The Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema is all about The Wharf newcomer, crowning the Mexican restaurant as “one of the most beautifully designed new restaurants in Washington.” He’s instantly impressed by the massive door with jewel-colored handles and “mesmerizing” details like its life-size faux tree, hand-painted butterflies, and a “dreamily” illuminated bar (Knead Hospitality + Design was charged with decking out New York restaurateur Roberto Santibañez’s first D.C. restaurant). The dishes also blow him away, and he enjoys starters like the “lush” guacamole and a ceviche that’s on the tart side. The portion of roast chicken is generous, and attractive accompaniments include a bowl of grilled street corn with cotija cheese and mayonnaise and a smorgasbord of vegetables. Meanwhile, the “breakout star” is the roasted and butterflied catch of the day (his was the red snapper). The few hiccups he noted were related to service, which included a sloppily delivered glass of water and screw-up with his margarita preference of no salt.
Sietsema kept the good compliments flowing this week, giving the months-old eatery from chef David Deshaies 2.5 stars (“good/excellent”). Michel Richard’s protege successfully reinvents diner food, with chicken pot pies that are prettier than Sietsema remembers as a kid, this time in bite-size form, and slender fish sticks with saffron aioli. He applauds Deshaies’ creativity in converting kale into fiery nachos with the help of red pepper jelly. Daytime orders worth eating include the croissants, doughnuts, and cupcakes, as well as “model” salads and sandwiches. Chickpea stew translates well at night, too, and “tastes like a dip in the tropics” thanks to coconut milk and red curry. He’s torn between the daytime egg sandwich and a pork bowl, so he gets both and doesn’t regret it. Other hits include fried chicken, which comes alongside a “divine” cheddar-chive biscuit. He’s not done raving: he’s also into the crisp, miso-glazed salmon with a buttery fan of sliced zucchini, dressed with a dot of “elegant” lemon gel.
La Limeña Grill
Bethesda Magazine restaurant critic David Hagedorn checks out the Peruvian restaurant that opened in Rockville’s Talbott Center in August. Right off the bat he gives props to its “delicate” alfajores, or small anise-scented cookies that “sandwich creamy, thick slatherings of caramel sauce” known as dulce de leche. Owner Emma Perez, a Silver Spring resident and native of Lima, Peru, is the real deal and it shows in the bigger version of her original restaurant, which sports detailed accents like elaborate cast-iron chandeliers. Its version of the pisco sour is a “sound” one, he decides, The ceviche is also done right, featuring cubed tilapia “cooked” in lime juice and hot rocoto peppers. And a sampler of four savory causas —whipped potatoes topped with, respectively, a poached shrimp and three “mayonnaise-y dollops” of crab, tuna and chicken salad—”is a showstopper.” But his favorite starter is what he calls “wintertime comfort in a casserole dish”: corn pudding with sautéed diced sirloin steak, hard-boiled eggs, and raisins. For the main event, he’s into the braised beef shank cooked pot roast-style, and his desserts of choice were the creamy rice pudding with cinnamon, or bright orange lucuma (a fruit) ice cream.