This week, Tom Sietsema files his full review of Cathal Armstrong's latest venture, Virtue Feed & Grain, giving the Old Town Alexandria restaurant two and a half stars. He warns that this is not Restaurant Eve, but it "cures just about anything that ails you" all the same. Then he dives right into dissecting pretty much the entire menu. Minor complaints: a lack of vegetable dishes, tamales with very little filling, and a Shaggers pie with a "blah center." Sietsema also has no use for your TVs:
"The same bar that dispenses 70 brews and tilts its overhead mirrors so patrons can see behind their backs displays multiple flat-screen TVs. Boo! We get enough news in our restaurants in Washington, thanks."
But deplorable television presence aside, Sietsema is full of praise. A leg of lamb dish "is a dream of an Irish Sunday supper," while the seared rockfish is "superior in every way." He likes the "Weird Stuff" menu full of things like beef tongue and pig's feet. And Sietsema says Armstrong's Bistro Bis past shines through the duck confit that chef Ryan Wheeler "pairs the succulent, subtly sweet fowl with sliced potato and onions cooked to a gentle brown. Old Town, meet Paris." [WaPo]
Meanwhile, Todd Kliman files his 2.5-star review of Graffiato for the October issue of the Washingtonian, kicking off with a setting of the scene for the restaurant where "fabulousness is presumed." This is the new DC dining scene, he says, and it owes everything to the chef's appearances on Top Chef:
"Graffiato is dinner as spectacle. Accordingly, the chef, Michael Isabella, doesn’t swing by to greet diners after the dinner rush is over but during the rush itself, posing with his tattooed biceps for cell-phone pictures in between salting plates at the pass."
So, this is just another TV-inspired buzz machine? Not so fast.
"Like the party girl who lives in fear of being exposed as a smartie, Graffiato cultivates a loud and sassy exterior and seduces you into thinking its beauty is a kind of depth. The good news is that there is real depth, too."
Though Kliman warns about the kitchen's inconsistency, especially when it comes to salt, he says the chicken in pepperoni sauce is like eating "Grandma’s home cooking refracted and refined through a talented chef’s sensibility," the agnolotti "might be the area’s finest pasta dish" and the Jersey Shore pizza convinces Kliman that maybe calamari really does belong on a pizza. [Washingtonian]
Justin Rude of the Going Out Gurus takes an early look at the recently opened Ray's to the Third out in Rosslyn. He prefers it to another recent steak-frites venture Medium Rare, writing that "while that Cleveland Park restaurant is a bit more committed to the gimmick (the only choice is how you want your steak cooked), I came away favoring my experience at Ray’s. A little choice makes a big difference." [WaPo]
Meanwhile, Rude's colleague Fritz Hahn checks out Smoke & Barrel, the bourbon-beer-barbecue bar that now sits above Asylum. Hahn concludes that the restaurant "looks like a solid addition to the growing number of non-college-party bars in Adams Morgan." [WaPo]
THE BLOGS: We Love DC revisits Estadio shortly after its first anniversary and also samples the cocktails at Black Jack; Borderstan calls Sundevich a "bright spot in a dark alley;" EatMore DrinkMore loves all the options at ShopHouse but wishes there was more seating; DC-Wrapped Dates downgrades Againn from a previous review and claims that Blue Duck Tavern has "maybe the best brunch in DC."