Tuesday, December 9, 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. A finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, he took home first-place honors for feature writing, in 2013, from the Association of Food Journalists.

He is the author, most recently, 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. Barnes & Noble and The Oxford American both made it an Editor’s Pick. The Richmond TImes-Dispatch called it “an outstanding piece of literature.”

Kliman 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 TO EAT NOW:

Ocopa, DC

Not cheap for H St., but the quality of the fish is high and 24-year-old chef Carlos is a talent. His plates are striking, and his flavors pop. Ocopa functions best when you think of it as a place to divvy up small plates of tiradito and ceviche and causa (his version of papa a la huancaina, a potato salad, is so sublime it makes the picnic staple you’re probably imagining look like prison food) while tanking down cocktails (among which you’ll find expert renditions of pisco and rum punch).

Saba, Fairfax

At a recent meal at this Yemeni gem, I ate injera, pita, and wheat bread (the latter baked for a marvelous bread pudding called masoob, layered with bananas, cream, honey and nigella that is a little bit different with each bite). Owner Taha Alhoraivi didn’t know how to cook a single dish from his tradition when he arrived in the States 15 years ago on a student visa. He didn’t even know how to cook. His mother and sister had barred him from the kitchen; cooking was women’s work. He subsisted for months on eggs, bread and cheese, until he returned home for a visit and prevailed upon the women in his family to share their recipes with him. Thus began a 15-year-journey of research and experimentation, as Alhoraivi sought to recreate the foods of his youth in isolation. Saba is the remarkable result. The two must-orders are the haneeth and the fahsa. The former is a strapping platter of slow-cooked lamb, seasoned with cardamom, cumin and cloves, that comes apart without prodding and some of the most flavorful rice you’ll ever eat — each grain is distinct, and tastes richly of the meat. The latter is a shredded beef stew in a sauce of tomatoes, onions and cumin so concentrated it might as well be a syrup; the crowning touch is a dollop of hilbeh, a tangy dip flavored with mint and cilantro.

Casa Luca, DC

The most casual of the restaurants in Fabio Trabocchi’s collection has found its groove. This is an assured operation from top to bottom, and from its opening nibbles to its pastas (go for the San Leo — ravioli stuffed with wild greens and ricotta and treated to a sauce of butter, toasted almonds and nepitella) to its dazzling preparations of fish and seafood to its light, colorful and exquisitely crafted desserts. I joked to a friend at dinner recently that the cornish hen minestrone was “too flavorful” — its broth so intense and rich that I had to stop talking and give all my attention to it.

Ray’s to the Third, Arlington

It’s as stripped down as a restaurant can get; even some food trucks pay more attention to creating an experience. But it still makes the best burger around, the steak ’n’ cheese is better than a Philly cheesesteak, and the milkshakes, including a booze-spiked Bananas Foster, are fabulous.

DGS Delicatessen, DC

Founding chef Barry Koslow has left to open Pinea, set to make its debut any day now at the W Hotel, but things haven’t exactly slacked with new chef Brian Robinson. It’s almost impossible to come here and not gorge on matzo ball soup (note to the kitchen: a wee bit more schmaltz in the broth, please), chopped chicken liver, and pastrami, but there’s a lot more here than just deli. (What am I saying, “just deli”? Since when is deli itself not enough? And this deli especially.) The tongue gyro is terrific. So is the chicken schnitzel, made with pounded chicken thighs; it comes with whipped potatoes and tangy red cabbage, and puts you in mind of something you’d see at Central Michel Richard. A new dessert is also a winner: a banana split with salted caramel ice cream and toasted almonds.

Baby Wale, DC

I’d love Tom Power’s place just for the go-go soundtrack alone — on a recent Saturday night, it simmered with the chunky syncopations of the godfather of the scene, Chuck Brown. (Wind me up, Chuck!) The thing to do is to order up a glass of wine — any wine (Power knows his stuff; his list is fantastic) — and a bowl of soup — any soup (Power makes some of the best in the city) — and then settle in with the terrific ribeye and fries.

