For his First Bite column, Tom Sietsema heads to Bearnaise, the steak frites place from Spike Mendelsohn. He loves the profiteroles, dismisses the vichyssoise, and finds the service to be overly aggressive.
With a menu this brief comes the expectation of fewer flaws like the under-dressed house salad...The staff at Bearnaise reminds me that too much attention can be as bad as too little. Every few minutes, someone was interrupting our conversation to pour water into a glass that didn't need it, ask about food that we hadn't yet sampled or remove a crumb from the table. "Bon appetit!" one eager puppy had a habit of saying every time he dropped off a dish. [WaPo]
Sietsema turns his lens toward two smaller restaurants in the Magazine, including Victor Albisu's Taco Bamba and Derek Brown's Mockingbird Hill. Both earn two stars. At Mockingbird Hill, "welcome companions to the sips include silvery anchovies and crushed tomato on toasted bread, creamy potato salad with smoked trout and sparkling orange roe, and tender baby octopus with chorizo and juicy bits of orange." At Taco Bamba, lamb shank and beef intestine tacos are the way to go. [WaPo]
Tim Carman's $20 Diner column focuses on Bonchon chicken, which has multiple locations here, including a new one in Arlington. He seems to prefer the one in Fairfax, where customers can pre-order chicken, even if they have to wait longer for it. There are also more dishes.
In Fairfax, for example, you can order ramyun, a spicy noodle soup somewhat similar to Japanese ramen. Despite what the server may tell you, the ramyun is not appetizer size; it's a small pot packed with cute curly noodles, whose chewiness is a major attraction (along with the soup's heat, which surrounds and accents each ingredient like a jazz pianist coloring a soloist's every note). The Fairfax location offers a scallion pancake, a platter-sized round that looks, at first blush, to ooze enough oil to make your own salad dressing. But that's not oil; it's the same garlic-soy glaze you can order for your chicken, and it works just as well on these pungent slices. [WaPo]
Count Tyler Cowen among the converts to Stephen Starr's Le Diplomate. "Washington finally has an excellent French restaurant. The menu here is almost a parody of what you would expect to find in a real Brasserie in France, but I kid you not this place is better than what you are likely to stumble upon in Paris." [TC]