Tom Sietsema's First Bite this week is at the new Iron Gate in Dupont Circle and the critic is transported.
Whether you opt for four or six courses, dinner commences with a flurry of mezze for the table to share: crisp cardoons, octopus terrine, house-baked foccacia. A standout among the entrees is lamb staged three ways: as a mustard-crusted chop, spicy sausage and ragout made with neck meat. A gianduja terrine with hazelnut ice cream has even those of us who don't care for chocolate licking their spoons.
The critic only wishes there were more seats. [WaPo]
Also from Sietsema, a two-star return visit to Perry's, which has taken on more of a Japanese infuence.
In its early weeks, the reconsidered Perry's is better for its kozara (small plates), kushiyaki (skewered grilled food), fried dishes and noodles than for its raw seafood compositions. I say this based on a beautiful but fishy-tasting arrangement of sliced orange clam and a rainbow roll so flashy, the flavors of the different fish get lost. Plain sushi is a better route. Give me a finger of yellowtail on a pad of soft rice, and I'm a happy diner. [WaPo]
There are two $20 Diners to catch up on. The less recent of the two is a terrible visit to H Street's Vendetta.
One evening, when I ordered a selection of antipasti, the board looked as if it had been cobbled together with whatever remained in the walk-in: a few twisted strips of cured ham, a handful of rolled-up slices of spiced mortadella, pistachio-laced goat cheese, a cup of quick-pickled strips of bell pepper, fontina cheese and, oddest of all, a single fingerling potato, sliced and sprinkled with herbs. No crostini was supplied or offered. My dining companion and I poked at it like roadkill. Mistakes were the norm during my visits. My friend's Vendetta cheeseburger, ordered medium-rare, arrived with its beef-and-veal patty the color of fireplace ash. It was so dry and lifeless that no amount of smoked provolone or chianti marmalade could revive it. [WaPo]
Tim Carman finds himself happier at Fairfax's Sisters, where there is an intriguing secret Thai street food menu.
As it turns out, gang pa is a curry dish without coconut milk, designed to cut down on the calories while ramping up the heat. My version at Sisters was a brothy affair — the kitchen served it with beef and chicken, though typically you pick a single protein — and it smacked more of Thai aromatic spices than of chili pepper heat. The pad ped pla grob, or spicy crispy fish (also from the street food menu), generated more fireworks with its golden squares of fried tilapia, which remained crisp despite a light application of wickedly hot sauce. I really didn't want to share. [WaPo]
Todd Kliman takes another gander at YiaYia's in Beltsville, which is a place he says tastes like home.
The green beans also arrived one night on a plate with pastitsio ($10), a dish that often invites comparison to lasagna. The huge, dense square of ground beef and macaroni is topped with béchamel and haloumi cheese. Nothing subtle or fancy—just good, simple cooking at a reasonable price. The kind we can never have too much of.
Bethesda Magazine previews the new Smashburger, where Carole Sugarman likes the beef burgers, but isn't as into the other items. "The black bean burger seemed pretty mushy to me, but it was considerably jazzed up with its chipotle bun, pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle mayo, fresh jalapenos and guacamole, making it a way better than average vegetarian option. It's nice that the chain offers chicken, but the super thin patties didn't do much for me. I'd say Smashburger does a better job with beef." [BM]
Don Rockwell hits up Curry Mantra 2 and Backyard Barbecue. He gets frustrated at online ordering at the former, but praises the Shepherd's Pie at the latter. "They are to Shepherd's Pie what Mockingbird Hill is to Sherry, what Pupatella is to pizza crust, what Sushi Taro is to sashimi, what Pure Pasty Co. is to the Pasty – Backyard Barbecue's Shepherd's Pie is so far-and-away better than anyone else's is, that there's simply nothing to compare it to." [DR]