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Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; 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?

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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, First Bite and the 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.

For more restaurant chatter, join Sietsema's Table, Tom's new discussion group about dining experiences.

The transcript follows.

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Tom Sietsema: Happy Wednesday, all.

It's back to the gym and undressed salads for me. The dining guide is out. I'm staring at a zillion comments right now, so let's start "chatting."

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Dining guide: Tom, loved this year's Guide. I believe you nailed it with the Citronelle downgrade; the food is still first-rate but the space is fading and the service is very problematic. Glad to see Komi rise to the four-star level, as well. I'm certain I am not the only one asking about this, but: only two-and-a-half for Corduroy? At the same level as Marvin? And Co. Co. Sala? And Comet Ping Pong? Seriously? Given the consistency of the food, the look and feel of the new space and the quality of service (service counts for something, right??? just ask Michel Richard's crew), it has to be a solid three-star restaurant. You say the menu is straightforward; I say you haven't been by recently. The lobster tail with two-egg linguine (one of the two types of eggs is lobster!) is an inspired starter, as is the foie-enriched pumpkin soup with lardons. And you won't find a better roast chicken in town and might not find a more consistently excellent scallop entree. Jaleo is really a half-star better? Not seeing it. Or tasting it.

Tom Sietsema: Lots of questions-within-a-question. And so little time.

In brief:

I was fully expecting to give Corduroy the three stars it is probably destined to achieve. But I didn't taste three-star food when I went back just before the guide and I was dismayed to see that the lone vegetarian plate was STILL a bunch of sides. Tom Power is more creative than that, I know from having experienced his great cooking in the past.

Marvin was unbelievably good when I went back. And the restaurant has such a great vibe.

Co. Co Sala. Love the interior. And CCS makes some of the most creative sweets in a city that's not known for taking desserts seriously.

Comet Ping Pong. Yep, the menu is short, but it does almost everything exceptionally well. (I ordered four different pizzas for the guide.) And I love the theme, the design, the good-natured servers.

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Arlington, Va.: My husband and I went to the Newseum yesterday (Tuesday), and we were very disappointed to discover that the Food Section by Wolfgang Puck cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. No outside food is allowed, so we were reduced to eating lousy sandwiches from the coffee cart (with chips and sodas, $29).

Any idea why a flagship museum would penalize visitors on two out of seven days a week? Any chance that Wolfgang Puck will realize his name is being exploited, and he'll insist on a change?

Tom Sietsema: Let's hope Wolf or one of his representatives sees your complaint. I'd be upset if I were you yesterday, too! (Too bad there isn't a conveyor belt connected to the neighboring Source restaurant and Scott Drewno's delicious bar menu.)

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: The Source

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Arlington, Va.: I had stopped going to Locanda a while back because things were just going down hill. (no pun intended) I heard Brian the former chef was back so I decided to try again. Well..... I am happy to say that Locanda is back to it's former self, only maybe better. The service was great (provided by Tammy) and the food was wonderful. I actually have been back twice now. It is good to have Locanda back as an option on the hill. Oh and I don't work there or have any other interest other than I really enjoy what they have to offer and think that they deserve a congratulations.

Tom Sietsema: I went back after the original chef returned, just before my dining guide deadline. But I was so disappointed by what I ate that I left Locanda out. It was as if a stranger was in the kitchen.

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Logan Circle: Tom,

Can you help me understand why you put Great Wall on 14th St on your best restaurants list? I have yet to find anyone who has ever had even a sort of good meal there.

Tom Sietsema: You have a lot of company. As I wrote, though, one goes to Great Wall not for the usual Chinese restaurant fare but for the spicy dishes designated as "ma la." The flavors remind me of what I encountered in Beijing this summer.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: Great Wall Szechuan House

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Dining Guide: So Tom you got any restaurant recommendations? Just kidding, another well-done guide. I'm wondering if you could take a minute to discuss the differences in writing the short reviews for the guide and the longer weekly magazine pieces. Also do you get a week of not going to restaurants after the guide comes out or is it right back in the saddle? Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I wish! When a guy has six deadlines a week, there's not much time for kicking back.

