Ask Tom

Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, June 8, 2005; 11:00 AM

In a city loaded with diverse restaurants, from New American chic and upscale Italian to sandwich shops and burritos on the run, finding the best places to eat can be a real puzzle. Where's the best restaurant for a first date or an anniversary? Father's Day? What's the best burger joint? Who has the best service?

Ask Tom. Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post's food critic, is on hand Wednesdays at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions, listen to your suggestions and even entertain your complaints about Washington dining. Sietsema, a veteran food writer, has sampled the wares and worked as a critic in Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee, and can talk restaurants with the best of 'em. Tom's Sunday magazine reviews, as well as his "Ask Tom" column, are available early on the Web.

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OpenTable, D.C.: Can restaurant hostesses profile people who make reservations via OpenTable (ie: see where else they have dined)? I feel like I am seated/treated better when I use it to make my reservations. Is it because they know I have been to many of the same type of restaurants?

Tom Sietsema: Interesting question. Maybe a lurking restaurateur can address the issue? (I obviously don't use the service.)

Happy August, everyone! At least that's the way I felt walking to the office today. Thanks for showing up for another 60 minutes -- and not a minute less! -- of food and restaurant chat. Lots of questions today, so let's get movin' ...

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Dupont Circle: Have you been to Hank's Oyster Bar, yet? If so, what did you think?

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: It's too new for me to judge, but the neighbors seem to dig it: the place has been packed every time I've walked by there.

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North Potomac, MD: In answer to the Best Grilled Cheese. If Third Edition is still serving their smoked grilled cheese sandwich, that is fantastic! Also, the Ebbitt Grill does a fine job. My two favorite foods are grilled cheese and fried oysters. I asked the staff if I could have a grilled cheese/fried oyster sandwich and they complied. They fried up 1/2 dozen Bluepoints, put them in the middle and grilled away. It was the best grilled cheese I have ever had. Also, the most expensive. A dash of Tabasco and I was in heaven!

Tom Sietsema: Grilled cheese and oysters. There IS something new under the sun after all.

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A RAVE from Springfield, VA: A rave here if you'll allow it -- I had the best dinner ever this past Saturday night. As with many in the D.C. area, we have been saving up for our first visit to Citronelle for a "very" special occasion.

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary there and it was just incredible! We splurged and did the 9 course chef's menu; complete with the wine pairings. The experience lived up and exceeded what we expected! Not only did Chef Richard came by to visit our table (and allowed this celebrity chef geek a photo op!), but Ex. Chef Deshaies gave us a tour of his kitchen -- which was very busy. We left full, happy, and content.

I noticed that several reviews on the Post dining guide say Citronelle is overrated and not worth the price -- I strongly disagree. It may be another few years before we can afford to splurge like this again; but it was so worth the wait!!! Thanks for letting me post something positive!

Tom Sietsema: It wasn't moi that said MRC was over-rated. I think Washington is lucky to have such a special place to dine.

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I've been treated better at DMV: Tom:

As a devoted reader of your column I've learned that if you're unhappy with a situation you should say something, or if necessary, leave. A few Fridays ago I went to Matchbox for a late lunch with 2 friends. The hostess asked us to wait while she seated the party that had arrived before us; while she was gone a party of 4 arrived. When the hostess returned she said that she was going to seat the party of 4 first and would then let us know what was available. This struck us as odd but we decided to wait because it was raining. When the hostess returned she said that we'd have to wait 10 minutes for a table. When I asked why she seated the party of 4 (that arrived after us) first, she said that it was restaurant policy to seat parties of 4 at tables for 4-6 people, but that they do not seat parties of 3 at these tables. (This is untrue--I have been seated at these tables with 2 others.) While 10 minutes isn't hours, we were all put off by the take it or leave it attitude of the hostess and didn't appreciate being dumped for the slightly larger party. A simple "I'm sorry but it's the policy " would have helped; instead her imperious attitude has sworn us off the restaurant. (Just so I'm clear: I have no problem with the restaurant's policy; I do take issue with the inhospitable way we were told of the policy and the uneven application of it.)

