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Tom Sietsema Gives Pinea One and a Half Stars

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Plus, reviewing mall food courts, Tyler Cowen's interesting take on Mari Vanna and more reviews.

R. Lopez

Tom Sietsema is puzzled by inconsistent meals at Pinea, the new home of Chef Barry Koslow at the W Hotel. In his Washington Post Magazine review, the critic gives the restaurant one and a half stars and gets in several zingers. "A later lunch left me wondering not only if the chef had the day off, but also if he took his recipes with him," Sietsema writes. Here's another:

Sauteed shrimp set on a fan of avocado and sprinkled with sunflower seeds are dressed with a supposedly smoked tomato vinaigrette that lacks any force. If you got this first course on a United upgrade, you might be okay with it. On the ground floor of a capacious, turquoise-and-silver dining room, the arrangement is amateurish. [WaPo]

But Sietsema shares a tip for finding the gems on Pinea's menu. He suggest diners order the top dollar plates, which seems to be where Koslow's cooking shines. Sietsema writes:

Those pit stops help explain why the more luxurious a dish sounds, the better your odds are of wanting to finish it. Foie gras fuels Koslow’s very good torchon, served on a cushion of brioche with kumquat marmalade and streaks of black pepper gastrique, the fruit and the heat working together to offset the richness of the foie gras. Risotto, cooked so the grains retain a welcome resistance, and fragrant with saffron, is richer still for the many morsels of lobster and mussels in the swirl of rice and butter. [WaPo]

Sietsema also visited Silver Spring's new Sligo Cafe for a First Bite review and he calls out the menu for its collection of hits and misses. A hamburger served on a brioche bun, braised short ribs and French onion soup topped with a disc of macaroni and cheese are appealing. But Sietsema can't sign off on the Cornish hen or the seafood, writing, "Steer clear of anything that originated in the water." He has a message for Sligo Cafe owner David Galinsky, a music industry exec turned restaurateur:

No offense, Dave, but running a restaurant, a successful one, is not a piece of cake. [WaPo]

For his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post, Tim Carman reviews a mall food court. Not just any mall food court, the newly renovated "Dining Terrace" at Westfield Montgomery mall. Fast-casual concepts like Cava Mezze Grill and Kraze Burger pass muster, but mall sushi gets a harsh critique:

The design has a cumulative effect: It raises expectations to a level that few food court vendors can satisfy. Exhibit A: The sushi, sashimi and maki roll combo at Sarku. The thick, mealy salmon and tuna slices had virtually no flavor, other than that of dead refrigerator air. The rice for the nigiri sushi clung stubbornly to my fingers, as if the cooks had forgotten to rinse out the starches before cooking the grains. I couldn’t resist ordering the "golden bagel roll," a funny little riff on lox and bagels, except I found nothing amusing about the dry wad of salmon surrounded by cream cheese and eel sauce. [WaPo]

Bethesda Magazine's Carole Sugarman tries out Bethesda Barbecue Company, the new concept from Newton’s Table owner and executive chef Dennis Friedman. She thinks it could use some more tweaking, but praised the brisket burger:

Spending time in a smoker fueled with apple wood and gas (to keep the temperature consistent, if necessary), those standbys somehow ended up tasting more like plain roasted meats than earthy and smoky barbecue. Side dishes such as coleslaw, baked beans, smoked potatoes, collard greens and onion rings often lacked spark and flavor like their main course companions. [Bethesda]

Tyler Cowen didn't really like Mari Vanna's food but it's not the restaurant's fault:

The food? Well, I don’t like most Russian food. That said, this menu is more authentic and more detailed than you might expect. I tried numerous dishes, and while I didn’t like most of them, I blamed at least 2/3 of that on the country rather than on this restaurant. [TC]

He liked the decor and atmosphere, though.

THE BLOGS: The Bitches Who Brunch give DC Harvest an A...Capital Cooking Show lists the best French restaurants in D.C....DC Wrapped Dates goes to Eat The Rich.