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 work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Oxford American, 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 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
W H E R E T O E A T N O W . . . . . . .
Rob Weland’s cooking is thoughtful, meticulous, and often exquisitely rendered, and, in an age when so many menus read like mixtapes — eclectic and unified — the thematic coherence here is remarkable. It extends from the cooked-to-order poppy-seed gougeres to the desserts, among them a selection of stone fruits baked in parchment that puts you in mind of the kind of tossed-off-but-not-so-simple thing Martha Stewart might serve at a dinner party in the Hamptons. The dish to get: the tortellini, whose egg-rich wrappers are thin as tape.
The Riggsby, DC
The waiters wear vests. The tables are laid with white cloth. No rock or alternative on the soundtrack. Which is to say, a throwback place, summoning the spirit of Toots Shor, the iconic Manhattan saloon that catered to such drink-slinging swells of the ‘40s and ‘50s as Sinatra, DiMaggio and Gleason. The difference is, Michael Schlow’s The Riggsby trades on its food. The cooking emphasizes technique and coherence over novelty and flash, and many dishes are striking for their clarity and depth. The gazpacho was the best I had all year, and the sardines — butterflied, lightly grilled, and dressed with a fine dice of pickled fennel and red pepper, along with pine nuts, golden raisins and parsley — were exceptional.
Bad Saint, DC
There’s a lot to love already: the Filipino flavors are uncompromisingly complex, and the interpretations smart. Don’t miss a loose, lacy fritter of shrimp and sweet potato and okra and a bowl of clams with Chinese sausage and black beans in a rich, gently spicy and unexpectedly balanced broth. Both stunning. But a lot of what’s coming out of this kitchen with its leaping flames of fire is.
MGM Roast Beef, DC
Not new, no. But I went back recently and fell in love with it all over again. It used to be just ham and roast beef, roasted on site and carved to order. Now they have turkey and brisket, too. Wonderful stuff, and all the better when it’s piled thickly on one of their onion rolls.
Things have gradually been moving east, but this small, soothing spot has launched near the Maryland border in Woodridge, across from the onetime home of the seedy Kirk’s Motel. It’s one of the boldest moves in years. Red Hen is a clear inspiration, but that doesn’t detract from the simple charms of the place, which, early on, has made a lot of smart moves and almost no bad ones. Get the chicken-stuffed grape leaves, the Sicilian chickpea puree and the pan-seared cod with romesco and fingerlings.
Jonathan Krinn is working in a more accessible vein this time out, and partnering with Jason Maddens (ex-Central Michel Richard). Don’t assume, though, that the chef’s downscaled ambition is synonymous with a half-hearted effort. The cooking is smartly thought-out and cleanly executed, recalling, a times, his years spent ringing variations on timeless French classics.
Taqueria el Mexicano, Hyattsville
Best Mexican cooking in the area right now. Nothing else comes close. Get the pork in adobo, the mole poblano, the posole, and the sopes. And don’t skimp on the handmade tortillas.
Ray’s the Steaks, Arlington
Go and get the hanger steak. It can be a chewy cut, but this one wasn’t, not even close. It was richly succulent, a fat rope of wet-aged, corn-finished meat that I all but devoured, in spite of my avowals to self to save half for later. I had to keep reminding myself that it cost (this is not a typo) $20. And that’s with complimentary mashed potatoes and fresh creamed spinach. At a time when many other steakhouses charge $15 for shareable sides, that essentially means that the best steak I’ve eaten this year — one of the few that was not just a flavorless but calorific hunk of protein — costs $5. And I still can’t get over how good the key lime pie is after all these years.
Taiko Japanese Restaurant, Springfield
The fish at this strip mall spot has been impressive early on, even if the platters are cheesy (miniature model house, palm tree, changing cube of color beneath a heap of daikon.) In particular: excellent yellowtail belly, yellowtail, and salmon.
FOLLOWING-UP FROM LAST WEEK: PIECE O’ PLASTIC IN THE BURGER:
Re: the piece of plastic in the burger at Le Diplomate …
I was quite amazed they didn’t comp the burger for the piece of plastic.
A comped dessert doesn’t seem to me to make up for a foreign object in a food item you end up having to pay for. What if you don’t even really want dessert?
That’s a good point.
But the thing is, if they had just comped the burger, there would have been no overt sign of a gesture. A dessert on the house accomplishes that.