Short reviews are probably harder to write, because I try to pack as much useful information as I can into 250 words or so. As opposed to 1,200 for a Sunday column. With the mini-reviews, there's no room to "clear the throat" as we say in this business.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Tom:

I heard a rumor that the restaurant at the Inn at Easton is reopening -- any truth to it? And will the former chef be cooking there again? Or is he sticking to his new place?

Tom Sietsema: Potential new owners were thisclose to signing recently, but they backed off at the last minute, says Andrew Evans, the former chef and current owner of the Inn. He says he'd be interested in once again serving as chef there, but only with owners interested in keeping the food bar high. Meantime, he's presiding over the kitchen at the tiny Thai Ki in Easton at weekday lunch and Friday night dinner and cooking dinner for his kids most nights. Lucky children.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Review: Thai Ki

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Arlington, Va.: I lost a bet with my boss, and now I have to take him to lunch. We went to Capital Grille last year -- I'm thinking Fogo de Chao. Is it worth it? Yes, we're also close to Rasika, but we've been there already (two years ago), but I think paying SIX BUCKS for bread is a tad excessive.

Tom Sietsema: Yeah, but it's really, really, really tasty naan, isn't it?

Fogo de Chao sounds like a good plan. It's meaty, but a lot less expensive than last year's steak house.Perfect for the moment, no?

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Washington, D.C.: The shocker for me in the new Guide was Rasika getting 3.5 stars. Mind you, I really like Rasika. But 3.5 stars puts it ABOVE Citronelle, and in a very elite league. In fact, the Restaurant Eve Tasting Room was a 3.5 star restaurant until last year, wasn't it? Any explanation for Rasika's massive upsurge?

Tom Sietsema: I awarded Rasika the same number of stars last year. In my opinion, it's a trail-blazer, one of the most exciting Indian restaurants in the country.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: Rasika

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D.C.: Where on "Pennsylvania Ave." is the new Juice Joint opening? It's a long street!

washingtonpost.com: Today's Dish on Juice Joint

Tom Sietsema:"Near the White House," says co-owner Tom Holland.

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Dining Guide: Thanks for the decibel ratings. I am disappointed to see many of the places that sound most interesting are so loud. Any thought of doing a listing in order by decibel level (from lowest to highest)?

Tom Sietsema: Unfortunate but true: Some of our most delicious restaurants are also some of the noisiest. I could do all sorts of lists, I suppose, but I think just having the sound counts next to the reviews is helpful, no?

In my cover story on the noise problem, the following places were listed as being "easy" to converse in: 1789, PS 7's, the Oval Room, Le Paradou, Seasons, Palena, Taberna del Alabardero, Little Fountain Cafe and Tosca.

washingtonpost.com: Cover Story: No Appetite for Noise

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Open Table?: Tom, Do restaurants take into consideration how many Open Table points a diner has? Do I get a "better" table or server if I'm a high roller/frequent diner? If so, how many points am I looking at before it makes a difference to a restaurant?

Tom Sietsema: I'll throw this question out to the restaurateurs.

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Prince Georges County, Md.: Mr. Sietsema:

There are about 850,000 people who live in Prince George's County Maryland (if you look on a map it is D.C.'s eastern border -- it's a really big county).

Maybe I've missed a column, but I don't believe that there is a currently operating restaurant in the county that you have reviewed this decade.

That is a Ripken-esque streak. Really, a stunning feat.

Just so you know, we have restaurants here. And probably more Post readers than there are in Baltimore, Frederick, Easton and other places that you write about.

Tom Sietsema: I've written about restaurants in your neck of the woods over the years and continue to hunt for good finds there.

Most recently, for instance, I reviewed Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine in National Harbor for the Magazine and KBQ Real Barbecue in Bowie in the Food section.

