Ask Tom

Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, October 5, 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. You can access his Postcards from Tom to read his recommendations for other cities or read transcripts of previous "Ask Tom" chats . Tom's Sunday magazine reviews, as well as his "Ask Tom" column, are available early on the Web.

The transcript follows.


Tom Sietsema: News flashlette: Diners have until New Year's Eve to savor the cooking of chef Ris Lacoste at 1789, who told me yesterday that she intends to leave the venerable Georgetown address --- after a 10-year run -- to begin the process of opening her own place somewhere in Washington.

Lacoste, who turns 50 in January, calls the change "a birthday present to myself."

Much as the chef says she "loves the '89, my staff, its traditions," she says she needs the time away from full-time cooking to pursue the project ("I won't have a mistress anymore," she jokes.)

The idea for her restaurant is still in the works, but will be something that her regulars will be comfortable with, the chef promises. "I want a scene, something really fun and delicious." She intends to incorporate her interest in music, theater and the visual arts into her next restaurant, too: "If I'm going to be there 15-20 hours a day, I want to surround myself with things I love."

As of the moment, the restaurant does not have a replacement in mind. But whoever it is will have big pumps to fill.

In other news, I got a call last week from George Vetsch, whose work at Etrusco prompted me to award the Italian restaurant three stars ("excellent") earlier this year. I was subsequently surprised to hear negative reports from some readers and returned twice, a few months after my review, to see what the problem was. Indeed, the food was no where near as memorable as what I had experienced earlier.

Unbeknownst to me, Vetsch injured his hand -- badly -- shortly after my review and was unable to cook. In fact, his injury is so serious he can no longer work in a kitchen, period, and is considering a move to the front of the house (though not at Etrusco, which is looking for a replacement). I wish the chef well -- but I also wish I had known about the problem earlier.

Good morning, everyone.


Arlington, Va.: Each week, my wife and I, both ardent readers of your chat, wager a dinner out on who gets their question answered first. She is cleaning up. So my question this week is, where should I have her take me for dinner this Friday night for a moderate "masculine" meal (bbq/steak/potatoes) that she can also tolerate (good wine/tablecloths)? I'm reasonably confident the ESPNZone will not fly. ---Love ya, honey!---

Tom Sietsema: Artie's in Fairfax comes to mind. You can have your ribs, she can have a nice glass of vino. A table on the "front porch" (as opposed to the boat-themed main room) is gender neutral.


Birthday Question: Hi Tom,

I would really appreciate your help! My boyfriend's birthday is later this month, and I have never treated him to a true culinary and dining experience. What restaurants have really knocked your socks off recently?

I guess I'm just asking where you would go for a very special occasion in Washington metro area, if money were no object. He has taken me to Citronelle and Galileo, so I'd like to try something else if possible.

Many thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Stay tuned. I have some recommendations for you in my fall dining guide, which comes out October 16.


Silver Spring, Md.: Tom,

I dined at Zola last night for my birthday dinner. And while the starters and entrees were good, the real treat was the s'mores fondue dessert. Warm melted Scharffenberger bittersweet chocolate served with graham "crackers"--more like cake, homemade marshmallows, bananas, and strawberries. It was a fun dessert to share with my husband. I just thought others might like to know about this fun dessert.

Tom Sietsema: Fun -- and tasty -- it is.


Bethesda, Md.: Good Morning Tom:

Had a fabulous experience at Matchbox this week - the service was amazing and the food divine. I couldn't have been more pleased about the way my evening turned out. We had dined at 1789 the night before, service was slow (2 hours to get an entree) and spotty (no sugar or cream brought with tea) the contrast was astounding! The waiter at Matchbox was knowledgeable about the menu, made suggestions based on our likes not what was more expensive, and quickly solved the one minor problem that popped up. He was even able to recite the ingredients in a dish to put my friend at ease about allergies. None of us ate pizza; instead we enjoyed entrees worthy of any upscale American restaurant. Matchbox is a neighborhood treasure that I was happy to travel to, why doesn't it get more of the spotlight in your chat?

Tom Sietsema: Probably because I haven't eaten there in recent months and chatters haven't asked about it. I'm glad to hear a positive report from the field, however.


