Tuesday, January 6, 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:

* Baan Thai, DC

Restaurants within restaurants are increasingly a thing. This is one of the better ones out there — a northern Thai spot slipped unobtrusively into a sushi restaurant, Tsunami. I liked my first meal, months back, though a couple dishes were sweeter than they should’ve been. A birdie planted a note with a server, and the kitchen appears to have course corrected. My most recent meal was hot and pungent and thrilling. Don’t come without getting the northern Thai pork curry, with hunks of meat in a sharp, spicy chocolate-colored curry laced with threads of ginger and cloves of garlic; and a vermicelli noodle bowl with ground chicken and shrimp, tempura’d watercress, hardboiled egg and ground peanuts in a coconut-based curry broth. And don’t skip dessert; the best of the sweets eats like miniature, open-faced coconut crepes, all at once sweet and creamy and chewy and crunchy.

* Taqueria Habañero, DC

The best of the tacos I tried is the lengua, with almost-luscious cubes sporting a decent surface char. The mole poblano is just as it should be, two good, meaty enchiladas robed in a thick, sweet, spicy, and aromatic sauce. The posole is hotter than any other version you’ll find in the area, with tender bits of pork and a rich broth that coats the tongue and warms you throughout.

* Crane & Turtle, DC

Makoto Hamamura reminds me of a certain brand of jazz pianist, the kind who knows how to play melodically but frequently chooses not to. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe his French-Asian dishes as atonal or dissonant, but he clearly means to push, and push hard, against expectation. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Or, it works and you say to yourself: Interesting; I’m not sure I’d get that again. Often enough, though, the rewards are there, like his tuna tataki, which is accented not with a ponzu sauce but with a tuna sauce — a sly little play on the Piedmontese classic, vitello tonnato. His signature dish, a duck breast that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in summer, isn’t paired with something sweet, like cherries — a move that many chefs in the West would make; Hamamura turns to bitter, in this case to seaweed yuba and tahini.

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.

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.

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.

* new this week

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RECENT THOUGHTS ON AMBAR? ……….:

Any thoughts on Ambar recently? If not there, outside of Rose’s any suggestions around Eastern Market/Barrack’s Row?

Todd Kliman

My most recent meal there was actually not all that long ago, but it also wasn’t much of a meal to go by — I was having a light, second dinner after dinner someplace else (which is not all that unusual in this crazy line of work).

I ordered three things, none of which sticks in my memory. The burger, which I had really liked when I had had it before, was only okay; overcooking didn’t help.

What other possibilities are there?

There’s Medium Rare, the single-meal spot (steak, fries, salad, dessert), which is steady as she goes; there’s Cava, for stylishly portioned Greek mezze; there’s Montmartre for straight-ahead French bistro cooking. All very decent, none in the class of Rose’s — but then again, none trying to be.

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RICHMOND EATS ……….:

I saw your recommendations for Richmond in your last chat. I was surprised to see no mention of The Rogue Gentlemen. You have been very high on it in the past, reports that I can happily confirm from visits that wouldn’t have happened without your enthusiastic endorsement.

Some other places I’m curious about but haven’t tried include L’Opossum, The Magpie, and Heritage. Have you tried/heard anything about these?

Todd Kliman

L’Opossum was recommended to me, the last time I was down, by a food and restaurant editor in the city. I didn’t get to try it. Maybe next time.

I’ve been to both The Magpie and Heritage. My first meal at Heritage was good, my second, a year later, was not good at all — a real fall-off from that initial visit. This was a year ago, so maybe things have improved since then. But I’d be inclined to look elsewhere.

The Magpie is a really neat spot. Good drinks, good cooking, good staff. The chef, Owen Lane, hunts and some of what he returns from his expeditions with winds up on his menus. If I were in town on the weekend and itching for brunch, I’d think long and hard about going there.

There, or Perly’s, a terrific old-school/new-school Jewish deli.

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REPORT FROM THE FIELD: OSTERIA MORINI IN DC ……….:

Hi Todd –

We went to Morini on Friday night for a small celebratory dinner. It was our second visit since they opened. What a great move that was.

The care that place takes to ensure a wonderful experience from beginning to end is outstanding. And from what we recall from last winter a big difference in service. We loved the wine list because there were so many affordable options with a somellier who took the time to explain a few great options that was in our price range.

We also indulged – with cured meats and cheeses, a number of appetizers – including the standout one – a housemade buratta of sorts with grapefruits. (Arguably the best buratta ever had out of italy.) That is one dish I would go back for in an instant.

The real winners are the pastas. I know the city is full of great italian options, but really these pastas are just outstanding – one better than the next. In particular the lasagna was the table’s favorite.

