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Washingtonian 100 Best


Busboy
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Nothing is better for the self-esteem -- as though mine needed a boost -- than seeing one's long-held prejudices confirmed in print, and so I was charmed and warmed by Washingtonian's exile of Huong Que (Four Sisters) -- long touted as the best Vietnamese in town -- in favor of its next-door neighbor and Busboy family favorite, Viet Royale. I also took a little snarky glee in seeing Pizzaria Paradiso demoted...and some of the un-snarky type in seeing Jamie and Carolyn Stachowshi's Restaurant Kolumbia making the grade. Completely aside from their restaurant, they are just plain good people and it is wonderful to see their work transforming a hellish 70's office building space into a personalized and delightful dining room recognized.

The big news is probably The Inn at Little Washington's descent from the four-star stratosphere to three-and-a-half, while The Only Chef My Wife Thinks is Cuter than Johnny Monis, Eric Ziebold of CityZenCityZenmoves into the top tier. Bravo for Ziebold, who is another nice guy (Washington seems to be blessed with a number of talented chefs who have failed to embrace the stereotype of screeming assholes, a la Gordon Ramsay) and frighteningly good in the kitchen. Citronelle's ongoing hold of the top spot is no surprise, but the magazine is almost worth buying just for the picture of Michel Richard's Mosaic Surf and Turf, if the hot chef-boys (shortage of hot chef-girls this year) on the cover don't grab you.

One could almost argue that the 3-1/2 star categeory is more interesting than the four-star gang: Eve, Palena, Minibar, Komi, Marcel's....there is some excellent eating to be done at these places and, while they aren't cheap, you can generally get a reservation on short notice and you don't need to get the suit pressed for dinner (though you should, dammit!). Palena and Marcel's both offer their full menu in their less formal lounge areas, allowing you sample their best cooking on the spur of the moment -- as well as less interestign bar food.

I was a little surprised to see L'Auberge Chez Francois on the list at number 33. Given its decades-long run as the magazines top reader's choice and it's slightly fusty reputation, L'Auberge is something of a punchline amongst the area's cognoscenti. Since I've been meaning to get there since, oh, 1986, maybe it's time to make the long drive to great falls.

Sadly, my favorite fusty old French place, La Chamiere, was bumped off the list this year. No matter -- sentimementalists like myself and and old-guard Georgetowners will still line up for the pike quenelles and other classic dishes that you just can't find anwhere else.

The Landrum selection as restauranteur of the year is such a no-brainer that it almost doesn't draw comment, until you remember that this is a guy who opened up his first restaurant in a suburban strip mall with no money or publicity, and came damn close to losing the whole thing, succeeding only by dint of damn hard work and near psychotic commitment to quality and value. Congratulations are much in order.

Anyone else got a word or ten to add?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I was not suprised to see Citronelle keep the top spot, it deserves it. However, I have a small quibble. Since I consider wine to be an essential part of a meal when dining, I thought that there should have been some larger mention of great wine lists or wine service (beyond mentioning that the sommelier at Maestro was happy to serve you the house wine, or that Charlie Palmer's mark up was high) To that end, I thought that places like Dino should have been on the list because the food is good and the wine list makes it a destination restaurant for wine geeks. There should have been more mention of the great list of well priced Burgandies at Corduroy, etc. But I guess you can't have everything.

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I believe that the next issue has Rockwell doing a "Best of" on wine lists which was booted for space reasons this month. I, too, would be eager to see such an analysis, particularly if it included a "value" angle.

And speaking of Citronelle (not a value destination) it does seem that Washingtonian under the old regime was loathe to give Sommelier Mark Slater his due. Perhaps that will change.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Nothing is better for the self-esteem -- as though mine needed a boost -- than seeing one's long-held prejudices confirmed in print, and so I was charmed and warmed by Washingtonian's exile of Huong Que (Four Sisters) -- long touted as the best Vietnamese in town -- in favor of its next-door neighbor and Busboy family favorite, Viet Royale....

Huong Viet is better than Viet Royale, IMO. That's just me, though. I always thought that Huong Que was more Americanized in their style of cooking. I love the bold, bright flavors of Vietnamese food and I found their food to be a bit more tame and catered to more mainstream tastes. Every time I've been to Eden Center the majority of the guests at Huong Viet are non-Asian. Not that there's anything wrong with that but when in Rome...

(FYI Song Que (the deli owned by the same family) makes great drinks.)

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I believe that the next issue has Rockwell doing a "Best of" on wine lists which was booted for space reasons this month.  I, too, would be eager to see such an analysis, particularly if it included a "value" angle. 

And speaking of Citronelle (not a value destination) it does seem that Washingtonian under the old regime was loathe to give Sommelier Mark Slater his due. Perhaps that will change.

I'm glad to see that Don is going to do a best of wine list article, but I still believe that it needs to be part of the consideration of "the best" restaurant consideration. I am tired of going to restaurants that have fantastic food and a lackluster or even downright awful wine list. Thank goodness corkage is permitted in DC but unfortunately not in VA or most of MD.