The happy ending: We went around the corner to Fado's; the burgers may not be as good, but the staff (and beer) are miles better.

Thanks for all the great advice (and letting me vent).

Tom Sietsema: It's interesting how some restaurants can turn you off even before you've had a chance to see a menu or take a bite of food, isn't it?

By the way, I am getting numerous complaints about the imperious front desk at the new Blacksalt. One friend told me he called for a weekend reservation there and whoever answered the phone laughed and said "You've got to be kidding" (and worse). Has anyone else experienced this with the new and popular restaurant?

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Adams Morgan: Tom, it seems from the weekly dish you think Sonoma might have great potential but you have always had your misgivings about Mendocino. Thoughts on why you think Sonoma might be the better choice?

Tom Sietsema: I think Mendocino overreaches sometimes and I think Sonoma has simpler aspirations (at least in its ground floor operation).

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Pictures at Dinner: Is it appropriate to have the waiter/waitress take a family picture at an upscale restaurant, particularly for a "special" occasion? Thanks Tom!

Tom Sietsema: Sure (says the son of a photographer who has embarrassed his children with "Hold it! Move in! To the left!" at countless lovely restaurants over the years).

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CLARIFY the Citronelle comment : The "over-rated" reviews on the Post dining site were not from the very able Mr. Sietsema -- but from Post reader's viewing their own comments; I generally find those to be negative, so it makes you wonder who the 'reviewers' are sometimes. Keep up the great work Tom!

Tom Sietsema: I'm not fond of them, either, if only because I don't know who these anonymous posters are.

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Olney, MD: RE: OpenTable question.

I don't know whether a restaurant can "profile" a diner who uses the service, but it would seem obvious to me that the restaurant would know that anyone who goes thru the trouble to register and use an online reservation service eats out a lot and knows that there are many choices. In addition, these folks are probably the type of people who participate in message boards like this one or others like chowhound.com, egullet.com, etc. If you keep them happy, you will most likely get referrals and good reviews. I know that I certainly fall into that category. (And I use OpenTable all the time and have been very pleased.)

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for weighing in.

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Arlington: I noticed a new restaurant in Shirlington: Extra Virgin. Have you heard anything about it?

Tom Sietsema: I'm still waiting for the publicist to fax me the menu.

ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz

It's been, uh, three weeks now!

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Wheaton, MD: Tom, we tried Pazo in Baltimore per your suggestion some weeks ago and were very pleased. Although crowded (guess the secret is now really out), the food was wonderful and we had a great time there celebrating our first anniversary. Thank you for including Baltimore in your reviews...

Tom Sietsema: You are welcome.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, What do you think of Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park? Are they open for dinner? Kid-friendly? Thanks -- I always enjoy the chats.

Tom Sietsema: My review is available online here. In short: I like it, I like it. Some people are preceding evenings at the new Strathmore music center with dinner here.

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Arlington, VA: Tom, just a comment. I visited MiniBar this weekend with a friend for the first time, and it was, hands down, the best meal I've ever had in my life. The wine service was superb, the food was fun and innovative and delicious, and it was like being in the tastiest, most enjoyable chemistry class ever! What an experience...

Tom Sietsema: I used to hate chemistry class -- but that was before I supped at MiniBar. It's a unique experience, and I rarely use that word.

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Boston, MA: Hi Tom

I plan on proposing to my girlfriend in D.C. later this summer. I am looking for a nice restaurant in the downtown area to dine at before I pop that question. Any suggestions? She likes almost everything. It has to be a place that's not too fancy, so that she doesn't think something is up. Ideas?

Tom Sietsema: You'll want to pick a spot that will be around for awhile, so you can return to it for future anniversaries.

I'm thinking Al Tiramisu, Tabard Inn, the bar at Marcel's, Ceiba (near the open kitchen), or Firefly.

