The Washington Post

Ask Tom - Tacky restaurants and where's the love for Bistro Provence?

Aug 25, 2010

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema answers your questions, listens to your suggestions and even entertains your complaints about Washington dining.

Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post work at washingtonpost.com/tomsietsema.

TICK, TICK, TICK: That's the sound of a looming deadline, specifically the chance for you to offer comments about food trucks in Washington.

 

Want to keep those lobster, taco and cupcake vendors on our streets, and perhaps even expand the menu of choices? Then you better let the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) know -- today. 

 

But first, share your thoughts with me. Which trucks do you like best?

 

It's a busy Wednesday, folks. Let's get rockin' and rollin'.

Tom, Your review of Bistro Provence made me question how much you incorporate value into your reviews, versus food quality in general. I've been there twice in the past few weeks with other folks, and we all had the same reaction. The food was good, a few things were very good, but the portions were very small and the prices surprisingly high, especially the specials. While I'd say all of us enjoyed the meal, none of us will be going back because of the lack of value...the food wasn't good enough to justify the price. I'd much go to Grapeseed or Persimmon in Bethesda, or drive a little farther to Lia's for comparable food at lesser prices. I remember one of your dining guides where the theme was places you'd spend your own money on. That's a theme I'd like to see stressed more in your reviews...maybe simply a "yes" or "no" under the star rating on the page. For me, your Bistro Provence rating was right on in terms of stars, but even though you mentioned the high prices, I think the average reader would like that stressed a little more. Thanks!

First, thanks for your feedback.

 

While taking into consideration service and ambience, I judge restaurants primarily on the quality of the cooking. Like you, I think Bistro Provence excels at a number of dishes.

 

Value is a tricky thing to gauge. One man's deal is another man's mortgage. I should point out that I actually prefer small portions to big ones; still, I think I would have pointed out miniscule had I seen it on the plate.

 

In my defense, I spent more than a paragraph chiding the chef at Provence for labeling his new restaurant a bistro when the prices reflected something loftier.  I don't think it's necessary to beat readers over the head with any more signs or words or symbols than I already do.

Tom, Love your chats-- I never miss one (even when I'm out of the country!) I'm changing jobs and will have several weeks this month where I'm not working. I would like to take advantange of this time to try some of DC's best lunch options. If you could pick 3 places in the DC area (DC or metro-accessible in MD or VA) to have lunch in the summer, what would they be?

Congrats on the new gig and the time off.  I'm jealous (not about the new job, mind you, but the free time).

 

Does "best" mean "favorite?" In that case, I'd probably head to the Bombay Club, for a relaxed afternoon in India; Central Michel Richard for some buzz and a shrimp burger; and Sushi Taro for whatever raw fish is freshest that day. 

 

 

Why would the city be considering fewer trucks in DC? We need more, not less. You can get DCRA's attention on social media, too. Just include @DCRA in your Tweets. They monitor Twitter closely. You WILL be heard.

As you can imagine, some restaurants aren't exactly thrilled to have competition rolling up, literally, outside their doors.

Tom, we could really use those trucks down here at EPA/Commerce. The food court is terrible (subway, sbarro's, nachofast?) and the restaurant competition (Elephant and Castle...please) aren't places I want to eat anyway...ok so Central is nearby but it's also a bit pricey. I'd kill for a good taco truck or even the lobster roll swinging by once a week. There are places they could go with a large worker population with bad food. Imagine one parked outside the Rayburn building.

From your keyboard to the vendors' eyes....

Tom writes: "As you can imagine, some restaurants aren't exactly thrilled to have competition rolling up, literally, outside their doors." Restaurants may not be thrilled but this is great for the consumer. I mean, this is the beauty of a free and open market, yes? One business model, if it is superior, will rise above the other. If it is not superior, it will fail. Nothing to prevent these restaurants from entering the street vending scene. Zola jumped right in.

 Let me go on record: I'm all for more food trucks in the city.

My parents will be in town and I want to take them out somewhere nice for their 50th. I was originally thinking CityZen, but they're light eaters so I don't want to pay for a lot of food they're not going to eat. Then I was thinking Adour or Charlie Palmer. Both are not open on Sunday, and Sunday is the only day we can do it. They are not adventurous eaters (Italian or French are fine, but that's about it, ethnic-wise). And my mother is allergic to shellfish. Any ideas in DC or Arlington? How is West End Bistro these days? I haven't been in a couple of years, but that could work if you recommend it.

