Phyllis Richman – Live!
Hosted by Phyllis Richman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 11, 1999
In more than two decades of critiquing Washington restaurants – from the hautest temple of gastronomy to the most obscure off-the-beaten track discovery – Richman has become a household name for everyone in our area who loves to eat.
Every Thursday at noon, Phyllis will be on hand to answer your questions and field your comments about dining out in Washington. And, you can read Phyllis's Sunday reviews on Friday – only on the Web!
Phyllis mentions several restaurants during her discussions. If you are hungry to find out more – prices, location, hours, dress code, etc. – visit our restaurant front, go to the "Find Places & Events" search box, enter a restaurant name or category, select "Search StyleLive" and click "Search Now."
Following is the transcript from this Thursday's discussion.
I'd like to have a romantic dinner at home with my fiancee on Valentine's Day. I know you advocate eating in on the big night but eating out other nights, and I'd like to put together a finger-food melange to eat at home.
Phyllis Richman: It's a sunny Thursday afternoon, so it must be chat-line time once again.
Washington, DC : Is there any food you hate? How do you deal with that in reviews (do you make yourself eat something you don't like)?
Phyllis Richman: There are a few foods I don't like--sea slugs, black walnuts, etc--but none that I can't eat. Anyone who has food aversions would have a hard time being a restaurant critic.
Potomac, MD: Last week, you stated something to the effect of there were some exciting restaurants around the intersection of University and Colesville... well that is news to me...were you possibly meaning intersection of University and Georgia where I think there are some good Asian places. Thanks!
Phyllis Richman: You're right. I mistyped it. Thanks for pointing out my mistake.
silver spring, md:
I'm still irked by my New Year's Eve experience at B. Smith's restaurant. Please tell me if I'm just naive:
Phyllis Richman: Sounds dreadful. Any restaurant that doesn't warn a customer about a special fixed-price should be ashamed. So new let me warn all of you: For New Years Eve, Valentines DAy and Mothers DAy (as well as restaurants-with-a-view for July 4), be sure to ask whether a special menu or special prices are going to be set on those days.
Phyllis Richman: That's hard. The places that serve them--Old Ebbitt, Legal Seafood, McCormick and Schmick, Georgetown Seafood Grill--might do them to go if you call ahead. Cannon's Seafood might have them. Anybody have better ideas?
Augusta, GA: As the black-sheep journalist son in a long line of restaurant owners and chefs, I'm a bit curious about your background. Did you work as a chef before you became a critic, or did you work as a journalist covering another beat before becoming a food critic? How difficult is it to write about a topic as sensual and abstract as the experience of eating, without falling back upon tired cliches and habits?
Phyllis Richman: No, I haven't been a chef, though I was a caterer for awhile. Nor did I cover another journalistic beat--at least after my years editing school newspapers. When I started writing professionally, it was about food and restaurants. And you're right, it is very hard to avoid tired cliches and habits (nor would I claim that I avoid them, hard as I try). The vocabulary of food is very limited. How many synonyms are there for crisp? So that's the challenge as well as the bane of a restaurant critic.
Adams Morgan: Cannon's definitely has belon.
Phyllis Richman: Thanks for the information. Cannon's delivers, too. It's a wonderful,utterly dependable seafood shop.
FYI: Sutton Place Gourmet will shuck oysters to go, but I don't know if they have a wide variety.
Phyllis Richman: One more. Thanks for your help.
Phyllis Richman: If I were going out that night, that's where I would go. But many people's idea of a romantic dinner does not encompass a small ethnic restaurant.
Arlington, VA: I'm looking for some good, not too expensive Ukrainian restaurants in the D.C. area. Specialties like perogies, borscht, cabbage/rice roles.
Phyllis Richman: New York is your answer.
Washington, dc: Fresh Fields, at least the one on Wisconsin, almost always has fresh oysters to go - last week I some some beautiful Belon's. On some weekends they shuck them for samples!
Phyllis Richman: There are far more sources than I expected. Thanks.
Potomac, MD: What restaurants come to mind with "a view for July 4"? Thanks!
Phyllis Richman: I've got one coming up on Sunday, March 7. A surprise for you all.
Washington DC: A few weeks ago, you had a column about a restaurant in DC, in the Washington Post Magazine. I believe near 14th Street. I remember it was a buffet lunch, it cost around 12:95 and you specifically said you had to get there by 12:00, otherwise the food would not taste as good. It was only about 2-4 weeks ago. Can you give me the name of the restaurant and the phone #. I'd like to get a menu faxed to me. Thanks
Phyllis Richman: I think you're talking about the FRanklin Exchange, at 14th and K. I'm not absolutely saying you have to get there by noon, but I've found the food at its perkiest then. Probably the buffet is refilled other times, too, but they are less predictable.
Falls Church, VA: I've been a vegetarian for several years, and I was wondering what your opinion is on restaurants in the area. Do you think the vegetarian offerings are generally on par with the rest of the menu, or are they an afterthought? Any suggestions?
Phyllis Richman: Five years ago I would have said they were an afterthought. Now I find that vegetarian dishes are usually imaginative and well done, sometimes the best parts of the menu. And I rarely find a restaurant that doesn't have at least one vegetarian option--or some interesting vegetarian appetizers that could add up to an entree.
Washington, DC: Re: shucked oysters to go: Fish Market in SW.
Phyllis Richman: Once again, thanks.
