Tom Sietsema wasn't a huge fan of The Grill Room when the restaurant opened its doors last spring. He christened it dated and expensive. Now, he says the restaurant seems to have found a better groove, awarding it two stars.
Time — and three recent taste-tests — have changed my early assessment. Esko seems to have relaxed. The proof is in his veal cheeks, soft pieces of meat swabbed with a glossy barbecue sauce lightened with orange zest and set on a loose mushroom risotto. Adding jazz to the score: broccolini cooked with star anise and coriander. Evidence of a more liberated chef also pops up in his suckling pig, in which the crackle of skin gives way to succulent flesh.
Appetizers are still "way too familiar," but it's hard to go wrong with soups. The wine list is only a page, but cocktails are more ambitious. [WaPo]
Sietsema also files a first bite of K Street's Catch 15. The atmosphere is sort of awkwardly romantic, but some dishes are strong.
Here comes a juicy ground-lamb kebab bedded on basmati rice and escorted by a cucumber-and-yogurt sauce, a taste of the Middle East for $7. Four shrimp in a haze of garlic and butter nod to Spain; flaky spanakopita does Greece proud. Empanadas stuffed with artichokes, goat cheese and green olives call to more than just vegetarian appetites.
Less impressive: the oysters. [WaPo]
The $20 Diner visits the Pakistani BBQ Delight, reportedly a favorite of cab drivers.
If the space has a cool, calming effect, the food does not. The two chefs in the kitchen (one for curries, the other for tandoor dishes) specialize in the cuisine of southern Pakistan, centered mostly on the barbecue culture of Karachi, whether the open kabob grill or the semi-enclosed tandoori oven. Either way, the dishes come packed with flavor and, often, heat. There's a reason why a round of crackery naan comes with your entree: Pakistanis like to wrap their molten meats in flatbread, the better to suppress the fire. [WaPo]
Todd Kliman adds Thai Taste by Kob to his list of places he's eating right now.
The emphasis is on street food and homecooking, with a good many dishes you simply won't find anywhere else, like bamee moo daeng, a meal-in-a-bowl of tender egg noodles, red-edged roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls; or kai yad sai, an omelette stuffed with ground chicken punched up with fish sauce, soy; or a salad of shrimp paste-flavored rice, onions, cucumber and sweet, sticky pork). But even familiar tastes, taste different here -- funkier, more pungent, and definitely hotter. [Washingtonian]
Stefanie Gans calls Water & Wall "timid, but still delicious" in Northern Virginia Magazine. Steak is a best seller, even if other dishes are more interesting.
The bouillabaisse, loaded with lemongrass, ginger, Thai chilis and fish sauce turns the classic fish stew into something new again. Collaborating in the kitchen with Ma is Nyi Nyi Myint—a native of Burma and a London-trained chef— who, upon moving to the area for his wife's job (a television reporter for a Burmese station)—knocked on Maple Ave's door for work...The bouillabaisse is Myint's and it captivates our attention, from the gorgeous red broth with plump mussels and bouncy shrimp to the elevation of heat. For added texture and sourness, Myint boils leftover green papaya root (from the pork belly salad) to join with tomatoes. [NoVa Mag]
With the opening of Fiola Mare last Friday, Don Rockwell instead visits sister restaurant Casa Luca. "There's a lot of talk about a few newer restaurants that have opened recently, but none are better than Casa Luca was on this particular evening. A wonderful showing for this restaurant, especially since some of the staff must be pulled over to Fiola Mare for the opening." [DR]