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Jan 20, 2009 01:18 PM

No Reservations: D.C.

I was a little disappointed in Chef Andres but other than that thought it was well done. I enjoy Made in Spain quite a bit but I thought Jose came off a little too hyper on No Reservations.
The rest of the show was entertaining, the spy segment was fun, the ex-con junkie was interesting, the chili place looked good and the shout out to the Vietnamese area in Virginia was something I made note of (I have family in Virginia).
Like the other shows this season, not really a classic, but a solid, interesting show.

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  1. As I dont get a chance to travel as much as I might want, I have to do a lot of my traveling vicariously through shows like this. The food created by Andres is not the type of food that I enjoy, and the pleasures would no doubt be lost on me. But I am excited about the possibilities offered by the Vietnamese community, the seafood market, and Ben's.

    Do I now know more than I did about DC that I did before? Yes I do. Am I more inclined to visit myself? I sure am. I agree: not an episode that I'd want to watch over & over again, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    1. DC native here. Really disappointed in this episode. Ben's Chili Bowl has been done to death in travel shows, but I kinda expected it to show up anyway. (Since the President had lunch at Ben's last week, the line has been around the block leading up to the innaugural. I'm sure Bourdain's plug will extend that winning streak.) The spy segment just seemed like filler to me, but there's always a non-food segment to the show. The tale-of-two-cities theme didn't seem like much to hang the whole show on (couldn't you say EVERY city has an affluent and a less-affluent side?). Eden Center was a good way to show that suburban DC isn't all stripmalls and chain food. But Maine Avenue Fishmarket doesn't get any seafood brought in by boat anymore (it's all shipped in via truck, on ice, mostly flown in from outside the USA; almost none of it is local). A cool place to visit, but it's no hidden foodie paradise. But the food bank segment made for interesting viewing.

      Really surprised they didn't include the Restaurant Eve/Eammon's Chipper/PX segment (we were there when the crew was shooting) since those are some great places for upscale/fish n chips/cocktails, but they always shoot hours of footage and have to whittle it down.

      I did like how he did not care for that one Andres dish with the corn chips and had no problems saying so. That was funny. "We've all made out with someone with corn chip breath, right?"

      11 Replies
      1. re: monkeyrotica

        I've only been to DC five or six times, but I agree with you. The chili place has been in too many articles to even list, and I was introduced to Viet food in Fall's Church in 1978, at a small lunch counter run by the wife and daughter of a Viet colonel. It was simple but very refined and turned me into a junkie.

        Nothing in the show really appealed to me. A bowl of pho is a bowl of pho, more or less. I know there must be more interesting stuff there.

        1. re: Pete Oldtown

          Had the producer read Chowhound, he or she should have listened to the locals. who discussed this months ago.

        2. re: monkeyrotica

          Yeah I was really looking forward to seeing him at Eammons or the PX ):

          Other than that I was pretty happy. I'm glad he went to my most favorite chicken place in the world though

          1. re: monkeyrotica

            be happy your faves are not mentioned. ;-).

            1. re: alkapal

              I kinda wish they were. In this economy, they can use all the business they can get. I'd hate to have my favorite chow spots taken over by yet another $6 cupcake store, steakhouse, or place that thinks they're cutting edge because they serve everything with lime foam.

              1. re: monkeyrotica

                monkeyrotica, that is a good point. but maybe, to keep the crowds pouring in, they should all just re-name themselves "ben's chili bowl."

            2. re: monkeyrotica

              I've only seen a couple of travel shows on DC and don't recall seeing Ben's shown so I was glad that they did.

              You also have to remember that if they didn't show it, there would be complaints about it. Questions about the show if it didn't.


              1. re: Davwud

                So far, Ben's has been featured in Bourdain's show, Taste of America with Marc Decarlo, Passport with Samantha Brown, as well as the PBS documentary on dining in DC.

                Certain restaurants almost always show up on travel and food shows. Chicago shows always end up at either Uno's or Malnatti's, NYC shows almost always go to Katz' deli. Looks like DC's go-to tourist destination is now Ben's. I'm glad they're still preaching the gospel of the halfsmoke, but there's more to DC than halfsmokes. What about chicken wings and mambo sauce? Where's the love?

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  "Where's the love?"

                  LOL!!!! thanks for that today, monkeyrotica. you are one funny person! i still treasure some of your best work here on the "cringe-worthy reviews" thread:

                  ""the macaque sphincter charcuterie was not uninspired"
                  "While the seared jaguar cheeks in a panther sweat reduction was not inexpensive...."

                  and the truly inspired:
                  "The English language, she's is a beautiful and flexible mistress, but when she wears the same clothes day after day after day, or when her idea of "dressing up" is a lime green Sunday hat with a stuffed purple stoat on top, we have to ask ourselves two questions:
                  1. What the HELL are you talking about? or
                  2. Here's my wallet. Don't hurt me, okay?"
                  you have a special way with the animal kingdom! ;-).

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    I think if you live, or are from the place he visits you will always find fault with it. When he filmed in New Orleans, I couldn't believe that he left off all of my favorite places, dives included. But he only has an hour to cram everything in and can't possibly hit every place that serves good food or has great food with lots of characters working there.

                    1. re: roro1831

                      Agreed. Case in point: the post-Katrina New Orleans show. A lot of locals can't stand Antoine's, but going there served the theme of the show. A restaurant empty of customers but filled with staff going through the routines of food prep and cleanup. As anyone who's lost a loved one will tell you, getting into a routine is the first part of recovering from catastrophic loss. That's what the show was about, not where to get the best food.

