How many meals do you eat out a week? And do you cook at home at all?
1) 10 to 12
2) Not as much as I'd like, certainly no more than 10 times a year anymore.
Great timing, by the way. I'm addressing these and other frequently-asked reader questions in my Magazine column Aug. 31.
It's been a delicious news week for the Washington area, what with word that Peter Chang is poised to open his first restaurant in Maryland (in Rockville) and Bon Appetit announcing its best new restaurant of the year, which happens to be DC's very own Rose's Luxury on the Hill. (My colleague Tim Carman reports the staff of the restaurant is celebrating the honor by taking tonight off.)
A house-keeping note: I'll be away next week. So no chat on Aug. 27.
Let's rock and roll.
Just wanted to say thanks for your repeated encouragement to address bad service with management on the spot. We had fantastic food and abysmal service (minus the sommelier who was fantastic) at Charlie Palmer Steak on Saturday night. When management checked in at the end of the meal, we explained the issues and were generously comped portions of our meal. He also offered to take us up to the roof for some great photos of the Capitol building. If not for this outstanding service we probably would not be returning but we will definitely be back now.
I've got some company coming out from the Midwest. I definitely want to take them to Ruth's Chris Steak House, but would like to broaden their dining experience by taking them to a Mediterranean/Lebanese restaurant in Northern Virginia. Any recommendations?
Try Me Jana in Arlington, which lures me in with its smoky eggplant puree, bullet-shaped kibbe, minty lamb chops and gracious hospitality.
You didn't ask, but for a more local steak house experience, consider Ray's the Steaks, also in Arlington. The kitchen specializes in butcher cuts of meat, inexpensive but tasty, and includes sides of mashed potatoes and garlicky cream spinach in the price of an entree. Ray's, in other words, is the poor man's Ruth's Chris.
I was excited by your review of Penn Commons and immediately went to the PassionFood website to see whether they'd be open for Sunday lunch (since that's the only chance I get to be in Penn Quarter). The menu looks great, but -- no sign of days or times. I dropped an email to the GM, suggesting that they have a heart-to-heart with their web designer ...
I think it is great that Rose's Luxury has been named Bon Appetit's best new restaurant for 2014, but I have a real problem with the no reservation policy. I understand casual places not taking reservations (although many years ago my mother in law once called the local Wendy's to reserve 8 baked potatoes for our group) but I find it difficult to justify such for a more "fine dining" restaurant. I recently had knee surgery and cannot stand for long periods of time. There is no way that I will line up to see if I can get into the new hot place, either take and honor my reservation (and I have no problem with restaurants that require a credit card to hold the reservation) or expect me to eat elsewhere. The no reservation policy makes it very difficult for older people, the disabled, and others who just cannot stand in line for an hour to get something to eat. That is why I have not been to Little Serow, regardless of how much I love Thai food. I would love to go to Rose's Luxury since I do enjoy inventive and eclectic, chef driven restaurants, but not enough to put up with a lot of pain just to "be there."
I love rice pudding, and I almost never see it on any menu. I love it baked (not stovetop), preferably without raisins, and not too sweet. I live in Woodley Park. Thoughts?
The best rice pudding in recent memory was served to me at the Italian-themed Osteria Morini in Southeast DC, where Alex Levin is pastry chef. His riff on the comfort includes passionfruit curd and crumbled almonds -- not your mom's recipe, perhaps, but thoroughly delicious.
I am great with "ma'am". I'm 52 years old, so "miss" is ridiculous, and let's not even talk about being addressed as "lady".
Good to know -- ma'am.
To me it only sounds formal if the emphasis is on the last syllable -- "Ma Dahhhmmm." If it ryhymes with "Adam" it sounds more like an everyday usage. Others' mileage may vary.
Tom, where are some good places to eat in Raleigh, NC? We'll be there for several weeks and would like some moderately priced choices.
