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Tom Sietsema and Ann Limpert Like All the Winking at Convivial

Plus, reviews of Hank's Pasta Bar, Medea Market, and more

R. Lopez

Tom Sietsema files a review of Convivial for the Washington Post. He awards the new Shaw restaurant three stars. Once again, he professes his love of chef Cedric Maupillier’s leeks dijonnaise (he already declared it one one of the best dishes in the city). He writes:

"Using slices of steamed leeks sharpened with mustard vinaigrette, Maupillier shapes the salad into a loose cake, which he paves with fried capers, chopped eggs, itty bitty croutons and microgreens. Not only is this the prettiest version of the classic bistro staple I have yet to encounter, every bite packs in the complete soft-crisp, hot-cold, bold-subtle recipe."

Playful dishes like fried chicken coq au vin, escargots in a blanket, and turkey leg confit, make Sietsema believe the chef's skills now rival those of his former boss at Central Michel Richard. Most of all, the critic appreciates Maupillier’s cooking because "[it's] served with a knowing wink rather than a boastful shout." [WaPo]

Coincidentally, Ann Limpert also reviews Convivial for Washingtonian this week. Using similar language, she says Maupillier "turns out winking versions of bistro classics." She's also a big fan of he leeks dijonnaise. Here's her overarching take on the rest of the food:

"Many plates tend toward the rich and meaty, such as lovely al dente ravioli stuffed with boudin noir and draped with earthy chestnut purée. Some of the best ones feature nods to junk food or the drive-through—a trait passed down from Michel Richard." [Washingtonian]

For his First Bite column in the Washington Post, Sietsema tries Hank’s Pasta Bar in Alexandria. He writes of chef Jamie Leeds' fresh pasta:

"The headliners come in more than a dozen shapes: ravioli enriched with duck; stamp-like plin stuffed with beets and goat cheese; rippled malfalde tossed with fennel sausage and brandy cream sauce. Made fresh each day, and from morning till night, the pastas are cooked long enough to retain a nice bite and not a moment longer. Most are finished with a swab-worthy sauce: a bright arugula pesto for the orecchiette, a peppery butter sauce, buoyed with tarragon, in the case of the see-through plin."

Siestsema also recommends exploring the rest of the menu with dishes like chicken liver mousse, lamb chops, and whole grilled dorade. He also favors the panna cotta over the overly-sweet fig tart for dessert. [WaPo]

Tim Carman eats at Aden Pizza in Bethesda for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. He tries (and likes) the carry-out spot's Turkish flatbreads like pide and the cheese-free lahmacun. He also enjoys the kebabs and urges diners not to skip the appetizers. Carman writes:

"Start with the baba ghanoush...which is so smoky you’ll swear Khalfallah has a wood-burning pit out back. (He doesn’t: The owner’s upfront about buying eggplants pre-smoked.) The hummus incorporates just the right amount of tahini for a creamy, slightly seedy note, without making the dip a bitter pill to swallow. The red lentil soup is an engineering marvel: It’s liquidy but not thin, forcefully spicy but still complex." [WaPo]

Tyler Cowen is back with a review of Cantonese restaurant Taste@HongKong in Chantilly. He writes, "This has to rank among the top three or four Cantonese places around, recommended, and it further cements my growing view that Chantilly is becoming the ethnic food center of this broader area." He admits they don’t have any "killer" dishes but recommends authentic options like yams and casseroles and avoiding the Chinese-American dishes. [TC]

Cowen also goes to Medea Market for Ethiopian in Alexandria. The small menu offers various kitfo and tibs options and an "excellent" vegetarian sampler. He writes, "There are so many very good Ethiopian places around these days, it is disorienting to try to rank them all. Still, if you ask is this one in the top tier, the answer is yes, yes, and yes…recommended, definitely." [TC]

THE BLOGS: Bitches Who Brunch are keeping The Riggsby in their back pocket...DC Wrapped Dates can't wait to go back to Taqueria Habanero...Cook In/Dine Out is smitten with Restaurant Nora's cocktail menu