Ask Tom: Kids Restaurant Week, Ray's Reservation Policy, Whole Fish, San Franciso Dining

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Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, June 17, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema discussed his review of Sushi Taro, Kids Restaurant Week, San Francisco dining, the reservations policy at Ray's The Steaks and tips on finding whole fish on Wednesday, June 17 at 11 a.m. ET.

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Tom Sietsema: ONCE AGAIN, LOTS OF FOOD NEWS to digest today: Mio is looking for a chef to replace Nicholas Stefanelli ... Regine Palladin says she's not only relocating Pesce, she's adding a meat-themed eatery to her portfolio, Confit ... and Roberto Donna confirmed yesterday that he signed a lease for the former Butterfield 9 space downtown. The Italian chef is calling his new venture Galileo III. (Quick aside: Those who purchased cooking classes at either of his shuttered restaurants, Bebo in Crystal City or Galileo on 21st St. NW, can redeem those lessons -- at Donna's home in McLean! - by emailing the chef at rdclasses@aol.com.)

The owners of the popular Cork Wine Bar in Logan Circle also recently shared with me their plans to open Cork Market, at 1805 14th St., in September. Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross are describing the venue as "a country store in the neighborhood" and plan to stock "everything you'd want if you were going on a picnic" -- make that cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches, salads and obviously wine, says Gross, who has hired Kristin Hutter, a former sous chef at Blacksalt, to oversee the food. Other neat details: The two-level business will include an upstairs space for classes and tastings, and the couple is hoping to offer delivery beyond the immediate 'hood.

I got an email from the chef-owner of Volt after my chat last week, in which a diner complained about a recent experience there. Voltaggio is trying to track down the poster:

Dear valued guest,

Last week there was a mention of your last experience at VOLT in Frederick, MD.

I first want to extend our gratitude for experiencing VOLT and supporting the DC area restaurant scene. I was concerned about the level of service you mentioned and comments on the menu you received. I would very much like to have the opportunity to speak with you personally about your experience.

Comments and criticism are valuable to creating a memorable dining experience, your feedback would be appreciated. You can reach me through the contact information listed at voltrestaurant.com.

I look forward to speaking with you and I appreciate you taking the time to post on the chat.

Cheers!

Bryan Voltaggio

From Tom: Bring on your questions and comments, gang!

washingtonpost.com: Mio Loses Its Top Toque, Regine Palladin Plans to Beef Up Her Block and Donna Finally Seals a Deal: Galileo III

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Impatient: Is it 11:00 yet? I seriously need a large does of Sietsema discussion. Seriously.

Tom Sietsema: Awwwwwww. I'm here for you!

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Dallas, Tex.: Tom, We have our first weekend away from our toddler coming up. It's also the last weekend getaway we'll get before baby #2 arrives. Fabulous, uninterrupted meals out are what we miss the most these days. Here's the catch; we'll be in Pittsburgh. Any recs from you or your loyal fans? The concierge recommended The Carlton and Lidia's (of PBS fame), but I'd love to hear other's opinions. Thank you!

Tom Sietsema: Anyone have a tip or two for Texas in Pittsburgh?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Tom,

First things first: my lady friends and I love you and swear by your chats, reviews, etc. Don't ever leave D.C., okay?

My question is... brunch. Birthday celebration, Sunday outing, preference for a downtown or close-in suburb location, bonus points for accessible to some scenic neighborhood walking or other frivolous amusements (museums, parks, fun neighborhoods for people watching or window shopping, the like.). All I can think of is Poste. Please help!

Tom Sietsema: Are you talking traditional American brunch, Silver Spring?

If that's the case, I'm inclined to send you to Bis on the Hill, the Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle (love that garden!) or Hook in Georgetown. I also like the a.m. food at Acadiana on New York Avenue, which offered a live jazz band when I dropped by on a recent Sunday.

washingtonpost.com: Acadiana

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Cedar: Hi Tom: I work in the Penn Quarter, and I'm curious about Cedar, which just opened nearby. Have you been yet? Heard anything?

Tom Sietsema: I've been, twice now. Here's my first reaction:

washingtonpost.com: Today's First Bite: Cedar

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San Francisco-bound: We will be spending a blowout week in San Francisco this summer and are on the wait list at the French Laundry (keeping our fingers crossed). We will also visit Coi, where we ate for the first time last year on your recommendation -- what a fine restaurant! We now face the delightful problem of picking a couple more restaurants to fill out our dining schedule. We have been to Chez Panisse but our blase and effete taste buds seem to be turned on by chefs who push the boundaries a bit more. Any suggestions?

