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Reviews

Recent reviews by Neil R. - Page 1 of 7
Restaurant Name City
Rating
Carrol's Creek Cafe Annapolis, MD
OK seafood place, nothing special. Some specials appear to have been frozen. Decent wine list but nothing special.
The Brewer's Art Baltimore, MD
Reliable bar food and a great beer list. Food could have used more seasoning.
John Hagan's Tavern Braddock Heights, MD
Excellent old-fashioned restaurant on the outskirts of Frederick. The cuisine is what you would get at good restaurants in the 1960s, so it's not necessarily low-fat. Uniformly good, including the salads and soups which are quite interesting, but especially the breads and desserts baked on-premises.
Rio Grande Cafe Arlington, VA
Mediocre Mexican food without much flavor; obviously much of it was cooked long beforehand and reheated. Ingredients did not seem to be especially good quality either. There is one exception, however: They feature a tortilla-making machine in the entrance, and the tortillas are great.
Willow Reaturant Arlington, VA
Excellent contemporary-American cuisine done with care. Good wine list.
Ram's Head Tavern Savage Mill Savage, MD
Pub food, trying to be more upscale. Greens for salad were getting pretty old, something odd in a high-volume restaurant. Crab cake was big (as advertised) but didn't have much flavor (must have been frozen), and I had to specifically ask for a sauce. Nice cake for dessert at least.
Tersiguel's Ellicott City, MD
Adequate country-French restaurant. The usual dishes are offered with a few small creative touches here and there. Portion size is fine. Good wine list. I cannot give five stars to a restaurant unless it is significantly more creative.
Iron Bridge Wine Company Columbia, MD
Not very successful attempt at a wine bar had both poor food and poor wine. Salad had far too much blue cheese and nuts and fish was bland. The seven wines I sampled had little flavor and may have been damaged in transit or storage. If you're going to have a special wine offering, why pick an Italian barbera that has little fruit? The whole point of barbera is the lush fruit.
P. F. Chang's China Bistro Columbia, MD
Attempt at an upscale Chinese restaurant falls short. Lots of flashy details in the dishes, but in the end they're using the same low-quality ingredients that you see too often in cheap Chinese restaurants. Balance of flavors also seemed off, suggesting a poor executive chef. Chinese cooking depends considerably on good-quality fresh ingredients and this overly-large restaurant cannot provide that and serve so many patrons per day. Portions will also unnecessarily large, also suggesting poor quality. Wine list was not exciting.
Aida Bistro Columbia, MD
Wonderful Italian restaurant hidden in an industrial park south of MD 175. The chefs seem to be talented and have a menu well integrated with wine. Quality is uniformly high on the food. The nightly prix fixe dinner is a great way to be introduced to their quality (though be forewarned it's not a lot of food), and you can get small pours of three wines to go with it. I can't give it more than four stars though because it's only aiming at bistro food.
King's Contrivance Columbia, MD
OK better-quality restaurant but nothing special. Squash soup was the best thing about the meal, so I suspect the chef is inexperienced. They have a nice wine list.
Rowe's Family Restaurant Staunton, VA
Inexpensive family-style restaurant that's been in business a long time. But quality was poor at my visit. The menu promised pan-fried chicken cooked to order but mine was obviously reheated (it came too fast, for one). Salad greens were not fresh, and pinto beans came from a can. At least the pie special had been baked the same day and tasted great (note they sell pies too).
Squid's Restaurant Chapel Hill, NC
Mediocre but OK seafood. On two visits the seafood had been frozen both times. Grouper had no sauce and desperately needed it. Wine list is unimpressive and could use some more expensive offerings.
Wine Cask Santa Barbara, CA
Fancy bistro-style food with careful attention to wine matches. Terrine with shredded rabbit was superb, as was chesnut turnip soup. You can't go wrong with the wines by the glass. Food is nicely done.
Cuistot Restaurant Palm Desert, CA
Nice French restaurant with solid renditions of the classic approach. They're conservative, with a number of dishes with classic sauces, but all are done well and they have a number of more adventuresome things too. Wine list was good and fairly priced. I'm giving them 4 stars because, although good, it's not up to big-city standards.
Wally's Desert Turtle Rancho Mirage, CA
An old-fashioned "fancy restaurant" with lots of dishes popular in the 60s. Service was great -- it's rare to find a waitstaff this attentive. But alas, I don't care much about service, and the food was disappointing. Wild mushroom soup had too much cream and not enough mushroom flavor. Ostrich steak was way too tough and had little flavor -- if a restaurant doesn't know how to cook game, they shouldn't offer it. Pork loin was very dry and unpalatable. Chocolate dome had too much cream and not enough chocolate, and tasted very bland. We visited on Christmas day, however, and the food may not have been representative. And they have a good wine list. Still, I must review what I tasted.
Cheesecake Factory Marina Del Rey, CA
Crowd-pleasing restaurant with an enormous menu spanning virtually every major cuisine, great for families that can't agree on a cuisine. Prices are very good, including good-bargain items on the wine list. Portions are huge so plan on taking some home if you can. My Thai chicken and seafood in yellow curry sauce could have tasted fresher, but at these prices who's complaining? Nice deck to watch the marina, but it gets cold in the winter.
Spalti Palo Alto, CA
Clearly the best Italian place we've found in a long time -- this certainly is better than the too-conservative Cafe Pro Bono down the street, and the unimpressive Cafe Brioche with its bad cooking a few doors down. It's great to find an Italian place where the chef understands balancing of flavors in the dishes. Renditions of classic dishes clearly were better than most of the competition. The tiramisu is a good example -- not especially sweet, with plenty of coffee flavor. In general, the chef seems to avoid lots of sauce and heavy sauce, as this is Northern Italian cuisine, and their approach makes sense. So tomato sauce is not prominent. Nice wine list.
EOS Restaurant/Wine Bar San Francisco, CA
Impressive restaurant is the perfect place to go to find out what this Asian fusion thing is all about. Wonderful and unique flavors in most everything we ordered. For instance salads, so often boring elsewhere, were a real eye-opener here, with unusual ingredients and dressings. Tea-smoked ducked with a Western twist worked a lot better than any version of this I've had in conventional Asian restaurants. And naturally a superb wine list, which you'd expect from a place with an associated ambitious wine bar. We had a flight of mixed reds that was amazing. Still, I'm giving it four stars because the cooking was relatively straightforward -- which means that yes, I would find it very difficult to give five stars to any Asian restaurant. But being straightforward and unfussy can be a virtue.
Jardiniere San Francisco, CA
Sublime. I'm giving this one of my rare five-star ratings because everything was good, the sign of a great restaurant. Even fish in a simple preparation was wonderful. Amazing cheese sampler -- don't miss it, even if you haven't had cheese before. Portions are not large but are intensely flavored. My only complaint is the pricing: Food was too cheap, and wine was too expensive. Wine is a necessary part of the meal with food of this quality, and purchase of appropriate wines needs to be encouraged. But clearly the food prices were too low, and should be at least 50% higher, maybe 100% higher. Something's clearly wrong when you get five cheeses ripened in their own special cheese cellar for a mere $11 per person, and all the wines on the list are more expensive than twice that. I gather they're trying to encourage people to order the cheese. But taste it and you won't need any encouragement the next time you visit -- I have never tasted two cheeses this good in one sitting before, much less five.
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