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D.C.’s Nobu Leaves a Bad Taste in Tom Sietsema’s Mouth

What the critics are saying this week

The main sushi counter at D.C.’s new Nobu.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.


Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema unloads on the new Nobu in the West End, mostly because he was irked by the service. On his first visit, the world renowned brand — Sietsema gives the local branch 1.5 stars (“Satisfactory/Good”) — declared it was “fully committed” before he had a chance to note he’d dine at the bar; Two hours later, Sietsema was confused as to why he couldn’t get a table at the mostly empty restaurant. He also felt like costs were kept from him; shishito peppers and edamame were placed on the table as if they were gratis but later appeared on the bill. Even worse: the waiters are “plate-grabbers” that tend to hover, Sietsema warns.

The food “can be very good (if very expensive),” he notes. Highlights include tiradito with fluke ($22) accompanied by yuzu and lemon juices, as well as a warm seafood salad featuring lobster tempura, jalapeños, cilantro, and red onion that “hits all the right buttons.” The signature miso-glazed black cod proves “unforgivable.” “What should be a star turn is a vaguely sweet slab of protein whose $40 price tag includes nothing more than sweet circles of miso and sake in the corners of its square plate,” he writes. Tiny tacos with yellowtail are comically small. He’s also a little annoyed by the utensils at the celebrity restaurant: disposable chopsticks.

Calle Cinco

Sietsema visits the new pop-up in Mt. Vernon Triangle for a first bite, calling it the “city’s most glamorous backdrop for Spanish small plates.” Led by Spanish enthusiast George Rodrigues, formerly the chef at Tico, Sietsema says he’s all about its lineup of sherry, fried calamari and churros. One of his “most striking” dishes features piquillo peppers drizzled with spiced honey. Sietsema says timid seasoning caused his first experience to be a mixed bag, but the next few visits made up for it. He gives it a big compliment, comparing Calle to Jaleo — considered by many to be the city’s standard-bearer for Spanish cuisine. Piping-hot patatas bravas, lashed with creamy aioli was one disappearing star. And a gin-and-tonic sorbet goes down like “snow kissed with lime.”

Calabash African Cuisine and Bar

Ethnic Dining Guide author Tyler Cowen heads to the new Alexandria spot serving Ghanaian fare. He finds the waok ye “especially good,” with its mix of rice, beans, plantains, fish, and noodles. “The décor is very basic, the crowd friendly, service a bit halting,” he writes. Cowen bills the overall offerings as above average.

FROM THE BLOGS: Bitches Who Brunch check out new Scott Circle cafe Lil’ B, while Rick Eats DC tries Thai Taste by Kob.