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Tim Carman Applauds Crimson Diner’s Life-Changing Meatloaf

What the critics are saying this week

Crimson Diner DC bar
The bar at Crimson Diner.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Crimson Diner

Washington Post food writer Tim Carman evaluates the Pod hotel’s embedded Southern-style diner, which debunks his former theory that meatloaf sucks. Their version “goes down like a French country pâté,” he writes, adding, “I am free to cultivate an affection for meatloaf.” Seasoned chef Lawrence DiJoseph, a student of classic French cooking with an impressive resume (Kinkead’s, Picholine in Manhattan), draws on his past— and long family history in cooking culture — to create the menu. The recipe for Pap’s pimento cheese, for instance, comes from an in-law related to his nephew, Chez Billy Sud chef Brendan L’Etoile. Carman says his time at Whitlow’s tavern is evident in his turkey club, delivering a “fine craftsmanship” of a sandwich that’s “often treated like a reject from another era,” he says. Anything that integrates fried oysters, like a well-made po’ boy, is a hit. “Each one a crusty little cake that bursts with juices from the sea,” Carman writes.


Tenpenh

Northern Virginia Magazine contributor Rina Rapuano checks out the reincarnated Asian restaurant, which debuted in late 2016 in Tysons Corner’s Silverline Center. Some of her early favorites are now disappointments: the hot crab rangoon dip was skimpy on the crab and unpleasantly lumpy, while Nashville hot chicken bao buns lacked spice. But she says there are still a “few fine reasons” to make the trek to its modern dining room. Service is both helpful and friendly, for one. And there’a a “generous” $5 happy hour (all night on Sundays, too). Two top entrees are those that chef Jeff Tunks made famous at the original D.C. restaurant: whole crispy fish, and Chinese-style wok-smoked lobster. Both are pricey, Rapuano notes, but also sharable. For sides, go with the “wonderfully spiced” Sichuan eggplant or curried cauliflower.


Vermilion

Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema reviews this Old Town Alexandria mainstay, which imported chef Tom Cardarelli from the Big Apple a year ago. Sietsema appreciates how detail-oriented the 35-year-old veteran of Vaucluse and Marea in Manhattan is, warming up customers with house-baked sourdough bread and yeasty Parker House rolls accompanied by fresh butter. A “great starting point” is the duck liver croquettes, which have a lot going on (but it works). Top picks include steak tartare, an appetizer with a “beautiful blizzard” of fried sunchoke chips and a “kick” thanks to Korean chile paste. The lamb entree, a trio of cuts with smoked eggplant and yogurt, is also a star. And between the gnocchi, cavatelli, and tagliatelle, Sietsema has yet to meet a pasta he didn’t want to devour. A “stingy” slice of olive oil cake and a honey-sweetened pine nut tart with soggy nuts convince him that there’s room for improvement on the dessert front. Sietsema adds the aging restaurant, which opened in 2003, could also use a paint job and new menus (current ragged ones remind him of chew toys). Overall, the restaurant is worthy of two stars (“good”), he decides.


Xian Gourmet

Ethnic Dining Guide author Tyler Cowen says this Rockville eatery is the top spot for Xian cuisine in the region. There’s plenty of hard-to-find dishes, and meat-heavy soups are winners in his book. Dan dan noodles are a little disappointing, but overall it’s “one of the very best Chinese places around.” Cowen also congratulates the restaurant for the “pleasant service, great prices, no downside here that I can see.”


FROM THE BLOGS: Rick Eats DC dines at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly and Rasa, while Bitches Who Brunch weigh in on Primrose, and Been There Eaten That sizes up Buena Vida.

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