Ask Tom: Restaurant Web Sites, Hotel Dining, Dublin Eats and When Waiters Should Bring the Check

Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, July 29, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema discussed restaurant Web sites, banquet meals, dining in Dublin and when waiters should bring the check on Wednesday, July 29 at 11 a.m. ET.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom! Would you consider asking your readers to vote on their favorite restaurants' best and worst Web sites? Doesn't that sound like fun? I'll start it off -- Sabores' and Westend Bistro's sites are just laughably bad (don't get me wrong .. I really like both restaurants) -- but WOW! The Sabores' site is really cheesy and overdone (AND outdated! -- they're still advertising their 2007 opening night!). And Westend's is not only cheesy and overdone, but also so pretentious it had on the floor in a weird fit of laughter AND nausea, and to add insult to injury is VERY difficult to navigate (WHERE is the MENU??)

I was just at Westend Bistro over the weekend -- we were happy to spend nearly $200 on 2 appetizers, 2 drinks each, 1 salad (split), and 1 high-priced entree (split) ... the service and food were outstanding, and I almost always enjoy going there. But when I went to their Web site today to send it to a friends coming to town, I couldn't bear to send it to them. They would have thought it was a joke. So we'll be going to Cashion's Eat Place instead.

So -- these Web sites aren't just bad/funny/weird/useless/stupid/whatever -- they can actually steer business away from a restaurant.

Who talks these poor restaurant managers into hiring some fast-talking "Web master" to do these awful sites? It makes me cringe to think how much time and money were wasted. A few photos, a phone number, an up-to-date menu, your hours of operation and a link to favorable reviews and upcoming events is all that's needed. Skip the cheese! And the music! Please!!

On the other hand -- they can be great entertainment!

Tom Sietsema: I'm all for simplicity when it comes to restaurant Web sites, too. Hold the music and the animation, thanks. The rule about less being more is very often a good thing, as Martha would say, but I've also seen Web sites that leave out vitals such as menus (of all things)!

Your complaint is great fodder for a poll.

Chatters, please send in your nominations for Worst Local Restaurant Web Sites during today's chat and we'll create a poll this afternoon. My producer, Julia Beizer, will post your submissions on this page around 2 p.m. so you can start voting. Then, next Wednesday, we can argue about Who's No. 1 (a dubious honor, no?)

Lots to chew over this morning. Let's get started!


Washington, D.C.: I was puzzled by the review of J&G Steakhouse. "DISASTER!" screams the lead, quoting a "steak-loving comrade." But of the ten paragraphs, only one actually is a professional (and quite positive) discussion of the food. You rather off-handedly agree with your friend's assessment of the meat. Really? What assessment of the meat? That it was a DISASTER with "vapid Ore-Ida" fries? But you also say that the N.Y. strip "adds little to the local food scene." That doesn't sound quite like a true DISASTER. And what should a N.Y. strip "add to the local food scene"? Are the steaks and sides what one reasonably should expect for the price at a steakhouse, or aren't they? If they are, please don't suggest DISASTER. If they aren't, give us some more basis for that than a histrionic text message from a diner when you aren't there. Are the fries "vapid Ore-Ida"? We're left in the dark. Please enlighten.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for your review of my preview, Washington. I thought it was amusing that a friend of mine was lunching there, several hours ahead of my visit, and that he and I had somewhat different reactions to the new restaurant -- all communicated via our cell phones.

I didn't write about everything I tasted, in part because I didn't want the column to read as a full-fledged review (which it is most definitely not). But the single steak I had there was shockingly ordinary. Maybe "Steakhouse" is the wrong way to describe J & G, because I thought the fish and the veal were superior to the beef.

A lot of diners seem to agree on one detail, however: The service needs work. J & G Steakhouse


Alexandria, Va.: Tom, You were missed last week!! I'm hoping you have some intel on where Frank Morales of Rustico has disappeared to -- any ideas on his plans? What now for Rustico? We live two blocks away and spend way too much $$ there and hope that they will bring in a good chef soon! Although we will miss Frank's bread that he was baking in the mornings. (Did you know about it? He also made some great honey butter too!). Thanks Tom!