Since we were celebrating a birthday, we also decided to go for dessert. We ordered the rice pudding, the chocolate cake, and the budino. But out came 2 complimentary desserts with a candle on one as their way of saying happy birthday. So we basically got a dessert tasting. And wow. These desserts are the best in DC. They are delicious – they have wow factors whether small or large, and so we ended the meal beaming. We asked to say thank you to the pastry chef for the extras, and he very promptly came out to wish us well. It was such a personal touch.

We saw that the restaurant wasn’t overly packed that night, but I suppose that has to do more with Washington being a bit empty until after the holidays. We are definitely planning to come back – not just for special occasions – but for the Morini Mondays where they are doing all the pastas on the menu for $10. That sounds like a pasta dream come true and I don’t think there is anywhere in the city that beat those pastas and desserts.

We follow your chat very closely and thank you so much for bringing this awesome place to our attention in December.

Todd Kliman

Thanks so much for taking the time to think through your meal and write such a thorough and detailed report.

And if I appreciate it, then you can only imagine how Morini must feel. 🙂

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Two things that jump out at me about this.

One is that this is now two mentions of Alex Levin, the pastry chef, in two consecutive weeks.

Two is that Morini appears to have more staying power than other celeb chef satellites that opened within the past year or so.

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TWITTER ……….:

Why’d you block me on twitter?

Months ago I challenged you on a harsh comment you made about Indian people not eating Ethiopian food properly. Is that all it takes?

Todd Kliman

Evidently. 😉

But seriously … you came on my feed, you blasted me for something I didn’t think you took the time to understand, and so I responded in kind — I blocked you.

It’s a new year, time to let bygones be bygones. I will de-block you, if you tell me how.

My comment, by the way, was that they didn’t seem to be to be entering into the spirit of Ethiopian food. They weren’t “arm-chair traveling” to the country by eating the dishes the way they were intended — the way Ethiopians do. They weren’t embracing that experience. Eating wots over steamed rice, as they were doing, was bringing the dishes into their context.

Not a crime, but what’s the point of eating the food of another culture, then?

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GYROS IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA? ……….:

Happy new year!

When I lived in Silver Spring, I took frequent advantage of The Big Greek Cafe – super friendly, fast and delicious Greek carryout. Can you think of a Greek place in Northern VA where I can satisfy my craving for Gyro and maybe some Moussaka?

There are a couple of good spots down here (really good meal at Nostos in Tysons) but this is a pick-it-up-on-the-way-home-and-dial-up-some-netflix kind of night!

Todd Kliman

I haven’t been back in a while, but the pork gyros at Plaka Grill, in Vienna, were — and maybe still are; I can only hope — memorable.

They have the usual gyro meat gyro, too, made with the familiar grayish brown meat sliced from an upright spit. But you can get that anywhere.

What you want is the pork, which is also sliced from an upright spit, but in this case the meat is made by laboriously pressing sheets of thin, crisp-edged pork on top of one another in layer upon layer.

The cook slices off bits of meat, slips them into a hot pita, adds a fistful of fries, just like they do in Greece, strews some tomatoes and onions on top and slathers on the tzaziki.

As I said, I hope that it’s still great.

If you go, please report back …

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RAY’S THE STEAKS AND THE 100 BEST ISSUE ……….:

Hey Todd,

I enjoyed the top 100 restaurant issue, but was sad to see Ray’s the Steaks fall off the list. What happened?

Todd Kliman

As much as it pains me to say it (it’s always been one of my favorite places), the food has gone downhill—not tanked, but slipped enough to nudge it off the list in a very, very competitive year.

There are four of us who worked this year on the 100 Best, criss-crossing the region and cross-checking one another’s work. For each meal, a report card is filed. Those report cards determine who earns a spot on the list, and who falls where in the ranking.

I’ll share with you some excerpts of the most recent report card for Ray’s the Steaks …

“The overcooked New York strip—nearly pale pink in the middle—was the biggest surprise (it was ordered medium rare). But there were other missteps—sodden Caesar salad, a flat and lackluster mushroom/brandy sauce (once one of my favorite sauces), stale cheesecake.

“There are things that are easy to overlook on a night when Ray’s is on—the in-and-out table-turning, the no frills decor, the refrigerated desserts. Less so when the kitchen is off and you’re paying $120+. And the rarely-changing menu, when you take away the unerring consistency that has always been a hallmark at Ray’s, can feel a little dull, a little going-through-the-motions.”

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CORRECTION ……….:

Todd Kliman

I just wanted to take a moment to make a correction.

