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Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; 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, read his dining column and the Weekly Dish 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.

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Tom Sietsema:"It's alive now."

That's Todd Thrasher, talking about the little facelift the former Majestic Cafe in Old Town is getting, now that he and the gang behind Restaurant Eve have taken over the historical address (911 King St.). A fresh coat of paint, a reconfigured bar and some new mirrors will welcome guests to the renamed Majestic, possibly as early as Monday, April 30, according to Thrasher.

Initially, the American restaurant will serve only dinner; lunch and brunch service are expected to follow a few weeks after launch. "Friends and family" - including the staff of the late Majestic Cafe - will get the first taste of the new restaurant at a cocktail reception April 26.

As in years past, Felix restaurant in Adams Morgan plans to offer a Passover menu April 2-3. Among the $8 first courses will be chopped chicken liver, matzoh ball soup and potato latkes; entrees ($18-$24) include braised brisket, roast chicken and rack of lamb.

Owner Alan Popovsky tells me that his former chef (and the current chef-owner of Dahlia in Spring Valley), David Scribner, has agreed to preparing the special menu. "We were just chatting the other day and waxing about old times," the restaurateur wrote in a recent email, "and he offered to do it for me." Felix is located at 2406 18th St. NW; call 202-483-3549.

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining me.

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Table side Caesar salad?: Tom: I have a hankering for a really well made caesar salad. Does any one still go old-school and do a table side preparation? And if not, is there a restaurant out there that has a better one than others?

I know this is likely a basic question, but as you know, sometimes it's hard to find the simple things done well!

Many thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I don't know of any restaurants that toss their Caesars at the table anymore, but I *can* vouch for the nicely tangy salads served at BLT Steak, Corduroy, Tabard Inn, Ray's the Classics and Simply Home. The last, on U St., includes lemongrass and kaffir lime in its mix. Mmmm.

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Tom,

Can you confirm or deny that Pedro Matamoros has left the Tabard Inn? His food has been the only reason I've gone there; without him, where will this restaurant go?

Tom Sietsema: No truth to the rumor, according to Nathan Swan, a host and server at the still-delicious destination.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Tabard Inn.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for a place to have dinner in the city to celebrate my mom's birthday for about 10 people - all of whom are out of towners, 2 of whom are 5 and 8 years old. thoughts?

Tom Sietsema: Are you looking to make Mom or the group happy here? And what's your budget?

I think the new, Mexican-themed Oyamel in Penn Quarter might be fun, as could be Johnny's Half Shell on the Hill or Blue Duck Tavern in the West End.

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Washington, D.C.: As a forum viewed by industry insiders, will you PLEASE announce to the world that eastern Capitol Hill is both DESPERATE for restaurants and primed to provide a clientele for them? We have a big new luxury condo development going in (14th & Penn Ave SE), and the word on the street is that the restaurants/coffee shops on the first floor will be boring chains. Please help us, Michael Landrum! Or Gillian Clark! Or Robert Donna! Or any other local restaurateur looking to expand. We want to give you our money!

Tom Sietsema: Chefs -- investors and bankers -- are you listening?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Recently you have been raving about Ray's the Classic, a new restaurant in Silver Spring, yet neither you nor your predecessor have taken the time to write about an classic Silver Spring eatery, the Golden Flame, also in Silver Spring. Why is this and what does it say about your criteria about choosing places to review?

Tom Sietsema: What it says is this: the Washington area is bursting with fresh faces and as much as I would like to, I can't cover all the new restaurants AND the veteran players in my limited space.

But I try! Haven't you noticed I've been re-reviewing established restaurants and offering more double (and sometimes even triple) reviews in my Dining column?

Tell me what you like about the Golden Flame. Maybe I've been missing something.

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K Street Corridor, Washington, D.C.: Re: Central's non-descript menu. Tom - what's the proper etiquette for handling non-descript menus? E.g. I just ate at Central and ordered the onion tart to start. My guest doesn't eat meat so when it arrived with bacon on top I didn't know what to do. I couldn't really send it back because it is what we ordered however because we didn't have a description of it we didn't know it would have bacon on it and thus wouldn't have ordered it in the first place. So my question is - whenever I eat at Central from now on or any other restaurant that doesn't offer descriptions of its food on its menus, how should I proceed? How do people with food allergies handle such situations? Thanks for your insight.

Tom Sietsema: We've covered this territory in previous chats. I think the restaurant should identify potential "problem" ingredients, including meat products and seasonings such as cilantro, in print. At the same time, if a diner has an allergy or dislike for something, it's up to him or her to inquire ahead of ordering.

