Culinary Dispatches from the Restaurant Refugee

I’ve been to Restaurant 3 once more than their name and have been a little more impressed each time – the one time I had dinner being an exception.  Judging by the largely empty dining room and mostly full bar on my latest visit, I think the place is received mostly as a place for noshing and sipping rather than dining.  The good news is that they do a very solid job with filling that elegant but unpretentious niche in North Arlington.  Their wine list is approachable and affordable with many selections under $60 per bottle and several glasses under $10 (I am depending upon memory because incomprehensibly their website lacks both by the glass listings and prices – note to restaurateurs: that’s a huge party foul.)

As one would expect from a place where the bar is far better than the tables, the starters / bar menu are better than the entrées.  The Blue Cheese Potato Chips are guilty pleasure of the highest order – housemade chips served warm with melted blue cheese and big bits of bacon are irresistible.  The Mussels aren’t the best in the area, but they might be the best of any place that doesn’t specialize in them.  Steamed in beer and gussied up with Andouille sausage (according to the menu and the website, but they tasted more of spicy Italian to my palate.)  Short Rib Quesadillas might be the best example of Restaurant 3’s displayed, if not explicitly stated, mission and their most frequent miss.  In an attempt to make the mundane more interesting and elegant, they’ve dressed common bar food with a more engaging ingredient but they lose some of the charm of the Short Rib.  The tasty and tender are there, but the succulence of the meat is slightly overwhelmed by the gooey cheese.  The same is true of the Lettuce Wraps that are served with “slow roasted duck” (actually duck confit) that is marred with too little salt.  Given their exceedingly reasonable pricing, solid wine and beer program, and pretty good food, the occasional miss when they aim high is more than forgivable, it’s appreciated.

*******

One recent Thursday night I was driven from an unnamed Westend bar by too loud techno music that was inconsistent with the promised Sinatra Night that enticed me there.  My guests and I quickly decamped to Firefly which I had been eager to revisit after hearing good things about their newish chef.

We took a table in the dining room and went through a couple of courses, and a couple bottles of wine.  Little Bacon Meatballs over Potato “Spaghetti” with Olive Oil and Tomato Sauce had textural problems – it was powdery, and a little bland.  The Yellofin Tuna BLT had conceptual problems.  The strip of tuna was perfectly cooked, but so thin (maybe ¼ inch after cooking) that it was destined to be overwhelmed by the other flavors in the sandwich.  The only vegetarian entrée, a mushroom and [insert vegetable I cannot recall] casserole was just “eh” as described by my tablemates.  That lack of enthusiasm described my feelings towards the entirety of the shared meal.  It was just boring, made worse by the fact that the service was lackluster and not a single manager-type touched the table to inquire about our satisfaction (nor did the server check after the first couple of bites.)

*******

A Few Closing Thoughts:

While drinking with a former colleague who now runs one of DC’s nicer dining rooms, he told me about a problem they’ve had recently in their bar area.  Two purses have been stolen in the last couple of months.  This is not the kind of place where people would typically expect such things.  As a friend, I won’t name the place; but a public warning for increased vigilance and caution is warranted.

Advice to Restaurateurs: Stop using cheap toilet paper – it doesn’t save money, women hate it, and it just makes you look cheap.

If you have a jukebox in DC, there may not be a law requiring you to have at least one song by Chuck Brown, but maybe there should be.

Perhaps the only substantive culinary contribution Pizza Hut has ever made is the Priazzo*.  It was a true pizza pie that was made in a 1 ½ inch deep pie pan with a layer of pizza dough on bottom, sauce, cheese, and multiple ingredients in the middle, and topped with another layer of dough, more sauce and more cheese.  It was bliss of the highest order and nothing like a pedestrian stuffed pizza.  Surely there is a pizza joint or Italian place in the area that wants to bring this dish back.  I’m looking at you Pizzeria Paradiso, Matchbox, Coppi’s, Two Amy’s, and Pete’s.

* watch the YouTube video of the original commercials from the 80s for a visual description of the brilliance

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5 Responses to Culinary Dispatches from the Restaurant Refugee

  1. Christina says:

    I second the TP issue, we do hate it!

  2. lacochran says:

    My own take on Restaurant 3 (one experience was sufficient for me). I’m guessing, by the fact that you list it here, the service has improved.

  3. LiLu says:

    I fully support restaurants with amazing bar menus as opposed to an incredible dinner menu. I’d much rather split a few appetizers with friends and spent my money on the wine and my attention with my company anyway.

  4. Kristin says:

    I want Blue Cheese Potato Chips! And affordable glasses of good wine. And decent toilet paper. Is that too much to ask?

  5. brian says:

    As an avid reader/lurker of your blog, I have been inspired to leave a comment before, but didn’t really know how to articulate my thoughts. However, when I scroll down and see my restaurants name hi-lighted in blue, I feel like it’s fate. I am glad you enjoyed your visits. The irony is that about 4 months ago I was going to contact you privately and ask if you would be a “secret shopper” and give me some feedback. You’ll be happy to know the quesadillas will be leaving the menu in the next week.

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