WILLING AS WE are to complain when restaurants deteriorate, we should also compliment those that improve. And lest you scoff at whether such is possible, consider Skewers.
This small Middle Eastern restaurant on P Street NW has always been gracious and pleasant, but its food wasn't more than good. But there's a new chef and a new enthusiasm, I was told. So I returned, and found the kebabs much better than earlier -- particularly the spicy, pine-nut-studded kufta, a ground meat kebab that oozes juices. The lamb kebab and one day's special of swordfish were also bursting with juice and flavor when I tried them. The kebabs are available as platters with rice, but more suitable to summer (and a very clever combination) are kebabs over a big salad of bright greens with raw vegetables, almonds, raisins and feta cheese.
Among first courses, the tabbouleh is a refreshing hit of parsley and mint with just a little bulgur to give it body. Of course, the menu includes the usual hummus and baba ghanouj, but the standout is foole, fat brown beans seasoned with garlic, spices and a touch of lemon. If beans sound dull, consider what you thought of chickpeas before you got to know about hummus. AS AMERICAN as crab salad with black bean mango vinaigrette -- that's the All-American feast to be prepared by members of the World Capital Chef's Society Monday at 6 at the Gangplank Restaurant, 600 Water St. SW. This all-you-can-eat buffet will also include seviche, barbecued pork and beef ribs, grilled soft-shell crabs with red pepper pesto, homemade potato chips and coleslaw, hot dogs, burgers, baked beans and tortellini salad, with tapioca pudding and lime pie for dessert.
Preparing the feast are such chefs as Clive DuVal of Tila's, John Lenchner of McPherson Grill, Jeff Locke and Mike Crowley of Twenty-One Federal, Mary Richter of Cities, Gethen Thomas and Ricardo Jurado-Solares of Adirondacks, Greggory Hill of New Heights, John Anderson of The Monocle, Jimmy Sneed of Virginia's Windows on Urbanna Creek, and host chef Steven Brockman.
The proceeds will benefit Exodus Youth Services. Reservations are required for this dinner, which costs $25 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12, under six free. Call 649-5987 or 657-1560.
AS THE NEW fiscal year begins, it welcomes the reopening of the city's most daring restaurant space. The old Potomac restaurant in Washington Harbour is now Sequoia. The management is the same New York company that owns America in Union Station. I called to ask what we can expect in this new 1,000-seat restaurant; the receptionist described it as "an upscale restaurant -- new American." Entrees are $7.95 to $19.95, and will include sandwiches, she added. Could she be more specific? "Tuna salad, swordfish and fajitas," she said.
It's gonna take a lot of tuna fish sandwiches to keep this Sequoia afloat. TOMORROW is going to be a black armband day for restaurant fans. District Height's venerable Oakland Inn is closing, as are Georgetown's posh champagne bar, Flutes and the original downtown branch of Le Gaulois. Respectively among the oldest, among the most inventive, among the most beloved restaurants, all their closings are a loss for Washington.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.