This gets problematic, however: Is it necessary for a restaurant to spell out all 23 ingredients in an entree, on the chance that someone in the dining room might hate marjoram? You see where this could lead: epic menus.

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Naples, FL: Tom -

I'm traveling to Naples, FL next week and would like to hit some of the food hot spots. Do you know of any?

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: (My parents' place! My mom is a fabulous cook.)

I haven't sampled much of the scene down there. Can anyone help out a hungry peanut?

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McLean, Va.: Greetings Tom! I got the chance in Vegas to eat at Joe's Stone Crab (absolutely divine). Is there any place in DC where I can get stone crab?

Tom Sietsema: Indeed there is! Washington's BLT Steak offers the seafood at market price, currently $12 a claw.

washingtonpost.com: Review of BLT Steak.

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re: Sorak Garden lettuce incident: Dear Tom,

I hope you post this for the chatter who was not allowed to take the lettuce home with their leftovers from Sorak Garden. I may be able to provide some insight on this bizarre behavior: a little while back, there was an incident or incidents that led most Korean restaurants to adopt a policy of not packing up the pan chan with leftovers. Apparently, so the rumor goes, there were people who were egregiously abusing this courtesy by ordering extra dishes of the pan chan just so they could take it home at the end of the meal. Anyway, it does not excuse the behavior from Sorak because I would not consider the lettuce as typical pan chan since it is only served and eaten with particular dishes, ie, the kalbi or bulgogi.

Anyway, there's the a little tidbit (no pun intended) from someone in the Korean community!

Also, another tip for your reader: Cho's Garden in Fairfax has really great service and I've seen many non-Koreans there on the few times I've been there. They are very friendly though I don't believe their food is as good as at Yechon. At Cho's, kalbi (short ribs) are grilled with a charcoal insert over the gas grill to add extra flavor.

Tom Sietsema: If this is true, it's unfortunate. Why do some diners feel the need to squeeze two meals out of one, especially one that's so generous to begin with? Shame, shame.

I've reviewed both Cho's and Sorak Garden and I agree with your assessment: Sorak Garden is the better of the two.

washingtonpost.com: Reviews of Sorak Garden and Cho's Garden.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Tom,

I was wondering with all the musical chef's that seem to be going on around town how does one know if an old favorite is still going strong. Do your ratings still stand for or would you still dine at, Viridian, Cafe Saint-Ex, Firefly, Notti Bianche?

Tom Sietsema:"Musical chairs" are what keep critics employed. (And busy.) I have yet to revisit all the restaurants you list, so I'm withholding my judgment for the moment. Right now, though, their ratings are based on the work of people who are no longer employed at said establishments.

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Caesar salad tossed tableside: They do it at Middleton's in Annapolis and it's delicious.

Tom Sietsema: Good to know. Thanks for the tip.

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Washington, D.C.: RE allergies: I gave Cafe Atlantico a written list of my son's girlfriend's allergies three days before our dinner there and they stilled served her everything she was allergic to because no one bothered to tell the chef. If you have allergies, give a list to the server and demand that the list be given the chef!

Tom Sietsema: Ouch! (It never hurts to place a phone call in advance of a special request, I've learned over the years.)

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Alexandria, Va.: You've admitted several times that our area is sorely lacking in the Italian restaurant category. I agree -- and A.V. Ristorante closing in four months doesn't help. My favorite place in the region is Maestro, but that's a special occasion dinner due to the price. For a runner-up in that league, what would you recommend? I am thinking of trying Teatro Goldoni again.

Tom Sietsema: I'm more of an Al Tiramisu and Amici Miei fan myself.

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Washington D.C.: So are you going to comment on the whole Todd Kliman-Roberto Donna tiff?

Tom Sietsema: I prefer to play the role of Switzerland in this situation. But read on.

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Anonymous: Washington, D.C.

Hi Tom,

Last Friday's Reliable Source column was about a chef who was infuriated about inaccuracies in a Washingtonian magazine restaurant review. Your own reviews don't seem to suffer from these kinds of factual errors. What kind of fact checking do your Sunday magazine reviews go through before the ink hits the newsprint?

Tom Sietsema: Before I hand in a story, I fact-check my copy. That's simply part of a reporter's job.

Do I ever make mistakes? I'm sure I do. I produce an average of three to four columns a week, sometimes more, and there's no way I'm not going to slip up on a name, an age or some other detail now and then.