Pleeeeease answer me, you HOT HUNK OF FOOD WRITING LOVE!: There. Hopefully, I got your attention! It's my hubby's b-day this weekend and I need to make a reservation NOW! He was thinking maybe a steakhouse, but we're open. Can you give me some suggestions of places that won't totally leave our baby unclothed throughout the winter ('cause we spent too much $$$)? DC/Bethesda area (or even B-more...we live in Columbia). Just a great and memorable meal, cool atmosphere and yummy desserts....

You da man.

Tom Sietsema: Flattery will get you everywhere (or at least get your question answered!)

If you've got steak on your mind, try Lewnes' in Annapolis (near you) or the Capital Grille in Washington (which has some great service and desserts in addition to slabs of meat).


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

I'm looking for a restaurant in Downtown DC to hold a dinner for around 60 people. I would like to avoid going to a hotel or larger venue and ideally find a restaurant with a private room that can accommodate the large group. This is an annual dinner and last year it was held at Zola - which was great. I would like to find another restaurant along the same lines - new, great food, upscale, and not too stuffy if possible. Any suggestions that you might have would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: What about the back room at the spruced up Marcel's? Vidalia downtown? Heritage India on Connecticut Ave?


Washington, D.C.: Good morning Tom,

A friend and me are avid readers of your reviews, and especially your chats. We got together to for dinner earlier this week at our favorite Indian restaurant, Nirvana. While we were eating, I noticed that it's never been very busy when we've had dinner there. What gives? We love their food, their service, their vibe, and their daily all-you-can-eat deals from various Indian regions. We are NOT employed there; we are just very concerned about their life span. I said, "We should ask Tom!" We know you

like Nirvana, but do you have any sense as to why they don't get more traffic? Or maybe we just miss their busy nights?

Thanks much!

Tom Sietsema: It is PACKED at lunch. I mean, really hoppin'. I can't account for the slow nights, other than to surmise that its many fans leave downtown after work.


Gal Bonding in Va.: Hi, Tom. I am gathering a group of 7 women together in honor of a wedding and am desperately seeking lunch site inspiration. We will be in Falls Church for some dress shopping, and I was hoping to find an inexpensive place (all but Indian or Middle Eastern) that is cool-looking/fun, yet serves good food...thoughts?

BTW, how do you rate importance of atmosphere in your star system?

Tom Sietsema: I'm partial to Huong Que (Four Sisters), which offers a pretty setting and terrific service along with very appealing Vietnamese fare.

To answer your other question, atmosphere accounts for about a quarter of my star ratings.


Washington, D.C.: Overheard at Cafe Berlin on Capitol Hill:

Woman 1: Is this still Two Quail?

Woman 2 (looking at the promotion umbrellas): No, this place is called Bittburger.

Tom Sietsema: LOL


Brookeville, Md.: Tom just wanted to make you and the readers aware that Famous Dave's is serving up some excellent barbeque in the Kentlands. The service is also top notch for a barbeque place. I watched the server and manager tend to a lady who didn't care for what she'd ordered and they went way out of their way to take care of her.

The food is much better than Urban, O'Briens and Barbeque Man.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the tip!


Big Disappointment: Can I give you a heads up on a restaurant NOT to review? Town Hall in Glover Park. Don't waste your time. Extremely disappointing follow up to Saveur.

Tom Sietsema: That's what I'm hearing, too ....


Washington, D.C.: TOM!

Here's one of those northern/southern issues that Washington brings into stark relief at the dining table.

Are there ANY restaurants in the city that can give you a decent (sufficiently strong, not as in one tea bag steeped in 4 gallons of water for 15 seconds) glass of sweetened iced tea (sweet, but not so much that a glass kicks your blood sugar to Type 2 levels)?

I've almost given up, convinced that it can't be found. You are my last hope...

Tom Sietsema: If any place can do it, it has to be Vidalia.


Quick bite before the caps game: Hi Tom! Please answer! My husband are snagged tickets to the Capitals Game tonight - it's our first hockey game ever! We'd like to grab a quick bite to eat beforehand - any suggestions around the MCI Center? Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: The new drinx (that's how it's spelled) is perfectly pleasant. It's at 601 F St. NW.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Tom,

Looking for a good, medium priced restaurant on Capitol Hill for Saturday night for six ladies. What do you recommend?