If you have recommendations for places you like near where you live, by all means, share them with me.

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Anonymous: So Tom, how does one go about becoming a food/restaurant critic? My son has a degree in English from VT and is a chef at probably the nicest restaurant in the Blacksburg/Christiansburg area. He'd like to combine his talents. You retiring soon?

Tom Sietsema: These days, just about anyone can become a restaurant critic. All it takes is an online presence and some serious dough.

I'm not being sarcastic. Just realistic. I started out the old-fashioned way, working for a professional editor/critic and learning the ropes by testing recipes, scouting restaurants, writing short stories, sitting in on story meetings, etc. Then I left to do my own thing at three other newspapers and Microsoft -- still the best gig I ever had. But these days, if you're smart and ambitious, you can make yourself heard with a great blog or board.

Practically, an aspiring food writer should take cooking classes, read the culinary greats, travel (and eat_ as wiodely as possible and write, write, write -- and develop a mentor or two to edit all that prose.

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Silver Spring, Md. - Meeting Chefs: Tom, welcome back...

Have you seen Jose Andres' PBS show, "Made in Spain"? The guy is amazing...he clearly loves food, cooking, wine, culture, and Spain - it comes out in his endearingly funny accent and crazed enthusiasm. I wish I could hang out with the dude. I love his restaurants, but I can also recreate his TV recipes. That's key.

Do you ever wish you could meet and spend time interviewing in-person, traveling and observing chefs, and is there any way to do it except over the phone or via web cam?

I'm headed to London on the redeye tonight for the first time...is your Postcard still valid? Are there places in Chelsea or that area that my girlfriend and I shouldn't miss if we're looking for something memorable but not nutty or opulent?

Thanks...

Tom Sietsema: One of the few drawbacks in my job is the distance I think I need to put between the people I cover and myself. Especially in the DC market. I have a lot of admiration for the chefs, restaurateurs and other industry types I write about, and I think I'd enjoy hanging out with a lot of them if I wasn't reviewing their work.

But I don't see an easy way around the dilemma -- and I'm constantly reminded, particularly by (some) food bloggers, of the inherent dangers in cozying up to the folks in the biz. (And yes, I miss my food reporter days, when I spent more time in restaurant kitchens and got to watch chefs cook up close.)

As for London, I haven't been recently, but I'm betting someone in this chat can help you out.

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Dining Guide II: I, too, was thrilled with the guide. Two things. First, I was surprised to not see Mendocino Grill on the list - it is definitely one of my 10 favorite restaurants in DC. Second, Frank Ruta's cooking at Palena deserves 5 stars. I can understand the restaurant not getting 4 stars due to other shortcomings but in my view it deserves 3.5 stars as it should be distinguished from the very fine 3 star restaurants you listed. He is one of America's greatest cooks.

Tom Sietsema: I'm a fan of Mr. Ruta's food, too. But I think the service can be uneven (this according to readers I trust) and more than a few people wish he'd update the look of the place. Food is not the only thing I think about when doling out stars, obviously.

Sounds like I need to get back to Mendocino, which recently changed ownership. I've just never been as dazzled by the chef's food as others have been.

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Reston, Va.: Come on, Tom, your Fall Dining Out Guide totally neglected restaurants in Va. and especially those outside the beltway in NOVA. The Inn at Little Washington doesn't count.

I have sent an email to the WP's ombudsmperson.

You favor D.C. and Md. over Va.

Tom Sietsema: Yes, I got -- and responded to -- your complaint to the ombudswoman.

It's funny. D.C. residents say I favor the burbs, and readers in Va and Md say I spend too much time where they don't live. Does that mean I'm doing my job? I work really hard at getting out and about; I mean, I went to more than 100 places for the guide!

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Hope You Are OK: I hope you missed the chat last week because you were involved with something like the Fall Dining Guide (which I loved), and not because you were ill!

Tom Sietsema: I wasn't ill, not at all. I was in Dijon, France, ATTEMPTING to pre-answer some chat questions on a French keyboard (and not having an easy time of it). I was sorry I had to cancel the chat at the very last minute.

