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Tom Sietsema Says Secret Chopsticks Fills a Gap in the Restaurant Scene

Plus, reviews of Hula Girl, D.C. Prime, Takumi, Yona, and more.

Secret Chopsticks
Secret Chopsticks
R. Lopez

In his First Bite column for the Washington Post, Tom Sietsema goes to new Chinese restaurant Secret Chopsticks in Rosslyn. The critic likes chef Robin Li’s decision to move away from tasting menus to a la carte dining. He writes:

"Smart move, making the many treasures more accessible. Tofu Blossom, a ruffled flower carved from a rectangle of house-made bean curd and displayed in a delicate mushroom consomme, demonstrates both knife skills and a flair for broth. Spicy crab wontons tuck sweet seafood and ground pork into edible purses tinted green with spinach. Tender, house-baked steam buns rip apart to reveal minced lamb succulent with oyster sauce, ginger and scallions, and even the simpler recipes...demonstrate finesse."

Although he enjoys the food, he stills finds the service lacking and hopes the dining room's many empty tables will fill-up soon. [WaPo]

For last week's First Bite column, the critic went to Hula Girl in Shirlington. He decides the Hawaiian restaurant's atmosphere, complete with blue stools and surfboards on the ceiling, its best asset. He writes:

"At Hula Girl, a snack of grilled pork ribs is burdened by a cloying root beer glaze, while 'today’s catch' brought a dense square of dry opah that smacked of last week’s haul. Plate lunches — a Hawaiian tradition typically built with two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and a protein (usually Asian in flavor) — are notable mostly for their heft. Among the options, pulled pork and cabbage, cooked in a banana leaf, is a simple, strapping comfort."

His favorite dish, however, is the poke, even though he says it looks like sliced watermelon from a distance. [WaPo]

Sietsema is also still milking the "America’s 10 Best Food Cities" series for the Washington Post.  He names a top dish from each city on the list and declares Convivial’s leeks Dijonaise the best in D.C. [WaPo]

Warren Rojas reviews D.C. Prime Steaks in Ashburn for Northern Virginia Magazine. At this steakhouse, restaurateur Mark Craig and executive chef Brad Weideman are pulling out all the stops with luxurious booths, white linens, and custom-cut and aged steaks. But are they worth the price? Rojas writes:

"Filet mignon is lean but flavorful, yielding mouthwatering morsels sporting just kosher salt and black pepper. NY strip is more primal; wrenching the expertly dry-aged meat from the bone with the incisors and lapping up the subsequent gush of sanguine juice released is pure, unadulterated bliss."

Seafood dishes like fried oysters, batter-fried lobster, and sea bass, also get his stamp of approval, but the lobster mac and cheese is less successful. [NoVa]

Laura Hayes tries Takumi Sushi in Falls Church for Arlington Magazine. She finds chef and owner Jay Yu's approach to Japanese cuisine refreshing. She writes:

"Sushi is the star because Yu draws inspiration from his senpai—the Japanese word for mentor. Like Okochi, Yu likes to dollop flavor boosters onto each piece of nigiri. Tuna gets a dot of Italian black truffle, salmon is made sweeter by a brush of mango purée and botanebi (a raw, sweet shrimp) pops with yuzu tobiko on top."

She says diners should also save room for other dishes like the bird’s nest made of squid noodles, agedashi tofu, or fried oysters served with remoulade. The green mussels with wasabi and avocado sauce, however, should be avoided. [Arlington]

Don Rockwell goes to Yona in Ballston. He starts with a "delicious" Lucy cocktail made with shochu, cardamaro, Asian pear, and shiso leaf. He also rejects the Japanese restaurant’s popular small plates, to maintain a clean palate for trying the tonkotsu-shoyu tare ramen. He writes:

"All three ramens here are undoubtedly worth your attention, so I’ll just tell you that, stylistically, this bowl carries its supposedly ample fattiness with dexterity and finesse, and has a fairly deep, penetrating redolence of soy sauce – if that appeals to you (it absolutely appealed to me on this evening), don’t hesitate to try it." [DR]

Rockwell also calls Corduroy’s prix-fixe bar menu the best $30 meal in the area, eats the best taco ever at Chaia in Georgetown, and likes the New York-style slices at Wisely NY pizza in Rosslyn and gives them an extra tip for Christmas. He also finds improvements at Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria and looks forward to trying the new location of Nielsen’s Frozen Custard. Finally, after trying a beer and steak teriyaki, he predicts Hula Girl will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but that it will never be great. [DR]

THE BLOGS: DMV Dining lists their favorite dishes of the year...Wong Eats has a gastronomic adventure at Thip Khao...Bad Sentences rounds up favorite sips and bites.

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