My boyfriend and I prefer to eat at the bar. We love to watch the drinks being made and regularly find ourselves sitting next to fun folks who like to chat. We generally know when specific restaurants get busy and what nearby places can serve as back-ups if our pick is packed. Once in a blue moon, however, we will make a reservation. Usually this is for special occasions, particularly if we're not sure what's nearby. Is it wrong to request to sit at the bar if we get to a restaurant and see that there is plenty of room available? Does the answer differ if a dining room is packed versus half empty? We would be happier sitting at the bar, but I know restaurants must make lots of business decisions based on the number of tables they expect to be occupied that evening.
If you want to sit at the bar, by all means let the staff know, even if you've booked in the dining room. Doing so frees up a table for another party.
It doesn't happen often, but on occasion, I've spotted "reserved" signs posted in front of stools at popular bars, which is great for those of us who like the social aspect of a seat at the counter.
Well, now that Rose's Luxury is no longer a secret outside of DC -- http://www.bonappetit.com/restaurants-travel/best-new-restaurants/article/roses-luxury -- how much worse is it going to get in terms of waiting to get in? While it's great we have a new restaurant that's on everyone's list as "the" place to go, it's sad for us locals who know it's going to be even more mobbed now than it already is... sigh!
I was standing in line at one of our several hugely popular, no-reservations restaurants recently and was amused by all the multi-taskers ahead of me. One woman opened a folding chair (and a good book) to occupy her time before she could get in. The man in front of me wore a harness that held his laptop, so he could work until show time.
Hi Tom, I will be traveling to SF for work in the fall. Any good places you can recommend for a solo diner?
Just in case you're counting, we had excellent experiences at Vidalia, Daikaya, and Rasika West End. Food and service both good. If the restaurant and the customer both play it right and considerately, the experience can be fabulous. Cheers.
Hi, Tom, I love and look forward to the weekly chats! Do you know which restaurants are extending their restaurant week specials into next week? So far the only one I have seen online is Kapnos. Thanks, I wouldn't mind an extra week of choices (or recommendations).
I'm looking to make reservations for 8 adults on October 8 for my Dad's 70th. Price is no problem. Looking for: reservations, really delicious food (no Thai), a "wow" factor, and in Virginia or DC. Dad lived in this area for 50 years and then moved to the west coast 20 years ago. He has eaten at, and liked RT's and Jaleo, but I think we should go somewhere better. What are your thoughts?
The recently made-over Oval Room near the White House certainly says "wow" to this diner, as does Restaurant Eve in Old Town. Both restaurants are obviously different from your pop's stated preferences (Jaleo and RT's), but I'm suggesting them because you say in request that price isn't a factor.
Tom, submitting early with the hopes that you'll throw this out to the chatters. I'm traveling to Thailand this fall (Bangkok & Chiang Mi). I'm looking for restaurant recommendations, some nicer spots and a few hole in the wall places. I'm also looking for a recommendation for a cooking school in Chiang Mi. Any thoughts?
Selfishly, I'm eager to see what recommendations you get from readers, because I'm off to those cities in Thailand in November, too, and haven't done much homework. Chatters?
Do you think that restaurants are getting tired of picky eaters? And I don't mean vegetarians. I mean gluten free, vegans, kosher, locavores, yolk-free, etc... I have seen a lot of new shops where they serve items with "no alterations". I secretly congratulate the chefs for researching and developing what they think is the best and sticking with it. Or do you think that restaurants will go back and accommodate dietary restrictions du jour?
I think a lot of diners who say they can't eat this or that are just looking for attention.
Yes, there are people with valid food issues -- I expect to hear from them as soon as I hit "publish" -- and they have my sympathies. But they really can't expect chefs to go through major hoops for them, certainly not without advance notice. There are some restaurants that will just have to be off-limits to them as a result of what they can't tolerate.
It's gotten really crazy out there. One chef recently told me a guest of his asked that there not be any "green" food in his tasting menu. (For reals?)
