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J. Freedom du Lac Thinks All Set in Silver Spring Is Too Pricey

Plus, reviews of Mi Cuba Cafe, Melt Shop, Le Diplomate and Elephant Jumps

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Tom Sietsema is still on a mission to find the country’s best food city for the Washington Post. It takes him to New York this week. New Yorkers rave, as they do, about the city's culinary riches, but the restaurant critic isn't really buying it. He's actually underwhelmed, save for a "fabulous" dinner at Jean-Georges, some Korean barbecue in Manhattan and Asian food stall-hopping in Queens. [WaPo]

While Sietsema was busy with those tasks, J. Freedom du Lac filed a full review of All Set in Silver Spring for the Washington Post. He awards the New England-style restaurant one and a half stars. He thinks the dishes are overpriced, especially considering the neighborhood and overly casual service. He’s also not a fan of the bright lights and the nautical theme. He writes:

"It’s borderline kitschy, but it should not distract from the kitchen’s best work, from the smoked bluefish dip to the food coming out of the deep fryer. Nor should the Top 40 music that blares over the restaurant’s speakers, sometimes to humorous effect: 'Now if we’re talking body, you got a perfect one,' Tove Lo sang somewhat encouragingly one night, after I had eaten about three pounds of shellfish."

He recommends most of the clam dishes, particularly the fried whole belly clams, as well as the hot lobster roll. But he warns diners to steer clear of the tuna tartare and oysters Rockefeller. [WaPo]

For last week's $20 Diner column in the Washington Post, Tim Carman sampled the food at Mi Cuba Cafe in Columbia Heights. He learned things about the monthly rations in Cuba. For example, there’s spaghetti in the chicken soup because Cubans sometimes receive pasta as part of their monthly rations. They also get a lot of rice. He writes:

"But one taste of the rice, all salty and glistening with oil, and you grasp its importance in the Cuban diet. No, wait, that’s not quite right. You get a fleeting glimpse of the caloric duty that rice must perform among Cuba’s monthly rations, and you begin to understand why cooks work so hard to transform these polished grains into something that residents want to consume by the pound — month in and month out, for survival, if not always for pleasure."

Besides the rice, he also liked the Cuban sandwich, picadillo and lechon asado. [WaPo]

Carman also goes to Melt Shop near Farragut North for this week's $20 Diner column. He's defenseless against the lowly pleasures of Buffalo-wing inspired grilled cheeses and Oreo milkshakes. He writes:

"The best bites at Melt Shop are those sandwiches and sides that grease up your palate for some mindless, fat-filled pleasures. The Burger Melt slips two medium-cooked patties between grilled sourdough slices and then piles on the sauce and toppings until you’re drowning in a cheesy stew. The loaded tots are fried potato pistons covered in virtually everything within a cook’s reach...You’ll cave to its hedonism." [WaPo]

Don Rockwell returns to Le Diplomate this week. The gin and tonic was not to his liking, but he rhapsodizes about the bread. He writes:

"The bread, ah, the bread – it’s so good, so authentically good, and so’s the butter – creamy, yes, but perfectly salted (creamy butter without salt, hell, *any* butter without salt) is like drinking a glass of pasteurized milk, but with just a crystal or two, good butter becomes great butter, and so it is with Le Diplomate..."

Rockwell is satisfied after a dinner that includes pea soup, roasted beets, head cheese and some wine, but the price does sneak up on him. [DR]

He’s also "dumbfounded" by the quality of the dishes at Elephant Jumps, a Thai restaurant in Merrifield. He says the slow-cooked pork curry and spicy curry tuna were consistently good even after trying them on two separate occasions. [DR]

THE BLOGS: Bitches Who Brunch does two rounds of Bellinis at Scarlet Oak...The Veracious Vegan can't get enough of Equinox...Hedonist Shedonist enjoys a quirky evening at Masseria

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