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Tom Sietsema Wants to Only Order Pasta at Tosca

Plus, reviews of Hunan Taste, Oki Bowl DC, Balkan Grill and more.

Facebook/Ristorante TOSCA

In the Washington Post Magazine, Tom Sietsema returns to power spot Tosca where chef Matteo Venini is now at the helm. The restaurant gets two stars from the Post food critic, who notes that the pasta and the dessert is just as good a reason to visit as the chance to break bread near bold-faced names like Caroline Kennedy and Justice Scalia. Sietsema writes, "Honestly, if my position didn’t require me to explore the range of the list, I’d order pasta to start and pasta as a main course." Of particular interest is the potato gnocchi, linguine and scialatielli, with ricotta cheesecake and biscotti for dessert.

Washingtonian food critic Todd Kliman has high praise for Hunan Taste in Fairfax, writing, "If the fish with bean curd stands as the single best dish I’ve eaten in 2015, a casserole of mushrooms and pork isn’t far behind." The only problem is it's not easy to find the gems on the menu at this offshoot of an acclaimed restaurant in Catonsville, Md. Kliman reports:

I learned that not everything on its sprawling menu is exhilarating or divine, that some dishes will put you in mind of a decent carryout, and that your server—most assuredly trained to usher Westerners toward safe, familiar fare such as double-cooked pork and Kung Pao chicken—should not be relied upon to know the difference." I also learned, having consumed several meals over the course of a couple of months with an eye to unlocking the mystery of this wide-ranging kitchen, that there’s no discernible pattern to what’s good here, no single key. [Washingtonian]

Did Tim Carman find transcendence while eating white miso ramen at Oki Bowl DC near Dupont Circle? For the Washington Post's $20 Diner column last week, Carman writes:

When I finished the miso soup — under the protective branches of a scrapyard tree built by designer Wirat Assawamahasakda in the middle of restaurant, which itself looks like a junk store preserved in amber — I felt as if all the bird houses affixed to the walls could read my thoughts. The next thing I heard over the sound system was Pharrell Williams’s "Happy." Had the model train hovering over the bar tooted its whistle at that moment, I might have found religion. [WaPo]

And this week for $20 Diner column, Carman admires the spirit of the cramped Balkan Grill in Alexandria:

This is what I admire about Balkan Grill. Despite the establishment’s walk-in closet dimensions, the kitchen prepares virtually everything on premises: Bread. Baba ghanouj. Baklava. Borek. Even the slender almond-shaped pide, available for those diners willing to explore the Eastern European market next door as they wait, and wait, on their Turkish pizza. [WaPo]

After trying 20 dishes at China Chilcano, Tyler Cowen realizes that the new José Andrés restaurant belied his expectations:

I thought it would be overpriced, occasionally brilliant, but fundamentally unsound. I’ve now tried about twenty of the dishes and they are pretty consistent, and tasty, but without truly memorable standouts. The innovation is virtually always interesting – imagine unagi sushi on top of a Peruvian purple potato. Tasty, yes, but I’m not sure I need to eat it again. That said, the place has enough interesting dishes that you can just keep on trying them and remain more or less perpetually entertained. [TC]

Cowen also recommends SER for tapas and wonders if Sagun Tandoor might "now be the best Nepalese restaurant around."

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