I probably sound like a broken record (does that date me, mentioning broken records?), but Corduroy near the convention center might be your best bet.  You'll not only be able to hear one another in the dining room, you'll likely  thrill to  chef Tom Power's beautiful (but not too fussy) American cooking.

Hi Tom, I have it on good authority that a well-know D.C. restaurant is engaged in illegal tip-out practices with their servers. How concerned would you and your audience be with this subject? I know your primary purpose is discussion of the dining experience itself but I would guess passionate diners would also like to know that the places they are participating are doing things on the "up and up". Let us know what you think.

Can you provide some more details, please? I'm not sure what you mean by "illegal tip-out practices."  Is the restaurant taking money from the servers or?

Is this cupcake craze ever going to end?

True confession: I've never had a Georgetown Cupcake, in part because I refuse to wait in line for one.   Shame on me, probably, but I prefer to patronize Baked & Wired, which has never steered me wrong.

It's always an annoyance to find a restaurant with excellent food, but some incorrigible atmospheric problem. Tonight we dined on the early side at the sun-challenged dining room of Ris. We enjoyed our meal thoroughly, but the full wall of glass on the west side of the dining room meant that at least half or more of the tables receive direct sunlight that elevates the temperature of the room, and -- in my case -- blinded my view of the guest at the opposite side of the table. Rather than asking to be reseated(most tables seemed vulnerable in one way of another anyway, and it was restaurant week, so there were limited options for 2), I squinted and dried my brow for about half an hour until the sun slipped behind the orange drapery. But, even then, the drapery's fabric was almost transparent, so I continued to sweat and squint for the rest of the meal. I can't imagine how other diners endured the sun's intensity there through the months of June and July this summer. We expressed our concern to the server, who said that the restaurant was aware of the problem, but there seem to be serious impediments, including the fact that the large window covered with the orange drapery is an emergency exit, and therefore it cannot be treated with a shade. I don't quite understand how a seasoned restauranteur like Ris LaCoste could open her signature restaurant in the Washington dining equivalent of the Mojave desert, do you?

Some restaurant problems aren't obvious until the place is up and running. My hunch is, the glare became obvious only after actual diners were in place and using the whole of  Ris.

 

I've sat at tables there with a blast of light in my face, but fortunately not for the duration of an entire meal. You'd think some clever designer could come up with a treatment to deflect the sunlight, huh? 

 

Meantime, best to do your best Anna Wintour and keep those sun glasses handy.

Recently I was at a restaurant in a resort, and when I requested a table, the hostess asked me if there were any allergies the restaurant needed to be aware of. Is this a new trend? It felt instrusive. I believe it is incumbent on the diner to raise any allergy concerns rather than the restaurant making inquiries. I wondered if they had had a lawsuit because I was asked this at their spa as well; however, that somehow felt less offensive.

You think the question is intrusive? I actually appreciate the resort's pro-active approach. (You'd be amazed at the number of folks who are sensitive to certain foods and other products.)

Hi Tom - A foodie friend is coming in from New Orleans and we're on a hunt for a good "ethnic" restaurant in Bethesda. What's your best bet? -Annmarie

"Ethnic."  I dislike the word, but I know what you mean: a style of food you and your friend weren't raised on, right?

 

What about Faryab for Afghan cooking? Jaleo for Spanish flavors? Raku for pretty good pan-Asian? I'm very fond of Tavira, one of the few local sources of Portuguese food.

Hello, I recently posted comments on a local food blog about my meal at a DC based restaurant. Comments were not flattering, but factual. I was descriptive about the food and wine my party had. Within minutes if posting the owner sent me a private message asking why I did not disucss with him first and they tried to offer me a bottle of wine on my next visit. I declined the offer as I was not looking for something for free. About a week after that I received a card in the mail with the offer from the restaurant. After research I found that he tracked me through my American express card, they acknowledged. I returned and asked that he not contact me any further. Got me thinking is this common and how often do people expect free stuff whine they raise is issue. Additionally if they are posting about their experience is it tainted?

  Gulp.

 

  It sounds as if the chef  has not only used your personal information in a less than ethical way, he's also bribing you.

 

Blogging and online communities have definitely changed the way everyone -- casual diners, critics, chefs,  publicists -- works these days.

