Join us Friday, April 6, at 11 AM to chat with our food critic Ann Limpert. Do you have questions about the controversy over the Inn at Little Washington‘s racially charged statues? The evolving legal drama surrounding Mike Isabella? Or, on a lighter note, where to eat after checking out the cherry blossoms? Leave a question below, and Ann will get to as many as she can on Friday morning.
Ann: Hello folks— I hope you’ve had an excellent week of eating. Mine started off with takeout Maketto. I was a little under the weather earlier this week, and all I wanted was a fortifying, restorative broth—Erik Bruner-Yang’s duck soup, packed with greens and herbs and chilies, hit the spot. And another shout-out to EBY and his crew: the newly revised menu at Adams Morgan’s Brothers and Sisters features a majorly improved burger (short rib patty, Mornay sauce) and a sort-of deconstructed jambon beurre without the bread. It’s just a plate of Burgundy ham with cornichons and shards of grana padano cheese, served over a brown-butter sauce with whole grain mustard. Been thinking about it ever since.
It’s been quite a week, news-wise. Did you catch Jessica Sidman’s piece on blackamoor art at the Inn at Little Washington? Oof. And more not-good news for Top Chef alums—Bryan Voltaggio’s Range in Chevy Chase Pavilion is done-zo, and the lawsuit against Mike Isabella has been expanded, with allegations that the restaurateur used NDAs to keep employees from speaking out.
Onward to your questions (ask them via the form at the bottom of the page)…
Adam: I’ve been excited that the variety of Korean food in DC proper is continuing to grow between Kaliwa at the Wharf and a Korean BBQ spot opening in Shaw next year. But I’m also a bit miffed that, as talented as the teams behind both projects are, they are spearheaded by non-Korean chefs with only tangential associations to Korean culture.
Which led me to ponder if this is a problem for a lot of immigrant cultures in DC, not just Korean. Does the size and nature of DC just make it too hard for authentic establishments and communities (with a few exceptions) to thrive outside of the suburbs as compared to larger cities in the US?
Ann: It’s not easy on any level—to find space in many neighborhoods (especially the space needed for say, a KBBQ joint), to afford a high rent, to compete in an ever more restaurant-packed city. But it’s also strange, that for such an international city, there are relatively few options within DC proper. Our Chinatown is laughable. Our best Thai restaurant, Little Serow, is run by a couple who also own a four-star restaurant (Komi). Ethiopian is an exception but now some of the best Ethio restaurants are in Silver Spring.
Would a To Sok Jip or Gom Ba Woo—two of the best Korean places in Annandale—be able to make it in DC? I hope so. But I’d also hope that they stayed true to the spirits of the originals, at least when it comes to the food. When Mandalay, the Silver Spring Burmese restaurant, came to Shaw a few years ago, they offered only a $70 tasting menu. They were closed within nine months.
I think another factor is that running a restaurant isn’t a career that as many second- and third-generation immigrants are looking towards. There are exceptions to that too, of course, like the new-ish fast-casual Indian spot Rasa in Navy Yard, from the sons of the owners of Indique.
What restaurants do you recommend in north Arlington (Rosslyn, courthouse, Clarendon, Ballston, Westover) with good food that aren’t too noisy? I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 30 years and it’s been amazing to see the changes, although I can’t think of a great go-to restaurant in Clarendon despite the volume of options. Any ideas?
Ann: A few of my favorites: Pupatella for Neapolitan pizza; Ray’s the Steaks, for value steaks and wine; Hanabi, for lowkey Japanese bar snacks (get the gyoza—the dumplings are connected by a sort of lacy pancake top) and ramen; and Cheesetique, for gooey sandwiches, mac’ and cheese, and easy drinking wines. I’d have included SER in that round-up—I love that they serve Spanish delicacies, like gooseneck barnacles, you won’t find anywhere else around here—but the noisiness disqualifies it (unless maybe, you sit outside).
Is there a food or a food trend that you hope will catch on in Washington but hasn’t yet?
Ann: I’d love to see Washington get a really ambitious, high-end Cantonese place, along the lines of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco. And a Detroit-style pizza shop (we all need a little more pan pizza in our lives). And more places that do just one thing really, really well, like the egg sandwiches at Eggslut in LA. And I’d love to see our obsession with all things Japan keep growing—a few late night katsu spots wouldn’t been a bad thing.
What are your most/least favorite parts about dining out in DC?
Ann: Most favorite: That high quality places are opening at such an insanely fast clip. Even six or seven years ago I can remember having meetings with our food team during 100 Best Restaurants season, and saying “Welp, we have 98…what now?” That would never happen today.
