Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Kanlaya Reax

As promised, below is the rundown of my dining “experience” at Kanlaya last night. In both both the technical and taste categories, I would say there were some significant hitches. First of all, I posted three or four notes to the Twitter feed of my work blog, SCOTUSblog. Considering that site works primarily in Supreme Court reporting, maybe descriptions of the beer service at local Thai restaurants is not exactly germane. Oh well.

On the taste front, I guess there was nothing particularly wrong with Kanlaya. Often I judge restaurants like this by their vegetarian menus. It isn’t that hard to pump out chicken pad thai, or pad see yew, or any number of other meat dishes (of course, really good meat entrees aren’t that easy). But is the vegetarian food anything more than sad bits of fried tofu with veggies and sauce?

Kanlaya has a large veggie menu, which means maybe I just picked the wrong thing: my Pad Prik was tasty, but the beans (which were advertised as “Fresh String Beans”) looked like the frozen cut beans you can get at Giant, and the sauce was watery, and not particularly spicy (for its rating of two peppers on the menu, the highest they gave).

Evidently this is a problem that others have had:

Some like it hot, and diners who do had better make that point clear to the staff. This is a kitchen that pulls its punches if you aren’t insistent; shaved beef with bamboo shoots in a supposedly spicy red curry didn’t sound a single fire alarm.

Everyone else seemed to enjoy their food however, even a friend who had chicken satay, and was alarmed to see two pieces of toasted Wonderbread swimming in the sauce. So maybe I just picked wrong.

The final verdict: the food was fine, and if I had something going on in Chinatown and I was jonesing for a little Thai, I would go back again. But now I really, really, REALLY need to go to Thai X-ing. You can see my Twitter feed, admittedly short because of the tweets sent to the SCOTUSblog feed, after the jump.

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thrifty/epicure at Brightest Young Things!

Check it out, folks! Your humble t/e editor can now be seen at brightestyoungthings.com, writing about food, and generally doing things that are both bright and young (including stuff that is waay outside my general knowledge base).

Check out my first post, on the Zagat guide’s attempt at cheap food rankings for DC, here.

RW Extended: Lunch at PS-7s

RW is over. Now I know that seems like a pretty obvious statement: after all Restaurant Week was officially August 11th-17th. Many restaurants, however, extended their promotions, and many critics suggested saving those restaurants for this week (or even next) in order to make Restaurant Week last. But whatever schemes various restaurateurs may have had to gin up business by lengthening their RW promotions, the excitement, the totally mobbed craziness of last week, has not carried over it seems. I say this because at my lunch Thursday afternoon at PS-7’s, right in the prime lunch hour, there were maybe 10-12 other parties eating. We actually had to wait a second for our table, but only because our hostess seemed somewhat confused by the “lunch rush” of four parties coming in at once.

Once we were seated, however, service was very good. We were pressed a little to order – though I’m not sure if that really passed the line between “attentive” and “pushy” – but once our food came, our waiter pretty much stayed out of our way (he only stopped by to clean up the table after I, during one of my more expansive hand motions, knocked over a water glass). Of course, there was no reason to be getting bad service; our waiter only had two other tables in his entire half of the restaurant.

The menu was pretty big for Restaurant Week: it isn’t the full menu, but seven apps, eight entrees and three desserts isn’t half bad. Though we had a lot of choice, in the end, we went with what had been recommended elsewhere: beer poached mussels, tuna tartare sliders, cornmeal-crusted trout, the “big hot brown” (an openfaced sandwich of turkey, bacon, tomato and mornay), the beignets dessert and the “cobbler of the day.”

On a purely technical note, I’ve managed to overcome my discomfort with taking pictures in restaurants (it always seemed somewhat rude to me). In fact, it was my friend and fellow diner who brought her camera – I was just going to use the phone – but for the first time, we have extensive photography of restaurant food.

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RW Review: Lunch at Ceiba

In the third of our four-part series on DC’s late summer orgy of prix fixing and harried service, your intrepid editor once again ventured into the field for a little Restaurant Week enjoyment. (Aaaaand that’s enough third person.)

Where did I go? Ceiba. Part of the conglomerate of restaurants that includes DC Coast, TenPenh and Acadiana, I had heard good things. My enthusiasm was somewhat dampened, however, by a friend’s report that TenPenh’s RW menu had been less than thrilling; unfortunately, I learned this on Thursday, one day before our reservation – there was no way I was going to find a replacement. And so off we went – filled with either trepidation (myself) or indifference (my fellow diners). I guess it all depends on whether you’re eating just for the act or for its larger (blogging) implications.

You should know that Ceiba, unlike these restaurants, is not extending its Restaurant Week promotions. By the time you read this, there will be no prix fixe options available until January. But I think this review serves a purpose anyway: the Restaurant Week experience seems relatively constant across multiple events, and if you remember this exists in January, it could be a helpful guide.