                      Bourdain's usual production M.O. involves checking in with a local fiction writer/journalist and a local food writer, going to some place they recommend, and seeing what happens. It's a real balancing act to show what's good that's old, what's new, give a flavor of the region, all in about 50 minutes, and still make it entertaining. I don't envy him. It's not easy work.

              2. I agree with the others, nothing particularly spectacular about it, but an ok and relatively solid episode. I thought way too much time was spent on the chili bowl place that could have been spent other places. And I'm disappointed to learn the fish market doesn't have any local fish, they could have gone somewhere else. Chef Andres place is definitely a place I would avoid. I'm just not into the food-as-gimmick or toy type thing, it doesn't appeal. If I want caramel corn, I don't want a small frozen piece of it that makes me breathe vapors, it's just ridiculous to me.

                14 Replies
                1. re: rockandroller1

                  Agreed. But from a purely business perspective, it's the gimmicks that sell. If you want to generate buzz and get new customers, there's nothing like trendy oddball nonsense to bring people into your sideshow. And if people are willing to make reservations months in advance and pay a couple hundred a plate for the privelege, business owners have a hard time ignoring this demographic. Hence the rise of "molecular gastronomy."

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    "And I'm disappointed to learn the fish market doesn't have any local fish, "

                    No Baltimore Lake Trout??

                    1. re: ferret

                      I've asked a few of the vendors about where they get their supply, and it's almost all flown in from South America/SE Asia. Even the boiled crawfish, which I always thought came in from the Gulf of Mexico, is grown in paddy farms in Vietnam. There's very little local supply; much of the local fish ends up in the higher-end restaurants.

                    2. re: rockandroller1

                      I'm pretty much on board with this sentiment as well. I thought the chicken place segment ended abruptly and found the spy segment to be fascinating.

                      As for the MG. Well, it's just not my thing. I've never done it since I don't have that kinda budget and would certainly give it a try. But things like that just annoy me. I dislike the fancy plating you get at fine dining places too. Put it on my plate. If it's good, the flavour will carry it. If it's not, it doesn't matter how it's arranged. But I guess that's for another board.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        I keep wondering how many people who put down "MG" have actually tried it. At least you are honest about it. If the essence of this cooking is about the chef experimenting with and developing enhanced flavors (and aromas and textures) how could you begin to evaluate whether it's a success or not by reading about it? Andres apprenticed with one of the originators and masters (Adria) - given that few of us are ever going to get there (El Bulli), DC seems like more of a possibility - it would be a shame for a chowhound to make up their mind about any food before trying it, even at places that actually use dishes instead of wrapping their food in paper.

                        DC is not a significant food town. Tony's got a choice - hit Mexico, Japan, France, Italy, China, NYC, NOLA, Montreal, etc., over and over again, or show up at some places that don't necessarily have a great food rep or even a specific specialty (like whole pig in SC low country). Like we've said over and over again here, there's always great food to be found - that's what being a CH is all about. I'd just as soon see him hit the average towns and countries and see him do some digging for some fine chow. I'd say he did a good job of that here, unlike Egypt. But maybe some places even CH'ers would have a hard time finding real deliciousness. Thank goodness McDonald's is becoming available in more and more places. I can't wait for Tony to show up in one - maybe his next Namibia trip.

                        1. re: applehome

                          Like I said, I'd be game to try it before I dislike it but I'm just so not a fan of fancy plating/presentation.

                          I think a great idea for a show would be to get in his car and drive the I-40 (or even I - 10)corridor from Memphis to Raleigh. All the good stuff you'd find along the way. Maybe even 40 to 95 to 10 to 55 and back. That whole area in there could make a show to rival some of the best he's had.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Molecular gastronomy reminds me of that Onion headline "Concept Rock Band Theoretically Good."

                          2. re: applehome

                            It certainly appears from most of the comments I've read about molecular gastronomy that few who dismiss it have tried it. There aren't really that many places doing it full bore anyway. I completely understand that someone would think "it's not for me, I don't think I'd like that," that seems reasonable. But, what irks me is the tendency that I've noticed to package it as an overpriced gimmick for suckers who don't care about how food tastes...then dismiss it and anyone who is interested in it or likes it right along with it.

                            I feel like this should be a standard disclaimer for all posts on Chowhound: this doesn't mean everyone ever. There are clearly exceptions to this. Many people have totally reasonable objections.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              I think some aspects of molecular gastronomy would actually be pretty cool if they became mainstream. Like if Mcdonalds sold Big Macs in ricepaper origami boxes with the ingredients printed in edible ink. Or maybe not. Anyway, I don't have to put my penis in a woodchipper to know I probably wouldn't like it.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Yes, it would be exactly like that. Good point.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  I love the concept of a foamed Big Mac.


                                  1. re: CucumberBoy

                                    With a side of "deconstructed fries" where what you get is a tub of hot fat, a raw potato, and a salt lick.

                                2. re: monkeyrotica

                                  And yet there are plenty of reasonably sane people who actually enjoy and appreciate this style of cooking - while the contingency of penis-in-a-woodchipper fans is decidedly smaller.

                                  1. re: Frodnesor

                                    Clearly, you are unfamiliar with Denny's latest Grand Slam Breakfast: The Fargo Cock Crow.

                        2. One thing I found funny about this show was that Samantha Brown's DC episode re-aired right after No Reservations. Bourdain always likes to think he's above a show like Samantha Brown's yet both of them went to Ben's and both had Ethiopian. I enjoyed both shows just thought the similarity was kind of funny.