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Tom Sietsema's Dining Guide

This spring, our critic revisits old favorites and recent flops.

Correction to This Article
The Spring Dining Guide in today's Magazine, which was printed in advance, incorrectly said that the Washington restaurant Nora was previously reviewed in 1988. It was previously reviewed in 1996.

How are they now? Tom Sietsema gives 20 restaurants another taste in the Spring 2010 Dining Guide

Video
L'Auberge Chez Francois has been a fixture of the local dining scene since 1954. In this video, chef-owner Francois Haeringer, 91, talks about L'Auberge and the philosophies that have guided his business through the years.

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By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 23, 2010

There aren't many drawbacks in my unusual tasting-and-typing job, but one of them is this: There's never enough time.

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If there were eight days in a week instead of seven, if I had another mouth (and stomach) in my arsenal, maybe then I could tackle more of the thousands of restaurants that blanket the District, Maryland and Virginia. Sometimes I feel like the busy parent of a very large and ever-growing extended family. As much as I'd love to check in on an older relation or give more attention to a troubled upstart, the constant tug of all that's new on my beat dominates my thoughts (and these pages).

That's why I'm serving up this Spring Dining Guide. It's a chance for me to revisit, in one swoop, a bunch of places -- some very old, others mere adolescents, all interesting in their own way -- and address the question I probably hear most often: How is So-and-So these days?

The assignment was an eye-opener. As you can see on the following pages, although I enjoyed myself immensely at some places, other restaurants felt like endurance tests. In the harsh light of 2010, I was sad to see how far a popular dive had fallen and curious about the staying power of a mediocre celebrity magnet. Elsewhere, however, I was tickled to discover a brat that had matured and a veteran that continues to give nostalgia a delicious name.

My choice of restaurants might surprise you. Already, I can anticipate someone asking me why I picked this Italian over that Italian, or why I even bothered to highlight certain establishments or failed to include a kitchen you were curious about. Believe me, it wasn't easy paring down a list of dozens of potential candidates to the 20 you see here. Some of the restaurants were included because they've been part of the landscape seemingly forever but haven't been examined in a while. Others have taken on new chefs or substantially revised their concepts, and warrant another look. And a couple of youthful luxury venues merited progress reports.

This collection might inspire you to add some names to your little black book -- or cross some out. It might be a trip down memory lane, or provide the spark to book someplace new. And if you were expecting more raves than rants, don't worry: I'm already working on the Fall Dining Guide, scheduled for October.

Browse the 20 reviews that make up Tom Sietsema's Spring Dining Guide.


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