Etto's menu may be humble — pizzas, salamis, sardines — but what it does, it does well. That's what Tom Sietsema has to say about the new Logan Circle restaurant, which he gives three stars.
The newcomer's chef is Cagla Onal-Urel, 37, whose name might not register even with insiders but whose work food devotees may have enjoyed at the three-star Obelisk in Dupont Circle, where she cooked for owner Peter Pastan for several years before returning to her native Turkey and hotel kitchens. Pastan invited Onal-Urel back to the United States to open Etto; her RSVP in the affirmative makes Washington a better place to eat. There's a simplicity, a purity and a restraint to her cooking that I find irresistible — and that I wish more chefs took to heart.
Though the restaurant shares an owner, Sietsema notes the pizzas at Etto are slightly different than they are at 2Amys. "The younger restaurant's dough is made with freshly milled wheat, a touch of spelt and fermented fresh yeast, and cooks at a higher temperature, a recipe that translates to a slighter sweeter and definitely sturdier crust than at 2 Amys." [WaPo]
Sietsema also takes a visit to several big chain restaurants in the Magazine this week. Some takeaways: Outback Steakhouse isn't bad, Red Lobster should be avoided (beyond the cheesy biscuits, that is) and Olive Garden deserves some praise for its service. [WaPo]
It's a busy week for Sietsema — he also gives Malmaison the First Bite treatment. The wine and the service are solid but the food is less impressive.
That pink beet appetizer tastes like a slab of cream cheese more than anything else, by the way. A first course of foie gras medallions with dried fruit goes down like unsalted butter. (Almost everything could use more seasoning and less frisee.) Although muted, shrimp and diced peppers with a suggestion of lime, gathered in a little cast-iron pan, show the most finesse. [WaPo]
Bethesda Magazine likes the straightforwardness of Benny's Bar & Grill. "As for the quality of the food, my limited sampling was good enough that I'd definitely go back to try more. Those ribs were smoky, very meaty and tender—but still with a little give. That steak had a great grilled flavor, although my knife had to zigzag around a bit too much gristle and fat. The French fries are fresh, thick and hand-cut, and I could have plowed through the whole mound if I hadn't exercised some rare self control." [BM]