Tom Sietsema: When I spoke with him the day after his departure from Rustico, Frank told me he was exploring several ideas -- he's always wanted a place of his own, don't forget -- but didn't go into any detail. I reported the news of his replacement, Steve Mannino, in a blog on Monday. Frank Morales Leaves Rustico and Rustico Taps a New Chef


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Tom, I am a server and I am reading your chat like a Bible. Just a quick response to last chat about the check being presented too late. First of all, I do not believe it was 15 minutes or more, because you are right, the time goes differently for guests and servers. But servers are interested in turning their tables ASAP, so even if they are very busy, they try to take care of the check as soon as possible. If you want to pay right away and be out just put your credit card on a table and I am sure somebody will take care of it. If I see a credit card on a table I understand that the guests are in a hurry and doesn't matter if it is my table or not, I'll get you a check as fast as I can. Very often, in the high end restaurants people like to linger at the table, sipping coffee or even ordering more after dinner drinks, so servers assume that the guests don't want to be bothered.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for sharing an industry point of view.

One way for a diner to head off the problem altogether: Request the bill when the entree hits the table (provided, of course, that no one intends to order dessert, more drinks or whatever).


Fairfax Station, Va.: Have you ever tried to rate the cuisine and hotels/banquet facilities? Could be a great help for prospective brides, for instance.

Tom Sietsema: While I like the idea, the execution would be difficult, because unlike restaurant meals, no two catered events are typically the same.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Tom, I noticed new signs are up over the old Bebo space in Crystal City -- I think the name is Kora. Do you have the scoop on it yet? Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Morou Ouattara, chef of the late Farrah Olivia in Alexandria, and his brother Amadou are opening a new restaurant there sometime yet this summer. Kora is the name of the chef's youngest daughter. 2007 Review of the late Farrah Olivia and A Little Bit About Kora


TVs in bars...: We live in a very transient city with a lot of travelers who have missed the days news. We are a very sports interested city. Some single diners prefer the distraction (and much better than sprawling over the bar with reading materials!). Many of us eat out for sheer sustenance, not to experience whatever quivers and vibes food and ambiance give you and many of your foodie legions....

Tom Sietsema: My distaste for TVs in restaurants has been publicized. It's only fair to give The Other Side equal time.

("Quivers?" If only I felt more of them when I ate out!)


Westend's Web site is hard to navigate??: What site are you looking at? After the intro, there's a column on the left hand side that clearly says "MENUS." Are you working on a Commodore?

Tom Sietsema: I can think of about 30 other restaurant Web sites that are worse than Westend's, which doesn't bother me that much. I hate the music, but that can be turned off.


Washington, D.C.: No real question, just a satisfied Potenza customer looking to give a recommendation for anyone looking for more traditional Italian fare with a fun bar scene. The food does not measure up to a place like Tosca, but it does not try to either. Instead, it's a great place for hearty pasta dishes (try the rigatoni) and delicious pizzas (funghi is my favorite) in a city that lacks many options for traditional Italian fare (other than the typical big chain options).

On the flip side, I feel the novelty is wearing off of Co Co. Sala. The desserts are fine (not great), but they have felt more mass-produced lately. Perhaps they need a menu overhaul? Or at least a few more specials now and then? I used to go pretty regularly (2-3 times a month), but I think a visit last week may be my last for a while.

Tom Sietsema: I agree with you about the pies and the bar scene at Potenza. Haven't been to Co Co. Sala in awhile. It would be a shame if the place has somehow lost focus. 2009 Review: Potenza and 2008 Dining Guide: Co Co. Sala


Washington, D.C.: Olives Closed? I drove by on Sunday and the windows were covered with brown paper and the web site lists reservations as "temporarily unavailable." My first two experiences there were great, the third was dreadful. Wouldn't be surprised if they have closed. Todd seems more interested in selling pots and pans on cable these days -- or so it would seem.

Tom Sietsema: Mr. (Todd) English hasn't had a great run in Washington recently. Olives is indeed closed and Cha, which was supposed to open in the new Donovan House in Logan Circle, never happened.