Gypsy Soul, Falls Church

An outtake from my recent review: “Gypsy Soul is informed by Southern cooking in the same way that Kid Rock is informed by country music. Like chef R.J. Cooper, Rock hails from Detroit, is tatted, has long stringy hair and fancies himself a kind of badass vagabond. Like Cooper, his gift is in braiding strands that aren’t generally braided.” I love the chicken fried quail, one of the most perfect high-end dishes out there right now (perfectly conceived, perfectly executed), the chicken skins are maddeningly addictive, the oyster stew manages to be both daring and delicious, and the crabcake gets it exactly right. There have been problems, in the early going, with salting (both under- and over-), and some dishes haven’t delivered the promised richness or depth. I expect these wrinkles to unwrinkle over time. The too-slick space is another matter.

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.

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’s willing to accommodate any requests, but adds that his aunt’s cooking isn’t 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).

Sushi Capitol, DC

This is a diminished sushi scene: Makoto is no longer special, Kushi has exited, and Sushi-Ko I is gone. That leaves Sushi Taro and Sushi Capitol, and for me, right now, it’s not a debate. Capitol is not as polished an experience as Taro, but neither is it the Zen-like spa of hushed voices and restrained manners — an Important Restaurant to save up for when you are looking to mark an occasion. This is a simple, unassuming spot, a workaday spot, with good, well-sourced fish and a chef who knows how to enhance the raw product without sacrificing the elegance essential to the form. Minoru Ogawa was previously in charge of sushi operations at every Mandarin Oriental property along the Eastern seaboard. He’s a purist at the bar, abjuring gimmicks, fads and clutter. The pieces are small, with tiny pads of rice, and the fish is sliced thin and delicately and draped just so over the pads. This doesn’t just make for an elegant presentation; it ensures that each bite is in balance, with the right proportion of fish to rice. I was in most recently for the omakase, which, at $50 for somewhere between 16-20 pieces, amounts to a sweetheart of a deal in the sushi world — particularly when the yellowtail is so sweet and still tastes of the sea, and the various white fishes are not simply there for padding, and the hand-rolls (passed across the bar as soon as they’re finished, their wrappers warm and crunchy) come with fresh-chopped toro. If you order a la carte, don’t ignore the rolls. The Florida roll, draped with whitened bands of blowtorched salmon belly and sliced avocado, is a stunner in every sense.

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FOLLOWING-UP FROM TWO WEEKS AGO: SITTING AT THE BAR, CONT. ………..::

Yes, you should absolutely move. For all the reasons already stated, plus, you being in a position where you are preventing others from sitting at the bar is also denying your server/bartender at the bar a direct source of income.

If you value your personal space so much, wait for a table.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for chiming in on this …

And I hear you. I think that moving over is absolutely the right thing to do.

What I don’t think is so cut-and-dried is the issue of moving over if you are a couple and occupying the corner seats. We’ve heard people come on here and attest to the value of these seats, apart from the other bar seats, and in conversations with people over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard from a number of others who place a premium on the corner seats.

Is it reasonable to say that one should move over, in general, if there’s an empty stool at the bar on either side, but that if those empty stools at the bar are on either side of a couple at the corner, then it’s not so clean and absolute?

Good morning, everyone. It’s COLD out there. Cold and raw and not at all the kind of day you want to be out and about in. I’m glad you’re inside and sharing it with me, here.

I want to know what’s on your mind, where you’ve been eating, what you’ve been cooking, all of it, the whole kit, bang and kaboodle (does anybody even say this anymore? They should.) Hit me …

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REPORT FROM THE FIELD: OSTERIA MORINI, AT THE NAVY YARD ……….:

Hey Todd,

I just wanted to share our dining experience at Osteria Morini this past weekend which provided one of the best meals I’ve had all year. It got some press soon after it opened, but I haven’t heard much chatter since then, and I think a lot of people are missing out.

First of all, the restaurant company somehow turned a former lumber shed that not long ago was a hollow concrete shell into a warm, cozy Italian restaurant thanks to brick and wood accents and yellow glass columns surrounding those concrete support beams. A gleaming, open kitchen faces the dining room, though it is not visible from all of the tables. However, all food lovers should walk towards the back of the restaurant to check out the kitchen and the accompanying wood burning grill where all of the meats are cooked.

While nibbling on the complementary rosemary focaccia, we asked if we could get a taste of one of the wines before ordering a whole bottle. The sommelier came out with two tastes: the one we had asked for and a second that far surpassed what we were planning to order for only a couple dollars more. The simple gesture provided a wine which provided a perfect pairing and elevated the rest of the meal.

