Washingtonian 2019 Top 100 Thoughts – Part Three: Places Where Tom Sietsema Is the Outlier

Picture:  Chloe, a Washington Restaurant Tom Sietsema may be underestimating.

We continue dissecting the Washingtonian 2019 Top 100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington.  In previous posts we looked at the 50 places everyone agrees on and the places the Washingtonian takes a stand different from the other critics.  Today we look at the places where the Washington Post chief critic Tom Sietsema is the outlier from ratings of the Washingtonian and this site, 17degreesdc.com.  In some cases, his inclination to rate new restaurants a little low is evident (though in two cases he bought in early), in at least one case his rating may be out of date and he just needs to revisit, and in many cases he had a strong opinion that he has stuck with.  For a refresher on our quirky rating system, there is a legend below the list.

There are ten places where Tom breaks from the pack.  Five restaurants he rates much higher and five much lower than the Washingtonian and our website.  Here you go:

  • BibianaWashingtonian #61. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab

Bibiana went through some instability, but I think it is stable now and very good.  Tom’s low rating is from 2015 and at least one chef ago. His most recent write-up is more positive, without an updated rating.  His current thinking may not be that much different from the consensus.  Which is a long way of saying in a city with a lot of good Italian,* Bibiana stacks up.

  • Bresca – Washingtonian #22. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

Both Washingtonian and I think this is an excellent restaurant, just a step below the elite places in the city.  Tom seems to have lingering reservations. (Our review).

  • Chloe – Washingtonian #20. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

I agree with Washingtonian that Chloe is doing some great things.  Chef Haidar Karoum is bringing all his talent and experience to bear.  Tom likes it, but seems to think of it as a neighborhood place that is very good.  I think it is an excellent restaurant putting on airs of a neighborhood spot.

  • Fancy Radish – Washingtonian #69. Tom: 3.0.  17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.

Tom really loves this place.  The rest of us think it is very good.

  • JaleoWashingtonian #86. Tom: 3.0. (and Hall of Fame). 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.

Jaleo is a local legend and well deserving of its place in the Pantheon, but Tom puts it a whole step higher than most.

  • Kinship – Washingtonian #9. Tom: 3.0.  17degrees: Splurge Worthy.

It may seem strange that a 3 star rating is an outlier for not being generous enough, but Tom is at least half a star below the consensus. (also, in comparison to the Fancy Radish and Jaleo ratings immediately above, 3 stars for Kinship looks odd).

  • MirabelleWashingtonian #35. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.

We are all trying to get a sense of the new place after Chef Ruta’s departure.  I continue to rate it a little higher than Washingtonian.  Tom, on the other hand is much less impressed. I would make a pretty safe bet that we all miss Palena.

  • RasikaWashingtonian #27. Tom: 4.0.  17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

There is little dispute Rasika is excellent. Tom’s has held it close to his heart for years. I’m closer to Washingtonian placing it just outside the top 10. I will add that I’ve enjoyed myself more at Rasika West End where the food is as sharp, but the service and environment is better.  And you can get in!

  • The Salt Line – Washingtonian #81. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Trying Out.

Washingtonian and I put this in the same neighborhood, though I’d put it outside Top 100 rather than making the cut.  Tom sees it as a top 40-ish place.

  • San LorenzoWashingtonian #92. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.

I’m roughly in the same place as the Washingtonian.  This is a good restaurant with a talented chef.  They need to sort out some things, but I expect it to rise in the next year to be solidly Top 100 next year.  They are closer to excellent than Tom thinks.

For reference, the scale we use on our site from highest to lowest is:

  • Splurge Worthy (Outstanding)
  • Worth Paying for Cab (Excellent) someplace so good I would pay extra to eat there
  • Worth Taking a Walk (Very Good) someplace worth the extra effort to get to
  • Worth Trying Out (Good) someplace I like and you might too, even if there are caveats.

The next installment of the series will be the places where 17degreesdc.com breaks from the consensus.  It includes a handful that we think are overrated and even more we think are underrated. Most importantly, the weekend is here and you may be thinking, “where should I go out to eat?”  Well we can help you with that. Our website has over 200 recommended restaurants in D.C. displayed in LIST or MAP format.

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* One ancillary rant:  Ryan Lizza, now at Esquire, recently, wrote a piece about D.C. nightlife/dining in our current era.  It is the kind of cliché-riddled piece that gets done every few years. Lizza’s reporting that caught the most attention/flak was his claim that Trump staffers feel most comfortable hanging out in a place located between Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights (wait until they figure out the Eaton is closer to work).  He also found some obscure neighborhood name on Google maps that no one has heard of, but sounds like a cemetery.  The assertion that got under my skin was his toss-off line that it is a “low bar” to be called the best Italian restaurant in the city.  That is an absurdly stupid statement.  Fiola and Masseria are world class.  Centrolina, Fiola Mare, Obelisk and Tosca are not far behind.  Bibiana, Red Hen, All Purpose, Floriana, Sfloglina and many others are all very good to excellent.  And we haven’t even mentioned the places that are pizza-focused.

And for the record, we sent Fabio to New York and they sent him back (thankfully).  They sent us Carmine’s.  Q.E.D.