Todd Kliman at last passes judgment on the José Andrés historical pop-up restaurant America Eats Tavern in the November issue of The Washingtonian. Though he gives the restaurant a solid two stars, the tone of the review is not quite as optimistic. Yes, there were good things — the service, the atmosphere and several of the dishes — but Kliman says he came away disappointed, explaining:
"Restaurants are gestalt experiences: The individual parts matter less than the sum of those parts. A restaurant can do nearly everything right and still end up falling short because of one fatal flaw embedded deep in the design."
Though Andrés is the culinary master of reinvention, Kliman writes that "At America Eats, what is radically reinvented is too often ridiculous. And what isn’t radically reinvented is too often disappointing." The critic also jabs at the price point of menu: "The gall of putting a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on the menu and charging $8 is exceeded only by the preciousness of the presentation—it turns out to be two tiny sandwiches. A miniature jug of milk comes alongside it, accompanied by an earnest preamble from the server informing you of its provenance, as if it were a bottle of Bordeaux." [The Washingtonian]
Tom Sietsema revisits Thai X-Ing now that its dining room has been expanded from teeny tiny to merely tiny. The restaurant — run out of a LeDroit Park rowhouse — earns two stars from the Washington Post critic in a full review that ponders the changes made during the expansion, things you need to know when you visit and the atmosphere which is like that of a "Thai speak-easy." As Sietsema warns: "There's always a whiff of confusion in the air, not unlike the dinner party where you show up earlier than the host expected."
And then, of course, there are the dishes. Sietsema notes that chef and owner Taw Vigsittaboot "balances heat with sweet, sour, salty and bitter notes in his cooking." He also notes that carnivore diners shouldn't be disappointed even if they accidentally show up on vegetarian-only Sunday evenings, swearing that between the coconut milk soup, sweet-and-sour tofu and more, they won't even miss the meat. [WaPo]
Perhaps Todd Kliman is on an Obama eating tour? This week he adds Liberty Tavern to the list of places where he's eating these days and specifically praises the Portuguese-style swordfish that POTUS ordered at the restaurant last week. [The Washingtonian]
Rina Rapuano visits Juliet's Italian Market & Cafe in Frederick for the Washington Post, and she discovers a tradition of house-made mozzarella, massive sandwiches and "all the DIY makings of a great picnic." [WaPo]
Going Out Guru Alex Baldinger stops into Roti for the Lunch Break column and pretty accurately describes fast-casual restaurant chains: "Step one: Choose an exotic cuisine. For today's lesson, let's pick Mediterranean. Step two: Serve food assembly-line style, with patrons choosing different ingredients as they move down the line. Step three: Wait for your clientele to begin referring to your business as "the Mediterranean Chipotle." And voila: Roti Mediterranean Grill." [WaPo]
THE BLOGS: DMV Dining visits Palena Café and decides that monthly visits should be mandatory; Don Rockwell writes that breakfast at Mike's Deli at Lazy Sundae is a "good, hearty, satisfying" one; EatMore DrinkMore tries the dessert tasting menu that Top Chef Just Desserts runner-up Matthew Petersen has created at CityZen.