The Washington Post
from Post food Critic tom sietsema’s online discussion
Q: Where can I find a good Niçoise salad?
A: Le Diplomate on 14th Street NW has what you seek — confit tuna, red bliss potatoes, haricots verts — and on its lunch menu, where the salad goes for $20. For a dollar more, there’s a carpaccio of sushi-grade bluefin tuna with elements of a Niçoise salad (green bean-tomato-olive tartare, crispy potato strings, capers, etc.) at the equally delicious Convivial in Shaw.
Q: A vendor who is also a friend and I are going to dinner tonight. I work at 13th and G streets — where should we go? No allergies, fairly adventurous and on an expense report!
A: My first thought is Central Michel Richard, where I recently had lunch at the bar and left wishing I could be a regular there. (In another life, maybe.) I understand a new menu is in the works. But even the oldies there — the fried chicken, the tuna burger, the artful goat cheese salad — remain goodies.
Q: Can you suggest some lunch option with outdoor seating for 20 to 30 people (40 to 75 years old) in Arlington or Alexandria? A: Happy to oblige. Try Barca, the wine bar on the waterfront in Old Town, or Mattie & Eddie’s, the convivial Irish tavern in Arlington.
Q: Besides the Southwest Waterfront, I haven’t been out to dinner in D.C. in two-plus years (pandemic) since I’ve been teleworking. Could you share any suggestions for a place to meet a former colleague who lives in the Midwest? Somewhere downtown that is more moderate — not formal or too
expensive — any cuisine.
A: Use the opportunity to introduce your former colleague to a Washington tradition (think Old Ebbitt Grill near the Treasury for oysters at the bar) or something with international
flair (say, Boqueria or Jaleo for Spanish tapas).
Q: Where should the three of us have dinner and drinks next week? It’ll be on the early side, 6 p.m. Must be in D.C. but not far Northwest, or we can go to Arlington, preferably accessible via public transportation. One party is vegan, the other two omnivores. All enjoy delicious cocktails and wine, but one leans to nonalcoholic drinks for health reasons. No allergies.
A: Rasika West End gets my vote. I took a vegan friend there pre-pandemic and he still raves about the cooking (not to mention the variety).
Q: I scored some great seats for a performance of “Hamilton” at the Kennedy Center for far less than an arm and a leg and was wondering what you’d recommend for dinner nearby. A: Just a mile away from the performance space is La Perla, which I recently returned to after I don’t know how long. The sweep of the menu and ornate decor are definitely throwbacks, but the Italian cooking — tender veal Marsala, herbed lamb chops — was pretty good. La Perla is also on the quiet side, a big plus for those diners tired of noise in dining rooms.
Q: I’m looking for some suggestions for a D.C. dinner with an out-of-town cousin I don’t see very often. No cuisine is off-limits, and prices similar to Rasika’s. (One caveat: reasonable noise levels, so we can talk without yelling — I’m a little hard of hearing.) I haven’t been in D.C. since the pandemic started, so there are a lot of new places I know nothing about.
A: If you like Rasika, you’re going to appreciate the redesigned and ever-delicious Bombay Club near the White House. It was my No. 5 favorite restaurant in my last fall dining guide. I love that the menu features a collection of favorite dishes from the restaurant’s more-than-three-decade run.
Q: Is there a way to receive a weekly email from The Washington Post that includes all of your restaurant reviews? A newsletter with all you publish each week would be great!
A: Perfect timing! The Post now offers readers the ability to follow some bylines, mine included as of this week. All you have to do is go to my author page and click the “follow” button next to my name. From then on, whenever a review or story publishes, you’ll get an alert to my work (everything but the chat for now).
Q: We’ve long driven to Arlington, Falls Church, Little Saigon, etc., for good pho; any chance we have anything in the District?
A: One of the best bowls awaits in Columbia Heights, at Pho Viet on 14th Street NW. It’s been awhile since I’ve slurped there, so I’m hoping it’s the same good pho — near-translucent broth fragrant with ginger and other spices — I encountered prepandemic.
Q: I am looking for good ceviche in D.C., any neighborhood.
A: Three places pop into mind as places you want to explore. They are Mariscos 1113, El Secreto de Rosita and Pisco y Nazca Ceviche.
Pro tip: At El Secreto de Rosita on U Street NW, go for the mixto ceviche made with raw corvina, tuna, shrimp, fried calamari and leche de tigre, the spicy, citrusy “tiger’s milk” that lightly cures the seafood and electrifies the salad.
Q: What are the top romantic Italian restaurants in D.C.?
A: L’ardente is a stunner, with high ceilings, cozy banquettes and an open kitchen. Every bit as alluring as the setting is the cooking.
While less delicious, I’d also put RPM Italian in the romantic category. To the right of the host stand is a dark bar with a big, square counter. To the left of the greeters is an earth-toned dining room that practically insists you order champagne and truffles. All around you are attendants in white jackets and black ties, moving about the room with purpose, ferrying cocktails from the dreamy backlit bar and big bowls of shrimp from the kitchen.
Q: I’ve decided to take every Monday off this summer. As I explore the city, I’d like to grab lunch out. The problem is most places are closed on Monday. Any cuisine, any part of the DMV works (I’m in Northwest D.C. near the Palisades), and bonus points for options that wouldn’t work with my two toddlers since this will be alone time for me.
A: Monday lunches are now easier to find than earlier in the pandemic. Indeed, you could practically take a trip around the world by grazing at Le Diplomate (France), Rumi’s Kitchen (Persian), D’leña (Mexican), Zaytinya (Greek/ Turkish), Joe’s (American), Tosca (Italian), Ambar (Balkan),
Bombay Club (Indian) and
Taberna del Alabardero (Spanish). Typing this list is making me hungry!
Q: My husband and I just moved to Alexandria, near Del Ray, and want to start trying all the restaurants here. We lived in D.C. for over six years but rarely ventured to go out in Alexandria. What are some of your favorites? A: I’m excited to check out the relaunch of Vermilion in Old Town, long a favorite of mine. Other standbys include Kismet for modern Indian, Nasime for Japanese and Ada’s on the River for creative American cooking.