Last week a chatter came on to enthuse about “one of the tastiest Italian meals I’ve had in D.C.” The restaurant she wrote about was Al Dente.

I read the question and saw the name, and yet somehow — the speed of the chat, the crush of the holidays — my brain gave me “Al Tiramisu.” What I wrote, in response, was about Al Tiramisu, not about Al Dente.

So, my apologies to Al Dente.

And to Al Tiramisu.

And to the chatter.

And to all of you, too — for the confusion …

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SOUP, ETC. ……….:

I just wanted to thank you for your work and doing these chats. It’s fun how the topics that come up in the chat form a theme for the day. One chat a few months ago started me on a serious neck phase (love the Gordon Ramsey recipe for pork neck curry).

Onto today. If you were in the mood for a bowl of comfort soup on a snowy day such as this, where would you go?

Todd Kliman

I love that we have themes that emerge. To me, that’s what a chat like this ought to be, not unlike an actual conversation where you get on a topic and don’t leave it until someone steers you away onto a diverting tangent.

I’m not saying that I don’t want to answer whatever questions people have that aren’t on topic, whatever it is — send in whatever you’ve got, please; I’ll do my best to get to them. But I love it when we have a back and forth, and it’s more than just all of you asking a question and me holding forth.

Anyway: soup.

At the moment, I’d love a bowl of pho from Pho 88 in Beltsville, which, as I’ve said on here many times, has the best pho broth I’ve had in the area. Fuller-bodied, richer. I’d order a large, with chin and gau, squeeze in some lime, a little shot of Sriracha, and then, before digging in, take a deep, lingering whiff.

How about the rest of you? What soup are you craving?

I could also go for a good black bean soup. I haven’t seen a good one in a while. Has anyone?

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ATMOSPHERE ……….:

Hi Todd,

I know that the Top 100 is mostly about food and service, but I personally find that the atmosphere also contributes to the experience – depending on my mood, occasion, and who I am with.

Sometimes I can forgive delays and hiccups if I’m sitting in a pretty place. These to me, after a tough day, will cheer you up even just with a glass of wine or beer simply with their ambience (and a friendly service helps for sure)

So, my question is, out of these 100 restaurants, where do you and your team enjoy the atmosphere? Where do you see yourself letting the day go, and simply be in the moment just because of the surroundings? (for my taste, Fiola Mare and Le Diplomate comes to mind, Rose’s in its own “undesigned” way, especially towards the end of the day when it’s not super buzzing. Partisan and B-Side because they take me away from DC. This all doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Little Serow, Etto and many ethnic places with great food, I just don’t go these places for ambience)

Todd Kliman

Atmosphere is such a subjective thing, you know? Much more, I think, than food and service.

I could tell you where I, personally, like to go to kick back and let the cares of the day fall away, but I wouldn’t want to give the impression that those places somehow were given more consideration for the 100 Best.

We make a real effort to assess places according to their intentions — to ask: what is this restaurant trying to do, to be? Is it succeeding? Is it coming up short?

I will tell you that, if I were not in DC — if I were out and about and exploring a city far from here, on my own dime — the kinds of places I would be drawn to, as a person who simply loves to eat and explore, and not as a critic, are places that permit me a chance to discover them; places that don’t announce themselves at every opportunity; places where the dining room is not full of people looking at themselves looking.

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SOUP, CONT. ……….:

Re: Soup …

A bowl of French Onion Soup from Woodberry Kitchen. I had it my very first time there, not long after the place had opened — we lived in the neighborhood at the time and had just ducked in to get a quick drink and a snack. Like all the food I’d go on to have at WK, there was nothing that notable about this bowl — it was just somehow the apotheosis of French Onion Soup, perfect in nearly every way. I’ve never seen it on the menu since, but I think about it every time the temperature drops below 40.

Barring that ideal and sticking slightly closer to my current home, I’d take a bowl of mi hoanh tanh from Pho Nom Nom in Rockville.

Todd Kliman

The apotheosis of French Onion Soup. How do you improve upon that? Wow.

And wow, again, that they’ve never again had it on the menu.

Pretty amazing, though, that you always think of it when the weather turns frigid. We all, I’m guessing, have dishes like that. Dishes we ate 10, 15 years ago that we remember and probably romanticize and long for.

I’d love to hear some more of these lovingly recalled one-offs …

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SOUP, CONT. ……….:

I’d love a bowl of pho as well, but right now I would kill for a bowl of Ribollita from Ghibellina. It’s hearty and nourishing but also vegetarian.

Todd Kliman

I love ribollita.