Tom Sietsema: I think your taste buds would be saluting the likes of Yank Sing for dim sum, Dosa for modern Indian, Slanted Door for Vietnamese and the terrific new La Mar Cebicheria Peruana for Peruvian and a water view.

washingtonpost.com: Postcard From Tom: San Francisco Bay Area

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Tourist rant on: Hey Tom, thanks for the chats; you are a true service to the community, and you're one of the Post's best writers. These chats are a highlight of my Wednesday.

I'm submitting early because I really wanted to weigh-in on some of the suggestions for the Tourist List on The Table. I'm seeing a lot of the usual suspects on that list, and I really wish they would kind of disappear...namely, Mitsitam Cafe is the worst; it's tremendously overpriced museum food with a hook -- allegedly based on Native recipes. Would I support a restaurant with the same concept? Probably -- if that restaurant didn't serve the Aramark-grade, ballpark-priced slop that Mitsitam Cafe does. If you'd like me to follow-up offline, I'd be happy to do so, but for the love of Mike Wilbon, please stop recommending that place. 'Unusual' doesn't always mean 'good'.

Tom Sietsema: The poster is referencing a topic on my online discussion group, Sietsema's Table, in which I invited members to weigh in on where to send visitors to Washington.

In this instance, I did NOT mention Mitsitam. A reader did. When the museum restaurant opened, I thought it was a welcome addition to the National Mall. Obviously, I need to return for another helping; this is not the only complaint about Mitsitam I've fielded.

washingtonpost.com: Sietsema's Table: Advice for D.C. Tourists

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Alexandria, Va.: Tom, I'm curious as to how often you "refresh" your dining experience for restaurants that you frequently recommend, but haven't reviewed in a while.

I ask because you frequently recommend and my dining experience left a lot to be desired. Here's why, and I'll keep it brief:

Reservation: Seated 45 minutes late.

Ventilation: Very poor. Our eyes suffered as smoke from the kitchen seeped into the dining room.

Customer Service: Poor, because they didn't handle the delay very well. I think restaurants should be proactive if you have to wait more than 15 minutes.

Noise: LOUD! So loud that we could barely hear our server.

Food: Average, which means it has probably deteriorated since you last ate there.

The GM did give us a bottle of Cava after we complained. It appeared obligatory rather than a genuine gesture for our inconvenience. Our experience at the bar was great and they do have creative cocktails.

Tom Sietsema: Can you tell me where you experienced all this?

I am constantly keeping tabs on previously reviewed restaurants, some more than others and for different reasons. For example, if I start getting a lot of praise about a place I panned, or complaints about a place I praised, I'm likely to investigate.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom! First, I have to take this opportunity to tell you that I have a serious foodie crush on you. I never knew someone could be so charming on paper! My boyfriend would be jealous, except he adores you too.

Second, we are headed to Napa/Sonoma for 5 days around the 4th...Have you been to Ubuntu? We opted not to do French Laundry this trip -- a little too pricey. Thought about ad hoc but we are trying to minimize drinking and driving so we have opted for Angele in Napa and Zuzu or Uva. And for Sonoma -- Cafe La Haye and El Dorado Kitchen...all of which are near our hotels.

Your thoughts on our selections? Or other suggestions for "can't misses" that are not too, too pricey?

Tom Sietsema: Have I been to Ubuntu?! (Yes, yes I have, and I love it.)

I've not been to the other places you're trying, but I can vouch for Go Fish in St. Helena and Cyrus in Healdsburg.

washingtonpost.com: A Natural Emerges: Tom's Feature on Ubuntu Chef Jeremy Fox

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Alexandria, Va.: So Bookbinders in Old Town didn't last long at all, eh?

Tom Sietsema: I'm looking forward to the replacement, though!

washingtonpost.com: Neighborhood Restaurant Group Plants a Steak in Old Town

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Washington, D.C.: Morning Tom!

The answer to this question is probably yes, but have you ever gone to Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore? I made the trek last night for a friend's birthday and it was a fantastic experience. The service was great and the food even better. We started off with the chicken/cheddar/spinach/honey flatbread. The honey was such a nice touch! I had the shrimp and pasta dish as my entree. It was in a potato based sauce and also had ham and spinach. The table also ordered the crabcake and roasted chicken...no complaints! I have to say the dessert topped it off. We order the strawberry sundae which consisted of homemade strawberry sorbet and many other components (YUM). One of us ordered an Irish coffee as well and they brought all the ingredients to the table. So it was basically a make your own Irish coffee which I thought was very cleaver and fun. Just thought I'd share my experience...