The three of us started with a few selections from the crostini section, which actually come out as spreads with toast on the side rather than on top like bruschetta, so an order of three was quite a large appetizer. Of the three we chose, the parmesan “gelato” was a real standout; one of those dishes with familiar flavors but a texture that completely throws you off. In this case, the parmesan was turned into a spread with a consistency of whipped butter and covered with very high quality balsamic vinegar. When I inquired how it was made, I was told the parmesan is finely grated and melted down, then whipped with heavy cream before letting it cool. I’ll probably give this a try at home.

For the pasta courses (all of which are homemade, and clearly taste it), we had the truffled ricotta cappelletti and pumpkin caramelle (shapped like taffy wrappers) with taleggio and walnuts. The latter, with a brown butter sauce, was the perfect interplay of subtly sweet, salty, and savory flavors.

For the main dishes we ordered the bronzino and veal chop. Both were perfectly cooked on the previously mentioned wood burning grill. The whole bronzino was served head-off with both fillets still attached by the tail to provide a whole fish without any of the work, and was accompanied by a refreshing raw fennel salad. The veal chop was the pièce de résistance. The thick, bone-in chop was so buttery and tender, a knife was almost unnecessary. It was covered by pieces of grilled radicchio and buttressed by taleggio polenta which adhered to the portions of mashed potatoes prepared by French masters – half starch and half fat. This was a dish made for the cold; a dish to warm you to your core. When the waiter saw the plate empty save for some of the rich veal sauce, she offered to bring some fresh foccacia to mop everything up, a proposal which was quickly accepted.

With Alex Levin in the house, I knew we couldn’t pass on dessert. We decided to try the pistachio and meyer lemon budino which came with small pieces of pistachio cake and a few good sized chunks of dark chocolate toffee and test out Alex’s version of a classic tiramisu. When a tortino came out in place of the tiramisu, we were told to enjoy it while the waiter went to grab a slice of tiramisu. The tortina, a warm chocolate cake filled with chocolate and caramel and paired with caramel gelato, was pure decadence. While the tiramisu was a little too coffee flavored for my tastes, everyone at the table found a dessert to latch on to. The quality and presentation of the desserts just further prove the importance of investing in an in-house pastry chef.

The service was top class, and we weren’t left wanting for anything. Water glasses were never let to go below half full and silverware and plates were subtly replaced between courses. For people who consider a trip to Yards Park a journey, please take note that it is worth the effort.

Todd Kliman

Sounds like a pretty terrific meal from start to finish.

You paint a wonderful picture with your words — I know you just made a lot of people very hungry. I’m one of them.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

And as for Morini and its relatively low profile, I can’t say for sure, but I’m going to guess that’s about to change …

By the way, a quick note of housekeeping for everyone out there. Please don’t blow off the email address field when you submit. I’m leery of emails with made-up names, as some of you are wont to supply. I get it; you don’t want to feel that you’re going to be tracked or traced or whathaveyou. Who does? But I just can’t see an argument for anonymity in a case like this. If you have something to criticize a restaurant for, fine, but stand behind your words by supplying a legit email address so I can validate you if I need to. And if you have lavish praise to share — well, same thing. I want you to be honest and come forth and say who you are. I want to know you’re not a shill, or a shill-once-removed (there are a lot of those.)

Incidentally, I just finished reading a novel with an acknowledgments page that thanks the author’s husband. It was very generous, and took up several sentences. And even listed the husband’s full name. And then there, on the back cover, was an excerpted blurb from a national magazine — “a stirring work of the imagination, etc., etc.” with, yes, the husband’s name at the bottom.

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THE ECONOMICS OF WINE AT RESTAURANTS ……….:

Hey Todd, following up some recent discussion on the economics of wine at restaurants, I wanted to report my recent experience.

I was at Chez Billy Sud this weekend. Otherwise it was a pretty enjoyable meal, but the wine prices were a turn-off.

The cheapest bottle of red on the menu was $59, and there was only a single white under $50 as well.

This seems excessive and out of line for a midrange restaurant. (As a comparison, two other Georgetown French places, Bistrot Lepic and La Chaumiere, have plenty of wines in the $30s and $40s.)

Might this be an extreme example of the alcohol subsidizing the food?

Todd Kliman

Yes, absolutely.

It’s also a sign, maybe, of a restaurant overestimating its worth/appeal.