Springfield, Va.: Tom, I've got family in town -- adults plus two kids (10 and 11). Five of us total. I'm meeting them at the JW Marriott at 6 tonight and am responsible for selecting a "non-chain" restaurant. My initial thought was Jaleo and that is still my first choice. But I'm looking for other ideas in that area in case of long waits. Kids are somewhat adventurous eaters and extremely well-behaved.

I don't go downtown much anymore so am wondering what other restaurants might be suitable in that area -- ideally within walking distance. Moderate price, relatively casual with interesting food that is not a chain.

Thank you!

Tom Sietsema: Jaleo is a terrific choice, and easy enough to reach on foot from the hotel. But if you want some other non-chain ideas, I'll throw in a few: the New Orleans-inspired Acadiana, which has the bonus of outdoor seating; its Latin-leaning sibling, Ceiba; Brasserie Beck for a fun tasting tour of Belgium; and Oyamel for upscale Mexican. 2007 Review: Brasserie Beck and Ceiba


Have you ever tried to rate the cuisine and hotels/banquet facilities?: Here Tom, I can help: Unless you are talking about a 4- or 5-star hotel (Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Gaylord), the food will be mediocre to terrible.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, but is that really fair? Are you basing this on experience? Personally, I haven't eaten much banquet food over the years.


Worst web site: Rasika. It has an unskippable intro, it requires flash, and once you click on a topic (say menu), you get there by zooming out to the whole page layout, moving over, and zooming back in (it's hard to describe). But then, the space alloted is very small. All-in-all, a pain. If my wife had not asked me to go there for her birthday, I still would not have tried the place, the website is so tough to figure out.

Tom Sietsema: You'd think a restaurant that put as much thought into its design and food would be more careful with its Web site, right?


Disaster?: I don't get the reason for the earlier chatter's ruffled feathers. "DISASTER" wasn't your take, it was your friend's, and it's of interest to know that a friend of yours ate at J&G and thought it was pretty awful.

Your review wasn't that bad -- it pointed out that while the NY strip was "meh," there were some things to like on the menu.

I wonder if the chatter is somehow connected to the restaurant?

Also, speaking for myself alone, I don't think I could even bring myself to enter a hotel called W. I know it has nothing to do with Dubya, but still....

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for writing. I tried to distinguish my opinion from that of a friend's (Hey, Matt!) in today's First Bite column. Hope that was clear.


Requesting the bill: According to Miss Manners, it is up to the diner to signal the waiter that it's time to get the bill. Who knew?

Tom Sietsema: A lot of places don't set the bill down until someone asks for it. Restaurants don't want to appear to be rushing diners.


My Dirty Little Secr, ET: I love frozen french fries way better than fancy handcut fries. So golden, so crispy. Everytime you criticize a place for getting their spuds from the deep freeze I get happy and want to go visit the place!

Tom Sietsema: Ha! I guess that's good news for Brabo in Old Town, among other places. 2009 Review: Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier


Web site: Rasika's is very innovative and beautiful

Tom Sietsema: And this link would be coming from ...?


Eye Street: Hi Tom -

I'm sorry to report a disappointing experience at the new Tysons location of Chef Geoff's two weeks ago. First of all, it was very very loud in the bar and the noise carried over into the adjacent dining area, although it did subside after happy hour ended. The portions were very small for the prices and the service was subpar. Our bottle of wine arrived after our entrees! I know it is new, so I hope to see improvements. For now, when in Tysons, I will stick with the gorgeous, delicious and reasonably priced Panache.

Tom Sietsema: Has anyone else eaten here? My colleague Candy Sagon will be reviewing the place in a forthcoming issue of the Sunday Magazine.


Web sites: No Flash! No Music! Restaurateurs, flash is highly annoying and extremely overrated. Not to mention that many government offices can't handle "flash" and our eliminated from being potential customers. An asinine move in this town.

Rasika's Web site is a trainwreck.

Tom Sietsema: A lot of chatters seem to side with you on the "flash" question.


Rockville: "You'd think a restaurant that put as much thought into its design and food would be more careful with its Web site, right?"

Not if management does not make it a priority. And many more will see the web page than the actual place.

I did web pages for libraries and one place still had the same staff photographs -- years after I left.