Tom Sietsema: The French-themed Montmartre.


Adventurous Diner in Clarendon, Va.: Hi Tom,

My girlfriend just got an awesome new job, and this Friday I'm taking her out to celebrate. The problem is, I have no clue where to go, since there seems to be an influx of great new restaurants in DC.

I was thinking of Dino or Al Crostino until I read your reviews. Other places we've enjoyed in the past include Matchbox, Oyamel, Zaytinya, and Pesce. Something with a real "city" vibe and excellent food are musts - price isn't a huge factor, but I can't afford Maestro.


Tom Sietsema: The newish Tabaq Bistro on U St. is great fun, and I really like its selection of mezze (Mediterranean small plates). Aim for a seat on the rooftop. The recently reviewed Mark and Orlando's in Dupont Circle is also charming, though not quite as "sexy."


Arlington, Va.: Looking for someplace in Georgetown for a casual-ish lunch. Preferably someplace to sit at the bar and have a beer with lunch.

Any ideas?

Tom Sietsema: Try Clyde's, Pizzeria Paradiso or Mendocino Grille


Washington, D.C.: Hello Tom,

I wanted to notify your readers that over 60 restaurants in the District and many in Virginia and Maryland will be participating in an event titled "Dine for America", where over 16,000 restaurants across the nation will be donating a portion of their sales, or collecting donations from their customers, in support of the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Establishments such as 1789 and Capital Grille are participating, but even if people are just grabbing a coffee, Caribou Coffee is also on board. A full list of restaurants can be found at If people are dining out tonight, we would encourage them to dine for America to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita


Joshua Kittner

American Red Cross

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the reminder!


Silver Spring, Md.: Have a hankerin' for Greek food. What's the best in the city, in your opinion? And is Zaytinya worth the high prices and long wait?

Tom Sietsema: The best Greek cooking is, in fact, at Zaytinya. I don't think the prices are high, considering the quality of the ingredients, but the place is LOUD. Mourayo on Conn. Ave. is fun, cozy and a bit more traditional.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Tom. There always seems to be a fair amount of "Don't eat at X when Y is so much better for Ethiopian/tapas/seafood/etc." All your readers, even me, want the best dining experience possible. So I am submitting a plug for an event your readers might enjoy, DC Central Kitchen's Capital Bite Night where many of the boldface names that we discuss every week will compete head to head to be the best. The winner of the 2004 battle, Ris Lacoste of 1789, is back to defend her title against all challengers. Vying for the title are Greggory Hill of David Greggory, Morou of Signatures and Katsuya Fukushima of Cafe Atlantico. They'll be joined by special guest, Celebrity Chef Mark Bittman, author of the best selling How to Cook Everything and the Minimalist column in the New York Times. The event takes place at the Ronald Reagan Building on 18 October.

Tom Sietsema: Sounds like fun to me (even though Bittman has gone on record saying there's not much worth eating in our fair city. I'll forgive him. Once.)


Burke, Va.: C'mon Tom, throw that poor girl a bone in advance of your Fall Dining Guide -- she's not going to have much luck getting a reservation at a really good restaurant if she has to wait until the last minute...

Tom Sietsema: Okay. Here's a bone: Restaurant Eve's tasting room in Alexandria for a special occasion.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: We went to Notti Bianche on your review/recommendation last Saturday. Probably never would have gone there otherwise just because of the location. Excellent. Well worth the trip. We had 3 different appetizers, 4 different entrees, and 2 different desserts and all were superb. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't overly expensive either. The same price I would have paid for a nice dinner in the burbs. Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: Mr. Chittum is doing some really delicious work over there. Glad you liked his efforts as much as I did.


Reston, Va.: Husband and I recently were BLOWN AWAY by our experience at Restaurant Eve. I work in Old Town and must have walked down that street hundreds of times without going in. Our night in the tasting room easily ranks in my Top 5 dinners of all time and we have traveled to great restaurants all over the country and world. I really think it was that good.

