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Below are the 11 most recent journal entries recorded in foodcritic's LiveJournal:

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
12:25 pm
Navarro's in London [***]
Navarro's Tapas Restaurant
67 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PH. 020 7637 7713.

Upon recommendation of lapsus_0_calami (thank you!) I went for one of my regular "Girl's Night Out" dinners at Navarro's last night. It was a rather reduced group, actually there were only two of us, but we both agreed it was a wonderful evening, and definitely somewhere we're going to return to, dragging our other female friends with us.

Oddly enough, almost the entire top floor was "Girls Night Out" - a single romantic couple being seeded amongst the tables of two, three and four all-female groups. Meesha and I were pondering this phenomena, and came to the conclusion tapas is so popular with women as we like to pick at things during dinner, whereas men prefer to sit down to a slab of meat and hearty side of potatoes. A hugely-generalized theory I realise, but one I'm convinced holds a kernal of truth to it!

The decor at Navarro's is charming, with walls covered to midway with Spanish tiles and dark, decorative wrought ironwork lining the rooms. Tables and chairs are of dark wood with tile insets, matching the flooring. Although the tables are quite close and it got rather noisy later in the evening (we arrived at 7 and left a couple of hours later), it was a sociable rather than drunken noisiness. The bathrooms had a good standard of decorating and cleanliness.

The Spanish staff were all very pleasant and service was at a good pace - not too fast and not too slow. The first waitress had a little trouble with her English vs. my Kiwi accent as I was waiting for Meesha, Queen of the Late Arrival (though she was only 7 minutes tardy so it didn't really count at all), and my normal aperitif of Campari & Soda had to be surrendered to the more comprehensible choice of a Still Water.

To drink with dinner we each had a glass of the house Rioja, Navahas Tinto 2003/4. Meesha liked this immediately, but I didn't. However I found that once I'd let it breathe for a few minutes it improved immensely. The menu blurb describes it as "Dark plummy ruby, this is dry but exceptionally fruity with distinctively cherry-like fruit and overtones of warm vanilla oak" and that seems a fair enough description.

On to the meal! Our waitress suggested we order 2 - 3 tapas each, so following her suggestion we ordered:

A blend of creamed potatoes, vegetables and herbs, deep-fried and topped with alioli and pimenton.
These came as two little mounds on the plate, resembling nothing so much as a pair of Page 3 Girl breasts! Schoolboy humour aside, they were nicely cooked, and well - but not over - flavoured. I think I prefer them to the more usual order of fried potatoes in spicy tomato and chilli sauce.

Juicy Seville oranges and avocado salad dressed with olive oil and vintage sherry vinegar.
Delicious! An excellent combination I will be using for my own home salads.

Fresh anchovies, marinated with garlic and vinegar, dressed with olive oil.
I just love this dish and always order it. Due to my fish intolerence I can only ever eat a couple of anchovies, but that's enough. I've persuaded several friends (whose initial reaction seems to always be to wrinkle their nose in disgust) to try them and like them. Navarro's anchovies were plump, exhibited the yielding sponginess of the obviously fresh, and mouthwateringly tasty. Meesha is now a convert too.

Spicy Spanish sausage flambéed with brandy.
Another dish it's hard not to order. Unfortunately this was the only dud of the evening. Although the chorizo had the usual lovely piquancy, it was too thinly cut and overcooked - burnt in places. The tough texture ruined it. But as every other tapas was excellent, I'm quite happy to forgive them screwing this one up.

Fillets of chicken breast, cooked with vegetables, spices, brandy and chocolate.
Meesha practically had a mouthgasm when she tasted this dish - which was rather amusing as she'd felt dubious about ordering it. I'd eaten other Spanish and Mexican savoury dishes with chocolate in them however, so I was expecting it to be good and I wasn't disappointed. The chicken breasts (there were two of them) were moistly tender and flavoursome, and the sauce was light, smooth and exquisitely balanced in flavour between the chocolate, spices and brandy. Definitely the star of the evening.