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Pizza fan: Tom, very curious why 2Amys did not make your list this year? I love that place... Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: In my pizza sidebar, I offer an explanation as to why Two Amys is MIA in this year's guide. In short, the pizza is inconsistent.

washingtonpost.com: Our Lust for Crust: Pizzas That Please

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Arlington, Va.: Your colleague at the Washingtonian had some very unflattering things to say about you in his chat yesterday.

He likes loud happening restaurants. Enough said and has a bias against restaurants in Va.!

Tom Sietsema: You know what? I think the area is well-served by the likes of Todd Kliman, Tim Carman and Don Rockwell, despite any differences they may have with me.

I like hopping restautants, too -- sometimes. The reason I wrote that noise article in the first place was because I was getting a ton of complaints from readers.

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Downtown D.C.: I worked the podium at a busy downtown restaurant near the White House. With waits running upwards of an hour, our mission was to just get patrons with reservations (whether made by phone or opentable) a table. We didn't pay attention to points accumulated. The best bet for a "better" table or popular server is how often you frequent the restaurant. When I recognized customers who came through the door, they certainly got preferable treatment.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for chiming in.

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Prince George's County: Hi Tom,

Places to review in Prince George's, Grace's Mandarin in Bowie, Saigon Noodles in Fort Washington, Bangkok Golden in Fort Washington, DuClaw Brewery in Bowie, Margellina's in Clinton and if you want to throw in a fabulous bakery, Desserts by Gerard in Oxon Hill. Just a few to get you started!

Tom Sietsema: I'm strapping on my seat belt tonight and heading east!

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Houston, Tex.: Seriously? Some complained to the ombudsmperson about their perception that you do not review enough restaurants in Va.? Wow, just wow.

Tom Sietsema: Hey, that's their right. Frankly, I appreciate the fact I work for a newspaper that has a reader representative.

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Washington, D.C.: I agree with your assessment of Rasika. I'm the one who complained about the noise level at Rasika in your noise article....and yet I also think that Rasika and Komi have the best kitchens in town right now. I also know that they are thinking seriously about doing some noise abatement work at Rasika. But just wanted to weigh in to say that Rasika is amazing, and deserves the rating.

Tom Sietsema: Nice to hear from you.

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Washington, D.C.: Please help! We have family coming in town this weekend, and that includes two children under eight years old. We will be heading to the Smithsonian, and would like to go out to eat somewhere close by. Can you recommend any places that children are welcome? Please note that they are not the most adventuresome eaters, so American fare would probably be best. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Your best bet is probably Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, the airy cafeteria in the National Museum of the American Indian. Located on the Mall, it has a number of food stations and abundant choices for all appetites.

washingtonpost.com: Mitsitam Cafe

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Forrestville, Md.: Hi Tom! I'm leaving on my honeymoon next month and I would like some recommendations for Rio, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile. Any ideas? Once you mentioned "Cabana Las Lilas" in Buenos Aires. Is that good? I read about "Marious" is Rio but I got mixed reviews.

Tom Sietsema: I've been to BA but not to Rio or Santiago. Here's my take on the first city:

washingtonpost.com: Postcard From Tom: Buenos Aires

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Adams Morgan: Once a week I like to go out for lunch by myself and sit at the bar at a fairly nice restaurant and enjoy a nice lunch without anyone else. I have been to BLT Steak, Morton's, Teatro Goldoni and Vidalia. Any suggestions for other Golden Triangle places, or if nothing in that area strikes you, where would you suggest?

