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Tom Sietsema Sticks to the Drinks at Pepita

Plus, reviews of Garrison, Wicked Bloom, Pho Real and Alborz.

R. Lopez

Tom Sietsema's off this week doing his dining guide, for which he recently revealed his top ten restaurants.  For his First Bite column in the Washington Post, he did have some time to visit Pepita in Arlington. He's confused by the small selection of food compared to the huge menu of cocktails. Yet he manages to order some dishes and muster an opinion of Mike Isabella's newest restaurant. He writes:

"Some of the small plates prove modest pleasures, such as a tuna seviche with creamy avocado and coconut milk, and pinto beans braised in beer and topped with white cheese. Of the tacos, the best I’ve tried involved vegetables...or tongue...Both could have been improved, however, with better-quality tortillas."

He urges diners to stick to drinks at the Mexican cantina, even though they're a little on the pricey side for Virginia. [WaPo]

Tim Carman travels to Silver Spring for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. He tries family-owned Pho Real, which focuses (predictably) on Vietnamese pho. Carman writes:

"The family’s dedication was clear from the first slurp of my beef pho stocked with well-done flank, fatty brisket, tendon, stomach tripe and eye round...The soup had a viscous body, which made me think the kitchen knows how to pick bones. As in, [they] select good, gelatin-rich joint bones, essential for this kind of luxuriant broth."

Besides the soup, he recommends little else on the menu besides fried spring rolls and the smoothies and Thai teas (but hold the tapioca pearls). [WaPo]

It’s Washingtonian magazine’s turn to review Garrison on Barracks Row this week. Chef and owner Rob Weland is not getting nearly as much credit as he deserves according to critic Todd Kliman. He writes:

"His new place…ought to go some ways toward changing that, though Weland seems determined to recede into the background as much as possible…The cooking is careful, meticulous, often exquisitely rendered, and in an age when so many menus read like mixtapes—eclectic and un-unified—the thematic coherence here is remarkable."

Some of his favorite dishes are vegetable-focused, like a salad of tomato and burrata and a plate of slow roasted baby eggplants. He also like the pasta dishes and a filet of hake. [Washingtonian]

For Roll Call, Warren Rojas tries Wicked Bloom, the new Truxton Circle bar from the DCity Smokehouse owners. He's particularly charmed by the "Smokehouse Bomb" dish. It's a waffle made of grilled mac and cheese and then smothered in chili, bulled pork, barbecue sauce, queso and sour cream. He writes:

"The edges are indeed crispy all around, relaying a satisfying crunch when introduced to one’s incisors. The middle is composed of tender noodles and baked-in cheese, not unlike a pasta pie. Chili bolstered by chunks of unctuous brisket is a carnivore’s delight. Pulled pork and fiery sauce bolsters the barbecue bona fides of the meal."

Rojas is also a fan of the creative drinks like a bourbon-amaro mash up (although he says it's very sour) and the rye-and-Yuengling beer back. [RC]

Tyler Cowen goes to Alborz in Vienna and declares it the best Persian place around. He likes the beef kabob with cherry and the he salmon with zereshk polo, barberries, I recommend too. [TC]

THE BLOGS: Been There Eaten That won't abandon Grandma's Noodles at Peter Chang Rockville...Olivia's Diner makes the Hungry Lobbyist's dreams come true...Bitches Who Brunch gets down to business at Boundary Road.