Image: Dmitri Kessel, Milano (1948).
This week on our D.C. dining site we added two Capitol Hill restaurants that feel comfy and are good, recent additions to the neighborhood. Locally, José Andrés makes news on many fronts. Nationally, Eater ponders the role of the critic and we have thoughts. It’s a big week for ragu and watching the detectives (i.e., critiquing the critics), so read on!
Updates to the Recommended Restaurant List
La Collina – The Italian sibling to The Duck and The Peach does classics well.
Crazy Aunt Helen’s – A talented chef and an all-star team opened this American comfort food spot on Barrack’s Row.
D.C. Dining News
The old Johnny’s Half Shell space is being repurposed by the same team of Ann Cashion and to become Los Compañeros, serving what sounds like coastal Mexican cuisine. The team also own Taqueria Nacional and Cashion had success many years ago doing Tex-Mex at Austin Grill. It is interesting that they did not bring back Johnny’s or Cashion’s but went with something new.,
Someone apparently bought and brought back to life Post Pub so that local scribblers can use the condensation from beer mugs to wipe the ink stains from their hands.
José Andrés is launching a media company, looks like it will focus on docu-series to start. The goal is “to tell stories about who we are through the food we eat.” More locally-focused, a Florida man managed to finagle a meal out of Andrés by dumping on D.C. food, while Andrés was doing relief work on an island flowing with molten lava.
On a smaller media scale, Emma of Plate Less Ordinary makes the case for the old-school website, and for not completely letting go in favor of social media. We concur. Sadly, our own plans of big media glory remain on hold.
Odds and Ends
Ryan Sutton in Eater makes the case for restaurant critics by coming to the defense of Anton Ego. Sutton is on safe ground arguing that post-epiphany Ego that celebrates the good in an art or craft, especially in unexpected places, is close to the ideal of what a critic can be. The critic can also play a useful role in steering the public away from the bad (though we use benign neglect here for under-performers). Sutton elides the fact that the Ego at the beginning of the film is close to what he says should not be the role of a critic: “a fickle tastemaker with a lifetime appointment” or “fastidious, exam-grading Michelin inspector.” Remy understood the value of Gusteau’s even as it declined. Ego dismissed it and piled on. A better critic would have had Remy’s insight, a thought similar to the one often prompted by Tim Carman’s scouring for overlooked treasures in the area.
Coincidentally, the Sutton’s defense of Ego came at the same time that Peter Wells in the Times went full (old-school) Ego on the revamped, plant-focused Eleven Madison Park. Many other writers relished the take-down. But there was at least one false note and one awkward silence in the piece. The false note was to imply without actually owning the judgment that Chef Humm is a mere huckster, while not crediting him with taking a huge risk. The awkward silence is of course the fact this take down comes of a restaurant given four stars by Wells and the Times, without asking if the emperor always was a bit underdressed. The missteps Wells previously excused or even lauded as the price of re-invention, now are shown no mercy. “Condemned it to the [wealthy] tourist train.” Perhaps the subtle and better move would have been to shower some attention on Dirt Candy, a place he gave two stars in 2012.
Rome has a wild boar problem, which on one hand sounds much worse than the D.C. rodent problem. On the other hand, boar makes an excellent ragu that for some of us will bring forth nostalgia of Dino. On the third hand, Shakira got her purse swiped by one in Barcelona.
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