Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema is impressed by the raw fish served at the new sushi restaurant inside the controversial Trump International Hotel, where options include nigiri-only omakase ($150 per person) or chef’s choice of wild fish. During his first meal there, Sietsema opts for a seat at the 10-seat, marble-topped bar where executive chef Masaaki Uchino and his colleagues prepare the meal right in front of customers. With drinks and extras thrown in, Sietsema says the tab rivals that of dinner at the Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington or Komi. Still, Sietsema says every course is a surprise; he starts with three kinds of salmon — chum, hay-smoked salmon and soy-kissed king salmon. The scallop features strategically-timed citric heat. “Pleasantly chewy” reef squid is next. “No two pieces of fish get the same treatment, he notes, “which is no small task when you consider the omakase runs 20 or so courses long.” Sietsema enjoys a rare taste of barred knifejaw from Japan paired with cherry blossom powder, and Spanish mackerel “gets a jolt” from mustard. “Watching the cooks set up a flight of lean-to-fatty tuna, then marveling at their range of flavors, is akin to attending a master class at sea,” he says. Other unique offerings include briefly blow-torched wagyu beef and a “revivifying” mango-passion fruit sorbet served by “hyperattentive” staff with a mother-of-pearl spoon.
GDL Italian by Giada
Tom Sietsema also heads to a (more affordable) option up in Baltimore: Food Network personality and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis’ new restaurant inside the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. For $20, patrons can taste all five side dishes; his favorite is the lemony smashed potatoes and corn tossed with crumbled Italian sausage from the G. Esposito & Sons Jersey Pork Store in Brooklyn. His first impression on its cohesive design is a good one: “Red, or shades of it, is everywhere else we look: the tiled pizza oven near the exhibition kitchen, the theatrical overhead lights, the signature frozen drink highlighting rosé wine.” He concludes the restaurant “is easy on the eyes.” Including classics she’s known for (Tuscan rib-eye and chicken Par) there’s other bites designed to appeal to locals, like a twist on crab cakes. Misses include “limp-crusted” pizzas with only a hint of char and mushy branzino. Pastas are better, and he’s into the al dente chitarra, brightened with peas and lemon zest, that reminds him of an “enlightened” pasta Alfredo. An early entree favorite is the thick pork chops are served with checca, a sauce of fresh tomato, basil, and Parmesan cheese. A “nice shared ending” is the tiramisu.