Galician style octopus served hot on a wooden platter with sliced boiled potatoes, liberally sprinkled with pimenton, sea salt and olive oil.
This ran a close second for place as 'best tapas'. The rounds of octopus were absolutely perfectly cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and the light dressing bought their taste out beautifully. Sadly this didn't get justice done to it as it was brought out later than the other dishes and we were too full to finish it off.

After all this we both felt stuffed. Next time, five dishes between two people is definitely the maximum. Dessert - although tempting-sounding - just didn't get a look in, and we rounded the evening off with a couple of cups of good coffee. The bill for the two of us, including extras of olives, bread, two glasses of wine, a bottle of water and two coffees, and also including 10% service charge, came to a very respectable £45.00. Not just tasty, but good value also. In summary, I was very impressed with the food, service, cost and atmosphere of Navarro's and I definitely pass on lapsus_0_calami's recommendation as this being an excellent restaurant to visit when next you feel in the mood for Spanish tapas.

NB: This is a very popular restaurant, so be sure to book. I booked the day before and they only had tables left for couples.
Saturday, August 28th, 2004
1:11 am
i don't want to sound like a total jackass here...

but could whoever is maintaining this commmunity at least spell some of the interests (chef's names!) correctly...


Anthony Bourdain not Anothony Bourdain


Alain Ducasse not Alan Ducasse

probally an obvious oversight in typing...
but i just noticed it... and it is already annoying the hell out of me.

thank you.
and please... i hope no one took this post in any kinda of negative or pissed off sort of manner.
just felt these errors should be corrected.
Sunday, February 15th, 2004
9:25 am
La Tasca in Arlington, VA
X-post dc_dining, arlington_va

saintlex and I ate at the brand new tapas restaurant in Clarendon, La Tasca last night for valentine's Day. We expected to order off the regular menu, but they had a special menu for Valentines Day (which didn't have anything I had hoped to order.) It actually had ENTREES which the restuarant doesn't normally do except for paella, but they didn't have paella as a choice. We got a choice of one entree, 2 tapas each, and a dessert. The tapas are also on the regular menu.

We both had the filet mignon (hers w/mushroom sauce) which was really good. We also had and really enjoyed the tomato and goatcheese salad, which had pickled peppers in it. Her scallop tapa and my squid tapa were both mediocre. She has rice pudding,a nd I had the cake version of crema catalan (custard). Both desserts were excellent. The sangria we ordered was good, although they hadn't planned on having sangria for Valentine's Day

The decor is great, with 2 floors of dining and a landing with longes in between.

The service was very good as well, and they accommodated saintlex's dietary requirements (which isn't easy.) They had to fry her scallops in olive oil instead of soybean oil.

So...we were very happy with the place despite 2 mediocre tapas. We have to go back and do the actual tapas (or paella)thing sometime.

There is one in DC as well, but it is too close to Jaleo to warrant going to La Tasca....especially since La Tasca doesn't seem to have such a good rep. We'll have to try it for tapas sometime and judge for ourselves...since we can't judge how a restaurant will normally be from a special menu.

Current Mood: full
Tuesday, January 27th, 2004
5:11 pm
Sakana Japanese Restaurant
2026 P. St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 887-0900