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Del Ray, VA: Hi Tom!

What is the proper response when your waiter disappears? I was at a newish restaurant the other day, and my waiter, who had been sort of confused throughout the evening, suddenly vanished when it was time to pay the bill. I waited for about 20 minutes for him to come back. I then went in search of a manager and couldn't find one. Basically there was no one "responsible" in the entire restaurant and I was left sitting there, credit card in hand. I was tempted to walk out on the bill. What do you do when there's absolutely no one in charge?

Tom Sietsema: Scream?

I've had this happen as well. Most recently, I walked back to the kitchen and asked if anyone was home. (They were, just not in the dining room.)

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The Hill: Submitting early, because I usually forget to ask- Do you have any intel on Sonoma Wine Bar that just opened on the Hill? Who is involved and that sort of thing? I'm excited to try it- especially since it's nonsmoking. Thanks! Love your chats.

Tom Sietsema: I give readers a snapshot of the place in today's Weekly Dish column in the Food section. Sonoma shows promise.

Tom Sietsema: Here is The Weekly Dish .

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Fairfax, VA: Hey Tom - just a quick dining question? Are we supposed to tip sushi chefs in addition to our waiters? I ask because at my favorite local sushi joint, the sushi chefs have a tip cup up on their counter. We never sit at the counter to eat so if we were to tip them separately we would have to backtrack from the dining area to the sushi counter to tip them. Thanks for the help and the great weekly chats.

Tom Sietsema: If I'm not sitting at the sushi counter, I simply leave my tip on the table.

Restaurants differ in how they "thank" sushi cooks with customers' gratuities. Some give them a percentage of waiters' tips. It pays to ask ahead.

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BETHESDA, MD: Dear Tom,

Why is it that people think it's okay to make a reservation for 4 and show up with 5? As a former hostess and waitress at several local restaurants I have experienced this numerous times. And my favorite part is the their righteous indignation when you tell them that you cannot accommodate their party.

All it takes is a simple phone call to change the reservation. If the restaurant can't accommodate you then go somewhere else, or send the extras home. Restaurants take reservations based on the amount of space they have and even one extra, itsy bitsy person can cause problems in the dining room all night.

So Tom please remind your readers that if you are going to be a party of 5, then make a reservation for 5 and not 4 or be prepared to go home hungry.

Tom Sietsema: Diners, you got that?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom, care to comment on the RAMW winners?

Thanks

Tom Sietsema: I thought most of the winners were deserving. Who could argue that Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve doesn't deserve Rising Culinary Star, CityZen doesn't merit New Restaurant of the Year or Fabio Trabocchi of Maestro hasn't earned Chef of the Year.

But Mie N Yu as Favorite Restaurant of the Year?! I heard that even the crowd of friendly foodies in attendance at the gala was shocked!,shocked! at that little joke.

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Re: Treatment at Matchbox: Hi Tom,

As much as I hate a whiner, I have to second the post regarding matchbox's "seating" policy. I submitted this earlier this year when the event occurred, but it wasn't posted. I arrived with a few people for drinks/dinner on a weekday evening, and was told our party of 8 would have to wait approx. 45 minutes. This was fine with us since it was a nice evening and we were happy to wait outside for the remainder of our party to arrive, one of whom was a pregnant woman. 45 minutes later, when 7 people out of 8 had arrived, the hostess told us that it would be impossible to seat us until the entire party was there. I explained to her that we had waited 45 minutes, our table was now ready, and that the pregnant woman who was with us needed to sit and have some food as there was no space at the crowded bar. After returning to "check" on the situation, our 8th had arrived, and she apologized, but had given the table to another party! I was outraged to say the least. There are a ton of suitable restaurants and bars in that area and we were fine with going to another one, but it seems to me that "policies" such as those are hurtful to business if employees aren't afforded the ability to use their discretion, if not a little common sense.

Thanks for the time, Tom! Love your chats.

Tom Sietsema: Sounds like Matchbox might want to rethink its seating rules.

