WASHINGTON plays little brother to New York in many ways, certainly in its range of restaurants. But after twice having my purse stolen in New York restaurants -- once indoors and once outdoors -- I returned home content to be dining in a safer city. Not for long, though.
Washington is importing one more New York trend: Lately I have heard of a couple of purse thefts from restaurants in Washington. Our innocence may be ending -- it is time for Washington women to keep our purses on a tighter rein.
A more appealing potential Manhattan trend is what one restaurant calls "calliope cooking." It is steam cooking, done with a steam oven or steam-and-convection oven, and for the customer it has the advantage of minimizing fat while retaining flavor and moisture. For the restaurateur it has the advantage of requiring very little space.
At an odd new Manhattan restaurant called Orfeo, the entire kitchen is squeezed into a space not much bigger than an elevator (with a window on the street, which must prevent claustrophobia). Yet it turns out everything from fish to game to pastas to pies and tarts, with nothing but a couple of steam ovens.
ONLY THREE days are left for 1990 income-tax deductions, but if you are looking to spend a lot of money in a hurry, you might check out Sam & Harry's private wine lockers. This restaurant is leasing individual lockers that hold about 18 bottles each. They can be used to store wines you bring in (the restaurant will charge a corkage fee for opening and serving them). Or you can stock your locker from Sam & Harry's wine list, as well as request the restaurant to buy the wines you want.
A couple of times a year Sam & Harry's will sell special wines by the case or half-case exclusively to leaseholders. And wine dinners will be planned for leaseholders' entertainment and education. Semi-annual statements will advise leaseholders of their current inventory and bill the accumulated corkage fees. The restaurant boasts that law firms and other corporations that do a lot of client entertaining have been leasing wine lockers, and in case you're still straddling the fence on this decision, the fee includes a brass plaque with your name to identify your locker. Leasing one of Sam & Harry's wine lockers costs an initiation fee of $1,000 and an annual fee of $200. Steaks are extra.
THE ACCENT has changed drastically at Dominique's at Chesapeake Harbor just outside Annapolis. Now it's called Sam's Waterfront Cafe -- what could be more American? And the new owner, Frank Smith, tells of his credentials as chef for the Duke of Beaufort and a stint as chef for the royal tent at the Babbington horse trials in England. I guess that Dominique's rattlesnake myth will finally die. This sounds to me more a bubble-and-squeak kind of situation.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.