Good morning, everyone.
And what a gorgeous morning it is … I’m actually, at this moment, sitting outside of one of my favorite coffeehouses, a cup by my side, feeling the breeze, taking in the perfect autumn weather.
What’s on your mind? — send away.
POSTCARD FROM … AMSTERDAM:
I want to thank your readers for the excellent Amsterdam dining recommendations that they provided during the September 22nd chat. Also I have a segue question relevant to the DC dining scene.
We loved the authenticity of Wilde Zwinjen for their modern Dutch cuisine, which was outstanding, and the ambiance reminded us of dining inside of an old wooden ship. The Rijstafel at Restaurant Blauw delighted us as well and leads me to ask why there is only one Indonesian restaurant in the DC-metro region.
There is a plethora of communal dining options in our area, ranging from Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Spanish tapas, and countless other family-style menus. Why haven’t any of our successful restaurateurs invested in an Indonesian Rijstafel concept?
For the cost of two appetizers and 35 euros, my dining companion and I were able to enjoy a magnificent feast of flavorful small dishes that encompassed every taste sensation. There were three rijstafel options: vegetarian, seafood, and meat. We chose the meat option “Selara Blauw,” which still included vegetable dishes. The entirety of what we received is the following: chicken satay, goat satay, turmeric beef, spicy beef, sweet soy pork, fish curry, spicy fish, meat-potato pastry, fried banana, tofu soy sauce, egg in sambal sauce, roasted coconut, vegetables with peanut sauce, vegetables, with coconut sauce, spicy fried potatoes, roasted coconut, sweet-sour cucumber, white rice and fried rice.
It seems like this type of dining experience would be a huge hit in the DC market. What do you think?
Who knows? What makes something a hit and something not is not something I pretend to know anything about. Business is capricious. People’s tastes are fickle.
Would it be great to have some places like this? Or even a place like this? Absolutely.
I, for one, am a huge fan of these flavors.
Given the embrace of Laotian and now Filipino food, in Thip Khao and Bad Saint, it would seem that now is as good a time as any for someone to take the plunge and do it.
Your question’s got me thinking … what other cuisines that are not represented or barely represented on the scene would you like to see more of?
We don’t have many Brazilian restaurants, for example. It’d be nice to have some more of those, and, ideally, a really good one.
PRE-THANKSGIVING DINNER OUT:
My folks are coming into town the wedensday night before thanksgiving arriving at 530pm into union station. any suggestions for dinner in that area (want to wait out traffic)? (H st., capital hill, etc)
they are not that ambitious regarding cuisines (nothing spicey) and i am pescatarian.
Does that rule out a place like Ocopa, on H, which I wrote about here last week?
It’s Peruvian, and there’s a lot of fish (naturally) on the menu.
On the other hand, it’s more of a bar with small tables than anything, and your parents might find Peruvian to be too “exotic.”
In which case: too bad; the place deserves support.
What about Hank’s Oyster Bar, on the Hill, for great shrimp po’ boys, steamed spiced shrimp, oysters on the half shell, and soups, among others? It’s got a great, lively vibe, the staff is excellent, and prices really aren’t that bad, considering.
POSTCARD FROM … PARIS:
Re: Paris dining recommendations from last week …
I just got back from a trip to Paris- we just got back from our second visit in the past year. I agree with your recommendation of Paris by Mouth. Other good apps are Patricia Wells’ Paris FoodLovers and David Lieberman’s Paris Pastry. Fooding France is also good.
From our most recent visit:
Restaurant Kei is probably our favorite spot in Paris and we try to make a stop there on every visit. Japanese-French fusion with a four course tasting menu at lunch for 52€ that is a real solid value for a lovely one michelin star restaurant. The food is very fresh and light with minimal use of butter, dairy or beef. They also have a great wine list.
Jacques Genin is our other “must stop” in Paris. In lieu of an actual lunch our group of six indulged in chocolate chaud, pastry and caramels for “lunch”. Their confections are superb as are the pastry. Notably the lemon tarte and Paris brest.
Le Comptoir du Relais The ultimate Parisian experience if you don’t mind waiting for a table. Must gets are the “all you can eat” terrine of pate campaign, cheese plate and the iberico and melon soaked in sangria.
Chocolats Chapon They have chocolate mousse to go in a cone. #Dropthemic
Le Coq Rico Antoine Westermann’s all chicken restaurant that has an outpost opening in NYC. This meal was sublime in its simplicity. The Bresse is phenomenal.