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Re: Missing waiter: This has happened to me many times before. One time she was missing and we wanted to pay with a credit card. Well when she did not return to take it we scrapped up as much cash as we could which ended up being just enough for the bill and well that meant no tip for her!

Tom Sietsema: Ouch (but I understand).

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Grilled Cheese: Hi Tom,

Don't despair. Tunnicliff's is owned by the same person who owns Stoney's and the Super Grilled Cheese is on their menu too.

Tom Sietsema: That's good to know, with the imminent closure of Stoney's, one of my all-time favorite dives.

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RE: Party of 4 (or 5): Sounds like we've heard from a disgruntled hostess. Yes, it would be courteous for the party to call and inform the restaurant of the change, but it would also be courteous of the restaurant to make adjustments to accommodate them as well. It is a Service Industry. If just "one more itsy-bitsy person" can ruin how a restaurant performs for an evening, the establishment is being run poorly. If I was in charge of the dining party, I would apologize for not calling then expect the hostess to seat us with a smile-- not tell us to go home hungry.

Tom Sietsema: Well, there's a lot of gray in this situation. That extra body that doesn't seem like too much trouble (guest's version) can wreak havoc in, say, a tight or booked-up restaurant (host's side of story).

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Blacksalt's front staff: Had a reservation for 7 PM, had to wait until 7:35 to be seated. When I mentioned it to the front desk staff their response was "It could have been worse, much worse." So much for customer service, huh? It's a pity because the food was divine.

Tom Sietsema: I'm really sorry to hear that. The kitchen deserves better. I wonder if the owners are aware of the problem?

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Silver Spring: In case the Aruba-poster from last week is still looking for restaurant suggestions, here are a few more (in addition to El Gaucho that was mentioned) that I would definitely recommend. My husband and I enjoyed some of our most memorable meals ever when were vacationed in Aruba in 2002.

-Gasparito (an art gallery with lovely terrace dining)

-Papiamento (beautiful, romantic setting)

-Que Pasa (a causal, hidden gem)

-Ventanas del Mar (at the Tierra del Sol golf course)

Tom Sietsema: Aruba-goers thank you!

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, how is Opera lately?

Tom Sietsema: I haven't dropped by since my review, but some readers are telling me that the concept has reverted BACK to what it was, the Italian-accented Kuna.

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Sushi tip: I've heard that in Japan diners buy their sushi chefs drinks.

Tom Sietsema: THAT could pose a risk or two, don't you think?

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Tom Sietsema: The following was delivered after last week's online discussion. David Pressley is Tallula's general manager.

"On this week's chat, a reader asks you why we charge for two half glasses rather than one full glass. I'll explain in the quickest way I can...

Through our POS system, we have programmed each wine by the glass in at its half glass price. When our servers or bartenders ring in a wine, the computer auto-prompts them to detail the glass of wine. If the selection is "half glass", the price goes unchanged onto the bill. If the selection is "full glass", the price is doubled and the words "FULL GLASS" are clearly printed on the bill.

On the bill, as you can see by viewing the attached file, it clearly marks the charge for a full glass.

I hope I have explained this well. I certainly don't want any of our guests feeling that we are trying to confuse them when the bill comes around."

-Dave

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Parents coming to town: Hi Tom. LOVE your chats! My parents are coming to town this weekend and I'm at a loss as to where to go for dinner. We'd prefer to stay in the Arlington area (tried for reservations at Ray's the Steaks, but they had nothing until 9:30). Looking for either American, Italian, Spanish, or Greek. Not super high-end, but middle of the road prices are fine. Can you help?!

Tom Sietsema: When my tribe came to town a few months ago, I took everyone to Layalina in Arlington. It's cozy, it's friendly and the Middle Eastern menu is mostly delicious. Plus, I think my dad fell in like with the hostess with the mostess (and cook), Rima Kodsi.

For American, the Carlyle is good. And Tutto Bene is fun if you know how to order off its Italian menu.

