Tom Sietsema heads out to Baltimore for his Sunday review this week and awards two stars to the "kinda-sorta-Southern" Bluegrass Tavern. He likes the hints of Southern cuisine on the menu, and he likes the departures from that — like the duck proscuitto — even more. But Sietsema spares no time in chiding Bluegrass for for being a slave to restaurant trends. He especially has it in for the restaurant's charcuterie:
Despite all the hoopla about the charcuterie being created on location, the items I tried were convincing arguments for vegetarianism. Boudin blanc was muted, and a sausage of beef heart and apricots didn't taste of either ingredient. Just when you think there's nowhere else to go with bacon, along comes a "spreadable jam" made from dried cherries, bourbon, creme de cassis and the ingredient that shows no sign of exiting the national food stage. The dark and chunky condiment needs to follow Charlie Sheen's example and go into rehab.
In the end, Sietsema advises, "stay low to the ground, sip with confidence and eat like a Southerner." [WaPo]
The Post critic also filed a First Bite for Mandu in Mt. Vernon Square, where he likes what he sees: "Among the fresh ideas at Mandu are a vegan-friendly wild black rice tinged green with alfalfa sprouts, sesame leaf and lettuces, everything invigorated with a bean paste spiked with pomegranate vinegar; and a fiery fish soup that Danny Lee calls his favorite dish on the menu." [WaPo]
The Post's Catherine Zuckerman loves Tacos Impala on H Street Northeast, but immediately kills our buzz: "Here's the good news: Tacos Impala offers first-rate food in an unconventional, effortlessly cool kind of way. Now for the bad: It will close come spring. So hurry up and go." [WaPo]
Michael Grass is all about casual lunch spots this week as he pays a visit to Cava Mezze Grill in Bethesda and Litestars downtown: "Like Cava Grill, Litestars is trying new concepts that toy with our perceived notions of what fast-casual eating is and isn't. With either place, you're forced to think a little more about what you're eating. Let's see if these new ventures take root and multiply." [WCP]
Best Bites indulges in a blast from the past as Ann Limpert visits a revived Farrah Olivia: "On a recent visit we fell hardest for the dishes we fondly remembered: tender squares of barely cooked “shocked” tuna with pickled apples and caviar-like orbs of kalamata olive; a sculptural steak tartare spiced with Ethiopian berbere powder; and two tiny lamb chops paired with plantains and white-mint pearls." [Washingtonian]
Bluegrass Tavern [Photo: Merritt B./Yelp]