 

On the one hand, I think it's great to see so many people participating in the experience; on the other hand, some folks have no idea what they're talking about, or they play by a rather strange set of (non-journalistic) skills.

 

I can only speak for myself here, but no amount of money or gifts or flattery would ever cause me to write something other than what I felt was the truth about a restaurant.  I hope Post readers know that.

 

 Can the same be said of the Yelpers and their ilk? This post leads me to believe otherwise.

 

 P.S.  I'd love to find out which restaurant contacted you. Feel free to send an email to me at asktom@washpost.com

Here's a plea for truth in advertising: Friends and I stopped for dinner at a family-oriented Greek restaurant about 8 p.m. on Saturday. We were told there would be a 10 minute wait to be seated, because there were 2 large parties in attendance. This was fine. What they did not tell us was that it would take over an hour from the time we ordered to get our food! The excuse was always, the kitchen is busy with the 2 large parties. One of our party was a diabetic who had taken insulin and needed to eat. Needless to say, we plan to call ahead before doing this in the future. Or, more likely, we are going to stick to lunch!

I sympathize -- to an extent.

 

Yes, the restaurant should have informed you there might be delays because of the parties ahead of you.

 

But it was also Saturday night, you were walk-ins and the diabetic in your group surely knows to have on hand a snack in the case of emergencies.

 

If I had seen such a busy dining room, I would have asked, "Can you handle us this evening?" or something similar, just to get a handle on how prepared the kitchen was to meet your needs. 

 

Readers, what say you?

Hi Tom! We're moving back to DC from Mexico City in October and are already investigating where we can get authentic Mexican food in the area. Ideally some tacos al pastor, birria, chilaquiles, etc. Any hot tips for the real deal (i.e. *not* On The Border or anywhere that sings to you while you're wearing a sombrero)?? Thanks much!

The place I've enjoyed most for spicy pork, steak, cactus and even pig lip tacos is the busy Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville. There's lots of pleasure packed into those $3 bundles, which show up with sliced radishes and some top-notch salsas. (The fiery jalapeno dip is my fave.)

You know that Central took the shrimp burger off the lunch menu. I am still upset about it.

Oops. In that case, splurge on the chicken or lobster burger.

Um, a large west wall consisting of glass? It should have been obvious to ANYONE, not just a restaurant owner, that glare and temperature would be a major problem. Surely the glass could be coated with some kind of anti-glare substance?

Okay, maybe I want a little easy on the place there.

My goodness, so do I! Imagine if you had such a sensitivity and the restaurant consisted of nothing but what you had problems with (e.g. a place specializing in peanuts). Why on earth anyone would consider an attempt to serve the customer better as "offensive" I can't imagine. I was asked by Bistro Blanc in Glenelg today as I made reservations whether "they needed to know anything else, like is there a special occasion?" and I really appreciated it (the answer was no).

I appreciate those kinds of questions, too. They show thought on the part of the restaurant (and help them better plan for special needs).

Speaking of prime food truck locations, the 15-20 minute waits at the subway across the street from the Department of Transportation by Navy Yard should scream for some mobile competition. All we have is a dirty water dog cart.

You catch that, trucksters?

Tom--What are you favorite hot spots on the Eastern Shore? I'm heading to St. Michaels / Easton area for my anniversary and would love to know what you think.

For starters, I'm looking forward to another dinner at the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton.

It would be great if restaurants and other food establishments outside the beltway in NOVA got their fair share of write ups. They don't Not even close. Come on Tom venture outside your comfort zone. Your DC bias is showing. I bet the WP has more subscribers outside the beltway in NOVA than in DC.

Are you talking about my First Bite column for the Food section?  Those restaurants all have to be newish. I have no bias toward Md or Va, by the way. On July 21, I wrote about DaMoim in Annandale; on Aug. 11, I highlighted the Mussel Bar in Bethesda.

Have you tried many or any of the trucks roaming around town? The photos of the lines for the lobstah truck were crazy.

The majority of my truck experiences have been in NoVa this far. The lines trailing the lobster wagon scare me, too, although my colleague Jane Black braved the wait for readers today.

Have you been to Damoim in Annandale, yet? Your thoughts? My experience was less than stellar, pretty awful actually.

I'm in your camp. Not a huge fan of caramelized kimchee.