Tom Sietsema: Woodberry is a great reason to drive to B'more. I included the place in my fall dining guide last year.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Fall Dining Guide: Woodberry Kitchen

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Thank you, thank you!: Thanks Tom (and other chatters), for answering my question about Czech/E. European restaurants in the area.

I'm sure you've been asked this before, but since your job requires you to be as anonymous as possible, how does that bleed into your personal life? I imgaine that some people HAVE to know who you are and what you look like- the DMV, your landlord, airline security, etc.

I can't wait to one day read a tome of all your tricks!

Tom Sietsema: Man, I seem to be collecting more stories by the day (which, as you suggest, I'm saving for a farewell column or something similar). Just today, I tried out a new dry-cleaner and the clerk asked for my name. I started spelling it ("S-I-E-T-S-E ...") and without looking up, she said "Oh, just like the Post food critic!" We both had a good laugh when she realized that was moi.

One thing I hope restaurants realize: I am only responsible for my own behavior. I can't always control my guests (who are, for the most part, good patrons). I had an incident recently where a friend of a friend was somewhat rude to one of the best managers I know, and I sent over an e-mail to apologize.

But that wasn't your question, was it?

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, To celebrate our first anniversary, I'm taking the girl to Palena. I've never eaten there before but decided it was a good choice based partially on your review. Now I am faced with the interesting question of what to order. What would you recommend to impress the girlfriend and how do you decide in general when reviewing a new place? Thanks for all the good work.

Tom Sietsema: Congrats.

As is the case with most top chefs, Frank Ruta's menu changes with frequency. So I can't predict what might be on his menu when you take The Squeeze there. But it's hard to go wrong with the chef's exquisite salads, pastas and fish.

washingtonpost.com: Palena

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For Pittsburgh Visitor: My husband and I spent a lot of time in P'burgh last summer and thoroughly enjoyed the dining scene. There are a lot of great places to eat including Dish, a neighborhood Sicilian restaurant on the South Side, www.dishosteria.com; Nine on Nine, which is fancier, and located downtown, www.nineonnine.com.

For burgers don't miss Tessaro's in Bloomfield. And for the best breakfast, go to Coca Cafe. The homemade banana bread and creme brulee french toast are outstanding.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the tips.

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"A country store in the neighborhood": Speaking of... wasn't Jackie Greenbaum of Silver Spring going to do something similar with the now-empty hair salon space next door to her namesake restaurant? The windows have been papered over forever. What gives?

Tom Sietsema: Hey, Jackie, can you weigh in (now or next week)?

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Penn Quarter, D.C.: I wanted to report on some very positive recent dining experiences to help balance out the complaints you will no doubt get today.

First, Harry's, in the Hotel Harrington -- the service was, well, amateur (ok, not very good). But the food was much better than I expected. The burger is much better than Gordon Biersch's and the service no worse, so if you're looking for a casual burger in the neighborhood I'd recommend it.

Second, Cafe Atlantico. Last time I was there I remember not being very impressed. but this time, we had a wonderful experience. We showed up with no reservation, being out and deciding on a whim to find somewhere for an early dinner. The hostess gave the impression of it being her first day, but after a few minutes we were graciously seated. Our server (Marcy?) was great, and we thoroughly enjoyed the special corn soup, lamb two ways, deconstructed fejoiada (sp?) and some very tasty dessert. Jose Andres' restaurants don't cater to kids, but they were very accommodating of our two-year-old. And ohhh, the rum and ginger beer cocktail...

Finally, Zola. We went there two days ago for kids' restaurant week, having not been there in a few years because I had the impression it was not the place to take a young child. Well, I feel almost guilty about how little we paid for dinner, considering how much we enjoyed it. I often hear stories about restaurant staff seeming cranky that they're forced to work during restaurant week. Well, here everyone was obviously very keen to ensure that all the customers enjoyed themselves -- and at least half of the tables had preschoolers! There were great fixed-price menu options for adults and kids alike, and the place was not at all full. Kids' restaurant week is still going on, so go!

Tom Sietsema: Three cheers for the three restaurants. (I can't believe I've lived here all these years and have YET to chow down at Harry's.)

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Arlington, Va.: So is Mr Donna going to replace his FOH staff completely from Bebo and hire competent staff to run the front of the house. If not Galileo III is doomed to failure. He shouldn't bring anyone back from his old restaurants.

