Tom Sietsema’s All-Time 10 Nastiest Food Descriptions, Ranked

Do not read this before ordering the ceviche.

The entrance to La Vie at the Wharf. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Every so often, Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema drops a bomb with “zero stars” painted on the side. Devastating for the restaurant, sure, but delicious for readers. Today, La Vie, the scene-y French restaurant at the Wharf, joined his canon of terribly reviewed restaurants with its oil-soaked roast chicken and leathery crepes. But those aren’t the worst—not by a mile. Here’s a catalog of his 10 most memorably mean food descriptions over the years:

10. Coconut Sorbet at La Vie (2018)
“Should not smack of frozen candle wax.”

9. Shrimp and Grits at Founding Farmers (2016)
“Had my waiter inquired, my posse would have told him the swamp posing as shrimp and grits was about as close to the southern model as rap is to opera.”

8. Fried Oysters at Mussel Bar (2010)
“Mine were encased in what tasted like cardboard, and they were so big and flat, they appeared to have been run over by a steamroller. The accompanying sweet pink dip only hastened my retreat.”

7. Coquille Saint Jacques at Le Pigalle (2006)
“A glop of some unidentifiable—but strangely orange and very fatty—sauce over scallops, mussels and clams that smack of old age.”

6. Calzone at La Tagliatella (2013)
“…does a great impression of a mummy, save for its tomato garnish.”

5. Guinea hen at Suna (2013)
“Fine on its own, but it comes with what tastes like hot cereal and a green powder of dried broccoli.”

4. Pineapple Soup at La Tagliatella (2013)
“…appears to be thickened with cornstarch. A scoop of waxy coconut sorbet in the center of the bowl fails to make up for the yellow lake of disappointment.”

3. Allium Consomme at Suna (2013)
“…goes down like canned fried onions in water.”

2. Ceviche at La Vie
“Dry and crumbly, the halibut flecked with minced yellow peppers at La Vie seems to be auditioning for the role of a space meal. (Just add water.)”

1. Ceviche at Lauriol Plaza
“…tastes mostly of lime and comes with a garnish of … someone else’s hair in the toss, which wasn’t as off-putting as discovering a wad of chewing gum on the pepper shaker.”

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.