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The Dabney Snags 2.5 Stars from Tom Sietsema

Plus reviews of Magdalena and more.

The Dabney
The Dabney
R. Lopez

Don't expect an olive in a martini from The Dabney's bar. Tom Sietsema visits the much-touted Mid-Atlantic restaurant and notes its complete commitment to local sourcing, including local pickled vegetables in cocktails. But how's the food? The critic gives it 2.5 stars. Dishes change frequently, making it hard to pin down favorites that will stay on the menu.

The plate that tastes least like any competitor’s and most like a signature-dish-in-waiting is pheasant, its breast dreamily moist, the legs cured with area spicebush, its flavor akin to allspice. Every component — the buttery yellow-eyed beans, the briny carrots, the crisp sails of pumpernickel on top — boosts the performance of the others.

Ultimately, The Dabney is praised most for chef Jeremiah Langhorne's ambition.

His curiosity and obsessiveness go beyond bragging rights — rare is the chef who bothers to concoct his own Worcestershire sauce, using the leaves of young black walnuts — to embrace dishes assembled mostly from area fields and streams, sometimes with the help of recipes from regional 19th-century cookbooks (one of which, to Langhorne’s surprise, included his forebears as contributors). [WaPo]

Also on Sietsema's schedule: a visit to Baltimore's Magdalena for the First Bite column. This is a restaurant with fine dining ambitions, but the decor bests the cuisine.

With few exceptions, however, the dishes over-promise and ignore the fashion dictum that less is more. A comically flat "twice-baked Roquefort souffle" manages to mimic a muffin after an encounter with a Mack truck, for instance, while risotto crams in a hodge-podge of rabbit confit, calamari rings, piquillo peppers and green olive tapenade. Better: the thimble of steak tartare and beet-filled arancini flanking an entree of sturgeon poached in beef fat. The kitchen also has a heavy hand with the sugar bowl, evinced not just by a cloying apple tarte Tatin, marginally redeemed by its scoop of apple cider sorbet, but also by a few savory courses. A starter of chorizo-stuffed quail suffers with a sweet-potato-stuffed clutch of pasta that could pass for dessert.

Simple dishes like lamb shank and rice pudding are the way to go for now. [WaPo]

The $20 Diner profiles Beltsville as a cheap eats destination. Tim Carman highlights such destinations as Da Rae Won, Manila Mart, Pho 88, Sardi's and more.

Of the area in general, he writes, "You can still stuff your pie hole with the finest fast foods engineered for maximum pleasure. But you can also dig into Filipino pancit palabok, Guatemalan garnachas, Kenyan kuku choma, Korean jajangmyeon, Vietnamese pho, Peruvian pollo a la brasa and many other dishes from around this big blue marble, all available along a 1 1/2 mile strip of Baltimore Avenue that slices through the eastern side of Beltsville. I fell for Beltsville, in part, because the people are quick to make you feel welcome, even when you're an overdressed gringo pulling up a stool at a Salvadoran bar, right between middle-aged men merrily knocking back Mexican lagers." [WaPo]

The Blogs: Bitches Who Brunch give Bistro Bohem a B+...Barred in DC ranks the city's dive bars.

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