Tom Sietsema: From your fingertips to Mr. Donna's eyes.

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Washington, D.C.: I dine out frequently in the D.C. metro area and would recommend avoiding Cedar as an option. Food was not good and terribly overpriced for what they are offering. Atmosphere was less than desirable.

Tom Sietsema: What did you try? I think Cedar has an obstacle in its windowless, underground dining room, although the owners have done a decent job of covering up the fact (with all those "trees" on the walls).

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Hi Tom,

Any word on Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier? I haven't seen too many reviews so far. I'm taking the hubby there for our anniversary.

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I'm reviewing the place in the Magazine this Sunday (but the review appears online late Thursday).

Curious how you came to choose the place?

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Pasta in a tuxedo: I hope Galileo III will fill the void of formal, traditional Italian in D.C. Think Del Posto in New York!

As one who really, really misses Maestro, please go old-school style with your delicious dishes, Roberto. Italian doesn't have to be modern and/or casual.

Tom Sietsema: More (unsolicited) advice for the chef. Grazie.

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Fairfax, Va.: For last week's poster in search of restaurants in Athens and Santorini:

Go to Cuzina in the Plaka district. It's a modern and innovative take on traditional Greek foods. I'm a first-generation Greek American, and this place is out of this world! It's a perfect stop after taking in the sites. Also check out Mamakas (210-3464984) in the Gazi district. It's absolutely delicious. If they're serving the slow roasted pork braised in ouzo, you must order it.

Santorini is a bit tricky being it's overrun with tourists. I find many of the recommended restaurants overhyped and subpar. However, anything in Amoudi Bay is great. There are three different tavernas on the water that all serve up the freshest seafood and great mezedakia (or small plates). Your hotel should be able to provide you with transportion there. It's at the foothills of Oia.

And you can't go wrong with a souvlaki gyro at just about any shop!

Tom Sietsema: A gyro sounds good about now ....

Thanks for the 411 on Athens and Santorini.

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Rays the Steaks: Do they or don't they take reservations?

Tom Sietsema: They do. (And you should.)

washingtonpost.com: Ray's the Steaks

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To Napa Travelers: Run, don't walk, to Ubuntu!! One of the best and most creative meals I've ever had - and I am an avowed carnivore!!

(Just wanted to give you some backup, Tom!)

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the support. ;)

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Fairfax: Have you ever done a Dessert Roundup -- the best desserts of different categories around the city? If not, it might be a fun summertime activity for you!

On a similar note, there's a new cupcake bakery out in the 'burbs called Cupcakes Actually. Sorta similar to the Georgetown cupcake bakery. Pretty tasty, and once you get over "I'm paying HOW much for a cupcake" and realize it's the same as for a piece of cake, the price is okay.

Tom Sietsema: We have a Best Bets list online for sweets. Here you go:

washingtonpost.com: Best Bets for Desserts

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Arlington : Tom, a former colleague is in town and we're going to dinner tonight. He's staying near McPherson Square. I'm torn between taking him someplace close, like Georgia Brown's or Potenza--or going to U Street for the DC vibe and checking out Policy or Tabaq or ?

Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, etc. are possibilities too.

We'll be dining around 6:30 if that helps. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: If I were you, I'd venture out of the neighborhood and try some Ethiopian (Etete is my fave), some Thai (consider Regent) or do the wine "thing" at the aforementioned Cork on 14th.

washingtonpost.com: Etete

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom -- I'm a bit in the doghouse with my parents and to make it up to them, I'm trying to fulfill a request for a Father's Day meal (early -- on Saturday night) where we can get either a whole sea bass or Peking duck, or both. Outside of a Chinese banquet, I haven't had these dishes in a while, so I'm not sure where to go. MoCo or D.C. would be our location preference.

Outside of consulting Carolyn Hax, a great restaurant pick would help smooth things over on the homefront. Thanks for your help!

Tom Sietsema: Could you settle for a whole local rockfish, Washington? Because ever since Yayu closed in Cleveland Park, I haven't tasted a Peking duck I've liked around here.

I can still taste in my mind the freshly sweet whole fried rockfish I had a few months back at the excellent Present in Falls Church. My hunch is, your father would love the feast.

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Review: Present

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Arlington, Va.: Tom -

I had dinner at Central Saturday night. I had the ahi tuna burger, which was very good. I was somewhat surprised to see Cassoulet and braised lamb shank on the menu -- I would have thought these wintry dishes would give way to something more summery.

