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Sietsema Awards One Star to Todd Gray's Watershed

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Earlier this year the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington awarded Todd Gray top honors as Chef of the Year. Also this year, Tom Sietsema awarded Gray's new restaurant, Watershed, with one star.

Gray branched far away from the coveted White House-neighboring spot of his restaurant, Equinox, and into a land many may not even have heard of: NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue). Watershed resides in the ordinary Hilton Garden Inn, and the restaurant isn't able to hide it: "Watershed opens with what could pass for an airport lounge."

Unfortunately for Gray, the food doesn't make up for the lackluster environment.

An otherwise appealing jumbo lump crab cake was set atop a nest of wilted spinach that could have been pulled from the ocean, it was that salty; it was sullied further by fried green tomatoes that registered as cardboard. Surely Gray, who was in the establishment that evening, hadn't previewed what should have been a signature.

Sietsema scatters praise for its soups and a special of Maine clams but doesn't leave happy, as he notes the "lemon tart makes my teeth itch."

And in the killer last line, Sietsema doesn't play around: "I like the idea of a good, moderately priced restaurant to propel a new neighborhood. Watershed isn't it, yet." [WaPo]

Lost Society gets double play this week. First Tom Sietsema praised both its succulent T-bone and diverse crowd ("diners of all colors and sizes, suggests that this is an equal-opportunity meat-and-greet.")

Chris Shott digs a bit deeper for Washington City Paper's review, reporting on the legal battles surrounding chef replacements. According to court documents, one of the partners, Aman Ayoubi, (also linked to Local 16), wanted John Maher as head chef, who had cooked at the much-praised French Laundry. The pedigree must not have been enough (also see: Station 4 and El Buli connection) and co-owners David Karim and Richard Vasey wanted a different chef. Instead, they hired Joseph Evans from the steak happy land of Smith & Wollensky.

But even with all of that commotion, Shott finds joy in the meat's dressing: "Maybe that’s the key to making your boutique steak house a success: bone-marrow butter on everything." Although, he had less nice things to say about the "lukewarm, almost chilly" stuffed lobster and the zucchini ribbons, "which smacked of too much salt." [WCP]

THE BLOGS: WeLoveDC stays true to its name and pushes the very un-critic-like hyperbole, honoring America Eats Tavern with "Best salad ever! This was amazing!"; DC-Wrapped Dates notes the novelty of a waffle sandwich quickly wears off with the sticker shock of a $9 small lunch at Wicked Waffle; Capital Spice raves about the newly spacious remodeling of Hank's Oyster Bar, predicting "This may be the best new date venue to open in the Dupont area in years."

[Photo: Justin C./Yelp]

2001 14th St NW, Washington D.C.