The way I understand it, it?s rude for a waiter to clear a plate when someone is still eating. That?s something that happens at a TGI Fridays. But I find that everywhere I go waiters clear my plate before my wife is done, and I even have friends who tell they are upset when a waiter does NOT take their empty plate. So has this just become an accepted practice and I am living in olden times? (Heck I am 35 not 75)
The general protocol is to clear a table only after everyone is finished eating. To remove plates earlier is to make any stragglers feel rushed. However, I know diners who hate having a dirty empty plate in front of them for very long, so they request the plate be taken away. (Sigh.)
Hi Tom, We have some friends coming to town and have asked for a few recommendations for the best low cost eats that still showcase DC. Any ideas? Burger places and quick eats are totally fine! They are staying near Verizon Center, but can certainly get anywhere. Thanks for everything you do! These chats are a weekly highlight.
Thank *you* for participating and giving me material for this chat!
Among my favorite cheap eats around the area are the roast pork with frizzy fried cassava ($12) at Mi Cuba Cafe in Columbia Heights; the shrimp shumai ($5.95), with their rush of hot pork and chicken broth, at Bob's Shanghai 66 in Rockville; the pork- and peanut-stuffed tamale ($6.25) from La Limena, also in Rockville; the spicy mushroom taco ($4), pumped up with chipotle, at the tiny Taco Bamba in Fals Church; and any of the ramens at Daikaya near the Verizon Center.
Readers, feel free to contribute your suggestions.
This seems like a hotly debated issue (as recently as yesterday on Prince of Petworth). My two cents: Rose's will send you a text 15 minutes before your table is ready, so you can go to another place and have a drink, plan around the wait by seeing something in the area you're interested in, or just coming up with a plan to wait things out nearby. I think that's the best they can do without requiring a reservation. I love that the staff doesn't rush patrons to finish, and that's the basis for the policy. It makes sense to me, and I have no problem planning to be within 15 minutes of the restaurant when texted!
Sounds like a nice compromise to me!
As a formal server i used Maam to address my smarter customers for the night. Back in the day would ask for IDs from when I ahd a table of ladies who had more developed view of the world and appreciated having a young gentleman take their order.
How can you tell who are your "smarter" customers?
Lyon Hall in Clarendon is also extending its Restaurant Week menu.
Good to know.
"But most of the time, everyone else is minding their own business. Interesting conversations with people, certainly - but men assuming I'm there for anything other than dinner or a decent beer? Nope." I travel alone on business fairly regularly and always ask for a seat at a table rather than a bar. I give presentations and lead trainings for a living, so by the end of the day, I would rather sit and read my book while enjoying my meal than talk with a stranger at a bar. From my experience (and I can't say that this is the norm), men often feel comfortable approaching me at a bar, striking up a conversation, and even moving their food to sit right next to me. Even when I have my nose in a book! From what I gather from my other female colleagues, they experience the same thing. So yes, interesting conversations, just not ones that I want to have.
Thanks for weighing in. I totally understand your thinking. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a restaurant, just to unwind with some reading material, only to have the peace and quiet erased by someone who wants to talk.
Hi Tom, what's the appropriate way to act as gracefully as possible if you've arrived at a moderate/fine dining restaurant for a nice meal and at some point you start to feel ill (not because of the food at the restaurant, but because of other factors)? I recently went back to Trummer's on Main for Restaurant Week, where the food and service are always wonderful, but sometime after finishing my pre-dinner cocktail I started to feel unwell and was only able to nibble a little on my meal. I swear the server didn't believe me when he asked if everything was all right and I told him that the food was delicious but I just couldn't finish most of it right then and there! He did box up the food for me and I was able to eat it the next day once I was feeling better. I stopped him from pouring any more wine into my still full glass that I had barely touched, joking that I had "overindulged," which seemed to work okay. But being a generally anxious person who just wants to be nice to servers and not have them worry whether something is wrong when nothing is, I was unsure of what I could have done to better indicate that I was essentially unable to eat/drink any more during that meal. Your advice would be much appreciated.
Being honest is the best policy. You don't need to go into any great detail. A simple, "I'm suddenly not feeling well, and it has nothing to do with this meal. Can I have the check, please?" should suffice. Stuff happens!
