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Oct 9, 2000 11:53 AM

Could the Post's New Critic Be ... a Closet Chowhound?

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I know this is old news to everybody who actually lives in D.C., but yesterday's article on favorite Washington restaurants by new Post critic Tom (``Not Related to Robert'') Sietsema actually made me want to hop on a Metroliner.

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  1. Really? I was very disappointed. For the most part, the same old same old. Of a piece with numerous survey articles penned over the years by Phyllis Richman.

    That's not to say that the article was unexpected, or even that it was misguided. Most of the places Sietsema lauds are well worth the raves, and he seems to know something about food. But I would think that, in order to be evidence of a "closet chowhound," the article would have had to uncover undiscovered gems, or reveal something new about the ol' stand-bys. Sietsema thus far appears to be taking the safe road -- which is, I suspect, what the Post desires/encourages. Readers no doubt are anxiously awaiting the reviews of mediocre and overpriced joints such as TenPehn; and for that reason, the Post is, I suppose, fully justified in devoting its one serious review each week to such places. However, and despite the very low traffic on this board, I've learned of more worthwhile sites from Chowhound in the past few months than from a year or two of Richman/Sietsema reviews. Indeed, even Eve Ziebart's reviews in the weekend section -- although not as *reliable* as Richman/Sietsema -- tell me a lot more that I don't already know, and identify many more restaurants worth seeking out, than the Post Magazine review.

    But hey, it's still early, Sietsema obviously has good taste, and sites like Chowhound are putting on the pressure to look beyond the obvious. So I'm still hopeful that Sietsema's reviews will become more enlightening.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Marty L.

      I too was disappointed. Like Richman, Sietsma's list was very heavily skewed towards restaurants in DC, and expensive ones at that.

      1. re: Bob W.

        I agree: same old, same old. (At least we'll be spared Phyllis Richman's "but they didn't recognize me, and shame on them for not genuflecting," as well as her painful, second-grade prose.) Nothing new. But some old stand-byes: Cantlers; the Four Sisters in the Seven Corners; Obelisk (when the market is up; otherwise, no can do); Vidalia, for extra special dates that come around once a decade (if that). And some misses: Johnny's Half-Shell, grossly overrated (and spare me please the renowned-in-DC "Baltimore Dog," served lukewarm in spots and burning-hot in others, sure sign of a faulty microwave, and at $7.50!!!, with tepid fries; hasn't anyone been to Turingen, or even Milwaukee?) -- if you're in the 'hood, wait on line at Pesce or Paradiso; the Bread Line, which has drifted down: decent fillings on a Cubano, ruined completely by the crumbly corn-y (?!!!) focaccia; boring, insipid bbq, again on the cornbread that can't handle anything heavier than butter! (though salads are still nice); and Lepic, fine for people watching, but not where you want to eat bistro food.
        But at least we're rid of Phyllis. I hope.

        1. re: John

          Tom Sietsma did a chat at earlier this week. Most of the questions were very fawning; people claimed to love his guide. I read it again and I still don't get it. I have no desire to go to Johnny's Half-Shell for a hot dog. For most readers this guide will be like the NY Times Home Design section last week or Esquire's fashion spreads: nice to look at, but who is gonna actually buy the stuff?

          He did explain how to pronounce his name -- SEET-suh-ma -- and stated that he is "distantly related" to both Robert Sietsma and another guy named Sietsma who works for Merriam-Webster as the Pronounciations Editor, of all things.

          When asked about restaurants in NOVA, Sietsma did mention one that I have been meaning to try: St. Basil, in Reston. Anyone tried it yet?