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Washingtonian "Best Restaurants" Issue


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Simple answer: You don't. This won't win me many friends, but the truth is that, absent significant changes, restaurants don't bounce around in quality nearly as much, year-over-year, as some of

This list is a compilation of opinions from a group of critics, whose opinions I value, although I may not always agree with them.  I can't say the same for Yelp because I never use it.  I utilize lis

I find it hard to believe there are 100 better restaurants than Corduroy but it has been a while since I dined there. 

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Rasika at #18? In front of Farrah and Corduroy? Really??
Funny, there were several things that surprised me and/or that I disagreed with, but that wasn't among them; I was surprised that Farrah Olivia was that high. Oval Room gets very high billing breaking into the top 10. Adour (where I've never been) continues to suffer a beating from Todd and lands way down the list. I'm surprised Komi continues to climb the list having lost their star in the front of the house this year, but Todd's recent column about Komi offered a pretty good precursor for its new top billing. There were some other ones that seemed pretty bizarre -- Todd's feeling about Proof are much less favorable than mine and I think many others (maybe Todd cares less about wine programs and good staff than I do?) -- but I think my main criticism would be that I don't think it does justice to rank Restaurant Eve and Palena as single restaurants, rather I think it would be more appropriate to consider the Tasting Room separately from the Bistro and the Cafe from the backroom as I believe we do here. Afterall, as great as the Palena burger is, no one would mistake a meal in Palena's Cafe for a meal at Cityzen or even compare the two. A lot of this could be better resolved by a great introduction or explanation for the rankings and what was considered. As I recall, there was only a generalized statement that the unfavorable economy meant that greater weight was given to value this year. I'm not entirely sure how that manifested itself, but it will be interesting to see what Todd has to say tomorrow. I'm generally very impressed by his work, so I'm sure he'll have some thoughtful insight explaining it all. It's a major project and I'm still glad the Washingtonian folks attempted it.
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Rather amusingly, Saturday was the day I was trying to get a ressie for date night with Mrs JPW.

Thinking of the resyfeed feature on Eater I thought that I'd relate the following even though there were a couple of places that I knew I had a close to zero percent chance at for only a week away. Calls made at about 3 pm.

Komi - 3 rings, "sorry, nothing available, would you like to go on the wait list?" I was informed that best bet was to call 1 month out.

Cityzen - phone tree, left message, still haven't heard back. 2nd call waited on hold for 20 minutes before hanging up. What a fucking joke.

Oval Room - 2 rings "no problem,sir. See you at x:xx pm on ****day."

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This is a huge pet peeve of mine- restaurants that don't answer their phones and don't call back don't deserve my cash. At the high end it's inexcusable, especially in this economy. In some places in particular it's started to feel a bit like LA Story.

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How did Bourbon Steak get #16? Correct me if i'm mistaken but didn't that open up in like nov/dec? And didn't they say that they would try a restaurant multiple times before reviewing it? At the latest the rankings had to be in the editors hands by like mid dec maybe? So in less than a month from the time Bourbon Steak opened and this issue was put together they tried it multiple times? I just don't get how that is possible.

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How did Bourbon Steak get #16? Correct me if i'm mistaken but didn't that open up in like nov/dec? And didn't they say that they would try a restaurant multiple times before reviewing it? At the latest the rankings had to be in the editors hands by like mid dec maybe? So in less than a month from the time Bourbon Steak opened and this issue was put together they tried it multiple times? I just don't get how that is possible.

Flash baby, flash!

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Could someone just post the top 20 so I don't have to go to Washingtonian.com every day! I'm thinking about going to my dentist's office to steal their copy.

Here You go:

1. Komi

2. Citronelle

3. Minibar

4. CityZen

5. Palena and Palena Cafe

6. Restaurant Eve

7. Vidalia

8. Inn at Little Washington

9. Oval Room

10. The Source

11. BLT Steak

12. Kinkead's

13. Central

14. 2941

15. Volt

16. Bourbon Steak

17. Marcel's

18. Rasika

19. Corduroy

20. Farrah Olivia

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The ranking of restaurants of #1 to #100 is ridiculous.
Each restaurant does something in part that makes it diffrent from the rest. ie.... While Komi and CityZen are both amazing 4 star restaurants, they do not compare. You wouldn't go to CitzyZen and ask for spit roasted kid goat. It doesn't make sense.

