The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema gave new Asian-Latin hangout Sakerum two chances, both of which were disappointing. On the first visit to the upscale U Street Corridor spot, his sushi rolls were "so freighted with accessories" he couldn’t even taste the fish. Underwhelming cocktails reminded him of amateur hour.
His second experience wasn’t much better, and he details an unprofessional seating story in which he’s told by the hostess that the upstairs bar seating is first-come, first-served. So he sits at a table not wearing a "reserved" sign — only to be awkwardly told minutes later by a server that he can’t sit there (side note: an Eater editor experienced this same scenario one night).
The food improved a bit on his second trip. He tries out the hot, twice-fried shrimp that come with a "cool, shiso-chipotle aioli brushed inside their bowl," and his saucer-size tostones atop a grilled corn salsa "signals high summer." The salmon ceviche is overpowered by chili paste, however. The general manager ends up apologizing for the table fiasco by offering free dinner (it’s unclear if this is because the famous food critic was recognized), but he declines. He says a new restaurant can’t afford to be rude, and his critique wraps up with a mic-drop statement: "Dozens of nearby choices are beckoning for our business, I say. What I resist adding is this: Most of them show up Sakerum." [WaPo]
Oyamel has been the strong, sole incumbent in the D.C. grasshopper taco game since the mid-2000s, but now it’s got competition that "might be better," thinks Tim Carman. He’s referring to Lezo's Taqueria in Mt. Pleasant, which started selling the daring toasted snack—also known as tacos de chapulines—in May. Considered a centuries-old delicacy in Oaxaca, he details Lezo’s handling of the bugs after they’re sourced from south of the border:
"The medium-sized grasshoppers are boiled and toasted before they leave Mexico. [Co-owner Rosa] Arroyo seasons and reheats the insects before piling them into a toasted house-made tortilla with chopped onions and cilantro. The grasshoppers have a pronounced saltiness and a supernatural crunch. I also detected the sour, stinging presence of lime, but [co-owner Andrew] Gonzalez tells me the kitchen adds no such citrus. That duty must be handled by the customer with an accompanying lime wedge."
He partly attributes the accompanying salsas to why he’s able to psychologically reach a point where he can stick bugs in his mouth. He also points out another rare D.C. find that’s sold inside the year-old "small, sun-dappled spot": tlayudas, an authentic street snack better known as Mexican pizza. [WaPo]
Northern Virginia Magazine’s Stefanie Gans visits The Whole Ox Butcher Bar in Marshall, where service is "cheery and enthusiastic" and the design is "minimal but attractive"—just like the menu.
The back, an open kitchen with a bar, is "both bare-bones and highly stylized" and the oversized wooden Edison bulb-studded chandeliers "come right out of Pinterest porn."
She notes the bone marrow doesn’t come with anything to spread it on, but for $4, diners can get fresh bread from Lyon Bakery. Starters and sides are the only meatless items. Its gazpacho is a little on the spicy side but "mostly bright and tomato-y" while a tartare has a clean beef flavor and "lets mustard shine."
She does have a beef with the pricing: "Little plates add up here, here as we sit on metal chairs, in what feels like a non-air-conditioned room, next to a cold case of ground beef." She has a hard time justifying paying $22 for a single veal chop that only comes with porcini butter. But in short, it’s got "gorgeous food, sustainable food, seasonal food found in eclectic surroundings: Butcher Bar is everything we’ve asked for." [NoVa Mag]
Bethesda Magazine’s David Hagedorn stops by the months-old Duck Duck Goose, where dishes like his "lush" steak tartare starter hit the mark. The charming space replicates a scene out of Amelie and its smallish menu "suggests intriguing, updated French bistro food." Its agnolotti, cooked to "al dente sublimity," is a pasta worth making a return trip for, he says.
Meanwhile, he calls the steamed clams "pure heaven" and a large steak of cauliflower is "rich in flavors and textures." He’s not a big fan of the plating, in which food is crammed into "dog bowl-like receptacles." Overall, Duck Duck Goose has promise to "become a gleaming gem" and 30-year-old Chef Ashish Alfred is one to keep an eye on. [BM]
From Laura Hayes’ point of view, POV just might be "the worst bar ever." The Washington City Paper reporter visits the W Hotel’s scenic staple overlooking the White House, only to be told by servers she can’t sit anywhere; she gets flashbacks to high school cafeteria drama all over again.
After finally finding a seat in the heat and blinding sunshine, she orders a $11 Malbec that’s also super hot and she sarcastically notes the bartender’s "innovative" solution: dropping in two ice cubes. In short, she knows that such restaurants with priceless views can get away with offering "sub-par drinks" costing 20 to 30 percent higher than the market rate. But, in POV’s case, she asks, "why, WHY OH WHY, does service have to suffer too?" [WCP]