Tom Sietsema tries chef Amy Brandwein's Centrolina this week for his full review in the Washington Post. He awards two and half stars to the Italian restaurant in the CItyCenterDC development. According to Brandwein, the grilled octopus, seared tuna, and roasted baby chicken are customer favorites. The critic readily believes her after tasting them. His preferred dishes, though, are the pastas. He writes:
"Hearty suckling pig ragu drapes ribbons of paccheri, while chitarra, nutty with buckwheat flour, brings a meatless treat of roasted cauliflower, garlic and anchovy in every twirl of the fork. Quadrucci — square pillows filled with crab, cod and potato and brushed with lemon and butter — is another performance you are sad to see end..." [WaPo]
Sietsema also goes to Sushiko at experience the vegan omakase menu for his First Bite column in the Washington Post. Brothers and co-chefs Handry and Piter Tjan make a nine-course Japanese vegan feast that even includes dashi made with smoked kelp instead of bonito flakes and other delicate dishes free of animal products. He writes:
"The brothers’ parade of vegan creations also showcases crisp fingers of lightly fried yam decorated with shiso thread and salty plum sauce; fabulous eggplant that’s split, scored and filled with soft, miso-flavored namafu… and five types of colorful vegetable sushi…" [WaPo]
The critic is thoroughly impressed with their creativity, especially when preparing a cuisine that is so seafood-heavy.
Last week, Tim Carman revisited the Eden Center in Falls Church for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. He's pleasantly surprised to find a variety of different restaurants moving into the Vietnamese shopping center. He even tries Korean dishes at Gom Tang E. He writes:
"Seolleongtang...proves every bit the equal of the more familiar Vietnamese pho. Its milky broth, derived from boiling ox bones for at least 18 hours, doesn’t have the aromatic complexity of pho; instead, the soup is a slow-drip beef IV, its nutrient-dense liquid both silken and robust..." [WaPo]
Carman also likes the jokbal (sliced pig’s feet served with raw garlic and shrimp paste), the seafood pancake, and the various banchan served at the start of the meal.
For this week’s $20 Diner column, Carman relives the year in cheap eats with a list of his 10 favorites of 2015. There’s a solid mix of diverse cuisines like Bengali, Thai, and even Senegalese. Mi Cuba Cafe in Columbia Heights comes out on top. He writes:
"In so many restaurants, rice is an afterthought. At Mi Cuba, it’s a show all its own, especially the congri rice, which is stained the color of cloves after the grains absorb the fragrant water of par-cooked black beans...Go experience it firsthand. The place takes the frugal cooking of Cuba to brilliant new heights." [WaPo]
Don Rockwell reviews Afghan Kabob House in Arlington, which happens to be his GrubHub delivery favorite of the moment. He writes:
"The one thing I’ve learned to always get here is the Triple Play Combination ($16.95), your choice of any 3 kabobs, a vegetable, a rice, a side, a sauce, and a goodly sized piece of hot Afghan bread. It’s quite a lot of food for the money, and unless you’re a really big eater, this alone is enough to fill up an average man…" [DR]
For vegetables, he favors the potato curry over the chickpeas or turnips. His other preferences for sides are the hummus and brown rice with carrots and raisins.
He also goes to Takumi in Falls Church and tries consommé of baby clams, agedashi tofu, the bird's nest of mixed fried seafood and quail's egg, the negitoro rolls made with tuna and scallions, and the yuzu sorbet. He concludes that the Japanese restaurant shows great promise even though it's brand new. [DR]