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Arlington, VA: My boyfriend is a rather basic, picky eater and he likes Italian food. What is your recommendation for where he can go for good versions of the basics (like chicken alfredo). I love the more adventurous places, but those aren't his style. Thanks, I love you chats!

Tom Sietsema: He might appreciate the homey charm of a place like Famous Luigi's on 19th St. downtown, which makes a nice vegetable soup, comforting lasagna and spaghetti carbonara, among other Italian basics.

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Snooty hosts/hostesses: Whenever I encounter a snooty host or hostess (phone or in person,) I ask to speak to a manager. I let them know how many were in my party, what the situation was and what transpired. I refuse the offer of a free drink or meal so as not to look like a free-loader. And, I don't go to the restaurant again if I feel like the treatment by a host/hostess would continue.

If you're satisfied with how you were handled after bringing the rude behavior to the attention of management, feel free to go back, but don't take the free offer of a meal when you haven't even been seated.

As a check and balance to that, I usually wait a bit to 'cool off' just to be sure that it wasn't a misunderstanding on my part. Hosts/Hostesses probably get fired for too many complaints and you don't want to do that too often (bad karma.)

Tom Sietsema: You sound like my kind of diner: level-headed and supportive. Thanks for the good advice."Cooling off" is something more of us need to practice.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, I went to CityZen recently for my birthday and had an absolutely wonderful experience, but with one disappointment: the foie gras risotto I had heard so many raves about, including in your review, was nowhere to be found on the menu. That dish was one of the reasons I chose CityZen in the first place; why would the restaurant take such a popular dish off the menu? And is it coming back??

Tom Sietsema: Good chefs change their menus to reflect the season and fresh ideas. Adding something new to the list usually means taking off something old. I'm sure there's something equally delectable on the menu for you to try. But I can understand your disappointment. That risotto dish is -- WAS -- wonderful.

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For the proposal: Go to the Tabard! I was recently married there and the staff was really wonderful. It is a lovely place to return to - we stop by for their homemade doughnuts on Sundays. And no, I am not a publicist. Just a new wife glad that she found a place in DC willing to host a small, non-traditional wedding without pressuring us to do a sit down meal instead of hors d'oeuvres, a full bar instead of wine/beer... I highly recommend them!

Tom Sietsema: Saturday donuts, Saturday donuts.....mmmmmm

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Re: Party of 4 or 5: Ok so you show up and they have already reserved a square table with 4 settings. You now want 5 people to fit in this space? If they aren't busy they could find another table, but on a night when they are booked to the max, this is not possible. What happens to the party of five who reserved for 5 that comes in after you? Ok the restaurant accommodates you, which means they have to say add a chair to the table as they are already booked and do not have a larger one. Then you complain all night long about how you are sitting in the aisle or in a busy path, constantly getting bumped into and so on.

Tom Sietsema: See? It gets complicated ....

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Georgetown: I had exactly the same experience calling Blacksalt from the male voice that answered the phone. Laughing and obnoxious. I'll use OpenTable for reservations-professional and friendly.

Tom Sietsema: I hope someone (responsible) at Blacksalt sees this.

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K St, NW: Hi, Tom,

Heading to lunch soon and looking for good Asian food near K & 18th. Any ideas?

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Well, there's Yee Hwa for Korean on 21st St and Kaz Sushi Bistro for the obvious (and more) on I St.

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Montgomery Village, MD: Hi Tom! In response to last week's question about where to get good bagels, I would HIGHLY recommend Royal Bakery and Deli in Germantown. It's at the corner of Germantown Road and Middlebrook Road, next to Mi Rancho (which is also a great place to eat), and you get to it via the Bank of America entrance on Middlebrook. The best bagels I've found outside of NY. For anyone who loves (real) NY delis - this place is like going home. Homemade bagels and donuts and a deli case of meats, spreads, and pastries to die for. It's packed on the weekends, but so very worth it. As a Jewish woman who grew up in New York, I know my bagels...and the bagels here are fantastic. Well worth the drive to Germantown.

