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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Restaurant Review Round-Up

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H Street spots get so much attention these days I sometimes can't keep up. Here are a few recent local restaurant and bar reviews I haven't posted yet.

Argonaut:
I think Argo has the brunch thing down pretty well at this point, but they don't quite agree over at District Cuisine. While they thought the drinks offered good value ($9 for bottomless mimosas), the eggs benedict didn't hit the right note. Let's hope a follow-up visit makes it right.

Queen Vic:
The Hill ran a very positive review of the British gastropub, recommending several items on the menu, which ranges from the standard, to the decidedly experimental. Did I recently read a Yelp review that said something about a pork belly poutine? The author also gives an enthusiastic thumbs up to the beer list, as well as the beer cocktails.

Tru Orleans:
DC Style is a little bit in love with the upstairs deck area, labeling it a real gem, but also wondering what will happen in the winter. The author notes that the newly opened spot was very crowded on a recent Monday, and strongly suggests that visitors make reservations.

A new Prince of Petworth  contributor, who admittedly has never been to New Orleans, enjoyed the food an atmosphere. Interesting bit about a raw bar in the future (hmm, would those be the gulf oysters on which I grew up?), and high praise for the sazerac.



27 comments:

fourth said...

So the eggs benedict wasn't perfect, therefore the Argonaut is "not the place to go if the food is your priority at brunch"? Wow, something about that conclusion really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's because they seem to be basing their review off of one dish on one day. (Personally, I think if one is ordering the potatoes over the cheddar grits at the Argo, one should really think about whether good food is their priority, period.)

I guess everyone sees themselves a restaurant critic these days... but a review like this is nothing better than what is written on Yelp, so why even bother linking to it? (Hint to the writers @ District Cuisine: If you are truly trying to establish a "dining guide," you might take a page out of Tom Sietsema's book. He visits at least three times and samples a variety of dishes before writing a review. At least then he can provide a well-researched opinion.)

fourth said...

(And sorry, Inked. I really didn't mean to make it sound like a criticism toward you linking to this blog. I think I'm just experiencing H St restaurant review overload, and would like to see something beyond the Yelp-type reviewers that have their panties in a twist over the most minor issue.)

inked said...

No worries fourth. I too got the feeling from the review that the writer hadn't been to the Argo before. I do agree that a minimum of three visits is appropriate for a formal review. The issue is that the lines do get blurred these days with many bloggers and other amateur foodies writing their reviews as if they were pros, but failing to follow the same protocol. The best thing to do, look at other stuff the person puts out there, and judge as a whole. If the reviewer is unknown to you, take the review with a big grain of salt. Even the best restaurant can have an off morning. I've had the eggs benedict at the Argo, and I like them(I'm VERY picky about my eggs benedict). I also really like the rosemary potatoes.

I guess I don't accord much more weight to many food blogger reviews (with some obvious exceptions for blogs like Capital Spice, and others), than I do to Yelp reviews. But I think it's interesting to see how people (particularly those who don't live around here) perceive H Street spots, and the neighborhood in general. Are they likely to come back? What brought the reviewer over here in the first place? What does the review tell me about the personality of the reviewer. It's kind of a way to look at the Corridor's target audience.

Gonzo said...

Food critics like Sietsma or Kliman will always carry more weight than the masses on Yelp or the random blog. Afterall, they actually get paid to write their reviews and presumably get a budget for their three meals. I think most people scan a range of reviews before coming to a conclusion. Yelp has its flaws, but I'm generally sold on the ability of crowdsourcing to paint a general picture of a place. I also have not problem with start-up food bloggers, but I'm not going to give them the same weight as an established and regarded critic.

Chris said...

The problem with relying on crowdsourcing reviews of a place is that the dissatisfied are much more likely to spout off on Yelp or something equivalent than are the satisfied. Someone who had an unpleasant experience is much more likely to take the time to write a blog post about it than someone who was generally happy with what they got. That doesn't mean that one-off reviews from random net folk are worthless; it just means that how to interpret them en masse is not clear.

fourth said...

@ chris

Exactly. And with everyone having a forum to criticize these days, it all just becomes noise. If someone's trying to be taken seriously as a restaurant reviewer, then they owe it to the restaurant and themselves to base it off of more than one dish on more than one visit.

Another example of "noise" are all the Yelp reviews for Tru Orleans' opening weekend. It was actually pretty dismaying to read. Every restaurant is going to have some kinks when they first open, but the skewering they got was just mean, and ultimately not very helpful.

dan said...

I've pretty much written off Yelp as they seem to engage in some pretty shady business practices
Yelp Shakedown

Anonymous said...

I have probably sent food back less than 5 times in my entire adult life, and one of those times was while ordering the eggs benedict at Argonaut. I own my home less than one block from Argo, so I am definitely in their corner and therefore positively biased, but that order of eggs benedict still makes me want to vom a little in my mouth. I am sympathetic with the author of that review, but I too also tend to despise someone who tries one thing on a menu and wrties off an entire restaurant.

-Jordan

Anonymous said...

Wow a negative experience posted on FT and the PR spin doctors go to work. Amazing.

Gonzo said...

