Tom Sietsema files on Rasika West End, "the baby brother who aspires to emulate a much-admired first-born" in Rasika. The four-star Penn Quarter original has long been one of the critic's favorite DC restaurants, and while Rasika West End has yet to win that same devotion, it appears to be on its way. Sietsema awards Ashok Bajaj's latest 2.5 stars, leaving the possibility open that it could one day bump up to four stars like its big brother — which, in some cases, Rasika West End surpasses:
Another reason to surf: thin slices of swordfish, tingling with lemon pickle. I love the black lentils served at the original, but the buttery legumes are more haunting across town, thanks to their contact with clove-scented smoke.
And in other instances, the original is still the best:
Chickpeas seasoned with green chili and ginger went unfinished after we discovered how undercooked the main ingredient was. With a few exceptions, the tandoor-baked breads here are not as distinctive as those served across town. Nor are the desserts as polished. An armor of burnt-tasting caramelized sugar did no favors for a bland rice pudding.
Sietsema admits that he goes way back with Bajaj, "which means I’m a quickly identified customer in his myriad dining rooms around Washington," but he writes that even if you don't know the owner, you're likely to get a warm reception at Rasika West End. [WaPo]
Washingtonian's Ann Limpert awards New York import Boqueria 2.5 sparklers in the magazine's August issue. While DC isn't exactly lacking in tapas options, Limpert likes what Boqueria has to offer, provided you stick to the blackboard specials upon ordering rather than the "gummy" croquetas and "flabby, oil-drowned shishito peppers."
One night those included a confit of pork shoulder that sliced as easily as room-temperature butter and was beautifully complemented by shaved kernels of sweet white corn and a kicky mojo verde. Another evening, the star was a bowl of delicately fried florets of cauliflower hit with lemon juice and ruddy romesco sauce. My friends and I fought for the last bites of a roasted-carrot salad done up with a mix of avocado, the thick Lebanese yogurt called labne, cilantro, and Marcona almonds.
And, yes, Boqueria is still as busy as ever despite being yet another tapas restaurant in a tapas-filled city. Limpert writes: "The after-work throngs discovered Boqueria as soon as it opened, so you’ll compete for space with tie-loosening folks then and a slightly older, more Real Housewives of DC set on weekend nights." [Washingtonian]
Todd Kliman files a shorter review of Rockville's Moa, which he says "is putting out some of the most exciting Korean food in the area right now." Among the dishes for which he has praise are the seafood pancake, the "gloriously pungent" spicy pork with kimchee, galbi lettuce wraps, bibim bap and Moa's soju cocktails. [Washingtonian]
The Washington Post's Justin Rude takes a look at Adams Morgan's new ramen restaurant, Sakuramen: "Although Cho claims there is no specific regional identifier to the restaurant’s cooking, he says it’s hard to ignore the Korean influence. Not that you should try. A $2 bowl of his mother’s kimchi, which is neither overly spicy or sour and brings the fermented zip of the truly homemade stuff, is a tasty way to kick off your meal. The Chosun ramen may begin with a traditionally Japanese base — the shoyu broth — but the roasted kimchi and thin-sliced ribeye bulgogi swimming in it are pure Korea." [WaPo]
Stefanie Gans checks out Chasin' Tails for Northern Virginia Magazine, which apparently has already lost its executive chef and general manager. On the spiciness levels, she writes: "Unlike what made the brothers fall for Louisiana’s fiery fare, the spice level at Chasin’ Tails won’t impress those with fossilized taste buds. The young owners already converse in PR-speak, “We didn’t want to alienate any people,” with aggressive heat. After a few complaints, however, the kitchen switched out cayenne, and introduced haberano to create a more enjoyable fire ride." [NVM]
THE BLOGS: DMV Dining declares a "home run" at The Pig and likes the consistency at Agora; Eat the District checks out Byblos Deli and Cafe Carvy; Bitches Who Brunch award The Pig an A; DC-Wrapped Dates finally makes it to Graffiato; EatMore DrinkMore enjoys a visit to the "small yet stellar" Room 11.
Rasika West End [Photo: R. Lopez]