That is like Macy's window.

Prime real estate.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for weighing in, Rockville. Your post is very likely to result in some welcome changes among local restaurant Web sites.


Arlington, Va.: Have you had a chance to check-out the revolving door that is 21st and P (now Scion)? Also, this area now only really has Obelisk, Urbana, Pesce and the Jockey Club as respectable restaurants... is this street losing its great restaurants one by one?

Tom Sietsema: I have yet to check out Scion. And I'm not sure if I'd include the Jockey Club in the same glowing sentence as Obelisk, Pesce and Urbana. Things are changing on P St., in ways good and bad.

On the sad front: Regine Palladin informs me that her idea for a charcuterie-type eatery on the block, Confit, is dead for the moment.


More on restaurant Web sites: Also, flash Web sites don't work on iPhones, the cell phone of choice for lots of D.C.-area residents.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, good point.


Clifton, Va.: A good server knows when the party wants the check. After waiting about 50 tables or so you pick up on the signs etc.

The problem is in the D.C. area the quality of servers is awful even at the best restaurants in the area. Man when a chain like Artie's/Sweetwater is the benchmark and the 4-star palces don't have a clue it doesn't say much about the quality of restaurant management in the area. Back in day, Marriott knew its stuff with its dinner-house division.

Tom Sietsema: You know, every critic I know complains about how bad the service is in his or her city. I don't think D.C. has a higher proportion of bad servers compared to other markets, but the pool isn't real deep, either. I'm sometimes shocked at how some servers, even in our top restaurants, survive in their jobs.

Most annoying trend of late: Waiters who ask -- and ask and ask throughout a meal -- "how is everything?" If it's not up to snuff, a diner should speak up.


Chinatown: The person who said all banquet food is meh clearly doesn't go to conferences or meetings. As a meeting planner, I am very cognizant of the quality of food a hotel is providing because it is the first thing a conference-goer will complain about. Thus, hotels have to make concerted efforts to have good food, otherwise I won't book my next meeting at their hotel.

Tom Sietsema: So, where have you had your best meals? Dish, dish!


Web site: I like the Restaurant Eve Web site. Simple, simple, simple!

Tom Sietsema: Folks, we're getting lots of mentions for sites you LIKE. The poll for later today (and discussion next week) is focusing on sites you can't stand.


D.C.: Am I the only person not getting the hype on Cava, just ate there and was totally underwhelmed. First, its so loud especially with the techno music blaring. I couldnt hear the person sitting next to me. Second, the shrimp in the grits -- the shrimp was so tough I couldn't cut it with a knife and the lamb was pure salt. everyone tells me to keep trying and order other things. I feel like Cava is a victim of its own success and now is more of a bar scene so is able to dumb down the food for the crowd that is waiting in line to get in.

Tom Sietsema: What a shame. I really enjoy(ed) the original in Rockville. I wonder if the guys behind the expansion are growing too quickly? I noticed Cava condiments being sold at the new farm market in Bethesda a few weeks ago ... First Bite: Cava on the Hill


Washington, D.C.: For the person who likes TVs in restaurants: For heaven's sake, the idea that Washington is a "very transient city" is the myth that just won't die. For some reason, people think that, after every election, a tidal wave sweeps all the losers out into the Potomac and new shiny faces come in. They don't. The losers go to work for trade associations, or think tanks. Defeated Senators and Congressmen never go back to Peoria or Boise. And the people who work for the federal government put in their 30 years here. In short, this town was last a transient city during WWII. Since then, not so much.

Tom Sietsema: Feel better? ;)


Washington, D.C.: Weighing in on the check. I don't know how many times restaurants here have missed me and my friends ordering coffee, dessert, and a degustif because the check was drop and apparently it was time for us to go. Since I rarely make a reservation before 9 p.m. its not like they are flipping the table.

Tom Sietsema: If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's this: Never assume! It can mean the difference between perfect copy and running a correction or, in this case, a great consumer review of a restaurant or a dissatisfied customer (and a smaller tip for the server).


