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Tom Sietsema Says Revamped Little Pearl ‘Is More Attractive in Every Way’

What the critics are saying this week

Assorted dishes at Little Pearl.
Wonjin C./Yelp
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Little Pearl

Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema reviews James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Aaron Silverman’s new Capitol Hill cafe/wine bar, awarding it three stars (“excellent”) thanks to the fact it “brims not only with memorable food and drink, but with uncommon passion.” He spots a similar hospitality and imagination found at Michelin-starred sibling Pineapple and Pearls, and he’s into the cozy, multi-faceted setup in the space that was formerly home to D.C.’s version of Bayou Bakery. During the day, he’s into the “impossibly light” potato doughnuts dusted with sugar and warm apricot bread pudding — and there’s a sandwich for any appetite, calling out the gravlax with house-made creme fraiche and smoked brisket. A taco of creamy scrambled eggs and crunchy fried potato rolled up in a fragrant corn tortilla is the “most intriguing,” he declares. Sommelier Kerstin Mikalbrown does a great job explaining the wines, and pretty much all 10 plates on the compact dinner menu are hits; there’s the “acidic and floral” oysters sourced Chef Creek in British Columbia and a “handsome” hamburger that’s a mess to eat (he’s got the dry cleaning bill to prove it), featuring Russian dressing, cheddar cheese, and snappy pickles. Service is overall “smart, friendly, confident but never arrogant,” he says.

Bistro 1521

Northern Virginia Magazine dining editor and restaurant critic Stefanie Gans gives Bistro 1521 a lukewarm welcome to Arlington: “With dishes both pleasurable and flawed, Bistro 1521 may not be the Filipino restaurant to catapult Northern Virginia into a full-fledged Filipino food frenzy. But it’s a start,” she writes. The spacious 300-seat restaurant slings a menu with Filipino staples, like the recognizable egg roll lumpiang and crispy pata — a fried pork leg that’s huge but can be “underwhelming” in taste (beyond its “dry and crackly” exterior there’s some “juicy and delightful” bites, she notes). Fried vegetable fritters are too big to eat and dunk whole, as she’s instructed, and she prefers to pull them apart. A “must-order” dish is a signature Filipino order: chicken adobo, which boasts a bold vinegar sauce and meaty taste. But braised oxtail ends up being “more bone than meat,” she notes, and is “lost under a one-note peanut sauce in kare-kare.” Meanwhile, binagoongan fried rice sits atop “tough, dry pork” and masks the likable shrimp paste.

FROM THE BLOGS: Brightest Young Things gives Artechouse’s new immersive dinner experience a try, while Hungry Lobbyist goes for bottomless brunch at Tulips.

Little Pearl

921 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, , DC 20003 (202) 618-1868 Visit Website