Porte12 – Relatively new restaurant in the 10th. Andre Chiang’s first restaurant in Paris. Crappy neighborhood. Amazing restaurant. 8 course meal at E68 per person plus wine. Every course was superb. Some amazing. We tried to get in for this most recent trip to Paris and couldn’t get a table but loved it when we were there less than a year ago.
L’Arpege – We really wanted to like this place but unless you have money to burn I wouldn’t recommend it. The vegetable based dishes are better than the proteins. Some extraordinary dishes – an amazing tomato broth with vegetable dumplings; vegetable sushi; beet tartar (would fool you; it is that good). Lobster and fish were overcooked, though the chicken was good. One dish they forced us to send back when we didn’t eat more than a couple bites and said we thought it was underseasoned. Chef Passard remade himself (which was admittedly a better iteration than the first) and then shamed us for it while he stood there watching us eat it.
Well, I’m glad you concluded with L’Arpege, taking time to point out some faults in the cooking and service — because otherwise this was pure torture to read!
Exquisite torture, but still …
And they say Paris is overrated these days. Ha.
Lucky lucky you, to have been able to get over there twice this year, and to eat so grandly and so well.
It’s a special, special place for a food lover.
BRIEF MEMO FOR CLARITY, IN VIENNA:
Clarity: Please update your website.
The menu does not display. It just shows your press clippings when you click on the food & drink tab. I wanted to book a group dinner but cannot if I can’t view the menu!
What he said.
It’s amazing to me how many restaurant websites aren’t that helpful.
Great pictures, maybe, and they have a great look overall, but — 80-90 percent of them never tell you when, exactly, they’re open.
Who else is frustrated at times with using restaurant websites? And why? What is your issue?
Morini Monday started last night apparently.
And I go to Morini very frequently for dinner on Mondays because it is typically a slower night and I go to the gym by there. But wowa last night was jammed. And nonetheless, the experience made me want to stay much longer than i normally would for a quick monday or tuesday night meal.
We were lucky enough to walk in before things got crazy busy, so my group got seated with out much delay. The service was aweseome. We loved our server who was totally non-intrusive, and yet helped us pick out some delicous starters. He knew everything about the cheeses and meats, and suggested a few things. Also we had burrata which was so nice. The pastas speak for themselves – some of the best in town. We also went for a selection grilled meats — very generous portioning and seasoned and cooked so well. I love the char from the grill.
We saw desserts flying by and we had the menus in front of us, and somewhat surprised, we had room and the parade that went by was good PR.
So we had the dessert special that the server mentioned – an intense chbocolate bread pudding — intensely freaking great. Also, the cinnamon rice pudding which tasted so good we almost ordered one to go. I think someone had the apple maple pecan dessert which looked to pretty to break apart.
But we finished everything, and spent a bit more then expected but who cares it was worth it. This restaurant is one of my favorites.
For those that don’t know — Morini on Mondays is offering a lot of things on special, including pastas for $10 and deep discounts on wines.
I think I remember hearing that the promotion is not indefinite — can anyone out there come on and tell us?
Thanks for the very tasty report.
(I do have to say, though — and it has nothing to do with you and your great report, or Morini exactly, but it just feels as though Morini is in the discussion here nearly every week … people coming on to tout this or that dish, to argue the case for the pastas, to champion the desserts. And I’m not saying Morini is not a good restaurant, or deserving of attention, but it just feels as though there is something else at work, here. As if the operation has been mobilizing its supporters or something to keep the place front and center of this chat. Am I overreacting, chatters? Does it feel that way to any of you? Just curious … )
UNDERREPRESENTED CUISINES, CONT.:
I would like to see a really good Malaysian restaurant serving some killer laksa
And some roti canai.
In fact, I would love to see a restaurant here doing nothing BUT roti canai.
REPORT FROM THE FIELD: LUPO VERDE, DC:
Just wanted to report from the field on a terrific meal at Lupo Verde over the weekend.
We wound up sitting at the bar after receiving some major attitude from the hostess (the one124 negative to our meal).
However, the bartender was terrific and his recommendations for the charcuterie plate were spot on. If you have not had that plate- you’ve got to try it. It’s absolutely huge and a steal at 3 items for $18. Melt in your mouth proscuitto san daniele was a highlight and with the copious amounts of bread, little pots of jam and honey, and other add ons, was a bounty of food.