My dad once stopped a server from taking away the plates until everyone was done, noting that it wasn't polite. Apparently, it was restaurant policy that plates be cleared as people finished (this was at Jackie's several years ago).
Interesting when restaurant policy and protocol collide.
Enjoyed your article. My best meal in Helsinki was much different. In 1984, under the full veil of Communism, I spent 3 weeks in the Soviet Union as part of a college course. The vodka and the tea were great, the food not so much. After 3 weeks of Soviet tourist hotel meals, we took the train from Leningrad to Helsinki. We ran to Burger King, and nothing had ever tasted so good. That strong reminder of home could not be be beat.
Go to Supanniga Eating Room in Thonglor, Bankok, and Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham in Chiang Mai. (Supanniga is easier to find than Khao Soi, but google around and you'll find it.) For those of us stuck in the US, the owners of Supanniga Eating Room also own Somtum Der in NYC, and it's fantastic.
We thank you!
I'm one of those with certain less common life threatening allergies. So, for me, no Chinese, no French, no Italian, no Swedish, no Russian, no Thai. I thought I was safe with Tex Mex, until the new adulterations started, so now I don't go there either. I have to see what I'm getting--whole pieces of protein, no sauces, no broths, no soups, no dressings. It means a very boring restaurant experience food wise--and it has meant not eating at all at restaurant based meetings.
Oh dear. I'm sorry. May I ask what, or where, you can eat?
My wife and I were fortunate enough to get seats at the counter looking into the kitchen at Rose's Luxury on Saturday. The food and service were outstanding, and one of the things that really stood out was how calm and egalitarian the kitchen appeared to be. Maybe it is because of the dramatized version of what you see on TV shows, but I was surprised to not see anyone barking orders or people milling about frantically. We tried to guess who was in charge, but things operated so smoothly, you couldn't tell. While the kitchen staff were all certainly busy, several of them had time to interact with customers, explain some things about the food, and even let us sample several dishes we didn't order. Rose's obviously does a lot of things very well, but I'm curious as to whether most kitchens, particularly those closed off to customers, operate so smoothly.
It really depends on the chef and the restaurant. But screamers went out of vogue years ago. Not that there aren't chefs in 2014 with tempers, just that the really good ones can accomplish more with a raised eyebrow or a look of disappointment than by raising their voices.
You dont take them you dont get my busienss. I dont care if you are a 4 star Michelin palce or top on some mag's list. Also if I ahve a reservation i expect to be seated with in 15 minutes of our arrival unless POTUS is dining at the same palce.
Okay, but that means you're punctual, right?
Siam Rice Cookery! See if you can get into Nancy's class. I had a ridiculously fun time in early 2013 and the group I was with still visits each other all over the US. http://www.siamricethaicookery.com/
Awesome. The list is growing ...
Was that my friend? She refuses to eat anything green, although recently started eating green onions...only as a garnish, not within the dish itself.
What's her rationale?
Hi Tom--my wife and I are going to Hawaii next week, specifically Kauai and the Big Island. Any recommendations from you or the chatters for fun/delicious restaurants? In Kauai, we will be based in Poipu; on the Big Island, we'll be based in Kona. But we'll be driving around, so exact location isn't too important. We'd prefer some variant of local cuisine--no Italian restaurants, please! And any price range is fine; we like holes in the wall as much as high-end dining. Thanks!
In my opinion, it's ruder to point out that a server is taking away plates before everyone has finished than it is to actually take away the plates in the first place. My dad's wife actually slapped a server on the arm for doing this once. I was mortified to be part of a dining party with someone exhibiting that behavior.
I was thinking that as well. Etiquette, after all, is there to make things more civilized, not less comfortable.
Zing ..... Nice.
You know what drives me nuts? When people expect the world of restaurants, but not of themselves. I'm not saying the original poster was That Diner, but ...
Like an earlier poster, I would be happy to guarantee my reservation with a credit card, but I'm not going to stand in line just to eat at Rose's or anywhere else for that matter. I have been to Little Serow but will not go back. It was good but not good enough to stand in line. I'm guessing that Rose's is going to be the same. Too bad my time is too valuable to find out.
