It appears Tom Sietsema has been putting in some mileage with frequent visits to our neighbor, Charm City. Following up a First Bite of Michael Mina's Wit & Wisdom, this week the Washington Post critic files a full review of the decade-old Baltimore restaurant Chameleon. With only small quibbles about some pumpkin soup and spinach, Sietsema awards the restaurant 2.5 stars for its "freakin' delicious" food:
"The season encourages choucroute garni, and I urge you to order the strapping platter here, arranged with a pork loin chop, zesty house-made garlic sausage, ham hock and carrots and potatoes. The break-out star of the show is its cabbage, picked that day from nearby, fermented with salt and bold spices, and transformed into a lightly crisp and winy mound of shreds that is so lush and true, it's as if you've never had sauerkraut before."
Sietsema also has a cutesy mock-fight with a dining companion over whose dessert is more delicious and praises the gateau de viande — otherwise known as "a fancy way to say meatloaf." Oh, and in case you wanted an idea of the shows on Sietsema's TiVo, the critic warns that the menu at Chameleon "changes like Kim Kardashian's outfits." [WaPo]
Meanwhile, Todd Kliman sticks to home base with a review of the hugely popular Pearl Dive Oyster Palace for the December issue of The Washingtonian. Awarding the restaurant 2.5 stars, Kliman begins by describing the evolution of Jeff and Barbara Black as restaurateurs and determining: "No longer suburban restaurateurs selling an experience akin to a cable-knit sweater from Lands’ End, the Blacks have reinvented themselves as avatars of the new urbanity."
The critic is impressed by much of the menu, from the angels on horseback, seafood salsa, gumbo, the po'boy and fried chicken: "I’ve had fried chicken that was fancier and more fussed over, but I haven’t had fried chicken that was better." He also appreciates that at Pearl Dive, pie means pie, not "a tiny, sculpted mound of cream and a pile of pulverized crust."
And the bottom line? Kliman writes, "if it’s not already the couple’s best restaurant, it’s easily the most fully realized." [The Washingtonian]
The Washingtonian also has a review of Jacques Brasserie in its December issue, filed by Cynthia Hacinli. She writes of the more casual restaurant within the formal L'Auberge Chez Francois: "Free-range chicken in Riesling with spaetzle—sometimes offered as a Sunday special on the more formal menu—is just the sort of grand-mère cooking you crave at a brasserie." [The Washingtonian]
Rina Rapuano checks out Soupergirl in Takoma Park for the December issue of The Washingtonian, pointing out that the fall was a smart time to open a restaurant that focuses on soup. Though salads are "less exciting" and the croutons are maybe a bit too large, the soups get raves: "While many restaurants get stuck in a butternut-squash-bisque rut, Polon offers a curried peanut/butternut-squash soup thickened with homemade peanut butter and spiked with cumin, curry, and cayenne—a perfect soup for winter colds." [The Washingtonian]
Doing double-duty, Rapuano also has a review in the Washington Post, this one for Paila Grill, a Chilean restaurant in Columbia Heights: "Hot dogs may be all-American, but Chile has its own versions. We tried the tasty Italiano ($5.99), an all-beef dog topped with tomato, avocado spread and a thick smear of mayonnaise. But it's the chacarero ($7.99) — marinated beef sirloin tips, tomato, jalapeno, avocado, mayo and green beans on a toasted bun — that has us itching to go back. It comes with a side of chips and pebre; ask for extra jalapeno if you crave more heat." [WaPo]
THE BLOGS: An entire group of food bloggers got together for dinner at Little Serow and dubbed their dinner Occupy Little Serow; DC-Wrapped Dates finds "magnificent balance" on the menu at Trummer's on Main; DMV Dining likes Masala Art as an alternative to Rasika; We Love DC takes a first look at Elisir; Borderstan declares that Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is "the real deal."
Chameleon [Photo: Yelp]