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Tom Sietsema Gives 1.5 Stars to Carolina Kitchen

Carolina Kitchen
Carolina Kitchen
Photo: R. Lopez

Tom Sietsema visits the latest location of Lance London's Carolina Kitchen restaurant. Though dishes can lean towards the sugary, the friendly service goes a long way towards making the diner feel comfortable.

Carolina Kitchen's portions are strapping, as if leftovers are a God-given right. The richest example is Creole salmon, a $35 main course that dresses the signature fish with crab meat and grilled shrimp and a pleasant cream sauce. The construction rises from a base of skin-on garlic mashed potatoes, one of the kitchen's best side dishes.

In general, the food can be hit or miss, particularly when things get too sweet (like the meatloaf). Overall, it's a 1.5 star review. "Abundant enthusiasm can't smooth over every misfire at Carolina Kitchen, but the feeling goes a long way toward building on a brand and making diners feel welcome, welcome, welcome." [WaPo]

This week's First Bite focuses on Flight Wine Bar in Penn Quarter, where Sietsema is impressed with the more than 80 wines available. As for the food:

The short menu at Flight, piloted by chef Bradley Curtis, roams all over the map. Fish and chips translates to a basket of crisp sardines, chewy clams and fried potatoes that take on a vinegar tang after a days-long soak in a salt brine. Acorn squash stuffed with Swiss chard, white beans and roasted tomatoes gets a nice lift from its chili-lime dressing. Diners encounter some turbulence with the pulled duck sandwich, in which a vibrant slaw does its best to counter dry, shredded meat. And the spare cheese plate is a snooze. Flight's branzino, on the other hand, proves a hit.

The $20 Diner visits Hot & Juicy Crawfish, where the atmosphere sounds a bit more Hooters-esque than one might expect. A deal can be found there, though.

The "Get Your Feet Wet" dinner costs $27.99, a price that would appear to bust the $20 Diner's budget. But when divided among the four of us, the meal came to a tidy $7 each. The value cannot be overstated. That lone bag provided plenty of pleasures, both personal and communal, as we took turns fishing out our preferred morsels: lush head-on shrimp that smacked of butter and spice, petite cylinders of waterlogged corn whose sweetness poked through the pepper heat, orbs of soft new potatoes dipped in our preferred seasoning liquid, a garlic-assault dubbed the 'Hot N Juicy Special."' Sure, the crawfish were undersized and slightly squishy, but they went down fine with a chaser of caramel-sweet Abita Amber.

Northern Virginia Magazine checks out the restaurant at the Salamander Resort, where the chef is responsible for overseeing ten different menus. At Harriman's, "Edwards plans on swapping out most of the menu for a spring cleaning, though the swordfish and hanger will probably stay. Opened at the end of August, Edwards admits that his team is still finding its way. Some dishes do taste like a rehearsal, such as a special of crab tortellini. Overpowered by mint, the pasta pillows were hard to eat bobbing in a garlic broth with mussels. A bland crab cake, a menu staple, didn't work any better." [NoVa Mag]

Tyler Cowen checks in on Elephant Jumps, where he's been spending a lot of time. "This place has improved so much I feel it deserves another review. It was already one of the best places on this list, nowadays it is probably the very best place. It has consistently original and authentic Thai food which is refined and improved on a regular basis." [TC]

THE BLOGS: FooDCrave makes an early visit to Pizza Parts & Service...EatMore DrinkMore tries the new Compass Rose.

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