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What's Good Now in DC


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#31 Stone

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 08:20 PM

Restaurant Nora was disappointing. As was an Italian place on Connecticut, just above the zoo.

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#32 Suzanne F

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:12 PM

Restaurant Nora was disappointing. <snip>


I'm kind of with you. We were there last November for Paul's birthday and while he still loves it, I'm less enchanted. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he was in his late twenties/early thirties when Nora first opened and we went there a lot. :P

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#33 AaronS

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:20 PM

Avoid Spike's pizza, but his burger is OK.

those burgers are awful.

I think nora has been bad for a long, long time.

adrian is right about 2 amy's of course, but it's not in glover park.

#34 joethefoodie

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:20 AM


Avoid Spike's pizza, but his burger is OK.

those burgers are awful.

I think nora has been bad for a long, long time.

adrian is right about 2 amy's of course, but it's not in glover park.

I guess that depends on what your definitions of OK and awful are.

As well as "right."

#35 joethefoodie

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:20 AM

dupe

#36 AaronS

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:20 AM

what is a what is question?

#37 joethefoodie

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:33 AM

We had a really good burger last night at Dino. Along with a nicely grilled soft-shell crab. Heading back to Mintwood tonight.

#38 Stone

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 02:07 PM


Restaurant Nora was disappointing. <snip>


I'm kind of with you. We were there last November for Paul's birthday and while he still loves it, I'm less enchanted. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he was in his late twenties/early thirties when Nora first opened and we went there a lot. :P

It's a beautiful place and the people were wonderful. But none of us thought the food was better than average.

A Hudson Valley Home.  Kichels --  A Recipe from the Old Country.

Just take those old records off the shelf.


#39 Adrian

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:37 PM

Cleveland Park. 2 Amys is in Cleveland Park. Or Woodley Park. Or MacArthur Park (I hear it's a long wait for the cake there). Definitely not Central Park. Moving on...

The discussion on the way over to Little Serow was about how irked I was with the place. Buried and attached to Komi, it's got: no reservations! only 28 seats! No choice! No substitutions! Country and blue grass music! Sparse decor! Family-style shared plates! Lots of bar seats! High tables with quasi-stools! Photography forbidden! And a European chef cooking regional Thai food! Some have already stopped reading this. Even I'm a little concerned; we put our names in around 6:30, hoping to have the time to get changed and get a drink, expecting a multi-hour wait, and are texted an hour later while we are twenty minutes away, hurrying over. Now, here I am, usually a big defender of this sort of chicanery, beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, the pendulum has swung too far. And then we got there and were treated to eight courses of some of the best executed and most daring food I've had all year served in the most polished, confident, relaxed way. All the austere and unaccommodating elements are there to make things easy on the kitchen, yes, but it seems that here every cost saving is transformed on the plate into exciting, top quality food.

This shouldn't have surprised me. Johnny Monis has to be one of America's most underrated chefs. The first time I ate his food, at Komi in 2006, I was stunned. The meal was polished (that word again) and precise without a hint of pretension or stuffiness. He was also a master of the tasting menu, with each course relating to the one before, operating better as a whole than as a series of individual dishes. Yet Monis is underrated, I think, because he is so unimportant. An excellent cook in a secondary food city, Monis's food, unlike, say, Sean Brock's, doesn't fit into the prevailing narrative. There is no revitalization of American cooking, there is no gentle application of modernist technique to bespoke produce, you can't link him to the foragers or the enfante terribles. There is little innovation, little rebellion, merely deeply personal cooking.