Tom Sietsema: The Prime Rib is fun, and a perch there has the bonus of live music at noon. I also like Spezie, especially when the weather is nice and its front windows are cracked open.

washingtonpost.com: 2007 Dining Guide: Prime Rib and 2008 Review: Spezie

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Washington, D.C.: Seriously, first PG county, and now outside of the beltway Va.? Y'all, this isn't the "Greater Washington Metro Region" Post. It's the Washington Post. Tom does his best to cover the restaurants within the beltway, and sometimes beyond, but when you start asking him to cover every little thing from po-dunk Viriginia to hoot-in-any Maryland, I think you're asking a bit much. My parents can read the Post online in South Dakota - should we insist that Tom start reviewing Minerva's and Taco John's? Sheesh.

Tom Sietsema: Are you talking about Minerva's in ... Sioux Falls? Been there!

(Thanks for the support.)

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Frederick, Md.: Morning Tom,

Last week I wrote asking why you reviewed Volt only two times and within two months of opening rather than waiting your normal three months and many visits before reviewing. Okay, now I get it -- you wanted to include Volt in your Fall Dining Guide. Thank you.

Tom Sietsema: I don't recall saying I waited three months to review a new restaurant, because I don't. But I DO wait a month to begin the process of critiquing a new business, after which I visit a restaurant multiple times (generally three meals, sometimes more). Volt falls within those perimeters.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: Volt

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Water Water Everywhere: Tom, a pet(ty) peeve. Why do servers have to constantly refill my water glass when it is only an inch or two down? I find it disruptive to my dining experience, and I actually like ice which just melts when they keep topping it off. Please put out a plea to restaurant managers - train your staff on restraint with the water!!

Tom Sietsema: Yeah, I find that practice annoying, too. But it bothers me even MORE when the liquid in question is WINE.

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Baltimore, Md.: With the loss of the chef, do you still recommend Eric Ripert's Westend Bistro? I have reservations there on 11/18 prior to a concert at Kennedy Center and am now very hesitant!

Tom Sietsema: Ripert sent in some recruits following the departure of the bistro's three top cooks, but I haven't been back to see how the replacements are doing. Has anyone out there eaten at WBBER since the turnover?

washingtonpost.com: Staff Shake-Up at Westend Bistro

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Washington, D.C.: So i just got the Fall Dining Guide -- nice!! Except one restaurant that got snubbed from your list -- Jackson 20?? Are you still salty about your olive juice? Great first bite, but you should try a second or third bite. Well Tom, I hope this isn't the same old dining politics.

Tom Sietsema: I'm all for giving restaurants second -- sometimes even third and fourth -- chances. With the crush of all the new restaurants, however, I haven't had time to return to Jackson 20 in Old Town. And as you point out, my intial experience wasn't so great that I felt I needed to get back there to see if the relative newcomer merited ink in the dining guide.

washingtonpost.com: First Bite: Jackson 20

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Washington, D.C.: Either your incognito quotient is highly exaggerated or you you didn't really go to Buck's Fishing & Camping. Our experience was bar none the bottom of the barrel in food, service and atmosphere. The staff (host, bartender and waitress) were rude (we have been bartender and waitress thus tend to be particularly nice to our servers), the food was cold, tasteless and expensive for what it was, and the room was dark (too dark), musty smelling, and cold. We didn't eat much of the meal and left as soon as we could vowing never to return. That you could put this mess on a par with Obelisk or dismiss Persimmon diminishes your reviews for us. Very disappointed.

Tom Sietsema: Buck's is controversial, for sure. But I've eaten there three times this year, most recently with friends from out of town who didn't know the restaurant's reputation. It was interesting to hear their (incredibly positive) reaction. I LIKE the dim lighting. And my meals have been full of flavor, and worth the tab for the quality.

Persimmon, in my opinion, is not in the same league as either Obelisk or Buck's. Let's agree to disagree.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: Buck's Fishing and Camping

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Alexandria VA: My significant other (lucky for me) has approximately one million OpenTable points. When we head out for dinner, I find we get better tables/service, if he has made the reservation, vs. me, who has like 5 OT points. Just an observation. But being a regular is always a good way to get some special attention.