That being said, do you think it is reasonable for us to visit the main dining room next time. While we found the tasting room enjoyable, we both admitted on our next visit we may rather "just" do the typical dining experience.

But boy the menu there was a real treat.

Tom Sietsema: The bistro is really good, but it's a totally different experience.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom-

If you had to choose between the following right now, which would it be for a great dinner out - one that won't disappoint, from start to finish, beginning with service down to the food: Kinkead's, CityZen, Oceannaire, and Sam & Harry's. I'm not looking for a place based on reputation alone. Or, any other suggestions for a can't miss place would be appreciated. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I think Oceanaire does a great job of serving a lot of good food in attractive environs. It's part of a chain, but doesn't come across as one. I've not been to CityZen in some time, but I've certainly admired the chef's menu when I reviewed the place earlier this year.


Long Island, N.Y.: Tom, I lived in DC for 3 years and just returned to the NY area. Still read and LOVE your chats. I'll be in town this weekend and need to pick between my two favorite restaurants -- Sushi-Ko or the Quarterdeck (I know, big difference!). What would you choose? Or is there a third restaurant you'd recommend throwing in the mix? Thanks so much...

Tom Sietsema: Sushi-Ko is a blast. Go, go, go! And be sure to sit at the counter.


Tysons Corner: Tom,

Please, please, please answer my question. I am having a little lunch time party at Andale on the 22nd and I am sure that most of us will be interested in continuing the good time after we leave the restaurant. Where would you take 6-8 people for drinks in that area? Most places aren't open that early in the afternoon on a Saturday. Please help!

Tom Sietsema: Poste? Rosa Mexicana? Zola? All are nearby, all are good for cocktails.


C'mon Tom: I usually follow lock-step with your reviews. However, Restaurant Eve doesn't live up to its top billing status. Yes, dinner in the tasting room is good, but at premium prices ($150pp w/wine pairings), you might as well go to Citronelle, Maestro, or one of the other special event places.

Tom Sietsema: I disagree. Cathal Armstrong is a very serious and talented chef. I could eat his food every day. It is DIFFERENT from that of the restaurants you mention, but it is nevertheless stellar.


Washington, D.C.: What is the deal with Landrum and the new place in Silver Spring? Enough of the Ray's the Steaks secrets already.

Tom Sietsema: Last I heard, the place is expected to open around Thanksgiving.


Artie's: Tom, you recommended the couple go to Artie's. I love that place. I miss working in Fairfax, but even closer is the sister restaurant Silverado for a fine dinner in a male friendly atmosphere.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the additional option.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom!

PLEASE GIVE ME AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION - I'm looking for a restaurant that has a seafood buffet that includes all-you-can eat Sushi. Does one exist in the area?

Tom Sietsema: Chatters? (I know of no such place. Not a big fan of "all-you-can-eat," either.)


Columbia, Md.: I am planning a weekend in D.C. (hotel, spa, top-notch restaurant) as a surprise for my husband's 30th birthday in a couple months, and I need some guidance re: the restaurant aspect. I want something very upscale and price is no object. I was thinking either Citronelle or Laboratorio (we have never been to either). The problem is that my husband doesn't like seafood, and I'm wondering if this would be a problem at Laboratorio since it is a set chef's menu? Of all of the restaurants in DC, where would you recommend we go? I want it to be a special-occasion-type place. Thanks, I love your chats so much!

Tom Sietsema: I'm a big fan of both restaurants, but I'd probably be most eager to return to Citronelle. At Laboratorio, twelve courses of food -- even when prepared by a soulful cook like Roberto Donna --is too much and too long an evening for this diner. At the Lab, by the way, guests are asked about food preferences when they reserve a table, so it's not a problem if your mate doesn't "do" seafood.


Herndon, Va.: Help! My boyfriend's mother is coming to town and has indicated an interest in Sunday brunch in Georgetown. I need to take her to a place that has relatively mainstream bistro food. I researched the Entertainment Guide and it seems I may be limited to Clyde's/Mr. Smith's/Chadwick's. Any other ideas? I'd like to stay in walking distance from the heart of G'town. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Bistro Francais is just what you're looking for.