Indeed, the Isaan Thai food at Little Serow is inspired (apparently) by Monis's wedding and honeymoon in Thailand. Not that you can taste love, as they say on those food shows, but you must be able to taste passion. The dishes are (I think) reasonably faithful reproductions of the food he had there. They are sweet, sour, pungent, spicy and vegetal. They are loud. The only choice you make to start the meal is your wine (an off-dry Gruner Veltliner at $40 for us), you're presented with a pot of rice and a bowl of raw veggies (replaced, as you need it, throughout the meal) and you're off to the races. Pork rinds with rabbit liver and shrimp paste and sweet and acidic ma hor start things off - both finger food, establishing that you will be touching a lot of food during this meal (napkins are also constantly being replaced). You will make ssams with lettuce to eat the oily, hot, minced pork with crispy shallots. You will ball up rice to absorb the sweet sauce that fallen off the Thai whiskey braised pork ribs. You will pop cucumber and Thai eggplant into your mouth to dull the bracing, dry-chili heat of the fried sticky rice with peanuts, mint, and ginger. That dish, khao tod, is the one that shows Monis's mastery of the tasting format. The dish is blazing hot but the next two - the fish with noodles and the ribs - are deeply flavoured with no heat at all. The fiery crescendo at the midway point reverberates and carries through the final two courses, giving a spicy structure to the subsequent dishes. If it's not brilliant, it's very well thought out. This contrasts with the sharp but temporary heat you experience earlier in the meal with a dish of grilled Thai eggplant and fresh chilis. There the heat doesn't build but jolts and peters out, leaving you ready for what's next. And to finish, two little squares of sticky rice with coconut cream. A cooling, easy touch because you're stuffed by now. The bill for two? $130 including tax (bottle of wine, complementary glass of beer with the khao tod). Wilfrid, I think we both agree that there's some value there.

Along with Husk, this was the most polished, complete meal I've had this year. A restaurant running this well is a lesson to all those doing the same hipster things in such a forced, uncomfortable way. Service can be correct without being stuffy (and without being too friendly). And the cost and revenue certainty of a popular no-reservations restaurant with a fixed price menu can be used to produce better food than is otherwise possible. Nathan, when you get here, go.

ETA: if I'm going to make one criticism, for the sake of completeness, it's that many of the dishes hit similar flavour notes. The prevalence of fish sauce, lime, and Thai herbs means that we're dealing with variations on a theme here and not totally distinct dishes. I'm fine with that since the menu is clearly designed as a cohesive whole.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#40 Adrian

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 05:06 PM

Lunch at Hill Country. Part of that upscale casual strip on 7th with Jaleo just up and Oyamel across. Not quite moist enough brisket was pretty satisfying. Kruez's market sausages are great. BBQ sauce is too sweet, but it's Texas style and you don't need it. Collared greens are also too sweet, should've got the cucumber salad but I forgot. Everything has that good, deep oak smoke. I still prefer the Rib Pit up 14th for aesthetic reasons, but the bbq here is technically better. It's been too long for me to compare it to the NYC location. Lots of people scarfing business lunches - a good supplement for the smoke filled backrooms I guess.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#41 Adrian

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:20 AM

Nothing? No positive reinforcement? Am I staring into the abyss? Is the abyss staring back? Nathan, my slightly older almost, maybe, still young compatriot, the rest is for you:

Pearl Oyster Dive is one of the new 14th street openings filled with young Turks sucking back bivalves after work. Like everything on the new 14th, the room is Brooklyn condo - lots of wood, too much polish. Food is on the good side of average, a big step up from the nearby Hanks. Oysters are fresh and well shucked, shrimp gumbo has good flavour and nice heat, crawfish etouffee is even hotter. Prices are a little high, but such are things.

Jack Rose has a great beer selection, an epic whiskey selection, and makes me feel like I'm in Murray Hill.

Oohs and Aahs was, apparently, on Diners Drive-ins and Dives and doesn't need my hype anymore (not that it ever did). Nonetheless, the chicken wings are a gold standard when fresh, shrimp are grilled, spiced, and delicious, blackened catfish is generous and satisfying. Macaroni and cheese is the best kind of gelatinous, greens somehow benefit from being made without any meat. Apple cobbler is warm and homey. Service is painfully slow, everyone is friendly. You eat in the park across the street and your hands and face get covered with sauce and you go through about eight-hundred napkins. I love this place so much. I could unpack all this more but none of us want that really.

Dolcezza is hipster coffee and gelato. The house pour-over, from Intelligentsia, is smooth and good. Gelatos are very interesting - lemon-ricotta-cardamom and sea salt stand out. Not overly sweet, very subtle. Texture is hit or miss: not great on the lemon one, pretty perfect on the salted caramel.

