The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema visits Mike Isabella’s Arroz in the Marriott Marquis. His ninth restaurant (not including concessions) gets inspiration from Spain, Morocco and Portugal. Sietsema comments on its attractive design right off the bat:
“Definitely, the restaurant is easy to look at. The approach — an azure foyer followed by a long, carpet-paved hall — is especially dramatic. Lucky twosomes are shown to one of the cozy, keyhole-shaped booths opposite the front windows. Semiprivate, the seating nevertheless lets you feel part of the party. The elm tables? Credit Isabella’s father-in-law, Charlie Nemeth, for the sleek touch.”
Michael Rafidi comes from “the well-regarded” RN74 in San Francisco to head up the kitchen. Diners can expect fried sweetbreads flowing from the kitchen with orange marmalade tweaked with lime juice and fish sauce (“try it, you’ll like it,” promises Sietsema).
And the “burnt” eggplant, pureed with tahini, black garlic, honey and sherry vinegar, is a “tar-colored but delectable spread” for warm, sesame-seeded Moroccan flatbread.
The substantial bomba rice is served with a choice of vegetables, crab, suckling pig or duck; Sietsema vouches for the duck and “can’t wait” to taste test the others.
Texture is “part of the bomba’s appeal”: rice enriched with sofrito, house-made harissa and fennel kimchi compels you to keep digging, he notes.
He notes that his waiter was a little too excited about everything coming to the table, almost producing a comedic effect. “For the most part, however, Arroz brims with intriguing flavors and good ideas, the most thoughtful of which is a tag for any food you want to take home,” he said. [WaPo]
Sietsema also gives the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House at MGM National Harbor a review, and wonders why the “Top Chef” brothers didn’t unite sooner.
The spot is “more imaginative” than it sounds and “tastes like the culmination of everywhere the siblings have previously cooked,” he notes.
The ambiance is a “multiroom extravaganza,” complete with a bar that looks “like the library of a millennial with money to burn,” and a dining room in “calming shades of blue and a band of mirrors that affords everyone a view.” There’s also a Family Room of sorts as an ode to their childhood home, with “an area done up in rust-orange and wood paneling.”
“The menu provides a safe zone for steakhouse purists even as it seduces the food crowd. Caesar salad is an option, for instance, but the spears of romaine are stacked, like cross beams, and garnished with anchovy-spiked fritters instead of traditional croutons. You’ll find oysters Rockefeller, too, although nowhere else have I seen brighter, bolder spinach than the aerated cover for barely warmed bivalves here. Shrimp cocktail is updated with banana ketchup for dipping, an improvement over regular cocktail sauce in that starchy green bananas make for a condiment that doesn’t slip off the seafood.”
The dish with “Los Angeles written all over it” is umami cereal, which offers “quiet magic” in the steel-cut oats, flavored with mushroom dashi, and “rousing crunch” thanks to chicken-fried hen-of-the-wood mushrooms sprinkled on top.
Substantial apps like the pork shoulder with lettuce cups or a variation on poutine might fill up diners before their main courses, he warns.
A $32 hanger steak offers “beefy richness and agreeably grainy texture”; meanwhile, eight ounces of (American Wagyu) flat-iron steak “offers similar value and good eating.”
“A diner can explore bigger and costlier steaks here, but bite for bite, the lesser cuts pack in the most flavor,” he notes, and Voltaggio’s dry-aged New York strip is 14 ounces “of dense, only slightly tangy beef” for nearly $70.
Tyler Cowen also stops by Arroz this week, finding the Mike Isabella Moroccan-Spanish restaurant “is far better than you might be expecting”: he had (parts of) six appetizers and “every single one was excellent,” he reports. Standouts included the eggplant and the shrimp, and he also noshed on “first-rate” Moroccan bread. He notes it’s “not cheap.” [Ethnic Dining Guide]
Meanwhile, The WaPo’s Tim Carman heads to Tysons Corner Center—which he admits isn’t his usual hunting ground—to try out Street Kitchen and its dosas.
“Dosas, it’s clear, have become social climbers. They’ve already migrated from the modest storefronts in Langley Park to Whole Foods to that gastro-toyland known as Union Market. Now, they’ve secured a counter in the same mall where you can drop a few thousand dollars on a flashy bauble, like a luxury watch, which you’ll never check because, duh, your phone.”
He finds that Street Kitchen “gleefully mixes dosas (south India) with kati rolls (north India) for American mall shoppers who don’t know the difference or couldn’t care less.” On the modest menu, expect a lineup of dosas, bowls, rolls and kebab by chef Satinder Vij.
He warns the Mysore masala dosa is “south Indian spicy, not Northern Virginia mall spicy” and comes packed with a turmeric-tinted potato filling.
The smashed avocado dosa, by contrast, is an airy resemblance of “an underachieving iceberg salad,” while the buttered dosa “somehow sacrifices its brittleness on a trip from the kitchen to my table.”
But underperforming dosas are saved by the coconut chutney or a spoonful of lentil sambar. Meanwhile, kati rolls benefit from their paratha wrappers, or chewy house-made flatbreads. And they even wander onto contentious turf: “One comes stuffed with crisped-up pieces of masala steak, a concession to diners in America, where beef consumption is not grounds for a prison sentence or worse. With all due respect to Hindus, I love that roll. And: I’m sorry.” [WaPo]
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