My husband and I have sampled sushi all over the DC metro area (Kaz, Suzhi Ko, Uni, Sushi Taro, Makoto, etc.) in search of the best. We passed over Sakana for years, despite the recommendation of a good friend. We had been regularly frequenting Uni, mainly for its stunning watermelon roll, when we decided to change things up and go to Sakana, which is never rated as a top sushi restaurant in anyone's book. I'll never understand why. Its decor and crowd are not as hip as those at Sushi Taro, and its prices are certainly not as chi chi as Sushi Ko (we spent over $100 there on sushi and I left hungry--I'll never go back), but Sakana's sushi is always fresh and is very reasonably priced. The yellowtail is buttery, the tuna and salmon melt in your mouth, the rolls are generous and delicious. During this last visit, we enjoyed edamame (served warm, as it should be), a mixed tempura appetizer (generous amount of shrimp, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, bell pepper, eggplant), a caterpillar roll (heaven rolled inside slices of avocado), a tempura shrimp roll (which looks more like tempura nigiri, but is tasty all the same) and then tuna, salmon, yellowtail, unagi, shrimp and other nigiri -- all delicious. The damage, even including beer, tea, tax and tip, was $80-90. Not bad if you ask me. The restaurant is owned by a nice couple -- the Japanese husband runs the kitchen, and the Vietnamese wife and her siblings work the floor. They recently reopened after closing for 6 weeks of renovations. The restaurant is a bit cramped (as it was before), with the tables very close together, but the sushi is still the best in town.

* * *

Current Mood: hungry
Monday, November 24th, 2003
2:20 am
Reprinted following publication this past Thursday.

Sven Shine Inn-Reviewed by Lu Duong

In historic uptown, Sven Shine Inn is a restaurant one could casually walk by multiple times without a faint of notice. Situated in a calm and lightly traveled block, the only self-promotion rests solely on a wooden stand, with an affixed menu on the sidewalk. Feeling adventurous?-follow the steps that lead downstairs underneath a laundromat aptly named, The Lost Sock.

Although the owner, Mitchelle Lambers is preparing a major interior renovation to include a full-service bar and updated décor (costing upwards of $20,000), comfort at the moment, is not part of the equation at the Inn. The walls are painted in erratic, subtle colors as large comical characters adorn the walls, a pinball machine and arcade Pac-man video game rest in another. Rickety furniture decorates the dining room while eclectic memorabilia align the walls. Above the prep area directly adjacent to a counter-top dining bar, a gentle-looking man in a grandiose poster frame smiles approvingly at those dining beneath him: President Jimmy Carter.

Yet, the menu unlike the restaurant's peculiar ornamentation, achieves delightful results. All is forgiven as the drab surroundings segue and become lost in Lambers' imaginative gastronomic world.

The American culinary scene has experienced a resurgence as of late; Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville, California..Grant Achatz of Trio Restaurant in Evanston, Illinois; Lambers represents a vanguard of chefs that believe in embracing local and regional products, emphasizing them, and creating straightforward dishes with little baggage attached. He refuses to be someone he is not, and his new American cuisine backs it up.

One slight problem for the owner/chef; very few diners are aware of this jewel beneath the street (literally). Two diners in the near-empty restaurant one night were recently overheard moaning slightly with each bite of their respective dishes, "No one knows about this place," one said, "I'm surprised, but if they did, the wait for the food would be longer though."

Diners respond to Lambers' cuisine with genuine curiosity and love. The dishes lack the artistic and impressionistic detail of squeeze bottles and fancy adornment, however are well seasoned and good.

The baby free range New Zealand lamb prepared medium rare with homemade spinach tagliatelle pasta-nests lightly covered in a Mediterranean cracked olive and sun dried tomato sauce; sprinkled with feta cheese and served with fresh vegetable of the day offered a warm reprieve from the blistering cold outside. The execution and arrangement of spices and herbs with the lamb was well done, subtle and without distortion, the delicately roasted meat spoke pleasing words to the taste buds. The sharp pasta sauce accompanied the adjoining tagliatelle noodles nicely, however provided a touch too thin. If the correction is made, and the sauce more viscous and dense; a carnival of interwoven tastes may provide Lambers with his first signature dish.
Have I mentioned the price at $12?-elsewhere, a dish of lamb can be expected to list at $24 on average. By far, the best steal in town.

With six other main entrees on the menu (3 are $10), it's important to note that Lambers ingredients are daringly fresh; The striking herbs in his dishes?-he grew them.

Other dishes include grilled veal coated with vanilla, eggplant, and granny smith green apples and leeks; north Atlantic salmon and u-5 black tiger shrimp salad with spring mix and napa cabbage with honey mango aged balsamic dressing-both are $12.