Ellicott City, Md.: Submitted many times, but never got a reply. Do we have to extremely flattering to be recognized. Just Plain Doe's will not do looks like it. Love your reviews, but have been lately disappointed in not getting any response without a bling.

Tom Sietsema: Excuse me?


Ellicott City, Md.: Hi Tom, Greetings from Baltimore. We were in Boston last week for college weekend, and we wanted to take our son out to dinner. Checked out your postcards from the hotel and found a hotel you reviewed way back in 2002, Oleana. New to Boston we totally got lost getting there with my husband and kids being cynical that maybe your review was too outdated. But the person at the reception was very patient giving us directions multiple times and was still smiling and warm when we got there about 30 minutes late for our 10 pm reservation. They told us since they close at 11 they had no problems. Food was simply great and I saw in the menu that the chef Anna had won the 2005 James Beard award. Thanks. Also wanted to remind your "Washington" area readers who tend to claim you as their own, we in Baltimore also like to lay claim to your reviews.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the kind words -- and your family is right to be skeptical of reviews that are a few years old. I'm happy to keep sending people to Oleana (in Cambridge) and pleased to hear glowing reviews in return.


Vienna, Va.: Which restaurants in this are serve the best bread during meals?

(I'm not referring necessarily to bread included in sandwiches, etc., but if you feel there are any worth mentioning, feel free.)

Tom Sietsema: I could eat a whole loaf of those yeasty, bite-size, salt-flecked rolls dished out before dinner at CityZen.

Okay, now it's YOUR turn:


Reston,Va.: Dear Tom, I wanted to thank you for your review of Patowmack Farm in Loudon County VA. We have taken all types of diners there from jaded foodies to folks whose usual place of dinning is more likely to be TGI Fridays than huate cuisine all have loved the experience and the food.

Fri. night we took my in-laws who were in town from Walla-Walla WA,(I love saying that name) to dinner there we had the seven course tasting menu. The things that really stood out were the Mustard Crusted Lamb chops with a parsnip puree and pommeray sage cream My husband favorite was the Alaskan King Salmon with wilted chard creamy polenta and vanilla lobster reduction. I was not able to eat the salmon due to the fact I have a severe shellfish allergy. No worries, Chef Evans made my salmon with a very yummy saffron cream that was to die for. All in all my husband's parents were blown away,the meal came to around $385.00 for four with wine. Believe me I have spent more for less sad to say. Why go to the Inn at Little Washington or haul tail to D.C.? When right in Northern VA you have a place that has such a great setting and wonderful food? I can't wait eat there after the first snow. The glass enclosed garden room is heated and charmingly lit. So all I can say is go to Patowmack Farm for dinner or brunch and you will not be disappointed. Once again thank you for your great review.

Tom Sietsema: Glad to hear you had fun there. The views are pretty fabulous, aren't they? I'm not sure the place is open in winter, but I can imagine it being a lovely place to find myself.


Rockville, Md.: Please help! I'm taking my family out to dinner and am thinking about the following places - Addies, Il Pizzico, Grapeseed, Mon Ami Gabi, or L'oustalet. I eventually want to hit all of them, but which should be my first? Thanks so much!!!

Tom Sietsema: My vote is cast for Addie's.


Alexandria, Va.: Tom: Lots of new restaurants have opened in the D.C. area in recent months. Can you mention three or four highlights? We've got a chance for a nice meal out this weekend, and we're looking to try something that recently opened. Sonoma is already on our list. And we're up for anything.

Tom Sietsema: (Why do I always feel like these posts are from chefs wondering what I think of their new restaurants?)

Young sprouts showing promise: Willow in Arlington and Dahlia in Spring Valley.


Washington, D.C.: Last week I wrote in asking where I should take my boyfriend's brother, who returned from Iraq, to eat his first meal back in Georgetown. I went to Sea Catch, which you suggested, and I was very dissapointed. The food was expensive for it being so mediocre in quality. One dish was gross and the others were bland and uninteresting. Their bread basket looked and tasted like a hunk of wonder bread. While I don't eat in Georgetown, I eat downtown for business during the week quite often and I'm used to better quality for that price.

