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Tom Sietsema on Cafe Spice


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I don't get to Gaithersburg that much, Danny, and when I do I drive over to L'Oustalet (King Farm, Rockville) which I think is a Maryland restaurant and chef really worth the drive no matter where you live in the DC area, so I've not yet been to Cafe Spice. I hope some MoCo locals weigh in about Cafe Spice for you.

But what exactly is the problem with the review? Have you been there and think it deserves more than a single star? I'd been to Dawat a bunch of times in NYC in 2000-2001 and by then it wasn't special at all (I did the desserts for a more forward-looking Indian restaurant literally right next door to Dawat which got 2 stars from William Grimes in the Times) so if the Dawat folks are behind this place, that isn't incentive enough.

Review in question here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?n...111503&typeId=2

Tom has always liked Heritage India a lot, he gave Indique and Indebleu 2 stars and Sudhir Seth in Bethesda (who I thought WAS the talent at Heritage India when I was living in Glover Park) is probably at least doing 2 or 2+ cooking as well, right? So for a 2 star review to mean anything there have to be one stars.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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But what exactly is the problem with the review?

No problem, Steve. Usually there's a response from the group, though. I was just wondering if perhaps people are talked out about TS? On the subject, there's a great little Pakistani joint called Islamabad on 14th St just south of U St NW. They're very cheap and delicious, they bake their breads fresh, and they do a nice lassi. Great local character(s). Not much of that left. No branches in NYC.

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No branches in NYC

Probably a good thing--been to Rosa Mexicano?

Usually there's a response from the group, though. I was just wondering if perhaps people are talked out about TS?

I don't get the sense Montgomery County is that tapped into food, Danny, it's even more of an uphill battle there than it is in the Virginia burbs. I'd love for that situation to change, but even the better restaurants clustered in Bethesda are a little more conservative than they'd probably like to be because their clientele is that much more conservative.

As I've said on other threads about TS, I think Tom is in a tough spot, if he doesn't get out into the burbs he'll get criticized for being too DC-centric and when he does, to deliver a one star review, he'll get criticized by other folks. I'd sooner go to Pazo in B-more. He also doesn't have the luxury like Todd at the City Paper to be a critic when he feels like it one week--visit a place but once and then write a "review"--and then morph into feature food writer mode the next week, and file a column. Tom's the Post restaurant critic, he carries that baggage and tradition, and he has to adhere to tougher standards, visiting all these places repeatedly over time, plus he's limited by that strict Magazine review form and word count week in and week out, probably to his long term detriment. He has to go to so many places he'll never write about and never be able work into a column like, say, Todd's roundups of local chefs using goat or shad roe.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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We haven't been yet so I am reserving judgement.

We have Bombay Bistro 1/2 a mile away, have been eating there for 6+ years, know the staff and like the food. Tom's review of Cafe Spice doesn't make me want to hop in the car and drive 20 minutes to a hellish shopping destination to check it out.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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We haven't been yet so I am reserving judgement. 

We have Bombay Bistro 1/2 a mile away, have been eating there for 6+ years, know the staff and like the food.  Tom's review of Cafe Spice doesn't make me want to hop in the car and drive 20 minutes to a hellish shopping destination to check it out.

I ate at Cafe Spice last week and totally agree with Sietsema's review.

While it doesn't completely suck ventworm nut, it is not very good.

For Indian in Rockville, follow Heather's advice and go to Bombay Bistro.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I've been to Cafe Spice a couple of times. I think it's one of the better options in that area (over Rio Grande, Joe's Crab Shack, etc.). Granted that's not saying much. I don't think the food is necessarily as good as some other Indian restaurants in the area, but they have some options that other places don't. Their cocktails are very good.

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No branches in NYC

Probably a good thing--been to Rosa Mexicano?

Usually there's a response from the group, though. I was just wondering if perhaps people are talked out about TS?

I don't get the sense Montgomery County is that tapped into food, Danny, it's even more of an uphill battle there than it is in the Virginia burbs. I'd love for that situation to change, but even the better restaurants clustered in Bethesda are a little more conservative than they'd probably like to be because their clientele is that much more conservative.

As I've said on other threads about TS, I think Tom is in a tough spot, if he doesn't get out into the burbs he'll get criticized for being too DC-centric and when he does, to deliver a one star review, he'll get criticized by other folks. I'd sooner go to Pazo in B-more. He also doesn't have the luxury like Todd at the City Paper to be a critic when he feels like it one week--visit a place but once and then write a "review"--and then morph into feature food writer mode the next week, and file a column. Tom's the Post restaurant critic, he carries that baggage and tradition, and he has to adhere to tougher standards, visiting all these places repeatedly over time, plus he's limited by that strict Magazine review form and word count week in and week out, probably to his long term detriment. He has to go to so many places he'll never write about and never be able work into a column like, say, Todd's roundups of local chefs using goat or shad roe.

To clear up some misinformation --

I ordinarily visit a restaurant three times, sometimes four, occasionally five, before writing a review.

One of the reasons I shift from the critic's role to the feature writer's role is because often that's the best way to tell a particular story. The story of The Red Heifer, in Bethesda, for instance, is not the food; the story is the great difficulty of running a kosher restaurant.

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Thanks, Todd, for clarifying your methodology in reviewing restaurants. I for one am glad that both you and Tom are forthcoming about what goes into a review in terms of research and follow-up--it makes reviews that much more useful.

Miami Danny--did you have any reaction to the Sietsema review of Cafe Spice? It seems you expected others to have one--what was yours? For myself, I read the review, said to myself "huh, one-star," and then congratulated myself on living near the excellent Tiffin/Udupi Palace/Woodlands restaurants in Langley Park. Not much of a reaction in other words--but I don't live very close to the Rio Center.

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Miami Danny--did you have any reaction to the Sietsema review of Cafe Spice? It seems you expected others to have one--what was yours?

In the old days (say, December), there would be discussions about everything in Tom's reviews. I guess the restaurant is in an area and of a cuisine that doesn't really excite anyone. I was only wondering why this restaurant? I think Steve is right, that without one-stars, you can't have two-stars, etc., but this one seemed a stretch. As for the review itself, my eyes glazed over before I had finished the first paragraph. Maybe that was the reaction of others, as well, thus no reaction at all!

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I see what you mean, you are right, there used to be more in depth discussion of reveiws. In fact there used to alot more discussion about DC restaurants at EG. I think that traffic on this board is way down, not sure why.

Thanks for that rec. on Islamabad. I live near there an will be trying it soon.

Miami Danny--did you have any reaction to the Sietsema review of Cafe Spice? It seems you expected others to have one--what was yours?

In the old days (say, December), there would be discussions about everything in Tom's reviews. I guess the restaurant is in an area and of a cuisine that doesn't really excite anyone. I was only wondering why this restaurant? I think Steve is right, that without one-stars, you can't have two-stars, etc., but this one seemed a stretch. As for the review itself, my eyes glazed over before I had finished the first paragraph. Maybe that was the reaction of others, as well, thus no reaction at all!

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