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Tom Sietsema Says Whaley's Is Like a Day at the Beach

Plus, reviews of Straw Stick & Brick, Kyirisan, Pi Pizzeria, Suma Restaurant, and Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar

R. Lopez

The biggest story of the week was of course Tom Sietsema's brutal zero star review of the ever-popular Founding Farmers. In contrast, he really likes Whaley’s, the new raw bar in Navy Yard from the team behind DGS Delicatessen. In his First Bite column in the Washington Post, he writes:

"If you order only one dish at Whaley’s...make it fried squash blossoms. Presented as a harmonious quartet, the edible flowers call to all the senses with their saffron hue, their gentle crackle and a filling of sweet chopped shrimp that’s improved by espelette and a swab of ginger aioli."

He also recommends a few other dishes from chef Daniel Perron like the clams casino with chorizo, razor clams with chilies and Meyer lemon vinaigrette, blue crab salad, and fried soft-shell crab with romesco sauce. [WaPo]

Tim Carman tries Straw Stick & Brick for his $20 Dining column in the Washington Post. The delicatessen and charcuterie shop has a menu of over 20 sandwiches. Carman cautions that some of the classic sandwiches, including the Philly cheesesteak and muffuletta, aren’t necessarily traditional. He writes:

"Take the banh mi. The toasted baguette comes stuffed with two thick slices of house-made pâté plus slow-roasted pork belly glazed with gochujang... The roll includes a second stowaway, too: a modest layer of kimchi, which doubles down on the Korean umami gamble. This hybrid beast wanders so far from Vietnam, you might not recognize the landscape. But then again, if you can surrender all preconceptions, the sandwich may reveal a new world of possibilities for the banh mi, itself a fusion of French and Vietnamese ingredients."

He urges customers to also explore their line of cold-cut sandwiches like the ham and cheese and the Italian sub. His only complaints are that the prosciutto isn’t sliced thin enough, the half-smoke casing is too thick, and the pastrami should have a better bark. [WaPo]

Nevin Martell files a review of Kyirisan, Tim Ma’s new restaurant in Shaw. He finds dishes with Asian influences, along with favorite dishes from the chef’s Virginia restaurants like his creme fraiche wings and seared scallops. Martell also tries some new dishes unique to Kyirisan:

"Ma has a deft touch with ingredients. Slices of otherwise unassuming Japanese eggplant are dressed with a red curry that surprises your palate with a peppery after-burn. Seared duck liver is circled with duck-blood caramel, a component that will cause raised eyebrows when people notice it on the menu. Never fear, it tastes nearly identical to regular caramel, adding a nice touch of sweetness to offset the richness of the centerpiece protein." [DCML]

Laura Hayes writes about two Maryland restaurants for the First Taste column in Bethesda Magazine. First, she tries St. Louis-based chain Pi Pizzeria, now in the former Pitzze Table space. The "Pi Squares" topped with Fontina cheese, mushrooms, and kale satisfy, but diners should skip the meatballs. Concerning the deep-dish pizza, she writes:

"Decode the pizza slice icons before ordering because they indicate which pizzas are best suited for deep dish versus thin crust.  The latter designation enables patrons to further choose whether they’d like standard, stone-ground wheat or gluten free dough. We order a deep-dish "South Side Classico" with mozzarella, Berkshire sausage, mushrooms, green pepper and onion.  The crust wows and the flavor vibrates with roasted tomato, but the pie could benefit from more time in the oven."

A thin crust "Cubano" pizza with slow-cooked pork shoulder, country ham, kosher pickles, and Swiss cheese actually pleasantly surprises with yellow mustard smeared on the crust in place of tomato sauce. [Bethesda]

Hayes also dines at Suma Restaurant off Bethesda Row. She’s a little suspicious of the their mantra of "fresh ingredients," "from scratch," and "seasonal." Especially because it’s already spring but most of the dishes seem better suited to the dead of winter. She writes:

"A dish described as roasted lamb ragout with herb gnocchi is stew-like, with hunks of protein that must be knifed and forked, for example. The kale that held promise of brightening the bowl of hibernation fuel falls short because the leafy green forms one long ribbon—like a magician yanking out an infinite chain of hankies—instead of being bite-sized. The rich, savory gravy that coats the gnocchi saves the dish."

Other entrees like BBQ pork spareribs with sweet potato fries and challah fried chicken with truffle mac and cheese also seem off for spring. The starters like crab dip, asparagus salad, and roasted tomato bisque are much more successful. [Bethesda]

Stefanie Gans reviews Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar for Northern Virginia Magazine. She hopes the restaurant helmed by executive chef Jeff Barillo kickstarts McLean’s restaurant scene. She writes:

"While Social feels more like a classy neighborhood spot than destination dining, the tasting menu remains one of the best ways to enjoy a meal here. (Though ordering a few oysters and a cocktail or two isn’t a bad idea either.) Within eight courses, the kitchen creates an experience combining more fanciful, high-end dishes like raw scallops decked with caviar and a straightforward crab cake, heavy on the meat and packaged in a perfect sear."

Gans also recommends the scallops, a cast iron trout, lamb over quinoa, and the bread pudding. She also still manages to find a few misses, including overly smokey pork belly and a gazpacho. [NoVa]

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