Tom Sietsema likes the updates Mike Isabella makes to classic Greek cuisine in his review of Kapnos, which snags 2.5 stars.
Don't come to Kapnos hungry for what Isabella calls "touristy" dishes. While true to the flavors found in Greece, even the familiar food here is likely to have been, as he says, "cleaned up."
Red and gold beets absorb smoky notes from the embers of the fires they're left in overnight, but the root vegetable salad speaks to today's fashion with its garnish of green peppercorn-spiked meringue chips. Octopus glides to the table as a smoky and tender tentacle atop a swipe of yogurt tarted up with green harissa.
The suckling pig and the dips are worth ordering, and the roast chicken is a "revelation," says the critic. [WaPo]
Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman adds Ya Halla to the places he's eating lately. "The tabbouleh is made-to-order, and superb -- an explosion of tender, sweet parsley and fruity olive oil. The baba ghanous is exceptional, too -- subtly smoky, perfectly textured. If only for these two dishes, I'd recommend making the trek to this tiny, friendly Lebanese diner. But there's good stuff beyond, including an array of meat pies, minted yogurts, and small, delicate desserts." [Washingtonian]
Northern Virginia Magazine highlights the Randy Radish, which caters to vegans. "A gluten-free blend of corn and quoina pasta (Ancient Harvest brand) arrived missing much of the promised pea pesto, and at $10 with a strawberry-starring side salad and a dressing more smoothie than vinaigrette, was a misstep. This new truck however, does much right. Branding is almost as important as food, and The Randy Radish reveals what Lindblad calls 'a more modern impression of veganism.'" [NVM]
The $20 Diner considers Panda Gourmet over on New York Ave. NE to be a real find.
Even without the spectacular ma la fireworks, Panda Gourmet repeatedly ignited my palate. The slender flounder fillets that floated in my volcano/bowl of semi-hot chili sauce were just as silken as the tofu that bobbed in the same container, their delicate textures playing off the garnish of chewy soybeans. For sheer delicacy, though, nothing topped the hand-pulled Shaanxi biang biang noodles, these wide downy ribbons dusted liberally with toasted spices and scallions; they were so ethereal they were more like a suggestion of noodles, as if their form was defined as much by the dry spices they ferried. [WaPo]
Sietsema's First Bite column visits Baltimore with a preview of Chesapeake. It doesn't measure up to the original, which operated years ago. "I'm far less impressed with the crab cake, which comes with an unexpected, and unwelcome, crunch: 'Cornflakes,' the chef shares as his secret ingredient, which should be dropped from the dish. Pork belly emphasizes way more fat than flesh, roast chicken has a crisp skin and carrot puree going for it and steamed clams get a lift from smoked tomatoes and beer. A cheerful staff tempers the disappointment of the nostalgia buff at the table." [WaPo]