Tom Sietsema: If Royal Bakery needs a publicist, you would make a great candidate. A bagel lover, I appreciate the tip.

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Lost server...: We experienced this while traveling. Stopped to have a quick lunch in Mass. Our waitress took our order and literally went home without giving it to the kitchen. We had our drinks and waited about 15 min's before we asked someone where she was. Her shift had ended and that was that!

Tom Sietsema: LOL

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Washington, D.C.: Black Salt~ Tom, I would have to concur with what you have been hearing. 5 of us went on Friday night after having called earlier in the week for reservations and being told no. The woman on the phone was rather curt. When we arrived the women (had to be at least 4) could have cared less to acknowledge us. We were briskly told it would be an hour and half and do we want to wait. We did wait, and the meal was well worth it. The wait staff and bar staff are excellent, but the gaggle of hostesses (for such a tiny place) need to go. A very poor first impression for such a good restaurant.

Tom Sietsema: The complaints about BS are piling up like planes at O'Hare today!

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Washington D.C.: I just wanted to let you know what a fantastic dinner we had at Nirvana last week. The service was so friendly and personable. The featured wine special was not only a great price, but also delicious and our server was even able to tell us something about the vineyard. The food was fantastic- the khandvi you recommended in your review were new to us and disappeared quickly. The spicy eggplant and the mellow spinach paneer we ordered were a great duo. We'll definitely be back.

Tom Sietsema: I'm pleased to hear that, because I was hearing less than stellar things about the staff a few months ago.

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Georgia Brown's?: Hi Tom. Have you been to Georgia Brown's? If so, what do you think?

Tom Sietsema: The southern restaurant recently acquired a new chef, whose work I have yet to sample.

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Olney, MD: This may be a little far afield for you, but can you recommend a place in Annapolis for me to send a friend and her husband for their anniversary? They are looking for someplace with great food and a romantic atmosphere.

Tom Sietsema: I like O'Learys for seafood and a dash of style and hear good things about Lewnes' Steakhouse, nearby on Fourth St.

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Washington, D.C.: Last weekend my husband and I went to a great dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, NY. Tables were large, you ate with friendly strangers, and the food was delicious and nonstop. Is there a similar type experience to be had anywhere in D.C., Maryland or Virginia?

Tom Sietsema: The best dim sum I've had recently has been at the new Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard -- that's the full name -- in Wheaton. It offers big tables, lots of choices, but cart service only on weekends. Dim sum fans also gravitate to A & J with branches in Rockville and Annandale, though both places are on the small side.

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Dupont East: Tom!

Please don't review Hank's! Ok, I know that's ridiculous to ask, but I really want it to stay the nice cozy neighborhood place that it's been these past few week. Its already getting crowded, and that area desperately needs a place with good food, relaxed atmosphere, where you can go and SIT. Anything you can do to help?

Tom Sietsema: Sorry, my job is to spread the word, not keep secrets (at least as they pertain to noteworthy places to eat).

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Re: Asian on K & 18: Go to Nooshi on 19th between L and M. Great Asian.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, yes. I always forget to include that place.

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Blacksalt: The hostess was fine but my husband & I tried for 20 minutes to get a drink at the bar and failed. There was no where else to stand as we waited for our table other than at the very front at the fish counter. The bar had 2 bartenders. Definitely not enough hands to cover the restaurant, the bar, and the diners at the raw bar. It was annoying.

Tom Sietsema: Uh huh

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Chinatown: Hi Tom,

About a month ago, I went to a nice, sit-down lunch restaurant in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area. The meal was enjoyable. However during lunch my companion and I noticed a very palpable, unpleasant odor lingering near our table. After some time, we realized the odor was coming from our waiter. It was REALLY bad and caused both of us to lose our appetites. We stopped eating and asked for the check. Before we left, we heard the table sitting next to us discussing the problem as well. They also decided to leave. I can't bring myself to return to the restaurant since this occurred, but I know the waiter still works there. (I have seen him through the window.)