A walk down H-Street is a revelation - the area has been almost totally gentrified. The refurbished Atlas theatre must have a lot to do with that.

That's it. Nathan, this must help you, right? All this work! This "liveblog"! There's good stuff in here, I'm sure of it. And the question at the top of the thread - what's good in DC right now? A whole lot more than I expected, and a whole lot more than when I last lived here. I'm now off to pick at Wilfrid and Lex on somewhere else here, I'm sure of it. Dutifully,

Adrian

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#42 AaronS

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 02:34 AM

oohs and aahs is okay at best in my book, but it's been a LONG time. lived right around the corner when it opened.

#43 joethefoodie

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 02:50 PM

Little Serow has been on our list for, well, since it opened but we've yet to find the time to deal with it.

We ate at Hill Country this past Passover. It was sort of like...Hill Country. If you need a fix, it's okay.

Jack Rose (and its sibling up the block, Bourbon) - that great brown liquor selection is the reason to go. I'm also interested in having a burger upstairs (which has it's own "kitchen"); it's a great space but gets packed with lots of kids. And - there's smoking allowed, since it's outdoors...(you can also smoke upstairs at Perry's and The Reef, for those so inclined).

Dolcezza is my favorite place to pick up coffee beans when needed. They carry beans from 4 or 5 roasters, all high end and all good. As Adrian points out, sometimes the gelato is transcendent, sometimes merely okay.

The Rib Pit sucked on my first and last visit there, 2 years ago. I find good barbecue hard to find in the district. This guy occasionally sets up his mobile rig in a parking lot somewhere in the god-forsaken swamps out near RFK Stadium; iirc, it was there last year on Thursdays. I've never been to the bricks and mortar location, but I enjoyed the stuff I sampled out in the parking lot.

There's another old dude in a Safeway parking lot out on Rhode Island Ave. He's got a bus and a mobile smoker: Mr.P's - sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and he's allegedly retiring soon. Rockwell would have the most up-top-date info.

#44 Adrian

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 03:44 PM

Little Serow has been on our list for, well, since it opened but we've yet to find the time to deal with it.

We ate at Hill Country this past Passover. It was sort of like...Hill Country. If you need a fix, it's okay.

Jack Rose (and its sibling up the block, Bourbon) - that great brown liquor selection is the reason to go. I'm also interested in having a burger upstairs (which has it's own "kitchen"); it's a great space but gets packed with lots of kids. And - there's smoking allowed, since it's outdoors...(you can also smoke upstairs at Perry's and The Reef, for those so inclined).

Dolcezza is my favorite place to pick up coffee beans when needed. They carry beans from 4 or 5 roasters, all high end and all good. As Adrian points out, sometimes the gelato is transcendent, sometimes merely okay.

The Rib Pit sucked on my first and last visit there, 2 years ago. I find good barbecue hard to find in the district. This guy occasionally sets up his mobile rig in a parking lot somewhere in the god-forsaken swamps out near RFK Stadium; iirc, it was there last year on Thursdays. I've never been to the bricks and mortar location, but I enjoyed the stuff I sampled out in the parking lot.

There's another old dude in a Safeway parking lot out on Rhode Island Ave. He's got a bus and a mobile smoker: Mr.P's - sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and he's allegedly retiring soon. Rockwell would have the most up-top-date info.


Like the Arepa Lady?!?!?

Pretty much agree with everything you say there except with the Rib Pit, though I've had bad food there and, I will admit, it's not going to satisfy the bbq expert. Oohs and Aahs is sometimes pretty incredible, though they're monumentally inconsistent. It's still a very easy place to love.

ETA: And Jack Rose was so weird. The conversation, upstairs:

"food or drinks?"
"Just drinks."
"Oh. You've got to get food up here."
Me, looking at the dozen empty tables "Yes, but there's no one up here"
Waitress, "let me check"
Five minutes later, "that's okay. Here are some drink menus"
It's one page: "can I see the whiskey book?"
Her, "we don't serve that up here"
Me, smiling "but we wanted to drink whiskey and sit outside!"
"let me see what I can do"
She brings the book.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#45 AaronS

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 05:23 PM

little serow is at the top of my list next time I'm down there.