And I’m sure I’m not alone. Thanks for passing along the tip …

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BURGERS ……….:

Hi Todd,

Where is your favorite place to get a burger (and a beer) nowadays? The other day I was craving for one, but couldn’t think of a reliable place on a Saturday afternoon (Mintwood wasn’t opening til 5:30 which would have been my choice). I ended up at Capitol Grille mostly because of convenience, which was ok, but learned that their definition of medium is well-done, maybe because the patty is much thinner than what I’m used to seeing in the city.

Where do you like to go for a good burger nowadays?

Todd Kliman

Green Pig Bistro, in Arlington, has a great one, with bacon mixed into the grind (why doesn’t everyone do this?) and crisped bacon on top.

And I know foodies get a lot of pleasure from sneering at Bobby Flay, but I like the burgers at Bobby’s Burger Palace in College Park. Inconsistency is a thing, but when the kitchen is on top of it, the burgers are really good.

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ROSE’S LUXURY FOR NYE ……….:

Hi Todd,

I’d be interested to know if any chatters got to experience Roses Luxury for NYE and if so, how was it? We had a reservation that we ended up cancelling since my family was plagued by the stomach flu (compliments of my 2 year old). I want to know what I missed 🙁

Todd Kliman

I’d love to know, too.

Anyone?

And boy, that flu has really rampaged through the area. Just about everyone I know had a bout of it recently. Be well …

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SOUP, CONT. ……….:

One of my favorite soups is Italian Wedding Soup – brothy, but still filling from the pasta, meatballs, and spinach. An ex-girlfriend’s mom used to make a great version, even hand rolling the little pork meatballs. Her mom made great pierogies too.

Sigh.

Todd Kliman

See what you’re missing? 😉

Those two things alone should have been enough to sustain you.

The last Italian Wedding Soup I had was at Squisito, in Annapolis. Not good. Really salty. Too bad — because when it’s even halfway good, it’s so satisfying.

But back to ex-girlfriends and food for a second …

I once broke up with a girlfriend for making a snotty comment about brie. And broke up with another girlfriend for the way she picked crab — she picked all the meat from one hardshell, didn’t eat it, then went for another, picked the meat from that and added it to the pile, and so on, until she had a neat and tidy mound of meat. This took about thirty minus.

(Since we live in an age of hyper-literalism, and even memoirs are expected to depict events as they actually happened, with fact-checked authority, I should point out that I did not break up with her over her eating of the crab. The eating of the crab was a crystallizing moment, encapsulating for me the kind of spirit she had. Or the kind of spirit, I should say, she didn’t have.)

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SOUP, CONT. ………..:

I wouldn’t mind a hearty bowl of the beef short rib French onion soup from Poste right now. Would do the body good in this cold weather.

Todd Kliman

I’ve had it. Terrific.

Kyoo Eom is doing good work over there, and his throwback French cooking is really ideal for a day, or week, like this.

For some reason, the image of Vitalii Kovalev’s velvet borscht, at Ariana in Soho, just popped into my head.

Rich, thick, warming …

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PLAKA GRILL, CONT., AND IS THERE EVER SUCH A THING AS TOO MUCH FEEDBACK? ……….:

Plaka Grill still had a great gyro when I was there a couple of months ago. I also think their Taramosalata is one of the better ones in the area, particularly at that price point. Though this chat and this weather has me passionately missing the lamb feteh from the old, pre-burned down Lebanese Butcher. Talk about comfort food!

On a different note, was thinking about those questions discussing when someone has a not-so-great experience at, say, a sit-down or more expensive restaurant. Managers often say they want to be able to fix it in the moment which is doable if it’s an issue with a dish, but maybe harder if it’s a service or issue. Is an email after the fact ever appropriate? Obviously, one doesn’t want to tell management how to run their restaurant, but it struck me that they might like to know if their front desk staff are in the habit of waving languidly down a row of crowded tables that one’s party is “down there somewhere” (as one Arlington area top-100 restaurant has done a couple times lately).

I’d be inclined to just let it lie as a mildly off-putting part of an otherwise decent experience, but that feels a little like giving up on a place we used to like a lot. Your thoughts? When is too much feedback too much, and when is it welcome?

Todd Kliman

No harm in emailing.

Especially if you show sincerity and make it clear to the GM that you’re writing because you like the place and want to see it thrive.

Most restaurateurs will say there’s never such a thing as too much feedback. They seem to want all they can get.

As for Plaka Grill — that’s great to hear. Thanks for chiming in on this.