My question is should my friend and I have contacted the management? I feel a bit bad making an issue of such an embarrassing personal problem, but this man smelled truly unhygienic. (This was not simply a case of it having been a busy, sweaty day in the kitchen.) What would you have done if this had happened to you? I'm concerned because in general I like this restaurant, and I would feel bad if they continued to lose business because of this.

Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I would have pulled the manager aside and said something about the problem.

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Best Bagels in D.C.!: We haven't been there since Saul the owner passed away in April, but Comet Deli on Columbia carries (or used to anyway) H & H bagels from NYC! They are the best in town!

Tom Sietsema: Really! Good to know (if the bagels are still offered).

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Black Market Bistro : I have not been to Black Salt, but did go to Black Market Bistro and had atrocious service. It was enough to turn me off to that place forever. They ran out of many of the things on the menu, and they were unbelievably unaccommodating with what they had left. The wait staff was not exactly rude but more indifferent. They messed up our order and didn't care. We didn't feel like complaining or making a fuss. Too boot, the food was underwhelming. It was a less than stellar night.

Tom Sietsema: Hmmmm. Sounds like a "family" problem then. Both restaurants are owned by the same folks.

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Eastern Market: Tom--I've heard that Graig Glufling has left The Ugly Mug on Barracks Row. It's too bad, since his food was the only charm I could notice in the place (he brought those great mini-burgers with him from Matchbox). Between the poor ventilation, total lack of decor, and sporadic service, I just can't bring myself to go there.

Tom Sietsema: That makes two of us.

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Tenleytown: I am just writing to put in a plug for Kuma if anyone is looking for good Korean food. It is on Wisconsin Ave at the Tenleytown metro, an area not known for good restaurants, so I am so excited about it and want to keep it in business! Not only does Kuma have excellent Korean food it also also has great sushi. Lovely decor, big bar, but also very family friendly.

Tom Sietsema: Useful tip. Korean food isn't exactly abundant outside Northern Virginia.

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H&H bagels: Too late to get in today, but Calvert Woodley also carries H&H, baked fresh at the store!

Tom Sietsema: Again, thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, what is your opinion of the Friday night seafood buffet at the Mayflower?

Tom Sietsema: I liked what I saw (and heard, since there was live music) a few years ago. The buffet was a good deal for the quality. But I haven't eaten there in awhile. Can anyone out there provide an update?

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Washington, D.C.: Tom,

Have you had a chance to eat at the new P Street Bistro and Cafe that recently opened next to Merkado? I went there the other night with my boyfriend and, unfortunately, had a really bad experience - one of the worst in a long time. Our waiter was unbelievably inattentive and seemed not to care at all about his job. After attempting to pass off one alcohol for another in the drinks we ordered, he admitted that the bar wasn't fully stocked yet and the bartender was hoping we wouldn't notice the switch. Odd. We then waited more than an hour for our food to arrive and, when it did, it was hardly edible. Plus - and this could be a health violation - the kitchen isn't ventilated properly so smoke fills up the restaurant area, causing your eyes to water, etc. It finally cleared out a bit when they propped the back door open. I don't know if it's matter of getting the kinks out but I would highly recommend to fellow diners that they avoid the place for now.

Tom Sietsema: On my chat last week, I mentioned I tried to eat there myself recently, but no one acknowledged my friend and me for 10 minutes, so we left and ate elsewhere. The experience didn't bode well for the fledgling restaurant.

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LeDroit Park: Just "thanks" Tom for recommending The River Cafe in London back in April. I was reading the chat and you had mentioned to another poster that The Cafe was one of your favorite places to eat in the world. A last-minute business trip to London came up for my husband in early May over his birthday weekend, so I decided to join him. Emailed River Cafe two weeks out and was able to get a reservation. We had a fabulous meal--the fritto misto with zucchini and anchovies was terrific, as was my roasted veal and his perfectly grilled salmon--and a wonderful experience.