You probably don't want to revisit this topic yet agai, but my husband and I had a Sat. night anniversary dinner at a 3 star restaurant ruined by a family of bored children that included a cxrying baby. Child "expert" Dr. John Rosamund advocates a rigid system of child rearing that I don't think would work for my family, or anybody else's. However, he has one hard and fast rule I heartily endorse: No children under 4 at any restaurant with wait staff. Parents, are you listening?

 And yet, I've seen some quiet and well-mannered kids in some of the best restaurants in the world. (Do Europeans and Asians just do a better job of training their offspring?)

This really is not an important issue, but after a recent delicious and enjoyable meal at an upper-end DC restaurant, I was rather baffled that the pen they included with the credit card receipt was from XYZ Federal Credit Union. While it really doesn't matter as long as the pen works, why would a business where so much is about the presentation, not make more of an effort on this? I'm sure such pens often disappear, but still.... Any thoughts on this, or comments from those in the business?

Restaurateurs?

This is for your producer -- No matter what I do, when I try to print your chat, the type is so tiny I can barely see it. I've tried emailing the chat to myself - but that fails. How do I make the print big enough that I can see it on my commute home on Wednesday nights? I don't have room for a magnifying glass in my backpack.

Can you help a chatter out, Justin Rude (who isn't)?

Unfortunately this is a known issue we are trying to resolve. In the meantime the only quick fix I can suggest is copying the chat, pasting it into a word processor and sizing it yourself.  I wish that was less of a pain...

Thanks to your suggestion, I had a delicious birthday dinner at The Source. Not a complaint, but I'm curious about when restaurants choose to serve an amuse bouche. A week before my reservation I read that the Source was currently serving szechuan green beans at the start of the meal, but none were served. (I didn't notice if other tables received any.) Don't misunderstand, I'm not looking for freebies. But because I had so recently read about the green beans, I was a bit surprised that none were served. Thoughts?

Chef Scott Drewno tells me everyone is supposed to get the gratis snack (which is delicious, by the way). "I feel terrible" he phoned in an apology -- all the way from Minneapolis -- this morning.

 

Drewno says the only reasons you might not get the green beans are 1)  if  you're celebrating a special occasion, in which case spicy tuna cones are swapped in for the vegetables, or 2) your party has ordered the seven-course tasting menu.

 

Was either the case with you, I wonder?

 

Headed to Providence, Rhode Island this Friday for a 2-night stay. Any recommendations in the mid-price range close to Brown University would be perfect. Thanks much!!

Your timing is impeccable -- sort of. In this Sunday's Travel section, I'm featuring Providence in my latest Postcard from Tom

 

Sneak preview: Don't miss drinks and small plates at the divine new Cook & Brown Public House on Hope St.

Hi Tom, We had a very bad experience last night at Pizza Orso in Falls Church. We sat for 20 minutes in the dining room with only 3 or 4 other tables occupied as 5 waitstaff stood around and chatted, completely ignoring us. We got up to leave and walked past the host stand (and the hosts who had greeted us upon our arrival) and no one was the least bit concerned about our decision to leave. They were chatting, as well, and seemed to be oblivious to our situation. We were looking forward to recommending this new place to our neighbors. That is not going to happen. I have already texted a friend to tell her to find another place to take her visitor from Pittsburgh this weekend. To make matters worse, it was our wedding anniversary!

Twenty minutes is too long to wait, even for pedigreed pizza.  But you owed it to yourselves and Orso to speak up. Even if you intended to leave, a manager should have been alerted to the problem.

What does this part of your review mean exactly (See below)? How is chicken an element of the eatery being "tailored" for the neighborhood. Do people in this neighborhood somehow prefer chicken to other foods? Do people in other neighborhoods not prefer chicken?You seem to go to great lengths in your review to explain the down-trodden nature of the people and the neighborhood. Almost as if to say the residences are uncouth or somehow don't understand what good food is. I'd really like to know what you thinking is here. But unlike the original Ray's, whose success prompted a move up the street two years ago to larger quarters, the new Washington offshoot, the 66-seat Ray's the Steaks at East River, was custom-tailored for its neighbors. There's chicken on this gently priced menu, for instance. And those album covers on the wall come from the owner's personal collection; some of the artists, such as jazz great Sonny Rollins, have a link to the District.

I think you're reading too much into my review.

 

Owner Michael Landrum told me he spent time talking to the residents of East River about their likes and dislikes and what they wanted from his newest Ray's. What I got from my conversation with Mr. Landrum is that his audience wanted, among other things, value -- and more than just steak on the menu. 

