Sietsema's in a sunnier mood this week, with two generally positive reviews coming out of the gate. One is a two-star take on Republic, Jeff Black's latest venture in Takoma Park. He gives high marks to the cocktails and the oysters. Vegans eat well here, too.
There's plenty to get vegans in seats here, and kudos for the white bean puree that comes with the bread basket instead of butter. Most of the deliciousness is found among the side plates, which could easily play the part of entrees, given their complexity. "Ancient grain" salad brings a fluffy mound of quinoa, wild rice and farro with pops of flavor from pomegranate seeds, fresh mint and a topping of lacy fried shallots. Beluga lentils taste imported from a favorite Indian restaurant, and chickpeas tossed with kale and brightened with orange zest can be just as tasty sans the bits of prosciutto the dish is laced with on the standing menu.
It isn't all hearts and stars, though. "A wimpy Portuguese-style stew with none of the promised heat — and seafood that smacked of fatigue or worse (lighter fluid) — was one of the sorriest dishes of my 2013. To its credit, the restaurant asked if we wanted a replacement the moment we pointed out our disappointment, and removed the entree from our tab without anyone having to ask."
The First Bite column goes to Roberto Donna and Amy Brandwein's new Alba Osteria.
The crowd-pleasers in her new roost include tiny meatballs brightened with mint and draped with a sauce of red peppers, tomato and vinegar rather than a straight tomato sauce. Poached, marinated rabbit ("my favorite thing to cook") is served as a fetching salad sparked with capers and shaved red onion. The tripe soup, packed with beans and vegetables and faintly funky, makes a perfect foil to winter weather.
The critic likes the use of cast iron pans for serving, though he thinks the pizza crust needs work. [WaPo]
Northern Virginia Magazine's capsule review of Tooso is now online.
The food is simple—and spicy—Pakistani street food. It's similar to Indian, but Siddiqui thinks Pakistani food is, on the whole, spicier. Mushy—the right kind of creamy-mushy—lentils fit into a crispy shell for a samosa, and are better dipped into the jammy sour-sweet-spicy tamarind chutney. Chicken (a little dry) steams with rice in a biryani bowl, again, with grains that meld together. The housemade roti wraps were our favorite, especially the soft chickpeas in a warm brown gravy—with plenty of heat. [NoVa Mag]
Don Rockwell tries brunch at Artie's in Fairfax, and enjoys such dishes as blue crab fritters and pecan-crusted trout. "The trout was served in such large portions that I didn't finish mine (I could have, but would have been stuffed), and the citrus sauce was tart enough so everything retained its flavor interest, even towards the end of the meal when things were getting colder." [DR]
[Photos: R. Lopez]