However, I think it's crucial to correct any error as soon as it's discovered. (Note to the people I cover: If I make a factual error, bring it to my attention. Believe it or not, I really want to know!)

Fortunately, I have a big safety net in my immediate editor, the Magazine's first-rate copy desk and everyone else who sees my stuff before it goes to the printer. I'd estimate that at least seven sets of eyeballs examine my work before it's published in the Magazine. I'm grateful for all of them.

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Penn Quarter, D.C.: Can you please recommend an Indian restaurant in D.C. (not the suburbs) that has a lunch buffet during the week? My office mates want to go out for an Indian buffet and every place I can think of just has a regular menu on weekdays.

Tom Sietsema: Nirvana, the very good vegetarian restaurant on K St. NW, has what you're looking for.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Nirvana.

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Washington, D.C.: We have friends coming to town to march in the Cherry Blossom parade and they are looking for a place or places that can accommodate about 50 people for lunch and or dinner. Any ideas?

Tom Sietsema: Does location matter? Price? I'm thinking the patios at Les Halles and the Occidental are worth checking out.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Tom! Can you please recommend a "can't miss" casual restaurant for dinner in Old Town tonight? I have a relative coming in on a very long layover and we'd like to catch up over dinner. Thank you!!!

Tom Sietsema: I adore the bar menu -- and the scene -- at Restaurant Eve in Old Town.

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Washington, D.C.: For the poster asking about dining in Naples, Yabba Island Grill is at least one fun, casual option, with good food and drinks.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for sharing.

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Rockville, Md.:"Why do some diners feel the need to squeeze two meals out of one, especially one that's so generous to begin with? Shame, shame."

OK. I can see that. But my wife and I remember or parents often going and ordering one meal and an extra plate so they could split it. Is that OK? We tried it once at the Macaroni Factory and it was fine with them. We tipped for two meals. The waiter was overjoyed - really.

Tom Sietsema: Fine by me. But that's different than requesting more food, for the sole goal of eating it later at home.

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Ex Silver-Springer: The Golden Flame? Tom, if you're going to review that then while you're at it, could you also review Red Lobster, Bob Evans, Ponderosa Steakhouse, and any other holdouts from the 70's? I'm curious how they're doing.

Tom Sietsema: I *swear* I didn't put anyone up to typing this!

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi! Any news on what happened over the weekend at Blue Duck Tavern? I was part of a group who was elated to celebrate a 40th birthday at the chef's table...we got a call on the morning of our brunch reservation (Sunday) that there were ventilation problems and all reservations were cancelled...then I heard later that the place had a fire?! We haven't heard back and our birthday surprise was obviously ruined at the last minute. I am hoping for news on the place!

Tom Sietsema: I am just now hearing about this. Chef McBride, are you out there? Care to chime in?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Good morning Tom!

I hope that you or some of the other chatters might be able to point me towards good Indian food in or near Silver Spring.

I'm starting to get desperate...

Tom Sietsema: The modestly-dressed Tiffin, on University Boulevard in Takoma Park, has lots of fans.

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Alcova Heights, Arlington, Va.: Tom I think last week you asked your readers when the last time Frank Bruni reviewed a 3 star restaurant or something to that affect. I wasn't able to read the chat in live time so I'm posting now. I believe in January Mr. Bruni gave 3 stars to the Bar Room at the Modern. It was just before my husband and I went up for a long weekend. So we made sure to put Bar Room on our list of places to check out and it was definitely worth the stop.

Tom Sietsema: And now it's almost April.

Your post supports my thesis: "excellent" restaurants aren't a weekly or even a monthly occurrence. Here or in New York City.

(Background: In last week's chat, a poster took me to task for not reviewing more three star establishments. As if I was hiding them for myself or something!)

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"Epic Menus": I think it's pretty easy to draw the line.

(1) If the ingredient in question is meat in an otherwise vegetable-based dish (e.g. the vegetable soup is made with beef stock), disclose it. (2) If it's an ingredient a large number of people are allergic to (I'm thinking peanuts), disclose it. (3) If it's an ingredient that only a few people are allergic/sensitive to/dislike (e.g., marjoram), the onus is on the eater to inquire.

Really, I think your marjoram example is a strawman. If I order a vegetable tart, how am I supposed to guess it'll show up with bacon on top? Disclosing whether meat is in a dish that's only described as containing vegetables should be an obvious decision. I don't think it's at all like listing every single spice that 1 diner out of 10000 might dislike.