Today my wife, a friend and I had brunch at Commonwealth. During the meal, my wife put a mouthful of hash browns into her mouth and bit down on something hard. Luckily, she did not swallow it. It turned out to be a bent tack; one that would be used to build a wooden crate of produce. We called the server over and showed it to her. She promptly told the manager that we had found a foreign object in our food. The manager quickly came over and apologized. She stated that Commonwealth only buys organic and "unexpected guests occasionally show up in the food". She offered my wife a free mimosa. I looked perplexed by the manager's expalnation and she then turned to me and said "You look upset too so would you like a mimoda too". I declined. My wife then asked for a bloody mary. When the manager returned, I explained that it was not a bug found in the food, but a sharp piece of metal. The manager apolozied. We recommended that she throw out the entire batch of home fries to possibly prevent injury to any customers and she stated that she would investigate. When we asked for the bill, our server returned with the check and stated that my wife's entree had been removed from the bill. My question to you is what is appropriate compensation from a restaurant for finding dangerous, foreign objects in one's meal? I thought it would be appropriate to comp the whole meal as our entire tab was only $47. Is this unreasonable?

You probably won't like my response -- and I hope the manager *did* investigate how a tack got into your wife's  potatoes -- but it was your wife who found the tack in her food at Commonwealth, not you or your guest. And if I'm getting the story right, the manager apologized a couple times, no one was injured and there was also minimal disruption (i.e., no one had to wait to eat because someone's dish was improperly cooked or whatever).

 

Chatters, what do you say?

Tom, Do restaurants ever reach out to you after a critical review ? Specifically, do they ever say you were right about that and we've fixed it ?

Sometimes. And other times they tell me their customers love the dish I panned, or prefer loud music to soft, or  .... you get the idea.

While I like the idea, I doubt the Capitol Police would allow any of those food trucks anywhere near any of the House or Senate buildings.

I have a hunch you're right.

Yes. They do. And it's not that hard. (Just for the record, I am neither European nor Asian; I'm a white-bread midwesterner.)

Okey Dokey. Case closed.

I hate seeing these accusations that you favor one part of the metro area over another. You have a huge area to cover and I think you do a fantastic job.

Bless you (Mom?)

If I read the chatter who wrote you about the foreign object, I think the restaurant escalated the situation by being flip about it "stuff happens" and trying to make excuses along party lines ("that's what you get for the blessing of local/organic") instead of just gravely saying "I'm sorry, this shouldn't have happened, there is no excuse, I can replace this or give you something different at no charge, have a mimosa for your trouble.") Restaurants screw up all the time, so do I, no one is perfect, but being flip about a sharp object in your food makes the restaurant sound dismissive and doesn't help the customer feel like he or she is being treated respectfully.

I wasn't there to witness the scene, but you're right: flip is never a good response to any problem.

So true. I read your reviews and have come to expect thoughtful evaluations of your dining experiences and a guideline to a restaurant's menu/prices/ambiance. In no way are your tastes and mine identical. How I "value" portions, use of truffle oil, wine list options, curtains on a west window, or a complete experience is MY value system. Believe me, you and I have differed. I read you because your reviews are as "objective" as a "subjective" experience can be.

Thanks for the feedback.

The no-kids under 4 poster is an idiot. If you wait until your child is older to take them to restaurants, they will have no idea how to act and will likely misbehave. We take our 8 month old to restaurants often, and she is a delight. If she gets fussy, one of us takes her outside. Problem solved. Like many DC families, we are urban dwellers who both have fast paced careers and not a lot of time to cook. Ergo, we, and our children go out to eat frequently. People who have a problem with that should go live in retirement communities. As for kids in other countries being better behaved, my observation is that it is not so much that the chldren are different, but rather that adults in other countries(both parents and not) tend to treat children more as an expected and welcome part of everyday life, which predictably results in happier, more well adjusted children.

You sound like a wise parent (well, except for calling the earlier poster an "idiot").

Fine dining bartender here. We, like many restaurants, have pens floating around from xyz bail bonds. They are thrown away by management on sight and any server or bartender caught using them faces crucifixion.

Yikes!

Generally, pens are the waiters' personal pens.

OK.  Does anyone remember Ducasse in New York and the selection of  exquisite pens it offered customers when they signed the (lofty) tab? Over-the-top, if you ask me.