Least favorite: That it’s impossible to go out to dinner on a weekend without a many-hour wait in the neighborhood I live in (Logan Circle). I miss spontaneity!
Is there any food trend that you think is on the way out?
Ann: I think we’ve reached peak poke. There are poke shops everywhere—one is readying to open just outside my office window—and it’s not cheap enough to become a regular part of most people’s desk lunch rotation.
We haven’t hit many of the new places in DC, i.e. U St, H St. etc. because we are in the middle suburbs and impossible to find parking and it’s inconvenient to Metro and even Uber is costly. Suggestions?
Ann: If you’re asking what to brave the traffic/Metro/hassle for, I’d recommend Maydan, Rose Previte’s super-cool spot a few blocks off U Street. It’s centered around a giant open hearth, and is great for dips, flatbreads, and kebabs. The Dabney in Shaw and Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan aren’t new, but they’re my two favorite spots to bring folks who don’t dine in DC too often, and like nothing you’ll find in the ‘burbs. Del Mar at the Wharf is terrific but it’s definitely a splurge—as is the $27 valet parking tab (and that’s with validation!).
Washingtonian is always on top of the places the Obamas frequented when they dined out in DC. Are there any places you’d recommend to the Trumps or have you heard of any where they like to go?
Ann: The only place (that I know of) that the President and First Lady dine is BLT Prime in the Trump Hotel. Ivanka and Jared get out more—they seem to favor scene-y places like RPM Italian and Le Diplomate. But if the elder Trumps were asking for a recommendation, I’d send them to Mirabelle. It’s near the White House, as gilded as a restaurant comes these days, and the classic French cuisine will feel safe to a well-done-meat-eater. Or to get carryout from Wiseguy Pizza, which is really good NYC style pizza (especially the thick, basil-strewn grandma pie).
Any update on when Stephen Starr’s new restaurant will open in Union Market?
Ann: Sorry, the best I can do for Starr’s forthcoming steakhouse, a spinoff of Brooklyn’s St. Anselm, is “spring.”
What’s your take on the Mike Isabella thing?
Ann: I thought Maura Judkis and Tim Carman’s latest Washington Post story was pretty damning. Isabella is digging in, but it’s hard to see how he could possibly bounce back from this. What’s been surprising to me is that, anecdotally at least, some of his restaurants (Kapnos and G by Mike Isabella, for instance) seem to be doing just fine. No Yelp-bombing, either. Some consumers make their opinions known with their wallets, while others seem to just want to go out to dinner and not think about it.
Do you cook much at home? Do you have any go-to recipes?
Ann: I don’t cook as much anymore—casualty of the critic role—and I miss it. My go-to, nothing-in-the-fridge recipe is one I’ve been making forever. I tend to crave acidic, salty things and this does it for me. You whisk half a lemon (if I’m feeling not totally lazy I’ll grate the rind in there too) with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a bunch of parmesan. Toss it with spaghetti or linguine or whatever—just not angel hair, which is too thin for this sauce. Top with more parm and loads of black pepper and, if you have it, some kind of flaky salt like Malden or fleur de sel. Fresh basil is nice on it too.
Have you gone to Kaliwa yet? If so, what were your thoughts?
Ann: I haven’t been to Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong’s eagerly anticipated pan-Asian spot at the Wharf yet. Looking forward to checking it out soon.
Everyone of course raves about Rasika and its peers, but where is the good low/mid-range Indian food in D.C.? Hard to find Indian for a random Wednesday night takeout dinner.
Ann: Bindaas, the more affordable sibling to Rasika, is excellent, but you probably already know about that, and it’s not the kind of takeout joint you’re looking for. I love Indigo in Northeast DC—the cooking is punchy and spicy, the vibe is totally quirky (there’s a dizzying amount of graffiti on the walls), and it’s a quick-serve/takeout kind of place. Indique in Cleveland Park is more mid-priced, but they do some really good curries and tandoori meats, and are happy to do takeout. And if you’re open to the ‘burbs, I’d swing by Passage to India in Bethesda, Jewel of India in Silver Spring, Spice Xing in Rockville, London Curry House in Alexandria, and, if you’re into lusher, thicker curries, Haandi in Falls Church. I’m also looking forward to scouting the newly opened Indian/Nepalese Urban Tandoor in Ballston, and the forthcoming Pappe on 14th Street.
Andrew: Convivial had free garage parking fyi. I swear I don’t work there, just live nearby and enjoy it
Ann: Good tip! That neighborhood can be impossible for parking, and I like Convivial too.
Ann: That’s it for me today, chatters. A very carb-y lunch awaits. Thanks for your great questions and I hope to see you back next week, same time, same place.