Restaurant Guide, Wash. Post Magazine
- Susan Oct 21, 2001 04:03 PM
Was anyone else disappointed with the Tom Sietsema's restaurant review guide? I usually am much more in-tune with him than Phyllis Richman, but I found myself disagreeing with many of his recommendations. For example (and remember, this is IMHO and experience):
Inn at Little Wash. - NOT a romantic place for dinner. I told the reservation person that this was our 10th anniv. and he still didn't put us in the room overlooking the garden. Almost everyone who goes there comes for a special occasion and the deuces (tables for two) are right on top of each other!
Addies - Disappointed everytime I've gone there (and I've tried it 3 times). The steak (ribeye?) that is supposed to be one of their specialities was tough like leather (even at Med-Rare). On another occasion, before I ordered the tuna that was cooked medium rare, I asked if it was sushi quality (fresh enough to be eaten raw). When told yes, I ordered and then could not eat because it was beyond fishy. And I love fish, every kind...
I have other examples, but eager to hear other opinions on the piece...
Well, I am probably one of the few on this board that actually thinks that "The Inn" is the single most overpriced restaurant in the United States. I have been there four times over the years with the most recent being a Saturday night when the prix fixe was $149 and the markup on wine was approximately 300%. This was a $500.00 dinner. Yes, many of the tables in the dining room are wonderful. Romantic, yes. Sumptuously luxurious, yes. If you are fortunate enought to have a kitchen table for a premium of $300 you forsake the romance for the ability to talk to the sous chef or whoever is cooking for you. However, this meal, then, approaches $650.00 per couple assuming there are four of you.
I have a different standard for restaurants that charge $650 for a meal for two than I do for those that do not. Simply, on a weeknight when the prix fixe is $109 "The Inn" is worth it. On a Saturday night at $149 it is not. If someone sits in the kitchen I have to ask why they didn't fly to Paris or Italy or Spain and eat at a Michelin 3 star which, when factoring in the off season airfare, may not really be much more expensive if at all.
I'm sorry but dollar for dollar "The Inn" is no better than anumber of other restaurants including Obelisk and Citronelle which may lack the luxury but are every bit as good for the quality of what they serve. I would also note that Obelisk has a very reasonably priced wine list.
Addie's? I went once and never went back. My wife and I like Black's but never cared for Addie's. In particular I have a personal problem with restaurants that do not show the vintage on their wine list. I thought that the food was interesting and, for the Rockville Pike, very good. Special? No.
But like "The Inn" I am probably alone in my feelings because these are both enormously popular restaurants that I am in the distinct minority in my opinions of.
Personally, I've always found those lists to be frustrating, and your observation of Addie's is a perfect example.
I live a stone's throw away and have been many times, only to swear everytime that I'll never go back again. Quite frankly, the quality and the quantity of the food has never been a big problem for me, except that there seems to be fruit in every entree.
What bothers me is the restaurant itself. They are not so great with reservations, there is NO PLACE to wait for your table, the dining rooms are decorated like my grandmother's kitchen in Ames, Iowa, (except the tables outside -- on Rockville Pike!), the waitstaff are amatuerish, the wine is overpriced and my bill for two is consistantly $120 with tip.
Only in Montgomery County could this place thrive the way it has, reeling in people like me to pay those prices so that I won't have to drive all the way back downtown when my wife and I want a decent meal during the week.
Anyone eaten at Hank Dietle's Bar next-door. I'd love to hear they have great burgers and cold longnecks!
Went to Addie's a couple weeks ago and will not go back. My party waited 70 minutes for our food. At the 60 min. mark I mentioned the problem to the manager and he came back saying according to the time on our ticket it had "only" been 40 mins. He added that this was within their standard! When one of my guests genially asked for a glass of wine, the manager refused. I explained that when our waiter first came by to take our order, he asked us if we needed a few more minutes, then he actually walked away just as I was saying, "No," and didn't return for 20 mins. After we were finally served, the manager returned, this time more apologetically with an offer of complementary dessert. Too little, too late ... all the clocks in the room that were running slow were a bad omen!!!
Folks, there are some valid complaints on the Post's on-line dining chat room. Go thru the front page at washingtonpost.com to find it. You can also find past transcripts of his Wed. 11am chats.