Tom Sietsema: Food for thought.

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Carroll's Creek, Annapolis: Does a lovely table-side Caesar salad.

Tom Sietsema: And another example in Annapolis!

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Centreville, Va.: Hey, Tom! Just tried Pho for the first time in a small restaurant in C-ville. I loved it and would really like to sample some other restaurant's versions. Can you recommend some great places for Pho in the NoVa or DC areas?

Tom Sietsema: Pho 75 in Arlington is a particular favorite. Here's my mini-review from a year or so ago:

The main attraction at Pho 75 (1721 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-525-7355) is available in nearly 20 versions, which is why I like to ask my server for his or her favorite. "No. 12," one of them recently shared, steering me to a big bowl of beef broth teaming with thin rice noodles, sliced onions and shreds of barely cooked brisket and eye-of-round steak. The steaming Vietnamese classic (pronounced FUH) is good on its own, better when a diner adds a few accents from the accompanying plate of licorice-like Thai basil, crisp bean sprouts, fiery jalapeno and fresh lime. Pho 75's dining hall is not much to look at, just row after row of tables in a utilitarian box, and the service, while speedy, can vary from cheerful to sullen. But in all likelihood, you'll be too busy slurping your meal-in-a-bowl ($5.45) to care.

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Petworth, Washington, D.C.: Tom, just wanted to give a big thanks to three restaurants. Last week I had a round of paternity leave lunches with new mom and week old infant. All were extremely gracious while accommodating a car seat and an occasional discreet feeding: Started with 2 Amy's, always delicious and any pie with baby arugala cannot be beat. Next came a fancier Bistro Lepic with seafood salad and duck confit, YUM. And finished with a good selection of small plates at Oyamel, a favorite from Crystal City, all good except the prices are a bit higher. $4 for one "street food" is steep.

Back to work, tired, but full.

Tom Sietsema: Congrats, Dad. And thanks for the mini-reviews.

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Washington, D.C.: Good morning, Tom,

I took an out-of-town guest to IndeBleu last Friday and had a spectacularly romantic evening. I gather you have some issues with the restaurant and I was wondering what they were.

Tom Sietsema: I don't have any more "issues" with Indebleu than I do with any other restaurant. I just wasn't wild about the place when it opened. It's been a long time since I've dropped in, however, and I'm due for another look-see-taste.

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Annapolis, Md.: Re the previous poster's problem at Central: Tom I sometimes feel that we in the U.S. treat everything as "special cases". I've never eaten at Central, but knowing the background and that it's theme harkens to Chef Richard's roots, I would assume that an onion tart would be prepared Alsatian style and would include meat. But I guess that's because I'm a "foodie".

I would hate to see the "dumbing down" of written menus as a matter of course. Can we compromise and expect both customers and waitstaff to be knowledgeable enough to confirm dietary problems at order time, rather than at serving time? Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I like the way you think.

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K Street, Washington, D.C.: I love your reviews and (in case anyone's giving you a hard time today) think you do an excellent job covering different cuisines, price ranges and locations. On to my question... I'm going to Paris next month and want to know if you have any additional suggestions to add to your last two Paris postcards. While I'm at it - how about London? We're going there, too. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Ah, merci!

The place with the loudest buzz right now is Le Comptoir, chef Yves Camdeborde's supposedly wonderful brasserie. (I haven't been.) Also on food friends' "must" list is Sensing, in the 6th arr. As for London, I haven't been in some time. But I love the River Cafe for Italian and Zaika for Indian.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Tom, Love your discussions and columns!

Have you considered publishing on washingtonpost.com the list of restaurants you've visited but graded "no stars"?

Knowing which restaurants don't make the grade would complete your most excellent coverage.

Tom Sietsema: The only restaurant I've given no stars to -- in print -- was Le Pigalle (now Jack's) in Dupont Circle.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Le Pigalle.

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star ratings-D.C.: Tom,

Just read last week's transcript which got me to thinking about your star rating system. Why do it? I think the answer is fairly obvious but I'm curious to hear your reasoning because for instance the Post does NOT use a star system to rate movies, one of the few papers I've read that doesn't.

Tom Sietsema: Why serve stars?

Stars help define a restaurant. Stars give readers a quick take on a place. Stars give chefs something to aspire to. Stars make a critic more honest (there's less room for hedging).