And so the question here is: who made the bigger mistake, myself for going to Ceiba during RW, or you for missing it?

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RW Review: Rasika

Yes, Restaurant Week is technically over. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pumping the event for all the possible traffic I can get. Also, Rasika is extending its RW promotion until the 24th, so you still have six days to get in the door. Good luck making reservations, of course.

Unlike most of my RW pit stops, I actually got in to Rasika for dinner. Yes, it was an early dinner (5:30), but you do what you have to. Honestly, it might not have been that “cool,” but unlike the people eating at 7:30 or 8:00, we had no service problems, everyone was really nice and the place wasn’t completely insane. Two non-food notes: first, servers at Rasika seem to stand very far away from the table and then shout at you. An odd choice, though maybe my BO is not as concealed by my Old Spice as I once thought? Also, for a nice restaurant, Rasika isn’t very smart about concealing evidence of the gauche background of some of its decor: I must have peeled two or three “Bed Bath and Beyond” price tags off of various bathroom accoutrements. Not that I would fault a restaurant for going the cheap route: I am the “thrifty” epicure after all. I just found it amusing. I wish I had taken a picture.

With the increase in prices to $35.08, whether RW dinner is still a good deal is definitely an open question. At Rasika, however, you want to be there for dinner – the selection is considerably better. Ignore the menu at the Rasika website; I don’t know if they thought to publicize their wishful thinking, but it doesn’t match what they are serving. Head to Washingtonian’s Best Bites (which I link to so often I should be a subsidiary) instead. The most obvious discrepancy between the online and actual menu is the missing Palak Chaat, or crispy spinach, at lunch. As I have been told, and as our waitress mentioned about half a dozen times, crispy spinach is Rasika’s “signature appetizer.”

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RW Review: Lunch at Bistro Bis

I’ll try to keep this short – there are dozens of RW reviews out there, and information overload and paralysis is certainly possible.

Your editor along with three former coworkers visited Bistro Bis for lunch on Thursday. Bistro Bis, in the Hotel George near Union Station, is the sister restaurant to Vidalia and describes itself as a “very modern version of a French Bistro.” BB was serving a relatively extensive Restaurant Week menu, though as Todd Kliman noted, they have a significant number of upcharges: at least half of the menu items required at least a $3-$6 charge above the $20.08 cost of lunch.

Generally the biggest complaint about Restaurant Week is the service: it tends to be rushed, forgetful and somewhat rude. After all, these people are dealing with considerably larger crowds than they would see ordinarily (not that that excuses them). The service at Bistro Bis, however, was largely excellent, with only two exceptions: first, they brought our entrees very quickly after our appetizers; though I hadn’t finished my appetizerĀ  (it was very large), they whisked it away and replaced it with my meal. Also, they pulled the whole “put the check down on the table before dessert was served” manuever – obviously they were hoping to push us towards the door. Servers were very helpful however, our water glasses were conscientiously refilled and any questions or concerns we had were promptly answered. I wasn’t that bothered by the service at all.

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DC Bagels: Better than Round Bread, I Swear

Can you find a good bagel in DC? It can be difficult. Certainly you aren’t going to get one a grocery store; what I’ve seen has really epitomized the “round bread” nature of bad bagels. Too soft, no crust, almost crumbly. A friend of the blog, and an inveterate New York-ophile, maintains that a good bagel is impossible to get “this far south,” though if pressed, he’ll admit to going to So’s Your Mom, a little deli in Adams Morgan. Another friend swears by Heller’s in Mt. Pleasant. Buy a bagel, get a pistol! [Yes, that is a little politically topical DC humor for you. Love it. -Ed]

Now I’ve never been to either place, but I have another contender for “somewhat more than palatable DC bagel:” Bagels Etc. of Dupont Circle. Bagels Etc. is right around the corner from work, making those mid-morning breakfast runs convenient and delicious. Its a tiny little counter, run by very friendly Chinese ladies who immediately try to take your order when you walk in the door. Make sure you take a moment, though, because the menu is extensive: a large selection of cream cheeses for the ever elusive shmear, classics like lox spread, cream cheese cucumbers and sprouts as well as a full selection of hot and cold deli sandwiches. They even have a number of vegetarian options.

Really though, a broad selection of options means nothing if the bagels themselves are no good. But don’t worry, these are tasty: chewy, crusty, with a defined bagel shape. There’s nothing I hate more than the creeping disappearance of the hole in the middle of a bagel. Bagels should be defined loops: the dough should not swell to fill the hole, and, horror of horrors, the hole should not be obscured by a clump of filling. The national bagel chains (Bruegger’s and Einstein’s come to mind) are the worst offenders in this; but it’s good to see somebody standing strong against the general decline of bagel standards.

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