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Here You go:
1. Komi
2. Citronelle
3. Minibar
4. CityZen
5. Palena and Palena Cafe
6. Restaurant Eve
7. Vidalia
8. Inn at Little Washington
9. Oval Room
10. The Source
11. BLT Steak
12. Kinkead's
13. Central
14. 2941
15. Volt
16. Bourbon Steak
17. Marcel's
18. Rasika
19. Corduroy
20. Farrah Olivia

 
Thanks! Now maybe we can discuss which restaurant should or should not be in the top 20. The order of the top 8 has changed but they're still the same restaurants from last year (IIRC). The Oval Room and the Source cracked the top (underservedly so for The Source in my opinion, just about every dish they serve can be found at an Asian restaurant that does it better and cheaper). BLT Steak made a big leap to become the highest rated steakhouse in DC. I haven't been but can people who've been there tell me that it truly is better than Bourbon or Ray's? People bitch and moan about the list but I find it generally a pretty solid list, especially at the top. Once you get out of the top though, there are cross cuisine comparisions that becomes very hard to judge objectively.

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Why would you be insulted?

 
The Source makes wanna be Asian food for Americans. It's imitation Chinese cooking. To say that's the best Chinese in DC is belittling Chinese cuisine. That's like saying Pizza Hut makes the best Italian in DC. Oh, I'm sure there are Indians out there that take umbrage with your statement that Komi makes the best Indian (or maybe not, if no other restaurant in the area even offers whatever it is that you praised).

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I'm sure I'm not the only Chinese person insulted by this silly statement.

A good Chinese mother would ask you: why waste the negative energy on this thought? Either you believe or not, and if you don't, then it's not a true statement in your book. And leave it at that.

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The Source makes wanna be Asian food for Americans. It's imitation Chinese cooking. To say that's the best Chinese in DC is belittling Chinese cuisine.

I would be more offended if it said it was the best Chinese food in DC, as opposed to cooking. For me the semantics matter. It sounds more like a reference to application of technique. I've never been to The Source, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are doing the best job of applying the techniques of Chinese cooking. And even if they had said Chinese food, given how shitty Chinese food in DC proper is, it may not be such an enormous leap.

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A good Chinese mother would ask you: why waste the negative energy on this thought? Either you believe or not, and if you don't, then it's not a true statement in your book. And leave it at that.

 
I'd be a little peeved if idiots start telling me that The Source is the best source for Chinese food (or cooking) simply because they don't have a clue and instead they are relying on the review of Washingtonian. I'll forget about all this soon but as of today, I'm feeling a little churlish.

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I'd be a little peeved if idiots start telling me that The Source is the best source for Chinese food (or cooking) simply because they don't have a clue and instead they are relying on the review of Washingtonian. I'll forget about all this soon but as of today, I'm feeling a little churlish.

So have you been to The Source and disagree, or just disagree because it is not a typical Chinese restaurant?

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I, for one, have never understood why anyone would pay 3 times the typical cost for any ethnic food simply because it was inauthentically prepared by a white guy who took a three hour course in "Fusion" at the CIA.

But then again, most people prefer "Cats" to "Cosi fan tutte."

 
I would hardly call the food I saw this past week at New Beijing and Meiwah, "Cosi fan tutte." These types of gloppy, nastily-oiled, corn-starched, sugar-slop-ridden, deep-fried sludge factories - which comprise 95% of all "Chinese" restaurants in the area - do more to denigrate the supposedly great cuisines of China than The Source, of that much I'm certain.

Cheers,
Rocks.

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I would hardly call the food I saw this past week at New Beijing and Meiwah, "Cosi fan tutte." These types of gloppy, nastily-oiled, corn-starched, sugar-slop-ridden, deep-fried sludge factories - which comprise 95% of all "Chinese" restaurants in the area - do more to denigrate the supposedly great cuisines of China than The Source, of that much I'm certain.

Cheers,
Rocks.

I should have been clearer: I did not mean to comment on The Source directly (where I have never dined), but rather on the phenomenon of cultural and culinary arrogation in general--which is what I believe EricandBlueBoy takes issue with more so than anything (and rightly so for the most part, but again, the phenomenon in general and not The Source specifically).

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I should have been clearer: I did not mean to comment on The Source directly (where I have never dined), but rather on the phenomenon of cultural and culinary arrogation in general--which is what I believe EricandBlueBoy takes issue with more so than anything (and rightly so for the most part, but again, the phenomenon in general and not The Source specifically).

Okay, BUT ... I'll argue that Washingtonian was talking about The Source specifically, and is not guilty of perpetuating the phenomenon in general (in fact, I think Todd Kliman has been very effective at ferreting out and championing authentic ethnic cuisine (often at the expense of "Euro-American" fine-dining establishments, ethnic-themed or otherwise)).

