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Kaliwa ‘Is a Trip,’ Says Tom Sietsema

What the critics are saying this week

The entrance to Wharf newcomer Kaliwa.
Rey Lopez/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 heads to the Wharf’s newest restaurant, where he breaks down the three distinct cuisines chef Cathal Armstrong is cooking (Filipino, Korean, and Thai). “Early contenders for a customer’s time and attention” include grilled pork belly served with banana ketchup, as well as roast chicken marinated with lemongrass, juniper, lime juice and even Sprite. One of the best dishes on the menu, Sietsema says, is a Thai creation combining crab, fiery red curry, and fried garlic. Stumbles include a Korean fried chicken sandwich devoid of crunch and heat, as well as long wait times. Support is solid in the kitchen and behind the bar, Sietsema notes, hailing chef de cuisine Paolo Dungca, who has cooked at Bad Saint, and bar vet Todd Thrasher’s “whimsical” cocktail list. The go-to dessert to get is the pandan cake with coconut cream icing.

Taco Bamba

Washington Post food writer Tim Carman visits Taco Bamba’s debut D.C. location, which he says is reminiscent of a loud and super-packed rock concert. (Which Carman doesn’t mind.) Chef Victor Albisu’s four shops “share enough DNA with the others” without being a straight-up replica of the original in Falls Church, Virginia, he notes. Tacos carrying pop culture-inspired names “borrow from cultures near and far, from Washington burger joints to Middle Eastern bazaars, to create a whole new world of tacos.” Each location has its own fish taco, he notes. Carman’s favorites are Chinatown’s Sid Vicious (fried cod with malt vinegar and chile-heavy salsa macha), and Vienna’s San Diahhhgo which “packs heat” with grilled grouper and a “Burgundy slaw” spiked with chile flakes as an ode to Anchorman character Ron Burgundy. Carman lists the greatest hits across the chain: Banh-Mijo (available in Vienna), a riff on Vietnamese banh mi depositing chicken liver pate in a corn tortilla; the Faiz Ali Bamba (Springfield), a Middle Eastern-style taco with braised goat, chile yogurt, za’atar and tabbouleh; and Maketto chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s guest taco, the Amaras (Chinatown) with chorizo larb, serrano pepper and beef tendon, which is “both crispy and gelatinous.”

Tom Sietsema’s 2018 Spring Dining Guide

Sietsema continues his countdown of the top 10 best new restaurants in D.C., with Rare Steakhouse and Tavern (No. 9); Unconventional Diner (No. 8); Chloe (No. 7); Maydan (No. 6); and Little Pearl (No. 5).

Lotus Garden

After many visits, Ethnic Dining Guide author Tyler Cowen concludes that the Vienna eatery is “pretty good Cantonese restaurant for this region, with wonderful pulled noodles.” The dishes don’t disappoint, he says. But he admits they get a little boring after a while (too many are on the gloppy and heavy side, he laments). Still, it’s better than most Cantonese places in the area, and he signs off on giving it a try.

FROM THE BLOGS: Rick Eats DC heads to Momofuku, while BYT rounds up D.C.’s best cherry desserts, and Been There Eaten That goes to Stella Barra.

Taco Bamba - Penn Quarter

777 I Street Northwest, Washington , DC 20001 Visit Website


751 Wharf Street Southwest, , DC 20024 (202) 516-4739 Visit Website