BUT - more importantly, there was a sports game and 2 dozen people shouting and screaming at a TV DIRECTLY behind us!!! They were loud and obnoxious, doing shots, screaming at the TV and one of them was making loud lewd comments. I think the manager should have done something, moved our table, take something off the bill, etc, but he did NOTHING! Even after one of the party told the manager he hadn't realized he was spending hundreds of dollars to sit in a sports bar. Our waitress apologized, but that was about it. Everyone was upset and dinner was ruined and I felt horrible and embarassed because it had been my suggestion. We left to have dessert elsewhere, and thankfully, that was better.

None of us will ever return to this restaurant and I plan on discouraging going there to all my friends and business colleagues. I am flabbergasted that nothing was done to alleviate the situation. Is it so wrong to think they should have done something?

Tom Sietsema: I'm sorry you had such an unfortunate experience at Sea Catch -- especially since your guest probably hadn't had more than MREs for awhile. Yes, the manager should have relocated your party to a more sedate part of the restaurant (which exists). Did you ask?


Centreville, Va.: Sho Chiku in Centreville by Grand Mart is great for sushi buffet. Lunch everyday $11.95!

Tom Sietsema: There you go, Mr. All-You-Can-Eat.


Seafood/sushi: Todai is a fun japanese seafood/sushi buffet place. I can't vouch for the particular location, but there is one in Fairfax.

Tom Sietsema: And another suggestion.


McPherson Square, Washington, D.C.: Tom,

Going to Montreal next Wednesday so this is my last chance to ask you. Any recommendations for good restaurants there? Good atmosphere, nothing too fancy, bistro is ok (love those!) but where the food is really something to write home about?

Thanks so much

Tom Sietsema: Check out my Postcard column archives. Don't miss L'Express, a lovely bistro.


Best bread: I love the tomato covered bread dipped in olive oil at Teatro Goldoni!

Tom Sietsema: Sounds delicious. (Now THERE'S a place I haven't visited in a long long time....)


Washington, D.C.: The bread basket at Majestic Cafe in Old Town is always wonderful. Biscuits and corn bread, yum.

Tom Sietsema: Yep!


Woodbridge, Va.: Ozzie rolls from Best Buns Bakery (the fried dough balls-delish!!) served at Great American restaurants (Artie's, Mike's American, Sweetwater Tavern etc)

Tom Sietsema: I'm getting full just reading about all these carbs.


Go to Lewnes!!!: For the woman looking for steak, go to Lewnes. Food is good, and afterwards they can go over to the charthouse for drinks in the lounge, and enjoy the waterviews. The boatshows are in Annapolis for the next two weekends, so make reservations; traffic usually clears out by 7pm.

Tom Sietsema: Sounds like a great game plan there. (My, what a nice and helpful audience we have this morning. Obviously, we all got a good night's rest and plenty of coffee today.)


McLean, Va.: Tom -- you have said a couple of times today somthing along the lines of" "XXX might be ok, but I haven't been there is awhile." Can we safely assume that if you said that about a restaurant it won't be in the dining guide? I seem to recall you saying that you revisit every place in the dining guide. Are dropping hints on purpose?

Tom Sietsema: Maybe -- maybe not!


Great Bread: 2941 bakes a really impressive array of breads. It was one of the highlights of our meal there, and that's saying something...

Tom Sietsema: In the old days, the chef would bid guests adieu with loaves of bread to take home. I always thought that was a nice touch.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom! Love the chats...and your writing style. So this weekend my boyfriend and I are celebrating a special anniversary (ok, it's only 6 months) and are looking for a place in the dupont/adams morgan area where we can do a tasting menu in a cozy environment. Any particular favorites?

Tom Sietsema: Equinox comes to mind. Ask to sit in a booth if you can.


Fairfax, Va.: When is your book coming out?

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for inquiring. I'm still working on it, but the plan is to have it on book shelves (in stores) around T-Day.


Rockville, Md.: If you just found out you have an sudden meeting to attend, but still have about an hour to pick up lunch and eat it, where in Rockville would you speed to for Chinese takeout?