We also got the tagliatelle with ragu, which was just the right amount of chewy and very fresh tasting. Anyone looking for an intimate, affordable italian spot would do very well here.
Thanks for writing in …
The place has a great feel — lively, but not loud, cozy, but not crammed. And some of the food is excellent. I wish it were more consistent, or had a smaller menu.
You picked well, which definitely improves your chances of a great meal.
Your talk of the prosciutto San Daniele has got me thinking — where are the great charcuterie boards and plates in the area? What one item has knocked your socks off?
I’ll just say, to get us started, that I’m really impressed with the board at Urban Butcher in Silver Spring. Their meats have real character and depth.
REPORT FROM THE FIELD: SMOKEHOUSE LIVE, IN LEESBURG:
I wish I had the same experience as you at Smokehouse Live.
My brisket was cut about 3/4 inch thick and tasted like roast beef and the whiskey pickles seemed to have taken a shower rather than a bath in their pickling liquid.
I find that hard to believe.
And please don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that you’re a liar. I’m saying that it doesn’t square with my two long, feast-like meals there.
I think the meats are excellent, and that real care has gone into producing them. The deep, developed bark, the penetration of smoke, the tenderness, the juiciness … I think they’re in the national conversation with what they’re doing there.
As for the whiskey pickles, I think they’re just about perfect. Great flavor, some of the best homemade pickles I’ve ever had.
Morini: I agree with you, you are not over reacting…I was thinking the same as I was reading “Morini Mondays”
So it’s not just me. At the very least, there are two of us. 😉
Seriously, though, I’m interested in hearing from more of you about this …
CHARCUTERIE BOARDS, CONT.:
Re: Charcuterie boards, I feel like we have to mention The Partisan.
I always love ordering from their sushi style menu, but my wife has to constantly stop me from over ordering.
I LOVED their Thai basil bresola (which I think is off the menu now). Rarely have I had an item from the charcuterie list that wasn’t at the least good, usually great, and the options are always more varied and much more unique than almost anywhere else I can think of!
I second this.
Another operation that really, really loves the craft.
Building the list! Who else …
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
Underrepresented Cuisine: Right now, as we enter the lunch hour, I would kill for a good banh mi shop in the District, ideally near Metro Center.
I’d even be happy to pay extra for that banh mi (rents not cheap downtown!).
Amen, brother. You’re preaching to the choir.
From time to time, I ask myself what sorts of things could I see myself eating two or three times a week. I kind of think I could eat a banh mi that often. As long as it’s great. Also, as long as it’s/they’re great: oysters, sushi.
There are probably more, but that’s all that’s come to mind.
What about the rest of you? What would be on that list?
I am heading down to Charlottesville this weekend for a large reunion/vineyard tour. Any suggestions for places to eat along the way down or back up, or anything I can’t miss once there – either vineyards or in Charlottesville itself?
I also have Veterans Day off next week and am hoping to treat myself to a good lunch – which restaurants have the best lunch deals? I was thinking about trying out Fiola Mare or Del Campo, but I don’t really know what else is out there.
Re: Charlottesville, the one place you don’t want to miss — the one place I would urge you to make a real effort for — is The Alley Light.
I reviewed it for the magazine earlier this year. Take a read:
It’s a wonderful place, with a quirky, sui generis chef, and a mysterious air about it — no sign above the door, just a light, in an alley …
As for vineyards, there are loads of them. You’ll have a great time exploring.
This is from a piece I wrote a while back about the region.
“If you’re seeking the oenological equivalent of speed dating, you can hardly do better than make the 2½-hour drive south to Charlottesville. The Monticello AVA—American Viticultural Area, a designation that recognizes a geographically significant wine region—includes more than three dozen wineries, including a number of our favorites.
“Barboursville Vineyards, about 30 minutes north of the University of Virginia on rolling hills reminiscent of the Italian countryside, is one of the state’s oldest wineries, having set up shop in 1976. It’s still producing some of Virginia’s best wine, thanks to winemaker Luca Paschina, including its signature bottle, Octagon, a red blend of remarkable depth and length that has been poured for both President Obama and Queen Elizabeth.
