Tom Sietsema's annual weigh-in on the city's best restaurants — the 2012 dining guide — dropped yesterday, and the critic attempted to answer the question he's asked nearly every day, "What's your favorite restaurant?" with 40 reviews as a response. Obsessed with the guide - or too busy to read it through? Eater once again has the complete rundown on what's packed inside. Direct comparisons don't always make sense, given the guides' themes are different this year, but with last year's theme being the similar "Places where I'd like to be a regular," there are some conclusions to be drawn on where certain places stand.
1) Comebacks: Bourbon Steak, Central and the Tabard Inn were all recognized in 2010, but not included last year. They're back for this guide.
2) Bumps up: Jaleo (from 3 to 3.5 stars), Woodberry Kitchen (from 3 to 3.5 stars) and Ethiopic (from 2 to 2.5 stars).
3) Down: No one, though the formerly 4 star-rated Restaurant Eve Tasting Room has been replaced by its Bistro, which earned 3.5 stars.
4) Growth: Restaurants that were re-reviewed more positively throughout the year saw their higher ratings reflected in the Fall Guide, including the previously mentioned Jaleo (which got a refresh this year), Blue Duck Tavern under its new chef and newcomer favorite Fiola. Little Serow's also up to 3.5 stars from 3 after less than a year of business.
5) Returning: CityZen, Inn at Little Washington, Komi, Rasika, Jaleo, Oval Room, Woodberry, Et Voila, Obelisk, Vermillion, Vidalia, CF Folks and Elephant Jumps all appeared in the 2011 guide.
6) Newcomers: Many of the newcomers are actually new restaurants, including Little Serow, Fiola, Mintwood Place, Rasika West End, Rogue 24, Izakaya Seki, Toki Underground, Family Meal, and Chez Billy. There's also the Eve Bistro, Blue Duck Tavern, Bombay Club, Cashion's Eat Place, The Source, Zaytinya, Mio, A&J Restaurant, Gamasot, L'Auberge Chez Francois, La Limena, LacoMelza Ethio Cafe, Liberty Tavern, Red Truck Bakery and Market.
7) Notably Missing: Palena Cafe, which has gotten some service complaints lately, and frequent guide mainstay Sushi Taro didn't make the cut. Though Sietsema has still seemed high on The Ashby Inn and Standard in his weekly chats, they're nowhere to be found. The critic's seemingly growing disenchantment with Mike Isabella continues with the omission of Graffiato.
8) People love to debate whether Sietsema focuses too much — or too little — on the suburbs, but city-dwellers will have a significant trek if they want to see what the fuss is about Red Truck Bakery and Market (Fauquier County) or Family Meal (Frederick), not to mention the Inn at Little Washington.
9) Is Sietsema over food trucks? Though the Red Hook Lobster Truck was featured in last year's guide, no trucks seemed to catch the critic's attention this year.
10) WaPo got a little schmantzy in the restaurant category designations; "Modern American" has been rechristened "Nouveau American" in this year's guide.
11) Apparently a bug won't inherently keep you from a 4 star rating. Siesema's Inn at Little Washington review reads, "When a bug dropped into my glass of Roland Tissier et Fils Sancerre Rose, the sommelier whisked it away with typical grace and humor: 'At least it has good taste.'"
12) Sietsema interrupts his musings about food to give us some pronunciation tips: the "Serow" in Little Serow should rhyme with "sparrow" and don't forget that the "t" in Cathal Armstrong's name is silent.
13) But does he also hate freedom? In his review of Bourbon Steak, Sietsema writes, "Can we drop the silly bouquets of french fries that launch dinner, though? Frankly, this patron doesn't want to be tempted more than he already is."
14) Though Rasika Penn Quarter and Rasika West End boast similar menus, Sietsema puts the newcomer a full star below the classic Indian restaurant.
Video: Toki Underground: Behind the Noodles