t.

And in a case like this, at a restaurant like this, it’s absolutely bad form to not ask the diner whether she liked her dish. (Yet another service snafu for Blue Duck Tavern, by the way, if you’ve been scoring at home. Although this one occurred years ago … )

I understand what your wife was attempting to do — have leftovers for later — but a half-eaten plate should signal to the server that maybe the diner didn’t like the dish.

That wasn’t the reason, clearly, in this instance, but if it had been, the server then could have taken steps to correct the problem.

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FIELD REPORT: ZENEBECH INJERA IN DC …:

Went to Zenebech Injera the other night for dinner. Some of the food was delicious, all of it good. But the service was just atrocious. They were friendly when around, but I had to get up and grab my own menus and then later my own water. And eventually almost left prior to the food coming out because it took so long.

My question is, why do we tolerate this type of bad service at some restaurants but at others we expect comps, deductions from our bill, gift certificates or more from the smallest of snafus?

Hospitality (and attempts at good hospitality) should be prevalent in any and all restaurants no matter the stars.

Todd Kliman

Actually, I don’t think most people tolerate it. I mean, you yourself have gone onto an online forum to complain about it.

I wasn’t there with you this night, so I don’t know what you experienced. But one thing that I think needs to be said, here, is that the style of service at Ethiopian restaurants is not the style of service at many American restaurants. It’s often hands-off, in much the same way that bistro service, here and especially in France, is hands-off. The staff leaves you alone, on the assumption that you’re there to sit and linger and have a night.

But what a lot of people tend to find charming with a bistro, they don’t find charming at a small, modestly appointed Ethiopian restaurant.

From what I’ve seen over more than two decades of eating Ethiopian food in this area, a lot of people regard an Ethiopian meal as something that should be quick, cheap, and filling. They don’t want to sit there for two hours. Their expectation and their sense of scale is completely different when it comes to a place like Rasika or Estadio or even Room 11 or Dino’s Grotto.

But back to the question of tolerance for a second …

There are two reasons that I, personally, am willing to overlook or forgive certain little flaws with a place like this. And that’s that 1, the food is terrific and 2, the prices are amazingly cheap.

If I’m paying $40 for two and eating wonderfully well, I’m feeling tremendous gratitude, especially in a city like this, where you are constantly being gauged by the price of a house, the price of a ticket to a play, the price of parking your car in a garage for two hours, the price of a cupcake.

If I’m paying $180 for two, then I expect more. A lot more. Warmth, attentiveness, a degree of pampering, a sense that the night is being made special.

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TINY CRABS, CONT. …:

Sushi Sono in Columbia used to occasionally have the tiny crabs. No idea if they still do or not.

Todd Kliman

Time to investigate, my friend! Get on it … 😉


COOKBOOKS …:

The subject of cookbooks came up last week, go-to cookbooks for a weeknight dinner.

I have quite a few restaurant cookbooks (Momofuku, Gramercy Tavern, Pok Pok) that I have cooked from with varying success.

This month’s Bon Appetit had a couple of recipes from Rose’s Luxury (including the fried chicken!) and a dish I made last night with pork/coconut and lychee which was easy and delicious and I cannot recommend highly enough….I know they have their hands full, but I would love to see a cookbook!

Todd Kliman

Thanks for chiming in on this …

I have that issue. I’ll have to look at that pork lychee salad recipe.

Bon Appetit does a really good job with its recipes. They’re not too complicated, with lots of steps, and they also don’t take a long time to make.

I have the Momofuku cookbook and have never made anything from it. Has anyone out there made a pork bun from it? Or anything else?

Is there, as the chatter asked originally, one cookbook that you turn to over and over again for simple, terrific midweek meals?

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THE GASLIGHT CLUB, CONT. …:

The original Gaslight Club was in Chicago and inspired the Playboy Clubs. There were branches in Paris and DC.

I don’t remember where the DC Club was but I think it might have been somewhere on Connecticut Avenue. They always had a big ice sculpture out front celebrating Christmas in July.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for chiming in …

They made a new ice sculpture every day?

Now that’s a place to patronize!

(I love how we’re piecing together a picture of the place, bit by bit. Keep it coming, keep it coming … )

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SPICY DISHES, CONT. …:

Spicy Dishes –

The Floating Market Soup at Nava Thai is always good for a handkerchief or two.

Or cross the river and dive into the Lao menu at Bangkok Golden, ordered “Lao hot” of course

Todd Kliman

Yes yes yes — anything Lao hot at Bangkok Golden.

I haven’t had the Floating Market Noodle Soup at Nava in a while. I used to love it, and would hope that I would still love it, but my most recent meal there was pretty mediocre.

Thai Taste by Kob has a comparable bowl on its menu right now, though it lacks the sour notes of the dish at Nava (and much of the heat). But the broth has that same deep brown color, the same pork richness, the same exotic aromatics. You can get it with your choice of noodle — vermicelli or egg noodles would be my choice. There are also tiny pork meatballs floating in the bowl. Tear off some basil leaves and sprinkle them on, add some bean sprouts, and then — the finishing touch — a few small spoonfuls of roasted vinegar from the spice tray on the table. And maybe a pinch of dried chills. The vinegar, in particular, balances the bottom-heavy richness of the broth and gives the dish a wonderful bit of tang.

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ISO: A GREAT, EXCITING MEAL IN THE CITY …:

Hi, Todd.

It has been a long time since I have joined your chat in real-time. How nice to be back.