I also think Washington, DC is *incredibly* overrated as a "great ethnic dining town," which the entire world seems to think it is (but it isn't).

Here are the ten most-populated countries in the world (along with the U.S.)

Chinese: The hugely vast majority is glop.

Indian: Several decent places, arguably a couple that are great, also okay representation from the South

Indonesia: Nada

Brazil: A couple churrascarias

Pakistan: Ravi Kabob.

Russia: Nyet

Bangladesh: Nothing

Japan: Barely passable sushi, nothing else

Nigeria: Void

Land mass: Canada, nothing. Sudan, nothing. Mongolia, nothing. Argentina, not much. Saudi Arabia, nothing. The ex-Soviet republics, nothing. Mexico, mediocre at best, especially considering the proximity. Hell, *all* of Africa except Ethiopia and the far north, virtually nothing. Antarctica, nothing. Australia, Kangaroo Katies in Greenbelt.

Consider Europe: France (several worthwhile), Italy (several worthwhile), Germany (Old Europe and that's about it), Spain (Taberna del Alabardero and that's about it), Nordic Countries (barren), Belgium (a few). In general, Europe is poorly represented IMO.

We have good representation in Ethiopia, Vietnam, Korea, and Bolivia; less so in Afghanistan, Peru, and Iran.

Thailand, El Salvador, and Turkey: meh, meh, and meh, respectively.

DC is a great restaurant town, and it's an "okay" ethnic restaurant town, but it's not a "great" ethnic restaurant town.

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I would hardly call the food I saw this past week at New Beijing and Meiwah, "Cosi fan tutte." These types of gloppy, nastily-oiled, corn-starched, sugar-slop-ridden, deep-fried sludge factories - which comprise 95% of all "Chinese" restaurants in the area - do more to denigrate the supposedly great cuisines of China than The Source, of that much I'm certain.

 
But that food isn't meant to be consumed by Asians. It's meant for Americans who can't tell good Asian food from bad Asian food and confuses The Source with Chinese food/cooking. While I agree that DC isn't a great ethnic food city, there are certainly restaurants that can cook Chinese food in the DC area better and significantly cheaper.

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Which ones?

Hong Kong Palace, Peking Village, China Star, Bob's Noodle Bistro....I don't think the Source outdoes any of these restaurants on a consistent basis. The Source offers a lot less in terms of variety and generally charge a lot more. Tasting menu at The Source = $100. 15 courses at HKP shared by us was $25 per person, including tax and tip.

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I'm sure I'm not the only person of Scottish descent who takes no offense ...

 
And I thought that you were going to say that we don't have any Scottish restaurants. Having spent a number of years living in Scotland I for one only lament that we don't have a Scottish chipper, one like Carron's (the former site of Haven where the fried mars bar was invented), the rest of the food well lets just keep that in Scotland.

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You'd almost think that Kliman was going out of his way to shake up the status quo and, maybe, generate a little buzz. Now, I know he wouldn't do that on purpose, but once you get past the unsurprising choice of hipster minimalist Komi at number one...

(Recessionary and tuitionary economics means that I haven't been to some of these places in a while, so I'll minimize critiques and just point out what struck me as, um, interesting.)

Minibar, which seemed more form that substance the only time I dropped in leaps into number 2, while chain steakhouse J&G debuts at number 4. (The Source is at number 3) Citronelle, which appeared to be in terminal decline as Michel Richard turned his attention elsewhere hangs onto number 5 and, in contrast with extremely mixed reviews from the Washington Post and Washingtonian on its debut, 2941 comes in at number six, largely on the strength of its wine program.

Noticing anything missing, yet?

Oval Room at seven and the suddenly dominant Rasika (are we all sick of reading about those damn spinach leaves yet?) breaks the top ten at number eight before more than half of last years top ten show up: Eve at 9, CityZen at 10, Inn at Little Washington at 11, Vidalia at 12 and Palena (both sides lumped together this year) at number 18.

Holy dis, Batman!

Interestingly, every restaurant from #3 to #12 gets the same rating, 3.5 stars, so a savvy editor looking to shake things up could surely push the old guys back a few notches and bring perhaps more newsworthy selections up front, and see who notices the New Restaurant Order as determined by Washingtonian. On the other hand, have Armstrong, Ziebold and O'Connell lost a step? Are the new kids on the block eating their lunch? Or do jaded restaurant reviewers have a natural prejudice in favor of the new, their palates numbed by too may multi-course meals at the same old boring Palena (where, finally returning several years after a night of truly appalling service, I had a truly brilliant meal) but getting all loamy at the thought of something with a little curry to it?