Hi Tom & Justin - has the reader try resizing the font on the browser? One can just go to the "view" menu, click on "text size" and make it larger. On Mac browers, you just have to press Open Apple and the "+" sign to enlarge text. Hope that helps the reader out a little.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Unfortunately it still prints fairly small, even at the large screen size. It helps, but its not a perfect fix yet.

Sir, Both Bethesda and Annandale are inside the Beltway. Your post kind of confirms the original posters claims of bias when you don't know what is inside and outside the beltway. Shame, shame. Your mother would expect better.

What I meant in my response is that I'm not just grazing in the city. Geez Louise!

I believed you reviewed this restaurant in the past year. Is it still possible to pull that review up? M. Kauchak

Indeed it is.

Tom, one more note I wanted to get in early about Bistro Provence and restaurant chocolate in general; unfortunately I'll be in a meeting during your chat. I love chocolate and chocolate desserts. I have a sensitivity to coffee that makes me ill even if there are only trace amounts in food (I have never met anyone else who has this problem BTW, is there anyone else out there with this problem?). Increasingly, I have found that restaurants have been adding coffee to all their chocolate desserts. Last night at Bistro Provence both the chocolate mousse and the molten chocolate, according to the pastry chef, had significant amounts of coffee in them. A plea to pastry chefs, if you must add coffee to your chocolate desserts, please don't add it to ALL of your chocolate desserts. Let us taste the chocolate. Thank you.

You should know that chocolate crops up, usually unsweetened, in a lot of savory sauces and meat dishes, too.

Happend to have seen you at a recent unnamed location swapping plates with guest- wanted to say hello, but fiqured you work working. What is the protocal if I wanted to say Hello. BTW was interesting watching you work.

Yikes. Was I that obvious? And how did you know it was me? Have we met before?

 

I'm usually happy to meet readers, as long as they don't come up and say something along the lines of "So, Tom, are you reviewing this joint?"  (Chances are, I am, but still.)

Tom: One of your colleagues claimed on Twitter that Galileo was less than two weeks away from raising the curtain. True? Perhaps there will be a jar at the entrance where people can leave donations to help Chef Donna pay off his tax bills and other debts.

Ouch.

 

I'll believe the restaurant is open when paying guests start getting seated.

Tom, I was interested to see your First Bite column about Carmine's - sounds pretty promising. My husband, whose family is Italian-American (Sicilian) and from NYC/NJ is always complaining about the lack of good Italian restaurants here (he says they're all frou frou here). It sounds like this one might hit the spot!

Carmine's definitely has the generous, family-style portions down pat, that's for sure.  I haven't seen so many shopping bags leave a place since the Memorial Day sale at Macy's.

Your lack of grazing outside the beltway is an issue. Accept it and change. And learn geography.

Let's see now. I was in The Plains on Sunday, Annapolis on Monday ....

We're Jewish. We keep the maztoh meal in our main pantry. We have an auxiliary cabinet for our ethnic foods. Like spaghetti. It's all relative.

Yep.

Catching up on today's chat and once again I get this nagging idea that you are the only one who gets great/reliable/postiive service at the Source. I think you are a rock star, but I suspect that you don't get the service that everyone I know who has gone there gets - which is just, well, bad. I think it would be interesting for you to send someone you really really trust there for lunch a couple of times and see if their experience is different than yours. For two years now, I have had to go there for lunch dozens of times with out of town clients because they hear its the go-to place, and I just am honestly perplexed at how your raves at the place are so inconsistent with my experiences.

I like the way you think.

 

Not long ago, I took a bunch of pals to a Big Deal Restaurant, where someone figured out who I was. My group was treated exceptionally well -- so well, that one of my companions booked a table there the very next week. Bless him, he took pictures of the food on Visit No. 2 --  dishes that were smaller and less appealing than the exact same dishes he had with me.

 

My job, of course, is to cut through all that, to pay attention to other than my own table, and to return multiple times (and hope no one unmasks me).

From someone who's definitely not your mom: Tom, you do a fine job. You work for the *Washington* Post. Of course you're going to write about restaurants in Washington, and you write about a lot of restaurants outside the city too. I don't go to every restaurant you cover, because my wallet isn't that deep, but it's nice to live vicariously. Thanks for your hard work.

(Feeling better now.)

 

Thanks.