While there, I overheard the people at the next table talking to their waitress about Citronelle leaving Georgetown for the Maestro spot at the Tyson's Ritz. Is that true? I don't recall reading it in your Dish column, so I wanted to check.

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I, too, was surprised by the rather wintry menu I found at Central during a recent dinner there. I love cassoulet, but in the middle of June?

As for chef Michel Richard's plan to move into the old Maestro space, keep in mind his is one of several names that have been mentioned as a replacement.

washingtonpost.com: Tom on Michel's Potential Move to Maestro

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Ray's the Steaks: The new digs are so fancy! So big. Not sure how I feel about it. It seems odd to see men in visors and women in shorts at tables with linen on them. Don't get me wrong, I was in jeans too. But next time I won't be. It was nice that the servers were much less surly, in general.

Tom Sietsema: You think the new Ray's is fancy? I was staring at big, blank walls during my most recent dinner there. Really, the food and the vino are the point of the place. I do like the idea of eating a good steak sans jacket or tie, though.

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Sheridan-Kalorama D.C.: Hello Tom, Recently dined with a large party (15+ at 3 different tables) at a delightful Cleveland Park restaurant. Food was good and service was attentive. However upon receiving the check, I was in for two surprises.

Surprise 1: I had ordered a glass of house wine (and had pointed it out on the menu to the waiter) but was charged a higher price. The waiter let me know that he had "upgrade" my selection, and thus charged me for his kind favor to me.

Surprise #2: As is custom with large groups, the check included an 18% gratuity, which was well-earned. We collected cash from all parties, though I opted to pay the bill by credit card (triple points on a large check). Upon receiving the receipt, I was TOLD (not asked) to pay the gratuity in cash. I did so, not wanting to make a scene.

I was irritated and frustrated by both of these incidents--mostly because I did not protest at the time. My inclination was to talk to the owner, but it was not convenient to do so at the time. My sense is that both incidents were inappropriate and not representative of good service or good practice.

Should I let the owner know of my dissatisfaction?

Tom Sietsema: You say your server "upgraded " you without your knowledge -- and CHARGED you for it? That's a no-no in my book. Also, there's no rule or law that says you have to use cash for a tip. I'd be outraged if I were you, too.

Your complaints sound valid. I'd email the owner/manager if I were you. He or she would certainly want to know what some of their servers are doing.

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Raining again: What's good for lunch?

Tom Sietsema: Um ... where are you?

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Jealous Lover!: Tom,

Please stop posting all these comments about how big a fan everyone is.

I am TOTALLY your #1 fan! FYI!

Tom Sietsema: Yes, Kathy Bates.

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Disappointed, Md.: Tom, I had been looking forward to visiting the Inn at Easton. Went looking for its website earlier today and just learned that it has closed!! What happened? When did it close? I'm so disappointed we never made it there!

Tom Sietsema: You JUST LEARNED THAT THE INN AT EASTON CLOSED? Obviously, you're not a regular here! But I digress.

Here's a link to the scoop:

washingtonpost.com: 2007 Dish on Inn at Easton

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17th and Mass: Hi Tom,

Every time I walk by Sushi Taro I sigh. I loved it. I would go every week (or more) for takeout.

Now where can I get my take out sushi fix? I've been alternating between Raku at Whole Foods and Nooshi, but they don't quite cut it.

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Kaz Sushi Bistro on I St. NW is good. And for something less expensive, there's Kotobuki in the Palisades.

washingtonpost.com: Kaz Sushi Bistro and Kotobuki

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whole fish: Hey Tom - Mark Kuller here - for the guy wanting to get out of the doghouse with his dad, the Source does an outstanding whole seabass (and pretty much everything else there is also wonderful).

Tom Sietsema: Thank you, Mr. Proof!

washingtonpost.com: 2008 Dining Guide: The Source

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Punctualityville: Tom,

I've been noticing a disturbing trend lately...customers that are late for their reservations without any regard for the reservation that is to be seated after they leave.

It's no secret that 7 or 7:30 is the preferred dining time of most people. I'd guess that 90 percent of diners request these times initially and then some of them, in order to get a reservation, take a 6 reservation when they find that the 7-8 hour is full.

Most of these 6 reservations show up late -- sometimes as late as 45 minutes to an hour and then are upset when we cannot seat them. We know, as restaurant operators, that they are trying to "massage the system," but I wonder if people in general, are aware that many restaurants book their tables at least twice a night and depend on the "first turn" to be punctual in order for the rest of the night's reservations to be seated on time.