“About 20 minutes east of Charlottesville, in Crozet, is King Family Vineyards. The winery has made its name with reds, and it makes an outstanding Meritage, a robust example that could replace your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon the next time you have a grilled steak. Keswick Vineyards leans more toward vinifera wines: Standouts are a Cabernet Sauvignon that won gold last year in the Virginia Governor’s Cup.
“DelFosse Vineyards & Winery, about 30 minutes southwest of the university, is also known for its success with vinifera; its unoaked Chardonnay is often excellent.
“Thirty minutes west of campus is one of the most gorgeous properties in the state—Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton, with postcard-perfect views of the countryside Thomas Jefferson liked to call “the sublime” (and a busy docket in wedding season). Go for winemaker Emily Pelton’s labor of love, Kenmar, an aromatic, mouth-coating ice wine that nicely balances sweetness and acidity.
“Jefferson Vineyards, two miles south of Monticello, has made good, two centuries later, on Thomas Jefferson’s vision: Cabernet Franc, traditionally a blending grape in the Old World, is the featured grape in the winery’s best bottle. (Look for the 2011 non-vintage.)
“On an idyllic patch of land seven miles south of Jefferson’s masterpiece sits a winery named for a man who would seem in every way the Founding Father’s opposite. But Donald Trump—yes, the Donald is in the wine biz—is producing good wine at the vineyard he took over from Patricia Kluge. Trump Winery’s sparkling wines, in particula,r are worth seeking out: a refreshing rosé and a blanc de blanc.”
By the way: if you’re interested in learning about Trump’s takeover of the winery, then read this piece from Marisa Kashino in The Washingtonian last month.
It’s also — and more importantly — a look at Trump’s negotiating “style,” and a peek at what American diplomacy might look like (or not look like) under a Trump presidency.
Oh, almost forgot. Lunch deals. Try Proof. Try Casa Luca.
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
Lumpia. I would like a lumpia food truck please, particularly if it parked just outside my office. I’m glad there are now a few options in the area, but not nearly enough to indulge as regularly as I would like.
I’ve always thought Proof’s charcuterie plate is pretty fabulous – that and a couple glasses of wine is often more than enough for dinner for two of us.
Hey, and what about a charcuterie truck?
That’d be a pretty cool thing, no?
Especially if you could also get a glass of wine with it. (Which I know you couldn’t.)
So, to update our charcuterie list:
— Urban Butcher
— Lupo Verde
— The Partisan
Keep ‘em coming …
RESTAURANT WEBSITES, CONT.:
Re: restaurant websites — I think this may have been discussed in chats of yore, but why oh why oh why do so many insist on posting menus as separately downloadable PDFs?
I understand that it’s easier on a restaurant that changes menus frequently, but (1) that’s not too many (many change, at most, seasonally — four updates to a website per year isn’t a lot); and (2) a website is the entry point to your restaurant for most prospective diners these days, and many of them are visiting you there via their smartphones.
Help us out!
Thanks for chiming in …
I couldn’t agree more.
Those menu PDFs are really annoying, and yeah, it turns out, now, that most people are accessing thins on the web on their phones. The PDF is an outmoded thing, already.
(That’s tech for you — it’s coercive, it forces you to keep up with everybody around you whether you want to or not, it makes it so that if you’re not with the fast and the supple you’re dead, you don’t matter — sayonara, loser.)
I think Osteria Morini gets lots of love because it provides a great dining experience in an area which, for most DC diners probably, they don’t expect to find such quality. People are probably more likely to report when they think they’ve found a gem or are otherwise surprised. Just my thoughts…
Anyway, I ended up there last night also and everything was delicious as always (consistent deliciousness is another reason to share with other food lovers). They still have $10 pastas, but unfortunately no drink specials this year. I think they’ll be running the promotion through the end of March.
Yeah, sorry, not convinced.
Not that what you had last night doesn’t sound good …
I’d love to hear from others out there on the Morini question …
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
Some other ideas for things that are too hard to find:
I would love a place that served Indian street food like Thelewala in NYC and a place that specialized in dosas like Philadelphia Chutney Company
Yep, that’d be great.
We do have dosas in the area, though; it’s not as if you can’t find them.
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
Underrepresented: I’d also love to have more Middle Eastern (Lebanese would be good): sit down to some pickled vegetables, order some thick rich hummus loaded with tahini and crisp out-of-the-fryer falafel, contemplate which kabobs to eat, made a small selection of fresh salads, and some really great pita. Really that’s all you would need.