I am at a loss for a great exciting meal in DC these days. So many places seem to be re-inventing themselves or, yet again, just another spin-off from one of a small handful of proprietors that seem to own all of the restaurants in the DC area, so what I am looking for is something fresh and delicious. Every spin off or re-invention is something that has been done before or is being done for the hundredth time.

While it sounds as if I might be cranky, what I am seeking is the delicate but perfect balance of pairing not oft-thought of ingredients together, without trying too hard, and making flavors soar, bringing the diner to interesting flavor places. But, the combinations have to work together; they cannot be gratuitous. Thinking of Yotam, for example, as an example of someone who does this well, in my opinion. Anywhere local to go? Please do not send me to Roses Luxury. I am not humoring 3 hour waits these days.

Many thanks for your consideration.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for coming back and being with us live.

I hear you. Loud and clear.

I think the place you’re looking for is Fiola Mare. “Under the Sea” in particular is one of the most interesting dishes I’ve seen this year, and one of the most interesting dishes the chef, Fabio Trabocchi, has ever done.

Here’s how I described it in my review from June: “… a glorious bowl of langoustines, wild turbot, Icelandic cod, scallops, and prawns … The inspiration looks to be an Italian fisherman’s stew, but wait—what’s foie gras doing in here? That broth, meanwhile—a light blond color and flavored with Parmigiano rinds—is actually dashi, the foundation for a miso or ramen. The bits of crunch at the bottom of the bowl? Toasted quinoa. This is globe-spanning, genre-bending cooking at its best and most exciting … “

Casa Luca, another of the chef’s restaurants, is also performing well these days.

The aforementioned Sushi Capitol is putting out, I think, the best sushi in the city right now.

And if you’re willing to drive, Ananda in Fulton, Md., is terrific. A real getaway of a place, sumptuous and relaxing, and with excellent and sometimes exciting cooking as well.

Right now, these are four of the best places in the entire region to drop your hard-earned money and spend your valuable time.

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COOKBOOKS, CONT. …:

Last night, I made the lumaconi with prosciutto and breadcrumbs from the same Bon Appetit issue. I had that dish at Tosca, and will humbly tell you my version tasted even better. Trust me, you have to try it. I also made the pickle brined chicken (not last night!) and I prefer the restaurant version.

I don’t really have any go-to cookbooks, and prefer websites. One of my absolute favorites is food52.com.

Todd Kliman

I’ll gladly try it — bring it on over!

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MOMOFUKU COOKBOOK, CONT. …:

I actually made the bo ssam and steak ssam from the Momofuku cookbook on Saturday. Eight pounds of pork shoulder, two pounds of flank steak, and ten friends digging in on a rooftop deck. It was a great meal, my go to for big dinner parties like that.

Also from Momofuku, I’ve made the ginger scallion noodles and the brussels sprouts with kimchi. However, I would not consider the cookbook a go to cookbook for midweek meals, but definitely some great recipes in there.

Todd Kliman

No no, definitely not a midweek sort of book.

But man oh man oh man — you’re rooftop deck dinner sounds fantastic. Why don’t my friends cook like that? 🙂

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BOXING LEFTOVERS, FOIL SWANS, ETC., CONT. …:

One of the fine dining restaurants I worked at, you had to take left over plates to the chef or sous chef who would then pack up the meal and provide his flourish on swan or crab art. Lowly waiter hands could not touch any food.

This was Berrett’s in colonial Williamsburg many moons ago. They gave Andes out too…

Todd Kliman

Andes!

What a blast from the past. Loved those things.

Most restaurants these days wouldn’t be caught dead putting them out.

Actually, as we talked about last week, they wouldn’t be caught dead putting out anything — people are far too squeamish about … everything. They’ve watched too many gotcha segments during sweeps month, seen too many consumer reporters poking around with blacklights.

Komi still sends people home with lollipops. Many Indian restaurants put out a bowl of fennel seeds for exiting diners. What else is there out there? Some enterprising restaurant should do a version of a chocolate-covered mint, to be wrapped and set out near the host stand.

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MOMOFUKU COOKBOOK, CONT. …:

I’ve made the ginger scallion noodles and the asparagus miso butter dish. Mostly because they didn’t involve pages of steps.

The ginger scallion noodles have become a go-to (though you need a ton of ginger for them), while I haven’t made the asparagus again (it was fine, just didn’t really stick with me).

The ramen scares me.

Todd Kliman

Yeah, the ramen’s scary. Unless you have two days to kill.

I’ll have to go back and take another look at the ginger scallion noodles. Easy? Ish?

Thanks for the tip.

……………………….


COOKBOOKS, CONT. …:

Everyday cookbooks: The three that I love, and go to regularly, are:

1. Rick Bayless’ Everyday Mexican- just a solid book filled with healthful recipes- I love it.

2. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything- an awesome compendium, and one that I really get a lot out of. I can’t recommend it enough!

3. The Thrill of the Grill- an oldie but goodie- some great recipes, and something that I get a charge out of re-reading over the years.

Todd Kliman

I know a lot of people who love that Bittman book, and really punish their copies. Stains, dog-eared pages, the whole nine yards.

I don’t think I own that Bayless one. I’ll have to look for it — thanks for the tip. Quick and easy — you didn’t say that, but I’m hoping that’s the case — Bayless sounds like a really good thing.

Lunch time.

Thanks, everyone, for spending the time with me today, and for all the great questions and tips and musings …

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

Oh, and to all the MOT out there — have a delicious and happy holidays …

[missing you, TEK … ]