A neighborhood place that doesn’t have bottles in the 30s and 40s is not operating in the spirit of a neighborhood place.

When the least expensive bottle of red is $59, and the restaurant is not at the level of Le Diplomate — that would be a turn-off to me, as well.

Look at The Red Hen. It’s a restaurant that intended to be a neighborhood restaurant and, through consistency, quality, smarts and any number of other qualities, transcended that designation. And you can still find wines, a number of them, for under $59 a bottle.

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KIT, BANG AND KABOODLE, CONT. ……….:

So the phrase is “kit, bang, and kaboodle”? I always thought it was “kitten and kaboodle.” Learn something new everyday.

Todd Kliman

This is too funny — only just now, looking at your “kitten and kaboodle,” do I realize my error.

It’s “kit and kaboodle” — not sure why I added the bang.

(Because I’m hyped to be on here this morning!)

A friend and I have had a conversation about misunderstood phrases for a while now. The one that got us started is — “for all intents and purposes.” When I was little, I used to think it was “for all intensive purposes.” Which, actually, I prefer to the actual phrase. Isn’t that great — for all intensive purposes?

Another is — six of one half, a dozen of the other. I used to think, growing up, that it was six and one-half dozen of the other. In other words, 12. I remember thinking: that’s a really long, convoluted way of saying 12. Grown-ups; grown-ups and their mysterious ways …

What other examples can we come up with …?

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BEATING THE SYSTEM AT ROSE’S LUXURY AND LITTLE SEROW ……….:

What strategy would you recommend on getting in at Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow?

Todd Kliman

Slip the host two crisp twenties.

(I kid, I kid … Actually, one of the things to like about these two places is that they don’t strike you as the kind of places that would cotton to that sort of big-footing.)

With both places, the thing to do is to show up 45 minutes to an hour before they open and wait in line. That’s it, that’s as much of a strategy as there is.

Well, that and the secret handshake. But I fear I may have already revealed too much … Sorry, Rose’s, sorry, Little Serow …

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REPORTS FROM THE FIELD: DCity SMOKEHOUSE AND JRINK ………..:

I was in the city on Saturday, performing a bbq run to DCity Smokehouse.

After inhaling copious amounts of brisket, smoked chicken, smoked chicken wings, the Den Den sandwich, hush puppies, and brussel sprouts, and before the impending food coma could nestle in, I made my way to JRINK a cold press juicery that I had come across and had been wanting to check them out for quite some time.

After locating the store, walked in, got a brief description about the products they serve. With cold pressed juices they have a short shelf life of a few days and must be consumed within that timeframe. I ended up getting the lemonade with cayenne pepper and a cold coffee drink that raw brazil nuts in it.

Both were good and I would purchase them again. The only negative I see is the price, $9 per bottle, which can be steep. I don’t know if I would buy a bottle every day but I could see myself every now and then picking up a bottle or two when I am the city to have at home.

Overall, I welcome the addition of JRINK and working to establish roots with the citizens of the DMV.

Todd Kliman

So you go and gorge yourself on barbecue brisket and smoked chicken and chicken wings and hush puppies, and then you wash it all down with a cold-pressed beverage of raw, natural ingredients from a trendy “juicery.”

I’m only poking a little fun, I hope you know. I love extremes of eating like this.

The funny thing is, $9 a bottle for a juice like this doesn’t even shock me anymore, not in this market. I mean, yes, it’s astonishing if you step back for a moment and think about it coldly, in a vacuum — $9 for juice; for juice! — but this is the city we live in and the time we live in, and evidently the foodie culture will support it.

We’ve all bought these juices, right? Either in boutique juice shops or at places like Whole Foods? Mint, alfalfa, kale, avocado, grass trimmings from your neighbor’s lawn …

But here’s my question — do we do buy them because we think we’re doing something good for our bodies? Because the juices that I’ve had are good, most of the time, but not what I would call delicious.

Most of the time I’ve made a purchase, it’s been when I’ve been weak — on the verge of a cold, say. And in those moments, I think I’ve been mentally weak, too, giving in to the notion that a place like Whole Foods is selling — that this juice will heal me, that here, in this little bottle, is a wondrous shot of energy and vitality, something to immunize us and cleanse us and make us better and healthier and more complete and more perfect.

Has anyone tried kombucha? I mean, yuck-o, right? I can only imagine that someone would take this medicinally.

