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Tom Sietsema is Stoked For Barrel & Crow in Bethesda

He also visits Centrolina. Plus, David Hagedorn loves The Grill Room and Don Rockwell tries Sally's Middle Name.

Barrel & Crow
Barrel & Crow
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This week, Tom Sietsema dines at Barrel & Crow in Bethesda and awards the restaurant two and half stars in his review for the Washington Post magazine. He enjoys nearly all of chef Nick Palermo’s Southern-influenced dishes, particularly the perfectly cooked steak and ravioli filled with shredded pork. He's also "stoked" by the "clean flavor" of the mackerel. He writes:

If all you ate here were appetizers, you’d leave thinking, "Nice to know you."…Forge deeper into the list, and you start considering which friends you want to hook up with beef short ribs, glossy thanks to their glaze of beer and veal stock, or that chicken, its crisp coat spiked with cayenne and garlic and each bite piping hot and juicy. Braised kale gives the fried bird nice support.

He manages to leave some room for pastry chef Rita Garruba’s desserts like shortbread cookies with chocolate pudding and rhubarb crisp with fresh ginger. The dining experience leaves him wondering why more neighborhood restaurants aren't producing such great food. [WaPo]

Sietsema also tries Centrolina for his First Bite review in the Washington Post and concludes the Italian restaurant and market by chef Amy Brandwein has promise. He calls the octopus with confit potatoes "the culinary equivalent of a warm embrace" and also has kind words for the carrot salad, roast chicken and other dishes. He writes:

"That octopus keeps good company…Seared tuna served with meltingly soft roasted, peeled onions and crisp snap peas is presented with an upright bone of rich marrow. "If you don’t finish it," says our server of the surf-and-turf combination, "I will." (She never gets the chance.)" [WaPo]

For his $20 Diner column, Tim Carman tries Sisters' Sandwiches & Such inside the old Higgins Tavern in Olney. He likes the Jacked Up Roast Beef and the roasted veggie sandwiching brimming with mozzarella and pesto. A meatloaf sandwich called the Terminator seems to leave the most lasting impression. He writes:

"The thick homemade loaf comes stuffed in a crusty, if underbaked, baguette, the meat swimming in unrelenting waves of ketchup, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, shredded cheddar cheese and more. The Terminator soon becomes an arm-drip sandwich variation, the condiments providing the mess while the filler-laced meatloaf assumes a calmer role at the center. I laid waste to that beast." [WaPo]

David Hagedorn files a review of The Grill Room for DC Modern Luxury. He's thrilled to find a quiet dining room with linen tablecloths and comfortable chairs, but the food even manages to outshine the atmosphere. He considers chef Frank Ruta's strengths to be pate and pasta-making and urges diners to order accordingly. He writes:

"The Amish rabbit in porchetta is two slices of forcemeat ... encasing white medallions of perfectly poached loin. The accompaniments...make the dish sing. For boudin blanc, Ruta whips pheasant and foie gras into ethereally delicate sausage and matches it with verjus-glazed turnips, pearl onions, apples and truffles."

He also fawns over the pappardelle with braised beef cheeks and goose-egg ravioli, writing "the spirits of 100 Italian nonnas inhabit Ruta’s hands when he makes pasta." [ML]

Don Rockwell is still going strong on the heels of last week’s three reviews and visits several more spots. The highlight of his week is a meal at H Street newcomer, Sally’s Middle Name. He’s charmed by their small plates like rabbit livers with brioche and cherries and green beans with lamb pancetta. He also calls the snap peas with goat butter and mint the best dish he’s had in recent memory. He urges diners:

Go to Sally’s Middle Name *now*, while you can still get a seat. A standing ovation for this fantastic new restaurant, which is one of only a microscopic number of restaurants successfully combining the very best of the old world and the new.

Rockwell also returns to Bangkok 54 in Arlington and finds his negative opinion of it unchanged. He visits Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastropub in Shirlington, as well. He's disappointed in the beer selection but pleasantly surprised by the Beef Wellington. [DR]

THE BLOGS: Capital Cooking discovers Balkan cuisine at Ambar and does Southern food at Tupelo Honey Cafe...DistrictBrit brunches at Doi Moi...Cloture Club chats with Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya

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