Most of the time when an 8-8:30 table isn't ready for the arriving party, it isn't the fault of the restaurant -- it's the table that arrived late and didn't dine any more efficiently to expedite their meal so the next party isn't inconvenienced by their tardiness.

I guess this is just a plea for customers to be mindful of later reservations and please show up at your scheduled reservation time. If you're incomplete at that time, that's fine. Ask to be seated anyway -- just pick up the pace a bit during your meal. (If you're late, you can always ask your server what time we need the table back, if at all, so you can plan your meal accordingly.)

Posted Anonymously by a Restaurant Gal

Tom Sietsema: Got that, diners? Your tardiness can inconvenience more people than you might imagine. If you know you're going to be late, please have the courtesy to call the restaurant and let the staff know.

Thanks for the post, Restaurant Gal.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Tom,

My parents 40th wedding anniversary is this summer. My brother and I would like to buy a gift certificate for a celebration dinner.

Seeing as Citronelle gets mixed reviews these days, where should we send them? Inn at Little Washington? City Zen? What amount would cover either of those or other location ideas?

Thank you!

Tom Sietsema: The Inn and CZ are both good choices. I'd add to your list Restaurant Eve, too. As for the tab, I'd need to know if your parents are drinkers/big eaters, etc. If that's the case, I'd budget $400 for the gift certificate, an amount that factors in tax and gratuity.

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Shepherd Park: Tom, this is probably waaay too late to get in, but what's the scoop on the new wine program at Michael Landrum's restaurants? IS it operating? At all locations? I live near Classics and would like to know when it will arrive there.

Tom Sietsema: The scoop, from our very own wine maven:

washingtonpost.com: Mark Slater Gets Himself a Ray's

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Manager Response?: Hi, Tom -- A quick etiquette ? for you -- I e-mailed a manager of a (previously) favorite restaurant of ours after an 'off' experience this weekend. I wrote on Sunday; have not heard back. I'm not looking for a handout. Is a response something I should expect, or are they too busy for the common complainer? Thanks; you're great!

Tom Sietsema: I'd send the e-mail again (you never know if the original went through, or who saw it), wait a day or so and follow up with a phone call, "just in case." I bet the manager is just plain busy.

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New York, N.Y.: Not your normal request, but I'm looking for a food related summer read. Last summer I read Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Saphhires and I'm wondering if you have any good food/cooking/restaurant book suggestions.

Tom Sietsema: My pal Frank Bruni's book, "Born Round" comes out this summer, and so far, I've only heard people praise his honesty.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, is the food critic, Robert Sietsema from NYC related to you? Thank you.

Tom Sietsema: We are not related, believe it or not. But we're both from the Midwest and he looks like one of my peeps.

For those who don't know, Robert is the food critic for the Village Voice.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Tom,

Derek here from the Gibson. We are sorry to hear that your reader waited that long for their drinks. Whatever we can do to correct the situation, we will. Please ask your reader to contact me at derek@better-drinking.com.

While twenty minutes is extreme, and certainly exceeds our standards, we are slow. The Gibson is a bar with a more genteel style. Drinks can sometimes take one minute a piece to make. We shake, muddle, stir and strain. We even cut fruit to order in some cases, and always use fresh-squeezed juices. We go out of our way to make sure that each drink is hand crafted.

Add the time it takes for service, multiple orders, and a guest may have to wait five minutes for a single drink. With additional guests that wait time grows exponentially; but our goal is, at most, ten to fifteen minutes for a party of four on Saturday night. We work hard toward this goal and if you see a bartender standing around with nothing to do, I guarantee that you are not at the Gibson.

For those who need speed, we offer easier to build cocktails, beer, wine and Champagne. We have excellent mixers and top-notch spirits. If prompted, servers can help guests navigate our speedier choices.

We promise, if people are patient with us, it is well worth it. For those who experience turbulence, which does happen, the guest should just let us know -- we will make sure that guest leaves happy. As always, a simple comment will help us turn their experience around.

Sincerely,

Derek Brown

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for following up, Derek. Let's hope the chatter sees this post.

I've got a lot to do (like .... LUNCH) before I head out of town for a little eating around. Let's gather here again next Wednesday. Thanks, everyone, for your participation.

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A veteran food writer, Sietsema has worked as a critic in Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee and covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns and moderates the Sietsema's Table discussion group. Join his live Q&A every Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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