My Indian friends have a remedy for the onset of a cold, and that’s to stir two teaspoonfuls of turmeric into a cup of hot milk or hot water and drink it. I don’t enjoy that at all, though I’ve done it many times. I consider it medicinal. It’s also cheap, cheap, cheap, unlike kombucha, and unlike the blends of mint, alfalfa, kale, avocado, grass trimmings from your neighbor’s lawn.

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OSTERIA MORINI, CONT. ……….:

I second the opinion.

I was there couple of months ago for lunch and this brought back many good memories and a desire to go back.

I am glad they have kept up the consistency, which is rare in this town.

Todd Kliman

A desire to go back …

I often ask the people who come with me to lunch and dinner — would you come back, on your own, without me paying?

The answers often surprise me. Someone can be having a perfectly fine meal, enjoying himself, herself, and then, just after dessert and before coffee, I spring my question. A pause to consider, a wrinkling of the brow. And then — no, I guess I wouldn’t.

A place that makes you want to come back, that makes you happy being there — this is the thing we all want and look for. And it’s so very, very hard to find.

Incidentally, I just wanted to share a recent report from the field of my own — of a place, a new place, I have no desire to return to.

I sensed something amiss from the start. A lack of energy. No snap in the room. Then the food started to come.

One dish consisted of three tacos. The menu described the contents as egg, pork belly and sausage. Well, it wasn’t pork belly inside; it was bacon. You don’t bring in pork belly and slice it to the thinness of … bacon. Why would you do that? The waitress insisted it was pork belly. If it was, (and it wasn’t), it was terrible pork belly.

It was hard not to see this as an attempt on the part of management to justify the steep price tag of $14 for three tacos.

Dessert came in a skillet, and looked to be out of the Betty Crocker cookbook for kids. Sweet as all hell, and about as sophisticated as Ivana Trump * And they charged $9 for it. Now, here’s the great/terrible part. The waitress warned us that the handle was hot; be careful. So we were. But then it occurred to me: why would the handle be hot? It’s a cheesecake. And that led to another thought: why would a cheesecake be cooked in a skillet?

So, I touched the handle. It was very warm. I touched the pan. Not warm at all — cold; cold as a corpse.

No, I thought. No, they didn’t. But yes — yes, they did. They warmed the handle to fool the diner into thinking that this crummy little cheesecake was a hearth-like product, baked in the warming skillet.

Cynicism at its worst.

  • Speaking of Trumps, did everybody read the review of the new restaurant at the Trump Tower in Toronto last week? I love the headline: “The Food is Amazing, But You Shouldn’t Eat Here, Ever”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/restaurant-reviews/america-at-the-trump-hotel-the-food-is-amazing-but-you-shouldnt-eat-here-ever/article21833277/


SAYINGS, CONT. ……….:

It’s not quite the same thing, but I made it well into my thirties thinking there were two cities in California, one called La Jolla and pronounced “La JO-Lah,” and one called La Hoya. Can you tell I took Latin in high school?

Also, I don’t know why – it’s not the same thing – but the post about the DCCity Smokehouse reminded me of an episode of “Louie,” where Louis CK and a friend decide they need to go on a diet, but first they’re going to do something they call a “bang bang,” where the go to one restaurant and consume a full meal, and then immediately go to another restaurant and consume a second full meal.

During the second meal, a cute waitress recognizes Louis CK and starts flirting with him, and his friend interrupts and explains to her that they’re doing a bang bang. The shame and self-loathing on Louis CK’s face is priceless.

Todd Kliman

I’ve gotta see that.

I’ve fallen behind on my Louies. Thanks for the tip …

No one does self-loathing like Louis CK.

And bang bang — that’s pretty much what a critic putting together a dining guide does for weeks. 🙂

But back to sayings and words and malaprops and whathaveyou …

By the way, the computer, all-controlling force that it is, just tried to change malaprops to malapropos. An apropos malaprop! How great is that?

One thing I find, and am fascinated to find, is that people who read a lot as kids and young adults often know words that they don’t really know how to pronounce. Because they read them on the page and didn’t hear them in actual speech.

For instance, I used to say CHAZ-em, instead of CAZ-em. (Chasm).

I know someone who used to say — epi-TOHM.

What others are there in that vein?

Are there any food terms like that?