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Rosslyn, Va.: Tom, people ask about Italian all the time in these chats, and it baffles me why Luigi's in Dupont never gets mentioned. It's not the greatest culinary sensation, and doesn't claim to be, but I find myself craving this place every so often and make the special trip. The last time I went, the eggplant melanzane appetizer was mouth watering, and the tomato sauce the mussels appetizer was cooked in was so good I wanted to drink it. My fiancee is from Rhode Island and I'm from Western PA, both of which have a sizeable Italian community, and this place reminds me most of the hearty homestyle Italian comfort food of those areas that I miss sometimes. There are better Italian restaurants around here, but when I want "that kind" of Italian, it's Luigi's or Italian Store for me.

Tom Sietsema: Gee, I mention Luigi's all the time whenever people ask about old-fashioned Italian cooking. I got the sense the poster was looking for something hauter.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: the poster who wanted accommodations for 50 diners...I wouldn't recommend Les Halles. I had problems with them when I went with a group of about 30 recently, I found they were understaffed and our service was very, very slow...to the point where some in our party didn't get to eat before their show at the National Theatre.

Tom Sietsema: Just fyi, folks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Re: Good Indian food. We like Udupi Palace in Langley Park. Excellent for vegetarians too.

I'd avoid Bombay just off downtown Silver Spring. Oily, oily, oily everything. And oversalted.

Or, go to Patel Brothers (also in Langely Park) and pick up all the ingredients and snacks to make your own.

Tom Sietsema: Great ideas. Thanks.

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"tipped for two meals" : Can someone please explain ?

I was under the impression that tipping was based on the dollar amount, not the number of people ?

Tom Sietsema: In other words, the people who were splitting food weren't being cheap, simply because they were sharing.

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lettuce:"Why do some diners feel the need to squeeze two meals out of one, especially one that's so generous to begin with? Shame, shame. ..."

what a ridiculous comment. Surely a diner HAS PAID for the food.

Tom Sietsema: Wait a minute. In the scenario presented to me, diners at the Korean restaurant were requesting extra panchan to take home, not to eat in the restaurant. It was indeed extra.

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no stars: If you include the inaugural dining guide where you introduced the star system, I'm pretty sure you gave no stars to Two Quail, and quite possibly also Taverna Creketou in Old Town.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, you have a better memory than I do! You are quite right about both establishments. (Taverna C. has since improved, however.)

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Arlington, Va.: Tom, I must say that I appreciate the fact that your reviews are generally factually correct with regards to the FOOD. Other local reviewers are much more sloppy and don't seem to have a very strong culinary knowledge base; their reviews are more of a social or cultural critique of restaurants. I also appreciate the fact that you don't publish unsubstantiated rumors in the attempt to be the first the break a story!

Tom Sietsema: Thanks. Comments like yours -- and appreciative readers such as you -- remind me why I work seven days a week.

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NoLo, Washington, D.C.: Didn't your review of the Willard Room say that the Caesar salad, amongst other items, was finished at the table?

Tom Sietsema: Yes, but it was almost $20, too! Plus, the restaurant now has a new chef. I haven't been back since my critique.

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Posting tip: Never write in Word or Wordpad and then copy into the posting box. Microsoft Word uses non-standard characters for quotations, hyphens, etc, and the Post's chat boards don't automatically convert them. If you want to write something in advance, use a plain text editor like Notepad.

Tom Sietsema: Are you talking to me or the chatters?

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, I am planning a dinner for ten this summer for a special occasion. I'd like someplace in DC with good food an a staff that will take good care of us. I am considering the Tabard Inn, but might be inclined to go with someplace more exotic like Indique. Any other places I should consider?

Tom Sietsema: You might also consider Rasika in Penn Quarter, which has a private dining room off the entrance; 1789, especially one of its handsome side rooms on the ground floor; and the Oceanaire Seafood Room, one of the city's best sources for fresh fish (and attentive service).

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Randomness: Tom,

I always wanted to try the omakase experience. Unfortunately, I don't really like seafood. Is there any place that won't throw me out if I asked a sushi chef for omakase without seafood? I would take my girlfriend who loves seafood.

Thank you.

Tom Sietsema: Seafood is typically a mainstay of the "chef's choice" style of dining in a Japanese restaurant. More often than not, however, I've been asked by chefs if there's anything I don't like or can't eat when I'm ordering omakase.

I suppose you could announce "no seafood" when you settle in, but you'd probably be missing some of the staff's best work. To be safe, call the restaurant you'd like to try -- Sushi-Ko or Kaz Sushi Bistro are my recommendations -- ahead of a visit and ask if such a request can be honored.