And yeah, that lamb fateh at the old Lebanese Butcher. Amazing. Now you’ve got me pining for a dish I haven’t had in years and years …

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SOUP, CONT. ………..:

I third the idea of pho for today (and in general for gloomy winter days), but I’d also love to slurp some Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

The one with the the hand-cut noodles served at A&J in Rockville comes close, but it’s not the same as the one my mom would make. She would add some more stewed carrots and tomatoes into the beef soup, and then top it off with a bunch of bok choy, although that was probably her way of getting us to eat vegetables. Also, her version was less oily than A&J’s version.

Alas, the roads today look too treacherous for me to make the trip to Rockville from the Columbia, MD area…

Todd Kliman

Yeah, all this talk of soup and all the great ones out there, and most of us are going to stay in and not venture out.

Ah, well. There’s always cooking.

I’d love to try your mom’s version of Taiwanese beef noodle soup! …

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BREAK-UPS, CONT. ……….:

I called it quits with one girl after she wanted to make vegan tiramisu. Exit stage left.

Todd Kliman

Good enough reason for me … 😉

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SOUP, CONT. ……….:

Soup!

Pretty much anything from Tom Power, especially the northern neck corn soup when summer rolls around. Or anything from Erik Bruner-Yang, most recently the oxtail “egg drop” soup he prepared at the DGS Chinese Christmas mashup, but more often it’s the cambodian pho at the Union Market stall.

Todd Kliman

Power is a soup master.

For me, today, the one I’d want is his red snapper
bisque. Superlative stuff.

And I’ve been wanting to try that Cambodian pho. Thanks for the confirmation …

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SOUP, CONT. ………..:

When the weather turns cold, I cannot stop thinking about a venison chili I had at Family Meal three winters ago.

Initially, I thought it might have been the result of a Bryan Voltaggio hunting trip but one of the chefs said they couldn’t serve wild game so they got the venison from a ranch in Colorado.

Though I moved from the area late last winter, I did not see venison chili on their menu again. It was nice and spicy and flavorful and, frankly, the only time I have eaten venison and actually enjoyed it.

Todd Kliman

Stop!

You’re making me ravenous, all of you …!

Venison chili sounds amazing right about now.

I’ll have to see what’s in my fridge and pantry that I can whip up into something soup-able and satisfying. It won’t be as good as all the things we’ve been going on and on about.

A theme emerged. It always does. I love that. Thank you all for sustaining it, as you always do. …

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REPORT FROM THE FIELD: ROSE’S LUXURY, NYE ……….:

Hi Todd,

My boyfriend snagged a 10pm reservation at the Garden Bar for NYE. We had been to Rose’s before and usually swear off going out on NYE, but given that it’s, well, them, we gave it try and got the reservation. I have to say, I could not have been more impressed.

The service was, as always, charming and although we had only been twice before (with two different servers), the staff immediately recognized us and welcomed us back and both servers we had on our previous dinners there stopped to chat and wish us a happy new year.

The food was as consistently delicious as it had been on our other visits and we were stoked to be able to try the popcorn soup which had been taken off the menu when we were there before, but returned for the evening. The menu also was deceptively large as while we chose 3 small plates and a family style platter as a couple, the kitchen sent out a number of small little off-menu nibbles throughout the night. By the time our family style entree came, we looked at each other, each had one bite to taste it while it was hot and fresh, and had to ask for a to-go container.

All to say, Rose’s Luxury remained superlative.

Thanks for the chat! And happy new year!

Todd Kliman

Sounds like exactly what you’d expect.

Which is to say: great and fun and warm and memorable.

And we all are insanely jealous now. Insanely jealous and hungry … 😉

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SOUP, CONT. ………..:

I was all ready to sing the praises of avgolemono on a snow day like this, but it felt very familiar. So I went back and checked, and sure enough I brought this up in the chat almost a year ago to the day. Again, a snow day.

Todd Kliman

Let this be a reminder for all of you to keep meticulous records of all your comments going back to the first day you logged on, lest you (God forbid) repeat yourself.

We won’t tolerate needless repetition in this forum.

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CAMBODIAN PHO, CONT. ………..:

re: Cambodian pho

Do not skimp on the black pepper oil (at least i think that’s what it is). It’s the perfect condiment for such a great soup.

Todd Kliman

Noted.

And thanks.

Gotta run. Starved, now, and need to get started on some sort of soup for later.

Thank you all — you made a cold, snowy day fun. I hope you had fun, too.

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

(Quick note: the chat last week appears to have cut off abruptly; that was not intentional, I want to assure. The three or four exchanges that got entered into the system after didn’t show up. I’m disturbed by that, and am looking into it with the web team.

(The functionality of this chat has been an issue for some time; it can’t continue. Thank you for all of your support and patience. I want to solve these problems once and for all … )

[missing you, TEK … ]