Thanks again!

Tom Sietsema: You're welcome! It's a wonderful place and I'm glad you and your mate got a chance to taste it. (But isn't the taxi ride from wherever you were to the restaurant just about the longest ride of your life?)

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Adams Morgan, The Thin Line Between Yesterday and the Day Before: Two comments:

1. For a good grilled cheese, try the BreadLine.

2. One restaurant that I don't see mentioned in these chats can solve a lot of your reader's problems: Cafe Ole

- It's extremely kid-friendly, especially in the warm months when you can sit outside. There's an imaginative kids' menu, much better than the standard pizza/chicken tenders. My kids have never said "Do we have to go there?"

- The prices are very modest.

- The wine selection is great. You can't pay more than $30 and, whatever you drink, you'll want to buy it in the wine store (where it will be quite a value).

- The servers are wonderful people.

- But, above all: the food. Always clever and imaginative twists on Mediterranean (principally Lebanese) cooking. Nothing tastes quite the same as at the run-of-the-mill Humus Hamlet. There are always daily specials so you never have to each the same-old/same-old, but even when you do it tastes new all over again.

I guess I'm a fan, and I'm not sure why there aren't more like me.

Tom Sietsema: That reminds me: It's been a long time since I've eaten at Cafe Ole, which I liked a lot in the past, under a different chef. Thanks for the post.

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Washington D.C.: Happy Birthday to me! If you could go anywhere in DC today for lunch, where would you go on a whim? Happy to spend about 20 bucks on the food.

Tom Sietsema: A bar stool at Spices in Cleveland Park, a patio table at Breadline, or anywhere at Two Amys? Best wishes, by the way.

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D.C.: Tom-

You keep promising in these chats the upcoming "Titanic" story about your experience at a local restaurant. I've had my eyes open for it but haven't seen it yet. Did I just miss it? Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: You did not miss it. Patience, my dear, patience.

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Arlington, VA: Do you know any authentic Mexican places that aren't too expensive?

Tom Sietsema: By "authentic," what do you mean? One place that transports me south of the border is Taqueria Tres Reyes in Riverdale, MD., home to some great pork, tongue and goat tacos and a room full of Spanish speakers. And while it has its detractors, I think Guajillo in Arlington is fun. My tip is to focus on the restaurant's daily specials.

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Silver Spring, MD: Dear Tom- This is my first time submitting a question, but I read your chats every week. My boyfriend and I are going to Philadelphia next weekend to celebrate our five year anniversary. Where should we eat? I've tried Buddakan and Morimoto's. Suggestions? Thanks so much!

Tom Sietsema: The best food I had on a recent swing through Philadelphia was at the charming Marigold Kitchen, a BYOB run by a young staff. It is VERY popular and not very big. Better start dialing!

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College Park, MD: Hi Tom,

Got the new issue of Food and Wine yesterday, and Eric Ziebold is on their annual list of the top 10 hot new chefs. Seems they try to pick a geographically diverse group, so assuming that there would be one person from DC on the list, do you think he's the most deserving? Or just in the most press-worthy new restaurant?

Tom Sietsema: Eric deserves the good press. He's really raising the bar at CityZen. And I'm thrilled to see a Washingtonian on the cover.

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Kingstowne, VA: Have you (or any readers) ever encountered a waiter who, after pulling the cork from a bottle of wine, leaves the cork on the corkscrew and puts the whole thing in his apron pocket? If so, what do you say to the waiter? It happened to me a few weeks back and I was so taken aback that I was at a loss for what to say. I always want to look at the cork to determine if the wine has been stored correctly.

Tom Sietsema: Honestly, even top sommeliers will tell you that corks reveal less information than you might expect about the virtues of a wine that is about to be poured. The truth is in the sniffing and sampling.

Off to a NEW restaurant today. Maybe I can share details with you next week. Ciao, kids!

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