Customer/chat complainers: Tom, my restaurant recently went to an online reservation system. I assure you some of the guest requests we get are as ludicrous as some of the comments you get here. I would invite you to see some of the things demanded on a recent Saturday... Party of 20 at 8 p.m., last minute reservation. "In rush, please seat IMMEDIATELY!", party of 2 "romantic table, please set roses on table for my date". "Wife's bday, comp. choc molten w/candle please" And these are just a few!!!!

Tom Sietsema: Hey, I'd love to hear more. Can you identify yourself after the chat by writing me at


Bad Web sites:: Ray's the Steaks....because there ISN'T one!!!

Tom Sietsema: That Michael Landrum!


Rasika's site: Just felt the need to defend poor Rasika. While I do not think that their site is "innovative and beautiful", I certainly wouldn't classify it as a trainwreck, either. Maybe we can call it quirky?

But I do agree, I hate those sites that force you to sit through a long flash introduction becuase the "skip" feature is so well hidden. And then you have to figure out how to find the dinner menu - and they don't list prices. In many ways it's kind of like that trend for a while to have bathrooms that you had to have a PhD to figure out which one was your (e.g., mens vs. ladies). We don't need clever -- we just need the menu (or toilet!), the hours, etc.

Tom Sietsema: I'll take functional over clever any day. (Well, as far as Web sites go.)


Bethesda: This is a response to a past discussion, but I wanted to weigh in because it cracks me up when people are "embarassed" to ask for a doggy bag. I look at it this way, I would not go to the grocery store, pay for 5 bags of food then purposely leave 2 behind. Same with a restaurant: I am paying for the food on the plate and will either enjoy it all there or at a later time somewhere else. I paid for it - all of it.

Tom Sietsema: Your analogy cracks me up, Bethesda.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

My girlfriend's birthday is coming up, and I wanted to celebrate it in a nice restaurant in the Penn Quarter? Any suggestions? We've been to PS 7's, Poste and Zola and liked them all. Prefer something on the quieter side so no Zaytinya or anything catering to the happy hour crowd.

Tom Sietsema: With the closing of Le Paradou, "quiet" and "Penn Quarter" are mutually exclusive, aren't they?

Seriously, you should probably consider the Asian-themed Sei or the Italian-themed Tosca. 2009 Review: Sei and 2007 Dining Guide: Tosca


Alexandria, Va.: Is it just my imagination, or is there a major pork "trend" in this city? It seems like every restaurant manages to stick pork products in every dish possible...

Tom Sietsema: Pork (belly, in particular) has been with us for awhile and shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon -- anywhere in the country.


Transients: I wrote that post. I AM a bartender (in a bar w/no TV) My restaurant is reliant on traveling guests. Whether they be tourists (this is the capital of the U.S., ya' know!) congress, conventions, business travelers, flight crews, etc.... So YES INDEED it is a very transient city.....

Tom Sietsema: I feel like a referee this morning.

Does everyone feel like he or she is being heard today?


Hotel disser here: I'm an event planner as well. I rarely ever have good food at a hotel. Sure, a chicken breast, roasted potatoes and haricot vert might be passable. But it's rarely write-home-to-mom good. Or, e-mail-to-Tom good

Tom Sietsema: I'm somewhat sympathetic to the chefs who do these big meals, because I'm sure they face budget and creativity constraints. But still ...


Washington, D.C.: I'm the poster about J&G. I can assure you I have absolutely no interest in the place, and don't care if it's successful or not. I was genuinely confused by a review that went in such different directions about whether the core product of a "steakhouse" -- meat and potatoes -- actually was any good. That doesn't give much guidance to a prospective diner.

Tom Sietsema: Fair point. Bottom line: I thought the non-steak items were better than the meat I tasted.


Washington, D.C.: I'm in charge of planning a work dinner even for about 30 people, needs to be in the D.C. area, by a metro, and under $30 per person? I'd appreciate any ideas!

Tom Sietsema: You might have to do some price negotiating, but I'd start by calling the new Eatonville in the U St. corridor or Matchbox on either the Hill or in Chinatown. This Week's Review: Eatonville and First Bite: Matchbox on Barracks Row


Arlington, Va.: Ray's the Steaks Web site is, believe it or not, in the works.