The focus of the restaurant, however, is not the entrees, but the $40,000 imported exposed brick wood oven imported from Italy (the only in the city), and the delectable pizzas that are a result from it. Suffice to say, it puts Papa Johns and Pizza Hut to shame.

A recent pizza special (11' inch) included salmon, cream cheese, and fennel.

Lambers' execution of multiple odd pairings proved remarkably adept. The dough was baked to a crackling thin crisp-not overdone, not under, perfect. A thin layer of homemade marinara sauce added a moderate tangy accent, followed by a thin layer of fresh mozzarella. Lambers' enhances the richness of the mozzarella with precise individual dollops of cream cheese placed strategically throughout, with ample chunks of northern Atlantic salmon lined neatly alongside. With each bite, the assertive salmon flavor creates a sharp contrast to the rich dairy decadence; its presence was deeply welcomed. The sprinkled fennel also provided an aromatic accompaniment.

On a following visit, Lambers' latest pizza special concoction, with a big grin as he enunciated each ingredient, was, "banana and shitake mushrooms!" Weird? Very. Tasty? Absolutely. The oven had brought out the sliced banana's rich sweetness along with the moist and fleshy shitake mushrooms distinctive flavor.

The handmade personal pizzas are $7.75 along with a selection of over 30 various meats, cheeses, and vegetables to choose from.

It is quite clear Lambers enjoys nurturing his diners (during one meal, he asked us three times if everything was alright); his food, obviously, is an extension of his innovative vision. His cuisine isn't 5 star, or 4 star, or even 3 star. It would be unfair to categorize Sven Shine Inn, because the restaurant isn't about ratings or guides. It's about good food that's unique, for a good price.
Monday, August 11th, 2003
1:52 pm
Thursday, July 31st, 2003
9:35 pm
Limon restaurant in San Francisco
3316 17th Street

What started out as a trio of brothers feeding friends has turned into a full-fledged family business in the beloved Mission district of San Francisco. The neighborhood is more earthy and not one you'd expect a restaurant that employs one of the 6 Rising Star chefs in SF (according the San Francisco Chronicle). Tucked away, one could easily miss it if not for the bright vivid fluorescent paint that colors the storefront.

The food served there was Peruvian, so there was a heavy emphasis on seafood, with the ceviches being the restaurant specialty.

Appetizer: Empanadas Don Walter (Beef, Eggs, Olives and Raisins in dough that is fried) served with a red pepper/heavy cream puree
Entree for myself: Parihuela (Seafood Boulliabaisse-Chunks of halibut, scallops, Dungeness Crab Legs, Mussels and Littleneck clams all in a seafood tomato broth with a touch of heat)
Entree for friend: Arroz con Mariscos (Peruvian-style paella with saffron rice with above mentioned seafood)
Dessert: Tropical Mousse topped with Whipped Cream, mango and pine nuts

This was all taken in with a couple glasses of the House Sangria. The sangria itself was to die for. The Granny Smith apples had been steeped in the wine for quite some time as each sliver of apple was bursting with wine flavor while the wine itself seemed more like a fruit punch than wine itself.

Service was spectacular, never intrusive, always helpful. The one thing that was a bit of a drag was the noise of the place. It was tough holding conversations and even tougher hearing the waiter. But overall, the noise is something that comes with eating in the Mission and the quality of the food and sangria more than made this diner very happy.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Wednesday, July 30th, 2003
1:45 pm
924 25th Street
Washington, DC

Last Sunday's food review in The Washington Post Magazine by Tom Sietsema struck me. Actually, not really. A picture of a giant BLT with fried shrimp and jalapeno mayonnaise on ciabatta next to the article did.

So, I went yesterday for dinner. The BLT is served at lunch, so this just gives me another reason to go. I will try that BLT before I die.

Guided by Sietsema's review, here's what I really thought of the place.