Tom Sietsema: A & J or Joe's Noodle House


Millersville, Md.: Flying out of Dulles at 9:30 pm weeknight. Hate airplane food--like to have nice meal before flight. Need a good place to eat early enough to get through meal, traffic, and shuttlebus and be at airport by 7-ish. We like everything!! Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I like Thai Basil, tucked into a shopping strip, in Chantilly. Light and interesting Thai fare with a homey touch.


Fairfax Co., Va.: Thank you for your review of Annangol. My Korean family and I have been going there for years. If what we want is good Korean BBQ, that's where we go.

Tom Sietsema: Love that spot. (Obviously.)


Washington, D.C.: Tom, I'm sure you're answered this before, but what's a decent, moderately priced place for dinner near the Kennedy Ctr? I think there's a place that starts with a K?


Tom Sietsema: Or a "d", as in Dish.


Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: Hey Tom, have you been to 15RIA since Troy Walter took over as chef? I walk by everyday but am reluctant to try it having not heard much about it these days. Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I have not been, but former fans of the restaurant are less enthusiastic these days.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Hi Tom -- Still hooked on your column despite being away for nearly two years now. But hoping you can help me on this... I'll be in DC this weekend, and I'll be taking my foodie sig other and my former boss and her husband to dinner somewhere in NW DC. Price is not really an object, but I'd rather not suggest the priciest place in town. And someplace where we can laugh and not worry about having to whisper would be good... though someplace loud is not so good. Preferably not -too- trendy, though good food is a must. A tall enough order for ya? I'd love any suggestions you can offer. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Firefly in Dupont Circle certainly fits your cozy-trendy-we-want-to-laugh wishes. So does Buck's Fishing & Camping, which I adore but some diners have problems with (limited menu, bossy chef). In Penn Quarter, Zaytinya is another all-purpose crowd-pleaser, but it can get loud. A fourth choice: the Latin-leaning Ceiba downtown.


Arlington, Va.: Tom:

I am trying to plan a dessert-only outing for a group of 10-20 young professional women. Is there a place in the District that has a large (and good) selection of desserts that would suit our purposes? Thanks!!!

Tom Sietsema: That's a tough one. I can tell you where to find space for a group and where to find good desserts, but not a place that typically serves just desserts to a large party. Chatters?


Sweet Tea: Dixie Bones in Woodbridge and the Florida Avenue Grill both have decent sweet tea.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, more teas to add to the list.


Sea Catch: I've had some reliably good food there, and the canal view can be gorgeous. The bread is clearly much better than Wonder Bread. And I'm sorry that the poster's experience was unfortunate, however...

"Even after one of the party told the manager he hadn't realized he was spending hundreds of dollars to sit in a sports bar."

What's up with this passive-aggressive comment? If you want to move, ask to move! It's a huge space. And why on earth did this diner expect to be comped something by making passive-aggressive comments to the manager?

Tom Sietsema: I don't agree that food should have been comped, but someone should have moved the group to a quieter section. My question was, did anyone even ASK?


Washington, D.C.: I'm headed to San Francisco this weekend and was wondering if any of the places in your postcard had vegetarian entrees that were more than just pasta primavera or whatnot. Or if you knew of any restaurants in S.F. that were adventurous in their vegetarian creations. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Greens is a longtime player known for its meatless menu -- and postcard view of the city.


Your Postcards: why is it so hard to find them? I'd think they would be under Art & Living, Dining. I've been trying to find them for the last 10 minutes.

Tom Sietsema: Are they not at the very top of this online chat, in the intro?


New York City, N.Y.: Visiting this weekend and the group has reservations at Sequoia and Palette. Anything to avoid or must try at either place? Thanks so much!

Tom Sietsema: Frankly? It's not too late to change your reservations. Both restaurants are underwhelming.


Dino Review: Just wanted to say that your review of Dino was excellent. Just a great piece of writing and restaurant reviewing.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks, but I think its many fans will disagree with you.


Just Desserts: Tom--Would Les Halles fit the bill for that group of 20

women looking for dessert only?

Tom Sietsema: Mais oui!


Silver Spring, Md.: You can get a sushi buffet for lunch at Hinode in Bethesda. Buffet, drink, and miso soup for $12.50.

Tom Sietsema: And on that note, I bid you good-bye until next Wednesday.

Dine well. See you soon.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company