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BEATING THE SYSTEM, CONT. ……….:

i find that a Franklin works at Little Serow and Rose’s to expedite seating. its worked for me since both places opened. usually my wait it maybe 10 minutes for a aprty less than 4 and 15 minutes for a 6 top or larger. Money talks. Always has

Todd Kliman

See, I just don’t really believe this.

I don’t.

And I don’t think I’m being credulous.

For one, I just don’t think that you did this. And two, even if you were to try slipping the host or GM some money, I somehow suspect that it would not be taken.

And really, a Franklin? At a place like this, where two people can reasonably eat for only a little more than a Franklin?

Uh uh.

You can try to prove me wrong. Maybe use a camera phone and video the exchange. But until you or someone captures footage of a quid pro quo, then I’m going to believe that you’re just making something up to stir the pot.

………………………….


TAMALADA:

Hi there! I mentioned our tamalada (tamale making party) a few weeks back, but didn’t get a response from an email. I presume it was lost in the blizzard of email you must get.

So, I thought I’d extend the offer for you to pop by and pick up a few tamales wrapped in banana leaves. I’m given license to play with a few every year, so I’m going to try a spin on duck breast with port and cherries. We’re doing the event on the 20th (which I recognize is probably a work night for you), but will have plenty packed up.

Todd Kliman

That sounds wonderful!

Thank you so much for thinking of me.

My email account was backed up and not functioning for a while there — it became overfull, and locked me out. I’m guessing that’s what happened.

It’s fine, now, so I’ll go looking for what you sent. Do you remember, by any chance, the subject line? I’m so sorry this just sat there without a response from me!

That Saturday is mayhem for me; two parties, after a week of multiple functions. But tamale-making sounds like such a fun night …

……………………


“GOOD-FOR-YOU” JUICES, CONT. ……….:

Kombucha is nasty!

Initial reason for trying JRINK was out of curiosity about how it would taste with the thought of “this is good for your body” in the back of my mind.

Plus it would make no sense for me to have the juice first and then gorge myself on BBQ. lol

I appreciate their efforts but I do not see myself using the product on a daily basis. I can see myself gravitating towards this place during a hot summer day and wanting something, nice and cold, like a juice to cool me down.

Todd Kliman

I think that’s the thought that’s in the back of a lot of our minds when we drink these drinks.

Or the front.

Every time I wander through a Whole Foods — I probably shouldn’t share this, but what the hell — but every time I walk through the aisles I can’t help thinking that what the store is selling isn’t produce and grains and meats and good-looking fishes and great cheeses. It’s selling “you’re not going to die.”

…………………..


$14 TACOS, CONT. ……….:

I am not sure if your experience was at Tico, but I felt that way after paying $14 for I think it was two tacos, nothing else.

There was nothing special about them, they were small (which I don’t mind, I know that’s how they are in Mexico) and not much to remember or go back to. After paying $35 for 2 tacos, a mass production beer on tap, and a ceviche which was also ok, I am not going back.

They gave me the impression of “we are on 14th street, we can share anything we like and don’t have to do much” including the bartender who was trying to upsell but disappeared once he saw I wasn’t going for the entrees.

For my buck, for that money, I can get a superb meal, interesting wine/beer, and a very friendly bartender at a number of places – my favorite being Etto.

Todd Kliman

It wasn’t at Tico, no.

Sadly, the $14-for-3-tacos thing is not an isolated phenomenon.

But like you, my experience at Tico was uneven. Some great bites, some completely unremarkable ones.

I think, generally, I’m soured on the upscale Mexican trend. No, that’s not quite right. It’s not upscale Mexican exactly that I have a problem with. It’s the preciousization of Mexican.

…………………..


KOMBUCHA, CONT. ……….:

I love kombucha! They are not all the same, some brands are stronger, and some are less yeasty (like the ones on tap at some Whole Foods coffee bars).

In terms of juices, I don’t mind paying when they are really fresh (though not every day like you said) but the juice I bought at Sweetgreen left a bad taste (!) in my mouth because it was rancid, and for that much money, I expect them to be fresh.

Todd Kliman

Kombucha on tap? I need to see that.

Sweetgreen, Sweetgreen, Sweetgreen … I still remember when their frozen yogurt was great, when you could taste the tang of the Greek yogurt, when it was smooth as custard. And then, when they stopped using the Greek yogurt, probably because it was costly, and the texture changed, and became slightly icy. I used to love it. I never eat it anymore, and never think of eating it anymore.