Tom Sietsema: What, you're dating Frank Bruni?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, I'm looking for a place to take four people for Thanksgiving, I'd like to avoid chain restaurants but I'm striking out finding open places. Thanks for your help.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, the good places tend to book up quickly. A quick check reveals there's still room at Blue Duck Tavern, Old Ebbitt Grill, the Oval Room, Seasons, 701 and Legal Sea Food, all in Washington.

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Adams Morgan: Tom, Thanks for the dining guide. Again, another gem -- two points on it. I am glad to see Citronelle drop because of poor service. My wife and I have been several times and always feel like we are putting the staff out by just being there and interfering with their good time. It really takes away from the experience and enjoyment. Every other restaurant I have been to that charges the prices that Citronelle charges has a staff that is excited to see and serve you. Hopefully, the dining guide will change that because the food is great. Second point -- went to Obelisk for the third time on Friday and while the service and atmosphere are top notch the food was extremely disappointing. The spaghetti with clams had no flavor at all and the quail and see bass entrees were unremarkable at best. Dinner at Cashion's the week before was far more enjoyable. Based on our three trips, three stars is much too generous and we will not be going back.

Thanks again for all the eating you do.

Tom Sietsema: My pleasure! (My JOB.)

I think Citronelle got the message loud and clear and fully expect the dining room staff to make the appropriate changes. You are right: the service there is not on par with my other four-star picks.

Sorry to hear about your dinner at Obelisk. The reports I've been receiving have been overwhelmingly effusive. I'd chalk your experience up to a bad night, except you say you've been three times now. I'm curious how far apart those visits have been?

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: Michel Richard Citronelle

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Fairfax, Va.: Nice job on the dining guide! And thanks for being brave enough to demote Citronelle for lousy service.

There was one thing that was conspicuously absent for me. For a relaxed but nice meal and stellar service, I think any of the Great American Restaurants (especially Arties) is a rock-solid bet. Totally reliable, in my experience. Any particular reason they didn't make their way into your guide?

BTW, agree with you on Nicaro. I was there for lunch last week and had an amazing plate of scallops with spaghetti squash. Still dreaming about that one...

Tom Sietsema: You know what? I, too, wish I would have included a GAR in this year's guide.

Carlyle wouldn't have made the grade (the service isn't as smooth as I remember it from a few years back), but I'm thinking another restaurant in that locally-owned collection might have. One of my goals for this year's guide was to include some fresh names, however, and in the end, there's only so much space for so many restaurants.

Next year, maybe?

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Silver Spring, ex-London: A #1: The Wolseley... on Picadilly near the Ritz. Elegantly restored Bel Epoque, reasonably priced, nice food, nice buzz.

For more money than the god's... the Chef's special tasting menu at the Greenhouse in Mayfair. (OR eat at the Savoy!)

For the bestest winebar-food-crowd, the Cork and Bottle on the pedestrian street at Liecester square.

And off the track and NOT in Chelsea-- NorthBank at the north end of the Millenium Bridge, down the stairs from St Paul's.

For Jazz and Pizza-- Pizza Express near SoHo.

For Sushi-- go to Japan.

And ENJOY it!

Tom Sietsema: Thanks, mate.

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Two Questions: Tom,

When you started at the Post -- both working for Phyllis Richman and as the critic -- did you ever imagine D.C. would turn into the dining town it has become?

Regarding Komi & Minibar -- do either of them have a vegetarian option?

Tom Sietsema: First of all, I never dreamed I'd be following Phyllis Richman. Second, I've been enormously pleased to see what strides this city has made, food-wise, in the past few years. It's incredible, really.

A thought for another day: Why so few women in top chef positions now? Back in my cub reporter days, the city was fueled by some terrific female talent, on both the restaurant and the catering end. Remember Helen of Helen's? Suzanne's? Janet Terry? Carol Mason, whose New Year's Day bashes no food lover ever wanted to miss?

