Tom Sietsema goes to Alta Strada in City Vista for his First Bite column in the Washington Post. The critic values the restaurant's accessibility, both in terms of the food and getting a table. Although Michael Schlow's Italian menu looks familiar, the tagliatelle Bolognese manages to surprise him. He writes:
"Yeah, yeah, every Italian kitchen serves the stuff. But rarely is the topping for the pasta as rich as this sauce, its recipe based on the classic at the revered Ristorante Diana in Bologna, Italy, which combines minced veal, pork, beef, chicken liver and pancetta and is shot through with fresh rosemary. You need only a bite to know why Bolognese is the top seller at Alta Strada..."
Other favorites include the pizzas, Maltagliati with braised rabbit and fava beans, meatballs, and Italian cocktails. [WaPo]
The restaurant critic also revealed his entire spring dining guide in the Washington Post. There's a list of his ten favorite debuts with Pineapple & Pearls topping them all at number one. He says of Aaron Silverman's follow-up to Rose's Luxury, "'Astonishing' is a word I rarely deploy, but it applies to every aspect of this luxe lair from a native son." [WaPo]
Tim Carman eats at BAB Korean Fusion, a new fast-casual restaurant on H Street, for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. Co-owner Justine Choe was advised by Erik Bruner-Yang and the team behind Taylor Gourmet. Carman writes:
"The small menu features a requisite fast-casual section in which customers select a protein, a grain and a vegetable mixture to stir into their bowls. The combinations that lean harder on Korean cooking traditions prove more satisfying than the ones targeting, say, the whole-grain crowd. Mom and daughter haven’t yet solved the problem of turning a shotgun marriage (like the brown rice and barley paired with chewy, poorly rendered pork belly) into a true romance."
Despite these stumbling blocks, the critic finds the bulgogi full of flavor. Plus, the homemade gochujang elevates even the most unexpected combinations like battered flounder with Southwest veggies. [WaPo]
David Hagedorn tries two Filipino spots in Rockville for Bethesda Magazine. Chef Javier Fernandez holds weekly pop-ups as Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly at Gwenie’s Desserts, owned by his sister Gwen Fernandez. He specializes in lechon, a roasted pork belly dish that is a specialty of Cebu. Hagedorn writes:
"To make lechon, Fernandez brines pork belly for one-and-a-half days, ties it around pork tenderloin and an aromatic stuffing of lemongrass, garlic, scallions and spices, scores the skin and bakes the roast for six hours, thus rendering the fat. He blasts it on high temperature at the end to crisp the skin. 'If the skin isn’t crispy, you may as well throw the whole thing out,' he says. You likely won’t be throwing this lechon out—you’ll want to eat all of it."
As for Gwen's baked goods, the critic recommends ube pie and cake, mongo hopia, and pan de siopao. Hagedorn also gives a shout out to the Taiwanese dishes available with advance notice given to Hollywood East Café in Wheaton. He gives Bibim in Silver Spring a try and likes the chicken wings and ssam, but he thinks the new Korean restaurant would benefit from a professional chef. [Bethesda]
Tyler Cowen finally finds a decent Mexican restaurant in D.C. in Taqueria Habanero on 14th St. He writes:
"I liked best the tacos tinga poblana. The memelas also are excellent, if you don’t know amemela is a Oaxacan version of sopes, the memelas here are better than what the menu calls sopes. The mole is pretty good, though not to die for, a slight bit sour for my taste. " [TC]
He also goes to Evergreen Korean Cuisine, or Sang Rok Soo in Springfield and calls it "a very clear first in the Korean soup category." There are soups with dumplings, beef bones, kimchee, clams, fish roe and vegetables, beef ribs and radish, and cold buckwheat noodle soups.There’s also bibimbap, bulgogi, and kimchee fried rice. [TC]