I have submitted a question every week for the past 2 months and it is never answered. I am feeling slighted. So...Are there any restaurents in the Arlington area that serve popovers
Phyllis Richman: Okay, okay, I'm sorry. But I don't know any restaurants that serve popovers in this area.
Washington DC: To risk sounding like a food illiterate, what's shucked oysters?
Phyllis Richman: They're raw oysters that have been opened.
Adams Morgan: Do you know if King Crab Legs have a particular season? I recently came across a web site with the "Soup Nazi's" recipe for Crab Bisque. I'd love to try it, but it calls for 4 lbs of Crab Legs to make the stock--a little too expensive at $12 a lb. I'd appreciate any info.
Phyllis Richman: No, kind crab legs don't have a season because they are frozen. THey thus should be available at any time, though I don't know why anyone would ever choose them above fresh crab meat of any kind.
Rockville, MD, : Phyllis, thanks for your great services, both in print and on line. My question: are customers tipping for carryout food at restaurants? We take carryout dinners home quite often, and the charge slip routinely has a tip line, which I leave blank. But there are services involved in preparing and packaging carryout food, although not as substantial as table service or pizza delivery, for which tips are routinely given. Any thoughts?
Phyllis Richman: Good question, and I'd like to hear other people's opinions on this ( especially any restaurateurs or waiters who have tuned it). I don't tip under normal circumstances--a standard carryout--although I might add something to a tip box on the counter. But in a restaurant that is mostly sit-down, and the server has to go to some lengths to get my carryout order, I do tip, usually up to 10 percent.
Phyllis Richman: Foie gras is the liver of specially fattened ducks or geese. It is very rich, has a texture almost like butter and a very subtle taste, not like liver as you know it. I have described it generally as like delicate meat-flavored butter.I think it is wonderful, at least when it is fresh--not canned. It is also astonishingly expensive and so rich that you can--or should--only eat it in small portions.
Potomac, MD: I used to always think that when I saw a tip line on my reciept for my carry out I thought that the place was trying to get a tip out of me and I felt bad about not putting anything (not to mention couldnt believe that they had the nerve to ask me for a tip). But it took me a long time to realized that they are just using the same reciept as for their sit down customers!
Phyllis Richman: Exactly. Thanks for pointing that out.
Germantown, MD: RE: king crab legs for stock. In this area (MD/DC) I cannot imagine using salty rather tasteless king crab over MD blue crabs. FYI: At the Southern market in Baltimore, the sushi place uses fresh blue crab for the califoria rolls ( scrumptious).
Phyllis Richman: That is good to know. I'm glad to find some support for my crab-leg aversion.
Arlington, VA: I am wondering if there is any place to go for cheese fondue in the DC-metro area that isn't, well, as cheesy as The Melting Pot (Reston, VA & MD). Having lived in Switzerland for a while, I'm a bit of a fondue snob.
Phyllis Richman: Fondue has fallen out of favor in recent years, so I doubt you'll find another place serving it.
Arlington, VA: Do you know what ever happened to Gary's on 18th Street?
Phyllis Richman: It became an Italian restaurant called Fellini. As for Gary himself, I lost track of where he went.
Washington DC: What's your take on 'mainstream' restaurants such as ruby tuesday, tgi friday's, pizzeria uno? Do they offer enough value for the dollar, or am I better off going elsewhere?
Phyllis Richman: Chain restaurants generally offer a lot of food for the money, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good value. I prefer more personalized restaurants, though I think the Daily Grill is better than most chain restaurants.
Fairfax, VA: I grew up eating Florida lobsters, and while yes, I know they're glorified crayfish, I still prefer them to Maine lobsters. Are they available anywhere around here, in either restaraunts or seafood stores, or am I doomed to eat claws?
Phyllis Richman: I can't imagine why any restaurant in an area where they catch "real" lobsters would serve Florida's spiny lobsters. I hope you learn to appreciate the ones we have here.
Washington, DC: Re: vegeterian dishes. If not on the menu don't hesitate to ask. Chefs seem well prepared for this these days. I was surprised at how innovative and appealing some of these are. One night when I took my vegetarian neice to Tahoga comes especially to mind. The menu that day had nothing totally vegetarian. Not only did they prepare one, but it was wonderfully presented, varied and offered with grace.
Phyllis Richman: Yes, yes, do speak up and ask when you find no vegetarian dish on the menu.
Washington, DC: If you wanted to eat at one Italian restaurant, would you go for the spare elegance and authenticity of something like Obelisk or one of Roberto Donna's empire?
Phyllis Richman: It depends. For spare elegance, I adore Obelisk. If I were going with more than one or two other people and wanted a wider choice of dishes (and had a big budget) I'd go to Galileo. But there other good, if more modest, Italian restaurants too.
Phyllis Richman: That's a tough question. I reviewed Pesce a few months ago because it had a new chef. Now it has another new chef. If I review it again, is that fair to the other restaurants I haven't reviewed even once? Is it fair to readers who don't care about Pesce in the first place? If I don't, what does that do for all the people who go to Pesce or might go.
Laurel, Maryland: The only popovers I've ever seen are at Normandy Farms in Bethesda and Phineas Restaurant in Rockville...sorry, nothing in Virginia.
Phyllis Richman: That's a start. Thanks.
Silver Spring, MD:
Phyllis Richman: They should start arriving in spring. AFter the shad season.
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