M. Slater

Tom Sietsema: Ah, thank you, sir! (Mark Slater is RTS's sommelier.)


Sushi Taro: Hi Tom, Was thinking of trying the omakase at Sushi Taro for a special birthday dinner next month. I know you gave it a postitive review last month, but I am a little nervous about all of the negative reviews from area residents. I know most of their complaints stem from it being more expensive and changing so much from what it used to be, but I still don't want to make a mistake in my choice. I am looking for a restaurant we haven't tried before with good food and a place that is somewhat unique (for out-of-towners) -- doesn't need to be high-end price-wise but it's not a deal-breaker if it is. What do you think? Does Sushi Taro fit the bill or is there somewhere better I should consider? We've already done Mini Bar, Komi, Citronelle, Brasserie Beck, Sei and Blue Duck to name a few. Looking to stay in D.C. Appreciate the advice!

Tom Sietsema: If you've been to minibar, etc., you really owe it to yourself to experience the new Sushi Taro.

Reader complaints about higher prices are different from civilian gripes about the quality of the food -- which is better than ever at the Japanese restaurant. 2009 Review: Sushi Taro


Tom Sietsema: A few chats ago, someone asked about eating in Dublin.

To the rescue: No less a resource than Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong of Restaurant Eve (and Etc.), who thoughtfully submitted their ideas for eating, shopping, sight-seeing -- even skinny dipping -- for publication here.

Favorite Restaurants: Chapter One, L'Ecrivain, Bon Appetit, Bentley's

Favorite cafe: Java Republic

Favorite bar: Mulligans of Poolbeg St. Probably Dublin's best pub, mentioned in Ulysses, a national protected site, indoors as well as out - they have to get planning permission to change the carpte and OH! the best pint of Guinness in Dublin.

Favorite farmers market: The Temple Bar Food Market iiat Meeting House Square every Saturday is a foodie's paradise just waiting to be discovered, selling everything from sushi to sausages, rom crepes to cheeses to oysters.

Favorite sights: The rows of beautifully preserved Georgian houses dating from the 17th century, with their famous doors and architraves.

Favorite views: The view of the city from the Dublin mountains, by day with the Irish Sea behind it, by night a fairyland of twinkling orange and white light.

Best spa/spa therapist: Brook Lodge Wells and Spa nestled in the Wicklow mountains, an hour from Dublin.

Favorite museum: The National Museums and Library situated together near the National Parliament "The Dail" in the heart of the city.

Best Shopping: "Grafton Streets a Wonderland with magic in the air" this street has lost some of its charm with the influx of the Multinationals but still has a boutiquey feel to it and go down some of the side streets for a real feel of old Dublin.

Favorite Shop: Brown Thomas in Grafton Street a great tradition in excellance for fashion concious men and women.

Favorite Park: Feeding the ducks in St. Stephen's Green or Pheonix Park one of Europe's largest with its beautiful Victorian Zoological Gardens. Also Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall with a great picnic and play area for kids, in Wicklow, an hour from Dublin.

What I will never forget: Eating Burdock's fish and chips from a newspaper on a Friday evening.

What not to miss: A hurling match in Croke Park, a visit to the ancient monolith in New Grange, an hour from Dublin.

What not to miss on first visit: A pint of Guiness in Mulligan's in Poolbeg Street.

What to do on a fifteenth visit: Go for a swim in the nude at the Forty Foot bathing place in Sandycove near Joyce's Tower.

Favourite Cafe: The Java Republic, Ballycoolin, Their own blurb says it best "We spent two years perfecting our patented handroasting technique before we began selling handroasted coffee in 1999, and no other commercial roaster can match the care and expertise of our master roasters! The result of our passion for quality is objectively superior handroasted coffee, real leaf teas, and ethical hot chocolate.

Is anyone besides me ready to hop on a plane to Ireland?


