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Tom Sietsema's Top 2012 Newcomers

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Instead of a review this week, Tom Sietsema lists 12 of his favorite 2012 newcomers to the Washington dining scene, from Little Serow to Pabu Izakaya. In conjunction, the Going Out Gurus are running a poll, asking readers to vote for their favorite of Sietsema's 12 picks. So far Little Serow and Mintwood Place are in the lead. [GoG]

A week after Sietsema's review of Pabu Izakaya, Washingtonian's Todd Kliman checks in with a quick report on his visit to the Michael Mina restaurant in Baltimore, deeming it worth the drive.

Why drive to Baltimore when there's plenty of good sushi in DC? The skewered chicken parts, for starters -- luscious mini kabobs of heart, skin, tail, all of them cooked over smoldering logs of Japanese white oak that perfume the room and call to mind the mood-altering atmospherics of a pricey sauna.

He also calls out Pabu's extensive sake list and "excellent sushi rice" made with femented vinegar. [Washingtonian]

Sietsema did file his First Bite column, paying a visit to the new Matchbox on 14th Street. He noted that while the experience is pretty much the same as all the other Matchboxes, the restaurant's design goes beyond the expected.

But the new branch, created from what began as a bowling alley and billiards hall in 1907, veers from the tried-and-true recipe with several fresh ideas. One is a chef's table, made from recycled wood, that overlooks the kitchen. A separate door for carryout orders (on T Street) is another novelty. Co-owner Ty Neal says the 220-seat project with the exposed steel beams represents "everything we've learned about Matchbox in 10 years.

As for the food? He advises against ordering tuna tartare, spinach salad, or a specialty cocktail on a busy night. Instead, stick with the tried and true burgers and pizza formula, and Matchbox's roast chicken, which Sietsema describes as "a winning combination of succulent bird, dreamy mashed potatoes and collard greens made kicky with vinegar and smoky with bacon." [WaPo]

Young & Hungry's Bar Bites writer Russell W. Warnick heads over to Bibiana during the middle of a work day to try out their new bar menu, paired with one (or two) or Bibiana's seasonal cocktails, dubbed the 25 Cocktails of Christmas. He deemed the menu to be have a solid variety, but did pick two favorites.

The $10 pork skins topped with shavings of black truffle and parmesan were crisp and not too greasy. There was just the right balance of truffle with the salty pork skin. The $8 lamb ribs glazed in sherry vinegar and soba had a balanced layer of crispy skin, meat, and fat (which is the best part of this dish). [Young & Hungry]

The Post's Good to Go column profiles Ellicott City's One Dish Cuisine, a cafe that specializes in catering to food allergies.

Diners with almost any kind of food allergy will appreciate the easy-to-use, color-coded ?labeling system on the menu. There are nine markers, including green for gluten-free, red for casein-free and black for soy-free. The kitchen is peanut-free and certified gluten-free by the Celiac Sprue Association. [WaPo]

THE BLOGS: Scott Edelman, as seen in Eater National's Range preview night report, has his own take on the experience. New Columbia Heights digs the cheap and freshly-made pupusas at Susanna's Pupuseria. And EatMore DrinkMore orders Mero, BBQ beef short rib and more at Izakaya Seki.
— Adele Chapin

Pabu Izakaya [Photo: Yelp]

Range

1119 West Webster Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 549-5747 Visit Website

matchbox

1901 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 328-0369 Visit Website

Izakaya Seki

1117 V Street Northwest, , DC 20009 Visit Website

Modena

12th Street Northwest, , DC 20005 (202) 216-9550 Visit Website

Pabu Izakaya

725 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

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