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Espita Mezcaleria Stirs Tom Sietsema's Senses

Plus, reviews of Alfie's, Bahn Ta Deli, Tommy Joe's, The Dabney, Red's Table, and Trummer's on Main

Espita Mezcaleria
Espita Mezcaleria
R. Lopez

For his full review in the Washington Post, Tom Sietsema tries Espita Mezcaleria and awards the Mexican restaurant two and a half stars. He appreciates owner Josh Phillips’ crusade to change the way D.C. diners approach mezcal. He also likes chef Alexis Samayoa’s cooking, despite a handful of misses. He writes:

"Only after a bowl gets emptied of chips, and maybe a seviche or salad departs, do we plot our next move. Sometimes it’s a skillet of bubbling Chihuahua cheese scattered with crumbled chorizo spiked with cumin and sherry and tinted green with pureed cilantro and tomatillo. Other dinners, it might be sopes, two thick masa cups crammed with beef short ribs, juicy beneath their roasted red salsa. Always, there follows a mole." [WaPo]

For his First Bite column in the Washington Post, Tom Sietsema goes to Alfie’s in Parkview. Chef Alex McCoy’s pop-up specializes in the cuisines of Southeast Asia. The shredded catfish salad shows promise, but the critic finds other dishes lacking balance. He writes:

"Pork rib soup is overrun with galangal and lemongrass, while papaya salad blasts the palate with lime juice and salt. Layers of flavor go missing in other recipes, including a timid coconut curry soup made with beef and fried egg noodles. Proper seasoning isn’t the kitchen’s lone lapse: Soy-marinated chicken surrenders most of its juices to the grill." [WaPo]

Tim Carman gives Banh Ta Deli in Falls Church a try for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post He loves the sandwiches coming out of owner Ahn Jong’s small Falls Church shop, but isn't entirely convinced the bread is actually delivered fresh daily. He writes:

"But when the roll is fresh..., it’s the perfect vehicle for Hong’s banh mi artistry. Her roasted pork belly turns me into a human garbage disposal every time. No matter how full I am, once I start chomping down on the sandwich, I will inhale every last crumb...The neatly trimmed pork belly is marinated in fish sauce, honey and five-spice powder before entering the oven. The meat’s sweet, semi-funky flavors hum quietly underneath the noisy rumble of the standard fillings..."

His other favorite bahn mi fillings are the meatballs, lemongrass tofu, and the more classic pate with cold cuts. There are also lots of worthy non-sandwich items like Vietnamese jerky, an avocado shake, and a pork belly steam bun. [WaPo]

Laura Hayes dines at Tommy Joe’s Restaurant in Bethesda for First Bite in Bethesda Magazine. With a menu focused on sports bar fare, the meal starts out strong with "poho style" chicken wings and salt and herb fries. She also favors the burger over the crab cake sandwich. About the rest of the food, Hayes writes:

"Conversely, the crispy calamari starter is not a home run. While I appreciate the cool twist of slipping in fried banana peppers disguised as calamari, no addition can atone for a dish tasting only of the acrid oil it was fried in. The deep fryer is due for spring-cleaning." [Bethesda]

Nevin Martell files his first review for DC Modern Luxury. He checks out chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s Mid-Atlantic cuisine at The Dabney and determines it’s "both timeless and timely." He writes:

"A lacquered quail with a traditional oyster stuffing tastes like a delightful combination of Peking duck and Thanksgiving turkey. It’s served with its claws on. Sitting on a hearty sunchoke puree, the slow ’n’ low braised short rib comes apart with the slightest touch of a fork. There’s a welcome biting note to the rich dish courtesy of a wood-fired endive. That last component is key for Langhorne, who enjoys wielding bitterness to bring balance so much that he chose a sprig of the wild-herb bittercress as the restaurant’s logo." [DCML]

Stefanie Gans is reviewing again at Northern Virginia Magazine and goes to Red’s Table in Reston. She believes the fried chicken drizzled with black garlic-miso aioli is the dish that can explain the entire restaurant. It nods to Southern comfort food and their farm-to-table obsession while mixing in a trendy ingredient. But how does it taste? Gans writes:

"The chicken is terrific with crispy skin and juicy meat. The kale, braised for too many hours, is unfortunately almost mush. The pickles are on point with a great burst of brine, and the aioli is a nice touch, adding that promised umami flare. (Though instead of drizzled on top of the crispy skin, it’d be better on the side as to not turn the skin prematurely soggy."

Many other dishes like the steak tartare, scallops, and a play on steak frites also have execution problems. Yet Red's Table still has value in a community packed with chain restaurant. Plus she loves the burger. [NoVa]

Don Rockwell returns to Trummer’s on Main. He finds that the menu changed under since the last time he visited thanks to new chef chef Austin Fausett. The flavors in the sweetbread and chorizo appetizer with chimichurri mayo and plantains are unexpected. He writes about the flank steak:

"Sigh, let’s get this out of the way. First of all, it wasn’t medium-rare, it was – at best – medium, but closer to medium-well in terms of color. The texture of the steak was all wrong – despite being long cooked, it was both tough and flavorless, bordering on being dry...I finished the dish – it was fine – but I’ll never order it again, that’s for sure."

Nevertheless, Rockwell still thinks Trummer's on Main is worth a trip. [DR]

THE BLOGS: Espita Mezcaleria also meets expectations for Cook In/Dine Out...Bad Sentences has unexpected fun at EatBar...Been There Eaten That sees clearly at Clarity