For this week's Washington Post Magazine, critic Tom Sietsema gives two stars to Thip Khao, the District's first Laotian restaurant, and he just can't resist testing his tolerance for spice with their "Jungle Menu:"
The tamest-sounding dish is a papaya salad that picks up its funk from crab and shrimp pastes. "Extremely spicy," warns the description. "I can’t eat it," says my Thai server. The roadblocks only heighten my desire to drive on, so I bite. The salad bites back — hard. I can’t claim to have chewed on molten iron or had a Roman candle go off in my mouth, but having tried tam muk hoong phet e’loor, I feel as if I’ve come close. [WaPo]
Sietsema notes that the kitchen has smoothed out rough patches since it opened, and he calls out visits to Thip Khao from Mike Isabella of Kapnos, Cedric Maupillier of Mintwood Place and Jeremiah Langhorne of the upcoming Dabney, who are "knocking back a style of cooking that, with luck, catches fire."
For his First Bite column, Sietsema also dines in jazz and reggae lair Sotto. It's a new restaurant from Ari Gejdenson, and the critic approves:
While music is part of Sotto’s hook, Gejdenson wants the venue to be regarded more as a restaurant and bar than as a performance space. To that end, he left out a stage. He also enlisted Keith Cabot, the former chef de cuisine at the closed Menu MBK, to cook, and Dan Barnes, who supervises the liquid pleasures at Ghibellina and Denson Liquor Bar, to continue his good work here. [WaPo]
A four-year-old boy named Bennett Kauffman and Northern Virginia magazine critic Stefanie Gans each review The Garden Bistro at Airlie in Warrenton. An excerpt: Bennett gives the soup ""one thousand stars! I really liked it." Gans says: "while soup is appreciated on this cold night, the liquid was all squash with no pop of flavor."