There’s a roadside restaurant in Abu Ghosh, Israel called The Lebanese Food Restaurant. I still crave that place.
More Lebanese restaurants, yes. Amen to that.
I just discovered a new one, which I’ll be writing about soon — but so far, so good: great baba ghanous, really good fool madamas, and a handful of very good desserts, too. Watch this space …
MALAYSIAN COOKING, CONT.:
(FYI, I think it’s roti canai, not canal)
Is that what came out? Let me take a look …
The autocorrect on this stupid, crappy system …
The presumption of the thing! To think I don’t know my own mind! To think it knows better! And to just change it while my fingers are flying across the keyboard!
Relying on these things, which, I will admit, do have their uses, is pretty awful. The dependency they create. The way they make us use them and not our own minds …
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
How great would it be to have a good, not even great, but good Portuguese restaurant in the area?
And a great one? That would work hard to procure top-of-the-line fish and seafood? Be wonderful.
Thanks for chiming in …
I also love Osteria Morini and the Morini Monday deal, but I agree that their name is in this chat quite a bit and elsewhere. I think they are mobilizing “bloggers” well in their efforts to get their name mentioned and develop a following of people who will promote them.
If that’s true, and I don’t know if it is — but if it is, that’s cynical and kind of low.
Especially if those “promoters” are being given gifts in the form of extra dishes and better service.
Yeah, yeah, business, marketing, getting out word about your thing, etc. Whatever. It’s not what I like to hear.
Again: if it’s true.
We don’t know.
SECRET CHOPSTICKS, IN ROSSLYN:
Do you have any thoughts about the forthcoming Secret Chopsticks (besides the unfortunate name).
Do you think the area, and specifically Rosslyn, can support a tasting-menu Chinese restaurant?
Yeah, it’s a really interesting-sounding project.
And an ambitious one.
I’m wondering the same thing you are. We’ll find out soon enough.
And as for this idea of support, in a general sense — I’m beginning to wonder how the area is going to support all these new places that are opening. The city, in particular, seems flooded with places to eat.
Rose’s Luxury put word out the other night that it had tables open. Tables at Rose’s Luxury! A slow night at Rose’s Luxury!
An aberration? Maybe.
Or maybe Momofuku is drawing all the focus now and leaving other, previously hot places wanting.
My guess is the frequent Osteria Morini mentions are a result of a savvy marketing campaign at some level.
Adam Levin was featured in WAPO recently, and he has popped up to participate in at least one locally well-known food forum. While I haven’t been, a couple of my friends have, and they really enjoyed the food.
(I’m a bit more surprised we haven’t seen more mentions about Momofuku.)
The DC food scene tends to be somewhat of a mob mentality at times, and many appear to be eager to be among the first to visit and report on new spots.
ALL food scenes have this mob mentality, not just DC.
And I think you’re onto something, in pointing out the active presence, of late, of pastry chef Levin. Something’s afoot …
Thanks for chiming in …
I went to Osteria Morini last night for the first time and their staff didn’t pay or coerce me write this message.
I had a very positive experience because they excelled at all parts of the experience. They greeted us, welcomed us to the bar, didn’t pressure us to order while we waited a few min. for our friends, and seated us promptly at the reservation time. The appetizers, particularly the parmesan gelato crostini was incredible. When we inquired about wine, the waitress ushered over the cheerful and informed sommelier, who recommended a perfect Barbera D’Asti. My wife and I order 3 pastas (carbonara, bucatini w/ mussels, burrata and tomato) and all of which were good to great. Then, we ordered the pear and apple desserts. You could easily tell that they had a talented pastry chef, instead of some poor cook making subpar panna cotta (is there good panna cotta). Consistent with the overall hospitality of the place, the waitress brought the chocolate bread pudding for free. I don’t personally weigh décor too heavily, but it was well-appointed and had water views as a bonus. They also have those thick napkins in the bathroom and more than one toilet.
I live near 14th and usually eat in that area. Very few restaurants in DC and especially near 14th have both great service, food, wine (and take reservations). It doesn’t quite have the same level of creativity as other spots, which largely don’t take reservations, but it’s definitely one of the top places in its price range and deserves some praise.
And it’s great that you had such a nice meal.
But good God — every week? And eight mentions already today?
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
As far as underrepresented cuisines, what about more Moroccan?
There are days I just crave a tagine, or some perfect couscous and braised chicken or lamb. And I recently had a Moroccan wine that wasn’t half bad either.