What a shame.

I feel bait-and-switched.

………………………………..


SAYINGS, CONT. ……….:

No idea how to pronounce charcuterie!..is it how it’s spelled? And..

Gyros or Yiros or Heros??

Todd Kliman

YEER-os.

And — shar-COOT-erry.

I have heard people in restaurants order “the duck conFIT.”

I remember standing behind a woman at a salad bar who kept referring to the “CROUW-tuns.”

…………………..


WINE, CONT. ……….:

Hi Todd,

What’s ur take on tipping on wine. With the over charging on glasses/bottle of wines these days, it kinda skews the tips.

The waiter isn’t doing anything different when they open a $40 bottle versus $100 bottle. So far, i still tip 20-25% regardless of the price of the wine, but i just find it a little unfair. Thoughts?

Todd Kliman

Think of it this way:

The server is (presumably) giving you the same level of service whether you order an app, a main, a dessert and a cocktail, or whether, going light, you order an app and a dessert.

You’re not tipping on individual glasses, right? Just on bottles. You don’t need to tip on them; that’s part of your overall tip.

I’d keep doing what you’re doing.

………………….


REPORT FROM THE FIELD: THIP KHAO:

Hi Todd,

I was fortunate enough to have dinner at Thip Khao this past weekend.

Upon walking in the door, the smell was fantastic. The food all lived up to the hype. I had the laab with pork (although, I think any protein would do – it’s not the star of the dish). I so wanted to be a hero and order the Lao spice, but the waitress mercifully steered me toward the medium level. This was plenty spicy. The curries and crispy rice salad were also great.

The one thing I thought was odd – on a busy Friday night (opening night, no less) there was only one bartender. He didn’t even have a bar back. I know the bar is small, but I hope this won’t be the norm. Especially when you are offering intricate cocktails, I’d expect you would want more staffers.

But all in all, it was a great meal. Dinner for two with a bottle of wine and dessert was about $100 with tax and tip. A true value, if you can call a $100 dinner a value.

Todd Kliman

Oh, I think a $100 meal for two can be a “value.”

I even think some $200 meals are “values.”

It just depends.

But yeah, it’s not the norm, certainly. And a place really has to exceed expectations and deliver a LOT at every level.

I’m glad to hear that Thip Khao is off to a good start.

Meantime: did everybody know that cow tipping is not an actual thing that drunken frat boys in the midwest and south do, that it’s an urban legend? And here, all this time, I thought it was real. Because, probably, I wanted to believe it was real …

……………………….


BEST “EXPERIENCE” DINNER? ……….:

Hey Todd –

I’m trying to plan a special birthday meal for my fiance and I’d like to do something thats a little more interactive.

Nonna’s Kitchen at Alphonse, Roberto’s 8 and Bread Feast all come to mind (Rogue 24 and Minibar are probably out of my price range). I’d like to stay in the $300 range for two with drinks and tip… what’s your favorite.

Location, type of food are super flexible.

Todd Kliman

Hmm.

I haven’t been yet to the first. The second, in my one experience, was mediocre and expensive, and the third — well, I have it on pretty good authority from one of my “sawces” that chef Frank Ruta is about to take, or has taken, a job at Capella in Georgetown.

How about Seasonal Pantry? Though you’d have to round up some other folks to join you at the table. Or the new Fish Nook at Fishnet in Shaw?

……………………….


DINNER EARLY IN THE NEW YEAR FOR TWO CLOSE FRIENDS? ……….:

Two close friends and I are looking for a restaurant for dinner early in the new year. Price is not a consideration, but food is.

Our last dinner was at Fiola Mare, where we were treated like rock stars. Where would you suggest we dine? We need to be able to make reservations.

Todd Kliman

You want pampering, you want splendor, you want good food?

Try Ananda, in Fulton. I reviewed it in November for the magazine. Wonderful spot.

Gotta run, everyone. You’ve made me hungry. Actually, I think I was hungry going back to that first quickie review of Morini.

Thanks so much for all the good questions and comments, the tips, the musings, the INVITATIONS! I really appreciate it.

(Weird: the woman two tables over in the coffee shop where I’m doing this chat sounds just like — I mean, just like — Maya Angelou.)

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

[missing you, TEK … ]

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