Tom Sietsema enjoys the neighborhood vibe and changing menu at Fainting Goat Tavern, which he reviews in his First Bite this week. He could do without the popcorn in the salad, though.
The critic also offers a two star review of La Piquette, a charming Cleveland Park addition.
"Introduced in November, La Piquette replaces the fleeting Le Zinc and gives discerning neighbors a reason other than 2 Amys, the always-hopping pizzeria, to head out for dinner. The mood at the newcomer, co-owned by Bruno Fortin, is breezy — sometimes the bistro takes reservations; other times it doesn't — but the cooking is serious. Heading up the kitchen is Francis Layrle, the Gascony native whose saffron-scented mussel soup and duck with currant jus helped fill seats at the late Bezu in Potomac. Earlier in his career, Layrle cooked at the French Embassy, where he fed seven ambassadors. "We're from the same part of France," says Brenac, who bonded with his chef over such childhood memories as foie gras and cassoulet." [WaPo]
Tim Carman's $20 Diner column praises Adams Morgan's comforting Donburi.
"My favorite dish, however, is the unagidon, a rice bowl topped with irregular squares of eel, which Jang caramelizes with a blow torch behind the counter. His flamethrowing technique leaves the eel almost carbonized in spots, but the char has no adverse effect on texture. The fish goes down like foie gras, at once soft and buttery, while the char itself pokes through the sweeter, richer flavors."[WaPo]
Stefanie Gans checks out the third incarnation of Curry Mantra, which she generally likes.
"Mangoes pop in two wonderful dishes. One is a fresh salad, with super ripe chunks of mango on a tangle of crisp cabbage, fried onions and crushed peanuts with a dressing slightly creamy, offering a soft heat. Lamb chunks sink in a thick tomato and onion gravy with mango bits bursting through, utterly transforming each bite it stars in."
Bethesda Magazine, though, thinks Bezu needs some work, though they make a mean short rib.
"Other entrées I tried mostly suffered from being too shy on flavor. The rainbow trout Milanese looked pretty but was overcooked and bland; the silky salmon was supposed to be grilled with Latin spices, but the kitchen seemed to miss the beat; and the pesto-crusted lamb chops served with polenta and peperonata were surprisingly blah considering the ingredients." [BM]
Don Rockwell tries salt and pepper squid at China Cafe. "This was a good dish, and would have been a *very* good dish had it not been salted to death. After the first third (or so) of the entree, I started getting salt-saturated. This was really, really salty, and even the steamed broccoli was almost too salty to eat with any degree of enjoyment. But it was high-quality frozen squid, the batter was otherwise delicious, and the dish was very well-fried (in a deep pan)." [DR]