Ahh, Tom... Annandale and Bethesda are _inside_ the beltway.

I know that. But I didn't catch that in the rush of the morning. My apologies. (Folks, you gotta realize this is like live TV here. I make mistakes now and then! But I'm answering as fast as I can.)

For a great fresh banh mi sandwich, you can't beat what Rebel Heroes is serving up in Arlington. And word on the street is that they just got their DC permits so we'll be seeing them downtown any day now.

I'd love not to have to cross the river for my spicy pork meatball fix from Rebel Heroes.

Tom--what one restaurant in Seattle makes you the most homesick or nostalgic for your old stomping grounds? My wife and I are excited to visit Poppy and other Postcard-featured spots, but we'd love to know the restaurant that makes you wistful for your time in the Emerald City. Thanks so much as always!

Gosh, that is such a difficult question to answer, in part because some of my old favorites are no more (anyone ever eat at Lampreia in Belltown)?

 

But right this moment, I'd love to be sitting at the bar at Matt's in the Market, gazing across Elliott Bay and eating a lamb burger or whatever local fish was on the menu.  It's a cozy little spot in the middle of Pike Place Market and I almost always try to drop by when I'm out there.

We went to Plume for our anniversary dinner and had the best service we've had in DC. The waiter accidentally refilled our wine glasses with another table's bottle of wine. They took what could have been an uncomfortable situation and remedied immediately. We didn't have to ask for new wine. Instead, the waiter noticed his error and the sommelier appeared instantly and whisked the old glasses away and brought a brand new bottle and began to pour. They were first class all the way. Also, the spacing between tables and comfort level of the chairs should be something other restaurants aspire to.

Very classy, I agree. (Every upscale restaurant should take a cue and note the luxurious distance between the tables at Plume.)

Tom, thanks for having these chats, I always enjoy them. We ate at Bistro Provence last night for the first time and I have very mixed feelings. First of all, the food was great! Everything we ordered (lobster bisque, stuffed clams, duck and hanger steak) was delicious. The service was somewhat awkward in that there were very long pauses between courses, we had to flag someone down to have our water glasses filled and, if we didn't say something to stop him, the waiter would have overfilled our wine glasses (he once chastised me for pouring the wine into my wife's glass at the level we felt was appropriate and then proceeded to try to overfill my glass.) This brings me to the wine list. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that a list primarily made up of $100+ bottles of wine is ridiculous? We are living in a time of many, many wonderful and moderately priced wines from all over the world, and this is just off-putting and unnecessary. Despite the very good food, there were enough negative aspects of the dining experience that made me uncomfortable and hesitant to return; in my mind it is about the total dining experience and not just the food.

Not a lot of love for Bistro Provence today.

I agree with you on the wine prices, by the way. They don't say "bistro" to me, either. 

 

Sounds as if the kitchen needs to speed things up or BP needs t hire (and train!) more staff.

Please, oh please - Keep the food trucks rolling here in DC. Can food trucks, chains and restaurants all survive in the same city, even the same street? Of course - and they do, in NYC, for example. It makes for a variety of options. Anyone who works in a single location that doesn't move about the city or change neighborhoods, the additional options are heavenly. There are always people who will be skeptical of eating "street food" so not everyone will be eating at the trucks. It's not as if the trucks are selling exactly what every place else is selling. If they are, then that should inspire consistent quality or a boost in qualitiy for lunch time diners in DC. Besides, it's not as if these food trucks are also competing for your dinner patrons. Don't roll over the food trucks. Let them bring diversity and inspire good food for lunch here. Thanks

Thanks for weighing in.

 

Folks, I've got a ripe peach and a few deadlines staring me in the face. Gotta run. See you next Wednesday.

By the way - many of us think you do a fine (EXCELLENT) job. You work for the WASHINGTON Post, not the "exurbs of Washington/Virginia but we like to think we're Washington" Post. Now I'm just being cranky.

LOL

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Tom Sietsema
Weaned on a beige buffet a la "Fargo" in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. In thinner days, he was a critic for Microsoft Corp.'s sidewalk.com and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and a food reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the '80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section's recipes. That's how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

He covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns; keeps tabs on the world at large in his Postcard From Tom column and moderates the Sietsema's Table discussion group. His new video series, Tom Sietsema's TV Dinners, pulls back the curtain on a critic's life -- in and out of the dining room.
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