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Washington, D.C.: You sometimes criticize some of the top restaurants for not changing their menus often enough. I understand that you and other frequent diners appreciate the variety. But for those of us who only go to those types of restaurants (such as Palena or Komi) a few times a year - and thus are unlikely to go back to the same place more than once every three or four years - it's really not an issue. I've always wondered how representative we are. For example, at a typical evening at Restaurant Eve, can you hazard a guess about how many people in the dining room come once a month and how many once in a lifetime?

Tom Sietsema: Mr. Cathal, can you anser that one?

(I'm running short on time, Washington, but I appreciate your sentiment.)

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Alexanria, Va.: Tell the manager, not the server. Most restaurants have "specs" for this sort of thing: Fill H20 when 1/3 empty, replace sodas when 1/2 down, remove plates when diner is finished, not when whole table is done etc. etc.. I could go on and on. In most cases, the server is just doing what the management has told them to do, and wants to be attentive. A simple "No, Thank you." will go on a long way. Or, simply say "Please don't remove our plates until we are all done."

Tom Sietsema: Gotcha.

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Toronto, Canada: I disagree with the water comment, I would love my water glass to be always constantly filled as a server so I don't have to flag down a waiter as it empties. Perhaps as a server I've been overzealous in re-filling patrons glasses, I thought everyone was like me!

Tom Sietsema: See? There's no winning some of these dining questions!

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Washington, D.C.: Tom: Your chats are always so much fun. I hat it when you cancel, so DON'T DO IT AGAIN. OK? The question: When do we hear from you about Adour?

Tom Sietsema: I'll try not to disappoint you again, OK? Because even though Wednesday is a deadline day for me, I like to hear from the food gang.

Re: Adour. Be patient!

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Alexandria, Va.: Hope you can help. My elderly grandparents are coming mid-November for what is likely to be there only visit to D.C. (and they have been in 20 years). We want it to be special They love good restaurants and we have a few meals out planned (i.e. Palena on Saturday night). But, I am stuck on where to go for Sunday brunch. Someplace in D.C. or Alexandria is preferable, with great food and a nice atmosphere. I was thinking the Tabard Inn but have not eaten there myself? Other things I have considered include Vermilion or Poste. Please help!!!

Tom Sietsema: I've never been to Poste for brunch, but I can vouch for the deliciousness of both Vermilion and Tabard Inn; the former might include a stroll on King Street and the latter counts a garden terrace. Other places to consider: Cashion's Eat Place, Bombay Club and Black Market in Garrret Park.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Tom. I love your reviews and really enjoyed reading Sunday's Dining Guide. Which restaurant did you downgrade from four stars because of service? I looked and wasn't able to find it. Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: Michel Richard Citronelle in Georgetown

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Charlottesville, Va.: An excellent job on the Dining Guide, Tom.

I wish people understood the tremendous effort, organization, planning and discipline it takes on your part to put the DG together. Most people think it's just a fun job eating out every day.

Creative people, like yourself and great chefs, need the same organization, planning and discipline to make their products sustainably successful.

I compare you to the Inn at Little Washington. Preparing the same wonderful meal 20 times a night is difficult enough. Doing that every night for years is astonishingly difficult. It's one thing to attain success in the short term; it's entirely another to maintain the same high-level of creativity and execution for many years.

Kudos to you.

Tom Sietsema: I'm blushing.

(Whoever this is, you just made my week.)

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BA restaurant: Tom-

I was in Buenos Aires last spring. I want to recommend Restaurant Lola in Recoleta to the chatter. It is a modern, trendy place that is pretty popular with the locals and tourists alike. I was there for work and did not have a big food budget. I had a 3 course meal that came with a half bottle of wine, water and coffee at Lola for 68 pesos (under $30 at the time). The food, especially the home-made pasta, was excellent. The restaurant also has wonderful indoor and outdoor seating.

On the whole, I found the pasta to be wonderful in Buenos Aires. I know everyone goes for the beef, but don't miss the fresh pasta!

Tom Sietsema: And on that note, I need to return to my review of (insert garbled text).

Thanks for joining me today, everybody. See you next Wednesday.

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