Silver Spring, Md.: Looking for a place for date-night with husband in D.C. Has to be metro accessible. Wanted to go to Rasika but couldn't get reservations. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: If you wanted interesting Indian food but couldn't get a seat at Rasika, consider the restaurant's sibling downtown, the recently renovated Bombay Club. It has the advantage of being quieter, perhaps more romantic, than the hot spot in Penn Quarter. 2009 Review: Bombay Club


D'Acqua: So here's a totally random question. Do you know if Enzo the chef/owner of D'Acqua is married/dating. My friend has a major crush. Thanks

Tom Sietsema: Didn't you mean to send this to Carolyn Hax?


Alexandria, Va.: Comment on Aak Tom for Sun, 7/26 RE: Open Table A couple of years ago, off to La Jolla for Thanksgiving with family. Made advanced reservation via OT. Luckily, made an early run to scope out the restaurant only to find it was closed for renovations! Contacted Open Table, as soon as we returned east and they were profusely apologetic. Comped us a $20 certificate, and explained that the restaurant had failed to go offline. Yes, there are glitches, but is a wonderful convenience too. I'm a fan.

Tom Sietsema: I'm curious how many of you use OpenTable and if so, what you think of the online service? Ask Tom on OpenTable


Web sites updating!!!: Your header informs us that you won';t be here LAST week!!!! Sorry, chuckling here.....

Tom Sietsema: Oops!


Weekend Breakfast/Brunches in Georgetown: Hi Tom and welcome back from the Strip!

We're going to do a weekend staycation in Georgetown. Can you recommend any nice places in or near Georgetown for breakfast and brunch?

Thanks very much.

Tom Sietsema: I like the European feel of Leopold's tucked away in Cady's Alley, which is open for both meals. Leopold's Kafe and Konditorei


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Tom -- I know this is an unusual question for you, but I really hope you can help. I need to order food for a party at my home for about 25 people. Do you have a recommendation for a good restaurant that would prepare an order of this size? The snag is that the attendees are not a particularly adventurous bunch so I'm limited in my options. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: This is for a Bethesda party, right? I've had delicious Asian food catered by Raku, but that might not be what you want for this event. It would be worth calling Austin Grill, Praline, Rock Creek and Grapeseed -- all in Bethesda -- to see if any of those restaurants could fulfill your request. Raku, Praline Bakery & Restaurant and Grapeseed


Rockville, Md.: Welcome back, Tom! My husband and I are new to Maryland (moved from D.C.) and I'm wondering if you could recommend your top 3 choices for Bethesda's restaurant week? We're open to anything...Rasika was our fave when we lived downtown. Thanks a bunch!

Tom Sietsema: Of the restaurants participating in the promotion this week (through August 2), I'd be most interested in eating at Assaggi, Grapeseed and Jaleo.


Logan Circle: Hi Tom, I'm heading Vegas next week to celebrate my 40th birthday. With so many celebrate chefs out there these days (although probably none actually in the kitchen) I don't know where to go. From initial research, I'm thinking Bartolotta or maybe Fleur de Lys. What do you think? Can you or your readers help a soon-to-be old lady out? thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I dined at Bartolotta (in the Wynn) Saturday night, and loved my meal there. Added bonus: It's one of the few celebrity-chef restaurants where the marquee name is actually a regular presence in the kitchen.

Bear in mind, the experience of impeccably fresh fish from European waters does not come cheap, however. My bill for two, without dessert, was $308.


Washington, D.C.: Okay, Tom. This is my final offer: Ten two-pound bags of dark chocolate M and M peanuts and ten dozen fresh, home-made batches of divinity.

Tom Sietsema: Let me reach into my Aunt Carmen's recipe file ...


Dinner in Dupont Circle: Hi Tom - my fiance and I were thinking of going to the Darlington House this weekend for dinner. Any chance you have reviewed it lately?


Tom Sietsema: Been there, done that ... 2008 Review: Darlington House


Rasika defender, again: Agreed re: the clever toilets!! I don't need the difficulty finding it - but I do enjoy a cleverly designed place and refresh. There was one spot in NYC that I liked. They had seperate doors for the men and women, but you both ended up in the same communal bathroom. It was funny when you realized it. Or the ones where the glass doors shade over.

Oh wait - this a food chat!! I guess fun bathrooms might bring you in??

Tom Sietsema: And on that note, I bid you all a delicious rest of the week. Let's meet again next Wednesday, same time.

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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.

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