We started with the fried bluepoint oysters, described by Sietsema as "...crisply fried [and] piping hot when they land before you yet tamed by a cool herbed dip." Exactly. But, between you and I, I prefer my oysters raw. When they are fried, the sloppy mess becomes soft yet chewy and leaks in its crunchy fried shell. Perhaps eating fried oysters is similar to chewing on a sexual organ. I wouldn't know.

I ordered the fried chicken. Sietsema's description is as follows: "Buttermilk fried chicken comes to the table with a no-holds-barred red sauce and a rolled-up paper napkin, the latter a hint that it's perfectly okay to eat the dish with your fingers."
My response? No it does not. Perhaps this a lunch thing? My fried chicken just seemed fried. The only flavor came from the fried chicken skin and a poorly matched horseradish oil. There were no buttermilk undertones, flavorful red sauces or welcoming napkins. Just a few flavorless sun-dried tomatoes used to hoist the fried carcass up to prevent it from bruising the accompanying white goo-drenched mache salad. Poorly-executed pretentiousness.

My fellow diner ordered the salmon. Dull. The accompanying spinach, however, was well seasoned—but as Sietsema says—not so "bright with lemon..." An added bonus was the decent sized blob of aged balsamic. So what if it tasted like Bovril? It's OLD!! Unfortunately, the balsamic blob did not serve to compensate for the run-of-the-mill fish.

Finally, the dessert: "Lapped with caramel sauce, his excellent apple pie shouts U.S.A. all the way..." I must agree. Actually, except for the U.S.A. part. To me, apple pie is apple pie is apple pie. When I think of the U.S. these days, 'Bush' and 'Baghdad' come to mind, not a comforting, dense medley of warm apples and cinnamon. Dish does this very well. I thought such a thick, buttery crust and soft warm apples was enough, but the chef taunted me further with a side of homemade cinnamon ice cream (redundancy and desserts are a match made in heaven), and a slurry of thick, warm caramel sauce, which tasted the way caramel is supposed to taste.

I disagree with Sietsema about the decor and ambience: "Despite the broad maple tables and gold linen wallpaper, Dish is not a particularly attractive or comfortable spot." YES IT IS! (And I don't recall any gold linen wallpaper...) I have good taste and that room was nice!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003
10:48 pm
Vegan Fare
Native Foods
1110 1/2 Gayley Avenue
(Westwood Village)
Westwood, CA 90025
(310) 209-1055

On an everyday basis, when I'm just looking to grab a quick bite to eat, I would call this my favourite place to eat in all of Los Angeles. Its where I go when I look to get my grub on, not dine. Native Foods is completely vegan and relatively healthy (some items are fried), and offered at an affordable price. I recommend their grilled tempeh burgers ordered with optional caramelized onions, and a side order of chili cheese fries. Yes, you heard me right...chili cheese fries! The vegan cheese (made with rainforest cashews and sunflower seeds) is more of a spread than traditional fromage, but it tastes divine and the chili is almost as good as any meaty counterpart. My other favourite item is the Philly Peppersteak Sandwich (sliced and seared peppered seitan, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, bell peppers and Native Cheese on a French roll). This is basically the vegan restaurant you take newbies who've never tried non-meat dining to, as the dishes are vegan versions of diner/fast food favourites. More health-conscious dishes like their assorted veggie and tofu bowls allow for guilt free dining with culinary satisfaction. As a meat loving omnivore, I surprisingly leave each time completely satisfied despite the absence of dairy or meat items on the menu. So skip the hipster diners and give this non-hippie vegan destination a taste.
[*** 1/2]
10:16 am
And another
The Sputnik Cafe
1397 generals hwy
crownsville MD 21032

Rating [zero stars!]
10:14 am
Mie N Yu
3125 M Street, NW
washington, DC 20007

Rating [zero stars!]

[This is probably cheating, but here is a review from a while ago taken from my food journal _kitchenwitch. I still maintain the same zero-star opinion]
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