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Mango Tree's Papaya Salad is the Best Tom Sietsema's Ever Tried

And the Washington Post critic files a first bite on Frank Ruta's takeover at the Grill Room.

Mango Tree Chef Paul Kennedy
Mango Tree Chef Paul Kennedy
R. Lopez

Tom Sietsema falls for the Thai cooking at Mango Tree, and he doesn't care that it's a chain. "The Washington outpost — set in glitzy CityCenterDC and the first in the United States — impresses me with its ability to feel personal despite its size and ambition." Score one for Mango Tree and CityCenterDC. He raves about Chef Paul Kennedy's papaya salad, shrimp cakes, spring rolls, steamed red snapper, fried rice and lobster pad thai. In his review for the Washington Post Magazine, Sietsema gives the restaurant two and half stars, writing:

Polished food and quality ingredients contribute toward the $26 average for main courses; ginger never substitutes for galangal, and curry leaves never fill in for kaffir lime leaves. Yelpers and others who complain about prices being too high for Thai should also do an inventory of the window-wrapped dining room. Mango Tree has unseated Soi 38 as the most fetching Thai restaurant in the area, with well-trained servers who would be at home at some of the city’s top draws and a distinctive interior of snug red booths, golden lights and acres of oak floor. [WaPo]

First things first, the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema wants fans of Frank Ruta to know that the former Palena chef has brought his famous roast chicken over to this new home, the Grill Room at Georgetown's Capella Washington hotel (no word about the burger, though). A few things have changed though, including free bread and perhaps bigger portions. In his First Bite review of the Grill Room, Sietsema explains further:

Ruta has tweaked some of his earlier efforts. Palena cooked its chicken over a wood fire; the Grill Room takes the marinated bird for a spin on a rotisserie and rounds out the plate with thin-sliced potatoes boulangère. (Envision potatoes gratin without the cream or the cheese.) Do the portion sizes seem bigger in Georgetown than in Cleveland Park? They do and they are, slightly. [WaPo]

Northern Virginia magazine critic Stefanie Gans is charmed by Saba in Fairfax, which seems to be an authentic taste of classic dishes from Yemen:

But why you’re here is for the fragrant rice and soft meats. There’s three sizes available for these meat-and-one plates and even the individual portion is enough to easily share. The roasted chicken mandi is gorgeous and tender, both familiar and exotic (the lamb is tougher). Named for the eponymous spice blend, Alhoraivi, 38, asks friends to bring mandi, and other herbs, back to the United States from their travels to Yemen. [Northern Virginia]

Tyler Cowen recommends Nanjing Bistro in Fairfax:

This place is the real deal. You do need to ask for the Chinese menu. Then simply order any dish that appears to have anything to do with Nanjing, such as the shredded tofu dish toward the end of the menu. I also quite like the simple egg with pepper, and their equivalent of spicy dumplings with soup. The pepper-fired spare ribs and the shredded potato. [TC]

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