And I agree that Mark is a major part of why I like Citronelle so much, even if he has personally assisted me only a couple of times, his influence on their cellar and wine service is under appreciated.

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Since I consider wine to be an essential part of a meal when dining, I thought that there should have been some larger mention of great wine lists or wine service (beyond mentioning that the sommelier at Maestro was happy to serve you the house wine, or that Charlie Palmer's mark up was high).

Err, presumably the sommelier has selected the house wine so why wouldn't he be prepared to serve it? :unsure:
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And speaking of Citronelle (not a value destination) it does seem that Washingtonian under the old regime was loathe to give Sommelier Mark Slater his due. Perhaps that will change.

And I agree that Mark is a major part of why I like Citronelle so much, even if he has personally assisted me only a couple of times, his influence on their cellar and wine service is under appreciated.

Err, (distinctly feeling out of the loop) why on Earth isn't Mark Slater getting his due? Surely his position speaks for itself. :unsure:
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And speaking of Citronelle (not a value destination) it does seem that Washingtonian under the old regime was loathe to give Sommelier Mark Slater his due. Perhaps that will change.

And I agree that Mark is a major part of why I like Citronelle so much, even if he has personally assisted me only a couple of times, his influence on their cellar and wine service is under appreciated.

Err, (distinctly feeling out of the loop) why on Earth isn't Mark Slater getting his due? Surely his position speaks for itself. :unsure:

IIRC, the last couple of years, Slater and his list have been conspicuously absent from Washingtonians occasional analysis of the quality wine programs around town.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Since I consider wine to be an essential part of a meal when dining, I thought that there should have been some larger mention of great wine lists or wine service (beyond mentioning that the sommelier at Maestro was happy to serve you the house wine, or that Charlie Palmer's mark up was high).

Err, presumably the sommelier has selected the house wine so why wouldn't he be prepared to serve it? :unsure:

I wasn't saying that he shouldn't be prepared to serve the house wine, since to be honest, he is an excellent sommelier and they have a great wine program. What I was saying was that there was not enough about the good winelists of the best restaurants. Citronelle has a superb winelist, and a great sommelier in Mark Slater, and I would think that that has something to do with it being ranked number 1. But you wouldn't know about the lists of most of the restaurants ranked since there is no mention of them. It was only the exceptional that got any mention at all and then only in passing. For example the sommeliers at Taberna del Alabadero (David Bueno) and Kinkead's (Michael Flynn) are excellent and have created well thought out lists that are a good match with the food as well as being extensive. However, the list at Palena, which has some of the best food I've ever had, is quite weak. Does that mean I won't eat at Palena, of course not, but I always bring my own wine.

Edited by dinwiddie (log)
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However, the list at Palena, which has some of the best food I've ever had, is quite weak.  Does that mean I won't eat at Palena, of course not, but I always bring my own wine.

Although I haven't been there in quite some time, I am surprised to read this about Palena's wine list as I was under the impression that it has been a perenniel favorite of Robert Parker and his associates. It was in fact, reading about it in The Wine Advocate that first put it on my radar.Then again, maybe they bring their own too. :wink:

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However, the list at Palena, which has some of the best food I've ever had, is quite weak.  Does that mean I won't eat at Palena, of course not, but I always bring my own wine.

Although I haven't been there in quite some time, I am surprised to read this about Palena's wine list as I was under the impression that it has been a perenniel favorite of Robert Parker and his associates. It was in fact, reading about it in The Wine Advocate that first put it on my radar.Then again, maybe they bring their own too. :wink:

I haven't been to Palena in a couple of years, but I recall being struck by how limited the list was. I can't speak to the overall quality as learnedly as dinwiddie, but it struck be as short. Maybe that's why they only get 3.5 stars (though I have other theories).

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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However, the list at Palena, which has some of the best food I've ever had, is quite weak.  Does that mean I won't eat at Palena, of course not, but I always bring my own wine.

Although I haven't been there in quite some time, I am surprised to read this about Palena's wine list as I was under the impression that it has been a perenniel favorite of Robert Parker and his associates. It was in fact, reading about it in The Wine Advocate that first put it on my radar.Then again, maybe they bring their own too. :wink:

I don't know if they bring their own wine (I sure would like to have access to Rober Parker's cellar) but anyone would be delighted by the food at Palena. It isn't that they serve bad wine, but the list is unfortunately short and not at all inspiring. I can think of many places with much better wine lists that can't touch Palena for a place to eat a meal.

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  • 2 weeks later...
IIRC, the last couple of years, Slater and his list have been conspicuously absent from Washingtonians occasional analysis of the quality wine programs around town.

Charles, you are right. The reason is that I stopped providing them with the list to "analyze" because they got so hung up on the pricing and downplayed the selection. I had some very heated email exchanges with the former food editor and his wine writer.

Mark

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