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Washington, D.C.: hey tom -- I just moved to 17th street in Dupont. There are loads of restaurants, but aside from Komi and Hanks, are any of them any good? Thanks

Tom Sietsema: Sushi-Taro is. Skewers can be.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom - can I ask you an etiquette question - often when I'm meeting a friend for dinner and they're 5 minutes late, the restaurant won't let me sit down even if there are plenty of open tables available. I think it's kind of annoying but is it just restaurant protocol that I need to accept?

Tom Sietsema: I sympathize with you. But restaurateurs counter that all too often, diners straggle in -- a person here, two more 15 minutes later, another 30 minutes past reservation time -- and it's easier just to have diners wait until the entire party is present and accounted for.

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Re: epic menus: I am a vegetarian, and when I order I always say something like, "The risotto dish sounds vegetarian. Is there any meat in it?" My daughter is allergic to peanuts, and I always say something like, "She has a peanut allergy. Are there peanuts or peanut oil in anything we've ordered?"

It's not hard, people.

Tom Sietsema: No it's not.

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Breakfast?: Tom, it seems like we're sorely lacking breakfast spots in our city and suburbs. We're sick of IHOP, where can we go for a great breakfast?

Tom Sietsema: Uh, did you read today's First Bite?

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washingtonpost.com: First Bite of Les Halles.

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Washington, D.C.: Three to four columns a week? Since I only see two (Wednesday and Sunday), where are the rest?

Tom Sietsema: I pen Dish/First Bite for Food on Wednesdays; a review and Ask Tom for the Magazine on Sunday; a monthly Postcard for the Travel section and I also tape four radio segments and host this chat each week. And let's not forget the 100s of emails I (try to) answer...

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(Hungry in ) Alexandria, Va.: Hi Tom,

I feel like you get this kind of question a lot, but here goes anyway:

My boyfriend is a military officer who has been stationed overseas since the summer. He's coming for his first visit since July in a few weeks and I want to make his time here extra special. We both appreciate food, and I can think of a ton of places I'd like to take him, but we have a limited amount of time. I've been thinking that he would especially enjoy Ray's the Steaks, Michel Richard Central, or maybe Palena. Is there one of these we definitely shouldn't miss? Thanks for your help!

Tom Sietsema: All are very good, but they're quite different from one another.

If your beau is craving steak and doesn't want to dress up, I'd go with Ray's.

If he's looking for cutting-edge cooking from one of the finest chefs in the country, I'd suggest Citronelle.

If he wants beautiful, Cali-Itali-French food in stylish-but-unstuffy environs, I'd point the two of you in the direction of Palena.

So ... your call!

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Chevy Chase, D.C.: Any word on the opening of Casa Oaxaca?

Tom Sietsema: One of the owners informs me today that Oaxaca's permits have been approved, but the Mexican restaurant is still awaiting its ABC license. The target date (as of now, but it could change) is April 13.

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Tabard Inn: Hi Tom,

Jeremiah here from the Tabard Inn. Our beloved Pedro will be leaving the Tabard at the end of April after seven years of dedicated and delicious cooking. We are currently accepting resumes for the Chef position. If you know anyone.....send them our way!!

Tom Sietsema: I guess your server-host didn't know this last night, when I called to check. Thanks for the update, Jeremiah.

Tabard Inn. In search of a chef. Hmmmmm.

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Breakfast: One recommendation for you is Petit Plats - I had a great Eggs Benedict there last weekend!

Tom Sietsema: Good to know. Thanks.

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No Seafood Sushi Guy: C'mon! Tell the guy to order some chicken tempura while his GF eats proper sushi. I mean, would you tell Roberto Donna to cook you a meal with no meat or pasta???

Tom Sietsema: Hey, I'm working with what I've got here!

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Epic Menus: If you are a picky eater and/or have allergies and/or can't eat this and that and need this substituted and you don't eat this oil or can't eat food with this seasoning DON'T EAT OUT YOU DRIVE EVERYBODY CRAZY.

Tom Sietsema: I bet you're a chef!

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Southwest D.C.: Re: terse menu descriptions at Central: Having eaten there recently for the first time (I loved it), I can say that I was not enticed enough by the mere menu description to order the onion tart. Had I known that it had bacon on it, though, I would have been sorely tempted! So the lack of some detail cuts both ways.

Tom Sietsema: Good point.

The lunch bell is ringing. Time to sign off. See you next Wednesday!

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