Spring Dining Guide 2012: Why these restaurants?

Seared Alaskan halibut hovers over a verdant puree of mint, pea and vanilla at New Heights in Woodley Park. (Joseph Victor Stefanchik for The Washington Post)

Like spring cleaners everywhere, I’ve recently been taking stock of my surroundings and making decisions about what’s worth keeping and what’s lost its value.

Welcome, in other words, to the third annual “Then and Again” Spring Dining Guide, in which I return to restaurants that haven’t been reviewed in awhile to find out what they taste like in 2012. The theme has become a favorite of mine. Restaurants are ever-changing and my goal is to serve my audience, as a chef might put it, only the freshest.

The process of tidying up one’s roost is a little different for a food critic, of course. There are hundreds of candidates to consider and only so much time for revisiting them while I’m simultaneously chasing what’s new or unexplored on the dining landscape.

The 15 restaurants I chose to examine this season represent a wide range of price points, locations and cooking styles. Some establishments have experienced a major change in talent, looks -- or both -- since they were last reviewed. Other restaurants were included because their online reviews rank among some of the Post’s most-visited. At least one place is back because, frankly, 16 years is a long time between critical assessments.

My hope is that you can sift the best from the dross and add a name or three to your restaurant rotation from among the starrier lot.

Hungry? Let’s eat.

Enter the photo gallery and read Sietsema’s reviews.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. 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.



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