Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema visited D.C.’s newest French bakery and was instantly disappointed to discover there’s no alcohol available (none of the U.S. stores have it). A neighboring diner he encountered at the 45-seat cafe near the White House was similarly annoyed by the lack of gluten-free bread. Upon diving into the menu Sietsema writes that he found his French onion soup “anemic and too sweet,” while duck rillettes were cold. Entrees were “better,” including a generous portion of seafood in the crab tartine, and beef bourguignon with “stellar” whipped potatoes. Other highlights include the olive rolls, “on par” with those baked at cult grocer Whole Foods; meanwhile, he says the “blimplike” Pullman bread can be used for sandwiches at home. Some misses Sietsema found on return visits include spinach quiche that tasted mostly of nutmeg, “flat-tasting” madeleines (sold by the bag), and eclairs filled what what looked like “espresso cement,” he notes. ”Maison Kayser needs to run its recipes through the culinary equivalent of spell-checker. Because right now, Paris tastes a million miles away,” he writes.
Sietsema also explored Alexandria’s latest Ethiopian restaurant, Makeda, giving it two stars (“good”). He says he was instantly pleased by the kategna: toasted, burnt-red wedges of injera that resemble pizza spiked with awaze, Ethiopia’s answer to hot sauce. “Your hands will get messy, but your stomach will be happy,” he writes. Another go-to starter from chef Senait “Mimi” Tedla is a flaky sambusa stuffed with lentils or ground beef with cilantro. The menu is big on lamb, beef and chicken, and serves familiar standbys including doro wat. “Makeda buys good meat and knows not to overcook it,” he adds, praising tender cubes of leg of lamb in chile sauce, and the soft lamb shoulder. Quanta firfir, or beef jerky, is beef marinated with wine, garlic and berbere, then dried overnight in the oven; the result is “pleasantly chewy,” he writes. The best value for an undecided carnivore is the $25 Taste of Makeda, a culinary tour that includes doro wat, awaze tibs, and gomen besiga, cubed lean beef tossed with shredded, garlicky collards. One of the only “misfires” the hit his table: ground tilapia, offered as a warm salad that was a little too funky. And the cocktails lean on the unbalanced side, he says.
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