For people frustrated by the no reservations policy, I recently went for a weeknight dinner around 5:45-6 and only had to wait about 15 mins (actually, my dining companion put his name down, and by the time I got there, we were seated straight away). For a restaurant as popular as Rose's, one would likely have to make reservations months out in order to get a table, and some of us have schedules that don't allow for that sort of planning. There are a ton of bars nearby where one can wait for a call or benches to people watch. I think I recall reading somewhere that part of the thinking behind the no-reservations at Rose's was that they didn't want to have to rush customers, which certainly adds to the relaxed nature of the place. I think it's also worth mentioning that while the food is inventive and fantastic, they don't price gauge for the experience. Plates cost about the same as most mid-range trendy restaurants opening up in DC but the food is above and beyond. Props to them for the recognition and for making such an accessible, approachable fine dining experience (and double props for doing it in my 'hood!).
If the closeness of a certain ingredient or food type will kill you (or make you ill), stay away from restaurants that may carry that ingredient. The other option is, learn to cook. I have learned with time that the LEAST people learn to cook, the MORE picky they get. When you have to buy, prep, cook and clean you learn VERY QUICKLY to appreciate the work that goes in it. When you have to do that for a living, i can't imagine how hard it has to be. Go Chefs!
I totally get that not every restaurant will be able to change their menu to accommodate my food allergy (it's real, I promise--I have the medical bills to prove it). But when I ask about it, I need a truthful answer. I'm not asking to make trouble, and I'm not asking for the menu to be revamped. I just need to know what, in its existing form, I can and cannot eat. So, servers and kitchens: can we make a deal? Servers, if you actually do ask the kitchen, and kitchen staff, you actually check the ingredients, I will order what I can actually eat as is and not make you jump through hoops. Deal?
I like the way you think. Deal!
Ummm...it's a religious law that's been around for thousands of years, not a recent dietary fad. And for what it's worth, a lot of kosher eaters are happy to just eat the vegetarian or fish options.
This just in, from a rep for Zentan:
Chef Jennifer Nguyen has decided to move on from Zentan and pursue other opportunities. We are very grateful for the passion, dedication and talent she brought to the restaurant and will be actively seeking a new executive chef who can carry the torch of Zentan. In the meantime, our team remains committed to creating the great Japanese cuisine and warm service our guests have come to expect at Zentan.
Near the Verizon Center, I'd suggest Matchbox, Teaism and Graffiato.
All fine-to-very good.
I don't know why it is so hard, but it seems like my soda order is often wrong. If I order Coke, I get Diet. If I order Sprite, it is lacking the syrup, just the seltzer since the clear soda isn't as obvious when it has run out.
This, my friend, is not anything to get too worked up about.
We had several great meals at Postcards, which is on the left as you drive into the town of Hanalei. It was years ago, but friends who've been more recently say it's still great.
Thanks for the rec.
Not an homage to Mr. Bourdain but wanted to chime in. I do understand that the No Reservation policy can be prohibitive to certain people with medical conditions but it's not like these are the days of yore where they stuff you in an uncomfortable sweaty corners with a buzzer and without a glimmer of hope. Whether it be Rose's or Toki, I just take it as opportunity to explore a neighborhood that I usually don't spend a lot of time in. Let's face dinner is usually a lot more fun if you already have a cocktail or two in your before you sit down .....
I'm sure that some kitchens can accomodate some alterations based on customers requests "dressing on the side", "no wasabi in my sushi", etc. But, asking a thai chef not to put fish sauce in a stir fry? It's in the guy's muscle memory! If the chef's error would kill me, I would not order the meal AT ALL. If it's just a matter of taste (wasabi, ugh), oh well, i can send it back. But if i'm dead, well, that would be inconvenient for all, right?
Wp needs to diversiy and hire some straight males for a differnt point of view!!!
It's really not convinent for my work or home but I'm thinking of making the trek. How early do people start lining up? What are the normal wait times on a weekday evening?
