You’ve seen the list, now see who missed
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The results of my 13th annual Fall Dining Guide are out, and as in years past, many were called but few were chosen: Forty restaurants made the cut to be on my list of favorite places to eat around Washington. You may wonder why a particular establishment didn’t rate last week. Some of the contenders slipped in quality. Some were in transition. Other candidates piqued my interest but weren’t as convincing as some of their peers -- the restaurants I ultimately served up. Here’s a taste from some of the many auditions:
Ordering a la carte is no longer an option at Frederick’s finest dining destination, which switched to a choice of four-, seven- or 21-course tasting menus a year ago. What that means is more chances for a patron at Volt to sample the creativity of chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio, the Season 6 “Top Chef” contender and recent empire builder whose delightful new Family Meal nearby is a hit. At Volt, a garland of beets, radishes and yellow petals interspersed with tiny beet meringues resemble an edible lei on their plate. Tender ravioli stuffed with goat cheese are beefed up with crisp maitake mushrooms but lightened with almond “air.” Guinea hen, a new fall fashion, finds sheer mahogany skin hovering over a bar of succulent pink fowl set on a celery root puree. I thought the bird was my favorite dish, but that was before I tasted rich saddle of lamb, fragrant with rosemary and garlic and embellished with razor-thin cauliflower, both fresh and dried chickpeas and plump golden raisins. I could do with fewer froths and deconstructed dishes in this contemporary art museum, but I hope the kitchen doesn’t touch the cocktails, the post-dessert sweets that suggest a Parisian gem or the best French press coffee around. Luxury dining endures, but it’s not your father’s idea of a haute time. The servers at Volt wear suits -- with sneakers.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
Praline Bakery & Bistro