I am curious to hear others' opinion.

In releated news, Dino has been (unfortunately, IMHO) drummed off the list and, to add insult to injury, the lead items on in the In and Out list are "Spaghetti and meatballs" (in) and "Wild boar ragu" (out).

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I don't have the issue in front of me, but my biggest complaint was Zaytinya ahead of Palena

How about 2 Amys ahead of Volt?

Quite frankly, I find this year's list incomprehensible. I think Kliman has become bored in his job and this is his way of mixing things up.

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How about 2 Amys ahead of Volt?

Some time ago, one of the "best of" lists - I forget which one, Washingtonian, Sietsema, Richman? - provided an explanation that restaurants were judged against others of their kind. Using this logic, 2Amys ranks above Volt because it is better at being a pizzeria than Volt is at being a... whatever it is Volt is trying to be.

Being a cynic, though, I agree that Kliman is having fun with us and shaking things up.

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Love that the dishy chefs picked CityZen and Komi both as "best restaurants" and "most overrated." I agree half-way (though am biased).

Actually, the most overrated is #10, Central. Better than #11, Palena? Than #12, Eve (which fell out of the Top 10)? Than #19. Corduroy? No freakin' way.

Actually, I think Corduroy's a little overrated, too. Had a much better (in most respects) dinner at thirtysomething-ranked Eola last night than any dinner at Corduroy. But I've never had a meal at Central that didn't have glaring weak spots. it's as though the masses, unable to appreciate (or, perhaps, afford) Michel Richard's masterful work at Citronelle make up for their self-perceived shortcomings by worshiping his brand rather than his food.

And (you know I love you, Mark) the Estadio that came in at number 23 must have been different than the perfectly delightful but not brilliant -- and surely not better than #31 Proof -- Estadio that I went to.

If I can ever get a reservation again, I will again try to discover why Rasika comes in at #9 while Heritage of India has departed the list. Sure, Rasika is a far more beautiful space, but is its sometimes marginally competent service really, on the whole, better than snide Heritage service? And their refined neo-Subcontinental innovations that much better than Heritage's hot wet kiss traditional? If pizza joints like 2 Amys and establishments best known (fair or not) for their burgers (Palena Cafe, Central, Hell Burger ) can make the list, Heritage should be there.

Interesting to see the Inn at Little Washington pull out of a long sunset journey towards becoming the Auberge Chez Francoise of 2018, to rock back up to #2.

And what of 2941 -- down from #6 to #18, the Oval Room, falling from #6 to #16 and J&G, which fell from #4 all the way out of the top 40? And Marcel's is back up from #17 to #7. Does the ferment in the Top 10 suggest inconsistent cooking...or judging?

A final essay question: of all the people who have tried #4 mini-bar, how many have spent years afterward calculating, before every Big Night Out, how they can wedge back into the Bar to relive the experience (last DR review: 10/08: "A lot of fun and very interesting")? And how many have said, "A lovely show, but let's see if we can get into CityZen instead?"

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A final essay question: of all the people who have tried #4 mini-bar, how many have spent years afterward calculating, before every Big Night Out, how they can wedge back into the Bar to relive the experience (last DR review: 10/08: "A lot of fun and very interesting")? And how many have said, "A lovely show, but let's see if we can get into CityZen instead?"

I have never thought of going back to the Minibar, but neither have I really thought about going back to CityZen. The place that I want to go back to but haven't is Eve. The place that I do go back to is Komi. If it wasn't an hour drive and impossible to get reservation, I'd go back to Volt's 21. Can't wait for chef Fargione to open to have his feast again. Also want to try RJ's 24 for the first time. Debating whether I should patronize the new Laboratorio - never been before.

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And Marcel's back up from #17 to #7. Does the ferment in the Top 10 suggest inconsistent cooking...or judging?

Over the past couple of years, I thought that the kitchen suffered from Paul Stearmant's growing pains, but now his talents are really starting to show, and he is putting out food that will bring the food back to the level it was when Wiedmaier was still in the kitchen. They are doing nothing outrageous or inventive, but putting out good honest fine cuisine (go and try the lobster bisque en croute to see what I mean).

I also agree that Eola deserves much more acclaim than it is getting – maybe they need a better publicist, it has worked wonders for some mediocre places around town.

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