Ruth's Chris? I hate to break it to you, but there are plenty of Ruth's Chrises in the midwest, and if there are none in their city, it's probably because they can get a much better steak in a local establishment. If my experience is of any value (I lived in the midwest and southwest for 15 years) what your friends would really appreciate is fresh seafood.
I was thinking that as well.
Yes, for all the times that Tom has clearly judged a restaurant on whether or not his server was handsome, we need a straight male who can tell me of the waitresses are hot. What an idiot.
And you should see the questions and comment I *don't* post!
I'm the guy with the bum knee but I agree that it would be nice if I could explore the area while I waited for a text saying that my table would be ready in 10 minutes or so. However, as one poster noted " Let's face dinner is usually a lot more fun if you already have a cocktail or two in your before you sit down ....." Unless of course you are like me and plan on having a bottle of wine with dinner and want to be in shape to drive home safely. I am constantly amazed by the generation that seems to think at those of us of a certain age continue to like to hang out in bars like we may have when we were younger.
Thanks for the different perspective, sir.
There was a great fish truck (fish tacos) near Poipu that we ate at every day. Local workers made up the lines (which was a good sign to us). It was less than 3 miles from the Grand Hyatt hotel, in a parking lot. The truck was green, and only had a sign that said "today's catch." We ate there nearly every day, some of the best fish I've ever had. That's all I know (sorry) but there aren't many streets so keep your eyes peeled!
And just before we say good-bye today. Thanks.
Same person who wrote the "Reservation" comment ? Cannot text properly, type , or spell. Most annoying. I do wish you could ignore such ignorant entries.
I'll try to keep it to one annoyance per chat from now on. Deal?
Those restaurants that do not take reservations are avoiding the hassle of having to keep track of such things, whether in an appointment book or OpenTable or somewhere else. I'm avoiding the hassle of having to leave work early to be first in line and eat dinner at 5:30 or kill several hours before I can give them my money for food. Obviously, their disinclination to make the effort casts a spell of exclusivity that keeps people coming. I'm sure the food is fine, but I also don't think it is necessarily streets ahead of restaurants where you can actually make a proper reservation. I'll be eating elsewhere, while they keep pulling in people who think it's better because they waited so long (or they were drunk by the time they sat down).
The choir is nodding.
Why do you say that? Would you get worked up about being brought the wrong glass of wine? Is it because soda only cost $2-3 instead of $7+ for a glass of wine? I dislike the taste of diet Coke, and if I order a regular Coke, I'd expect to be brought what I ordered.
Okay, okay. Simmer down. I was just having a little fun there.
The chatter who said he expects to be seated within 15 minutes of the reservation is the reason why Roses won't take reservations. I don't work there but I have been in the business and it is very challenging to know exactly how long people will take with their meal especially when it is a place like Rose's where I call it "experiential eating" As many times as I've been there, I never know how long I'll be there because it depends on our mood, the person I'm with, and the seat (kitchen seats make me want to eat everything I see) and the server recommending other dishes etc. And I would "HATE" to be rushed or moved along. I applaud Rose's for valuing people who are willing to wait, as they totally appreciate and make it a great experience once you are in. Also, as someone who worked in the business, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have people show up late or not show, or show with less or more people (or pretend that they had reservations for a busy night) when you have aligned your staff accordingly. For a busy and small restaurant reservations turn out to be a headache, so I completely understand going with the people who are there as opposed to those who may or may not show up. I think Rose's is making a great compromise by offering to text you 15 min before, and letting you enjoy other venues in the 'hood. Like you said, I am sure the rest of the area bars etc. appreciate it. Btw, I am sure you're familiar with Chris Bianco opening a bar next door for the waiting patrons of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. Maybe Aaron can open a bar next door?? ;-)
This smart post is why I love this hour so much. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Heading to LA for an anniversary next week - any recommendations?
My stomach is growling. And I'm on deadline. Let's call this a wrap and meet here again Sept. 3. Thanks, all, for a great discussion.