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The New York Times Adores Bad Saint

But Tom Sietsema isn’t into RPM Italian

Bad Saint [Photo: R. Lopez]
Bad Saint [Photo: R. Lopez]

The New York Times’ Pete Wells eats several times at Bad Saint and gives the Columbia Heights restaurant and its “extraordinary” Filipino food a glowing three-star review.

Before diving into the dishes, he provides a detailed account of his hours-long waits for a seat along 11th Street, revealing he’s spent more time in line than actually dining inside.

He converses with diehard regulars while anxiously waiting for the main event, and even overhears a detailed account of an affair. It’s all part of the overall Bad Saint experience, he thinks, just as the parking lot hangout before a Phish concert is just as significant.

He applauds how Bad Saint reinterprets the classics. The pancit canton, a Filipino lo mein “that can be reassuringly bland,” is “startlingly good” there. And laing, which uses kale instead of traditional dried taro leaves, “is so luxuriously flavorful, I can’t get it out of my head, and I don’t want to.”

I especially admire Bad Saint’s refusal to translate Filipino food into the European-derived idioms of fine dining. When the servers say the dishes are served family style, they mean it. There’s no artfully blank space on the plates, no Abstract Expressionist smears of sauce. The food goes from the wok to the plate, and it is relentlessly delicious.

He calls chef Tom Cunanan’s food “richly compelling”—no matter how many times one’s tried Filipino food before. [NYT]

Washingtonian’s Corby Kummer visits the months-old Haikan in Shaw. He gives props to the ramen shop’s small dishes that “can make for a meal as vibrant as the crowd.” Kummer recommends the “caprese salad” that works with strawberries instead of heirloom tomatoes and the “Pea-sar” salad that’s “rich with umami” from Parmesan and fried baby sardines.

As for the ramen, “Haikan’s shoyu and miso soups boast their own meaty richness in the depth of seasoning.” His favorite garnish was “fibrous” bamboo shoots, along with “briny, fresh” seaweed and two kinds of chili “spice bomb,” aka “a solution” to Sriracha.

Some misses, in his mind, include the poutine’s “lukewarm” fries, “tough and tasteless” cast-iron mussels, and “undercooked” kabocha squash.

Haikan matches sister spots Daikaya and Bantam King when it comes to “ramen shops that put big helpings of excitement, energy, and expertise into their bowls,” but with Haikan’s more spacious seating arrangements both inside and out, there’s now the ability to gather and linger. [Washingtonian]

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema visits Himitsu, Petworth’s latest restaurant, for a First Bite. He declares the Japanese joint “a hit” and his favorite new entry this season in D.C.

While it’s small in size with 24 seats, food options are aplenty; “vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-intolerant can eat here with ease,” and he calls out the blocks of deep-fried tofu.

Some other noteworthy bites include “yellowtail belly sushi simply seasoned with salt and pepper and a candied sweet potato chip; sea bream sushi with a hint of lime zest and a suggestion of olive oil; a riff on pork and beans that brings together slow-cooked belly, seasoned with Chinese five-spice, and creamy white beans.”

He predicts one of the hot plate dishes will be buzzed about the most. It comes with buttermilk-brined chicken, coated in cornstarch and potato starch, “deep-fried to a sensational crunch” and “zapped” with Korean chili pepper paste. [WaPo]

Arlington Magazine’s Rina Rapuano gives La Cote D’Or Cafe a first taste, and sums up the experience by recommending patrons “skip” it altogether.

Judging by my meal, [new chef-owner Jacques] Imperato kitchen has not succeeded in breathing new life into French cooking. In fact, it’s not even turning out particularly successful renditions of old-school French cooking.

While the meal starts off on the right foot with a sliced baguette and butter “at the perfect spreading temperature,” the kickoff salad “lacked flavor”; go with the French onion soup instead, suggests Rapuano, “which isn’t remarkable but does channel a perfect rendition of the classic.”

The “good-quality steak bavette was “tough to chew” and the peppercorn sauce lacked salt. “A bright spot” was the fries, and one of the “few” items that conjured memories of French dining. The bowl of PEI mussels marinière “was fine but not great,” as its broth lacked seasoning, and the veggie-filled baked crêpes “were unappealingly watery,” she notes.

The atmosphere delivered some positive vibes, with crisp white tablecloths, “eye-catching” flower arrangements, and “pretty” vintage plates. [Arlington Magazine]

Four meals in, The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema still has a hard time nailing down with “total confidence” what an evening at RPM Italian might taste like. He reports he’s had “good dishes and forgettable ones, sometimes on the same night,” and he hands the Mount Vernon Italian restaurant 1.5 stars.

The decor and ambiance is on point, similar to an “adult prom,” and top-notch service means constantly full water glasses, ebony tables free of crumbs at all times, and hot towels to clean up between dishes.

Good starters make one think “you’ve found a place to add to your restaurant rotation,” with salads that “show flair” and “taste good.”

Pistachios and green olives “enliven” squares of crimson tuna, and oysters “prick the tongue” with “a racy” fennel-and-bell pepper mignonette. He suggests going “cold” over “hot” when it comes to seafoods. Pastas are “a mixed bag,” he notes.

His frequent exposure to RPM “yields a strategy for success,” which he goes on to detail:

It starts with a salad or crudo or something fried, maybe a mound of zucchini coins with herbed yogurt; and embraces roast pork on a bed of creamy borlotti beans (mushroom risotto for the vegetarian). For the ending? The pastry kitchen whips up terrific gelato, silky panna cotta garnished with tiny Italian meringues, and cannoli whose crisp shells give way to true-flavored pistachio and vanilla fillings (but not chocolate, which falls flatly sweet). [WaPo]

Tyler Cowen checks out “fun mom and pop” Haifa Grill in Falls Church. There he finds “most of the usual” Middle Eastern specialties and suggests ordering all the vegetarian entrees and splitting them up. “In fact, it may be the best place around for that strategy.” His pick: The red pepper dish. [TC]

FROM THE BLOGS: Been There, Eaten That heads to Proof, and Bitches Who Brunch heads to Whaley’s on the waterfront.

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