For the first time, critic Tom Sietsema has awarded a restaurant four stars just a few months after opening. The top rating goes to Aaron Silverman's Pineapple & Pearls, a $250-per-person tasting menu-centric restaurant from the Rose's Luxury chef, which the critic declares close to "heaven" and says it's "redefining what it means to be a fine-dining restaurant."
The arrival of a mother-of-pearl caviar spoon sets a diner up for something divine. "Roasted potato ice cream," a server introduces. The dish is garnished with thread-fine potato crunchies and flanked with a spoonful of prized osetra. The mind reels. Ice cream and sturgeon roe? "Remember when you were a kid," says a waiter, "and you dipped your french fries into your milkshake?" Guilty. That the two still go together, in more sophisticated fashion, is a surprise, right up there with the fact this restaurant isn’t open on Saturday night.
The critic praises dishes both classic and reimagined, like a sweetbread-stuffed chicken wing dish or a reimagined sole Veronique. Even the hot towels get a nod. "Silverman and his colleagues aren't merely tinkering with fine dining, they're enhancing its image. Right out of the gate, their good intentions and heady results call for trumpet blasts and standing ovations. I can only fantasize what future visits might bring. For now, Pineapple and Pearls is a superlative restaurant — dare I say world-class? — and worthy of as many stars as I can give." [WaPo]
The critic is also cautiously optimistic about RPM Italian, which gets the First Bite treatment this week. There's praise for a watermelon salad and lobster-enhanced ravioli, but is unimpressed with a stingy serving of spaghetti and meatballs. The newcomer has some work to do. Unknowns can be treated like undesirables by the status-conscious sentinels at the host stand, and the tempura on the fritto misto is more tacky than crisp. But even in its infancy, RPM Italian shows signs of promise," he says. [WaPo]
Bethesda Magazine offers an early look at Quincy's Bar & Grille. Rina Rapuano finds a solid burger and some decent potato skins there. Don't skip the funnel-cake inspired "fries." The verdict is a "go." "When comparing my nearly back-to-back experiences at two very similar newcomers — Tapp'd Bethesda and Quincy's — the latter wins, hands down, thanks to better food, a more enjoyable atmosphere and friendly service." [BM]
Tim Carman visits the new Reren Lamen in Chinatown for the $20 Diner column. He enjoys the grandma's-style pancake, and the dumplings (there are even soup dumplings, but he isn't crazy about them). About that lamen:
Liao’s noodles practically turn radioactive as they absorb the stock and chili oil of the "kung fu" bowl, which locks into a hot groove and rides it hard, the James Brown of Chinese soups. The barbecue chicken lamen, by contrast, is a sensitive singer-songwriter, providing a quiet stage with plenty of space for the sweet corn and grilled bird to express themselves. But the most unpredictable act may be the dan dan noodles, a bowl that doesn’t drown its starchy threads in Sichuan oil but features a dark, funky ingredient known as ya cai, or preserved mustard greens. Ya cai is some kind of umami fairy dust, making everything taste better. [WaPo]
Though there's no formal review this week, Washingtonian's staff singles out some favorite dishes, including Momofuku's brisket buns. The most praise, though, goes to the tuna at Sushi Ogawa. "Tuna shows up on every sushi menu in town, but as with steak, you can tell when the meat is being handled by a master," the team declares.[Washingtonian]
Tyler Cowen deems Espita Mezcaleria "probably the best Mexican place around right now." His major favorites are the mole and the elote. "The green pipian mole, on pork ribs, would impress me even in Mexico City." [TC]