I have those cravings, too.
There used to be more Moroccan cooking in this area. It’s really in short supply of late.
I miss Pyramids, which came too early and would have benefitted dearly, I think, from the gentrification around the Howard Theatre. Khadijah was a talented cook.
I agree that the Osteria Morini “review” reeks of a set up. They’ve been pushing Morini Mondays on social media for the past week or so, saying that reservations are critical, even though a quick OpenTable search just now revealed plenty of availability (even for the upcoming weekend.)
There’s plenty of literature out there on spotting fake reviews, and one of the biggest culprits is being over enthusiastic (“The service was aweseome/We loved our server/He knew everything”) and oddly specific (It’s near my gym, I love the char from the grill, etc).
It just doesn’t sound genuine. I can’t prove it either but it’s a feeling, especially given the history you mention.
Yeah, I hear you.
And you have it, and I have it, and a couple others on here have it, too.
Thanks for chiming in on this …
re: Mornini –
I think there are a few things at play. You’ve recommended it on past occasions, and I would imagine have a fair amount of repeat chatters who will try a restaurant on your recommendation, and want to tell you about it later. I agree with the earlier chatter that the food, service and atmosphere are generally quite good, and the price is not overwhelming – though I have had a few service glitches in the past.
Lastly I think the neighborhood is becoming more trendy, more people are going there outside of baseball games, dining and then sharing their experiences with friends who do the same.
I don’t know, I mean, I’ve recommended many, many places that people never go to — or at any rate, never tell me they do. And many places I’m enthusiastic about, or otherwise high on, don’t generate any chatter on here whatsoever.
Ocopa, for instance — the terrific little Peruvian place on H St. I talked about a bunch last week. Or Saba, the Yemeni spot I discovered last year. I think it came up twice on this chat. Twice. I haven’t been back since I reviewed it, and sort of fear that maybe it has slipped (I fear this with all small, independent places, particularly when they have limited resources), but the place I wrote about is certainly worth more than two mentions in a year.
This goes back to something I talked about last week, this notion of keeping away from the chatter, of not being in the great swim. The restaurant scene is more than 14th St. and more than the publicists who aggressively promote their high profile places and more than the chefs who get their names in the papers. I know I’m biased, but I think the truest picture of What Is is to be found here. Where all that matters is whether something is good. Not whether it looks good, or acts good, or has people plumping it. Whether it’s good. High or low. Popular or not. Deep-pocketed or on a shoe-string. Visible or hidden.
Are you really going to solicit comments about Morini (“I’m interested in hearing from more of you about [Morini]”), and then complain that there are too many posts about Morini (“eight mentions already today”)?
I get what you’re saying, but to be fair, what I was soliciting was readers’ thoughts about possible goosing of the system. I wasn’t soliciting reports of delightful meals.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if, in fact, those reports of delightful meals are coming from people with no skin whatsoever in the game.
Which, of course, we can’t know.
And at this point, I’m dubious about … everything.
UNDERREPPED CUISINES, CONT.:
How about a Taiwanese food truck selling taiwanese chicken, beef noodle soup, Tawainese hamburgers and awesome wonton soups.
That’d be good.
Ooh, I’ve got one — how about a Morini food truck?
In fact, maybe one for every neighborhood in the city.
I mean, quite clearly, we’re starved for more Morini. 🙂
I’m cutting out, everyone. Thanks so much for a great and spirited chat today. Really interesting stuff, all around. I appreciate it.
If anyone wants to reach me before next week — if, say, oh, I don’t know, you want to tell me about a good experience at Morini — you can email me: email@example.com
Until then …
Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …
[missing you, TEK … ]
LAST ONE … MORINI, CONT.:
Well, to be fair Todd, I’m sure some of the 8 mentions of Morini are directly related to you bringing up the topic in the first place.
I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that they’ve figured out a style of food that really really appeals to a certain segment of the population (but not so much to restaurant critics, I guess)… and then during baseball off-season, they double-down on that by offering what is probably the best deal in town for somewhat upscale eats. People really like deals, and that engenders a bunch of loyalty.
(And PS, because I guess it needs to be said, I am not a fake reviewer nor a blogger who has been induced by Morini. I am just a person who finds Morini consistently delicious.)
And just a person who finds Morini consistently delicious — you might be, you might very well be … 🙂
Bye, everyone …