Eh, I've officially given up on Tru Orleans. I've worked in far too many respectable restaurants with good management and ownership to really put up with the bullshit I've been reading about. The inexperience and poor attitude of the owners/managers really irks me. I'll maybe drop by the veranda for a drink, but my money is best spent elsewhere on food. Oh Big Board, please please plase start taking notes and don't do what they've done at Tru Orleans!

Gonzo said...

Sorry, meant to link to this

Anonymous said...

Joe Englert said:

Hey, Jordan, sorry you had a bad experience at the Argo. Send me your info and I will send you a gift certificate for a couple of Bloody Marys or Mimosas.

Thanks for being understanding and a good neighbor....

ljenglert@verizon.net

Anonymous said...

So gonzo have you been to Tru Orleans ,or are you "giving up" based on what you've read about them?!

Gonzo said...

No, I've been there. I enjoyed my experience at the bar and trust that their cocktails will be nice, esp. on the veranda. The beer selection is hurting, but it's ok. I'm referring to the chances of me risking an overpriced meal with their shaky kitchen and ammateur sounding staff. I was going to go this weekend, giving them two weeks to get their act in order, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that there are personality/experience issues. Prime Gordon Ramsay material.

ro said...

you sound like a real joy to be around gonzo

tubbs said...

Joe - as far as the Argo is concerned, I would be much more supportive of your aggregating the offer of comped meals and using that money instead to put in another window A/C unit or two. I'd have dinner there more often if it didn't feel like I was sitting in Roseanne Bar's armpit.

Gonzo said...

Thanks Ro. Let's hang sometime. We can trade recipes etc.

Anonymous said...

Definitely not trying to pile on the Argo, but that AC problem should be addressed. It's sweltering in the bar.

Anonymous said...

Joe Englert said:

We are actually in the throes of adding extra tonnage But the frequent 100 degree days we have been experiencing got us pushed way to the back of the line by our suppliers and AC guys as they tend to a fantastic backlog of air conditioning and electrical emergencies.

It will happen as soon as possible

Anonymous said...

My last two trips to the Argonaut ended with my family and I walking out without eating - once pre-fire with our food to go after nearly an hour, and once post-fire without food after sitting for 20 minutes without a waiter bringing us water or taking drink orders. Both times were at ~ 6 p.m. on a Sunday evening when the place was not full or crowded. Those types of waits simply don't work with young kids. On the first above-referenced visit, we waited a long time before the waiter took our order and when we finally ordered we were told the restaurant was out of two of the items we ordered. By the time the food came, our younger child was melting so all we could do was throw it in to go containers and leave. On the last visit, we explained to the host the problem before we left and he simply shrugged his shoulders. We really wanted the last visit to work out because we had had good experiences in the past. My wife and I are bummed that a place we used to enjoy - and appeared to be even better after reopening - simply is not an option anymore.

Chris said...

All my experiences at the Argonaut post-fire have been solid to great. Nothing's ever perfect (if you're gonna sell steamed artichokes, leave the hearts!); but we're fans and we go back when we can.

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with Argo when I first visted- for brunch- and saw that they keep spare diapers in the bathroom! Also great food for affordable prices. Our out of town guests were really impressed with it too.

Anonymous said...

the last few times i had the tacos the quality had gone down tremendously.

i never loved the food there, but the tacos used to be a solid option. no longer.

still, i think the staff is cool as hell and i love their beer selection.

Anonymous said...

Argo is generally good, but they trip up from time to time. We're regulars, and the last time we were there we had a $60 dinner + drink tab on the porch. They were out of a lot of stuff, our waiter was clearly new or out of sorts, and while finishing our drinks, a different staffer came by and gruffly told us the patio was closing, so "chug it or take it inside".

If it's going to be a bar, fine. I don't mind that sort of stuff if I'm having a PBR on the back deck. But if I'm dropping coin for dinner, I don't expect to be rushed through and treated like a frat boy at a college bar.

Service seems very dependent on who's in charge on any given night. Over all it's a great neighborhood place but there are so many options available now, and the Argo is not such a cheap option anymore, then it gets hard to choose them when you're uncertain what experience you'll get for that price.

District Cuisine said...

We appreciate the feedback above, and yes we read Tom Sietsema and Todd Kliman religiously and live in the H Street area.

We perhaps should have explained the format of our site better...if the title of the article includes a particular meal (brunch, lunch, dinner, etc) that is more of a quick take on that particular meal at the restaurant and not a comprehensive review. For these places, we plan on returning several more times and doing a more comprehensive review in the future. We completely agree that a comprehensive review of a restaurant cannot be conducted based upon one or even two visits as the kitchen can have a bad day, and it is impossible to sample the majority of the menu.

We're still figuring out the format of the site and appreciate any comments.

Thanks!

~~District Cuisine

Anonymous said...

The management at Argo strikes me as very laid back - so laid back they don't always set standards for staff and may not see the quality of food coming out. But it's a great neighborhood spot, so they're forgiven.

Anonymous said...

so there's widespread acknowledgment that the service at this place sucks ass, and that the managers can't be bothered to actually manage. But it's not because they all suck at their jobs or hold their customers in contempt, it's because they are "laid back." And, it continually gets a pass because of it being a "great neighborhood spot." I only take my Stockholm Syndrome with a bit of pistol whipping. I guess baby strollers and sweltering heat do it for their regulars.