My quibble is that the majority of the restaurants listed in the guide were expensive, whether they were for "I Need Some Cheering Up" or "Nice Quiet Place to Eat" or "I'm Going to a Show". I kept thinking "expense account" when I saw the price ranges listed. The majority of residents & diners in this tri-state area do NOT make $75,000, who can regularly afford meals at Galileo or Melrose or Caucus Room. Many many people eat at the bargain ethnic (& American) restaurants that don't exceed $10 an entree, and few of those type of places were listed. I'm not talking about national chains. I'm talking Madras Palace, I'm talking Benjarong, I'm talking George's Head Hog BBQ.
And most of the weekly WP Mag reviews are of expensive restaurants too. Sietsemata argues that his readers want to make sure they're investing their big money well into a good meal, but I say it's just as important to invest the time it takes to drive, in a metropolitan area that's too heavy with traffic, & park at a restaurant you've heard good things about but it's 30 min. from home. And it doesn't HAVE to be expensive. Sietsema DOES review places with entrees all under $10, but something like once every 6-7 weeks. The other weeks go to expense account places or one that are moderate with entrees running $10-15
Am I asking too much for more attention to be paid in reviews to restaurants with lower prices? There are many more of them than the expense count restaurants, so we have a harder time choosing, and many DO have excellent cuisine...
re: Lori S
There really is a need for a column in the Post similar to the Cheap Eats in the Washingtonian. Eve Zibart often reviews less expensive restaurants on Friday. Many of the ones she has mentioned have been less expensive and more than worthwhile. Because of her I drove from Reston to Bethesda just to eat at California Tortilla. Not only was it worth it but I drove back three or four days later!
I never liked the "crummy but good" column on Wednesdays. I liked the idea but I thought the reviewer did a very poor job of capturing the feeling of the restaurant or its food. There IS a need for a column like this but I think it should be more in the spirit of Jane and Michael Stern's work. They show a real respect, perhaps even reverance for the food they eat and the places they visit. They are absolutely invaluable for suggestions of where to eat around the U. S. They do an incredible job and have led me to more restaurants and joints around the U. S. over the past 20 years than I can remember. The Post has nothing like this but it should. It is a column that we all would appreciate and take advantage of. There are many candidates for this, some very old and some new. From Horace and Dickey's fried fish sandwich on 12th St. N. E. to York Castle on Georgia Avenue in Montgomery Hills (which has the ORIGINAL Gifford's ice cream and swiss chocolate sauce since the owner made ice cream for ten years in the '70's at the original Gifford's in Silver Spring, opening his one store several months after Gifford's closed) to Pizza Pantry on Walter Reed Drive in Arlington (which serves up the same pizza today as it did 40 years ago). There are many, many D. C. area restaurants and "joints" that would provide both interesting reading and seriously interesting eating. These are the type of local places that Jane and Michael have made famous nationally; here there are enough of them that a writer could have a weekly feature for several years.
About Tom Sietsema: I like a lot of what he has done. I like to visit a restaurant when it first opens and then read the review a month or two later to compare impressions. He has spoken favorably about Big Bowl in Reston, Guajillo in Arlington (seriously good Mexican with $8.00 margaritas to rival the best in Juarez along with ceviche to cross the river for) and a number of other less expensive restaurants. But I believe he tries for a balance in his weekly reviews that reflect not only different types of cuisine but also different price levels. Frankly it is often (not always) more interesting to review a serious restaurant like a Colvin Run or Palena than a new ethnic because there is always the possibility of greatness that might elevate the overall level of D. C. dining. When the owner of Obelisk opened his new Two Amy's the possibility of true world class pizza was again introduced to D. C. This is a less expensive restaurant but it's aim is a serious one. If Washington could have a pizza on the level of, say, New Haven's Pepe's or Sally's or Philly's Toccanelli's or Brooklyn's Grimaldi's, well, this is exciting. More so, I think, to the reviewer than just another good Thai or Ethiopean. When Heritage of India opened this took D. C. Indian to a new level. Expensive for Indian but justified, only a step or two below the best in London for some of its dishes. Again, probably an exciting restaurant to review.
My point is that I would guess that Sietsema's role is to go after restaurants that encompass all price ranges but especially ones that attempt to break new ground or take D. C. dining to a new level. More often than not these tend to be more expensive.
Well well well , it seems that there are others out there that enjoy eating out without the expense account prices. What ever happened to the WPs Crummy but Good column?