A Valentine's Day Dinner at Bistro Bis

31 Mar

After all the years we have lived in the Washington area, this was our first visit to the Capitol Hill staple Bistro Bis. We were looking to spend an evening out for Valentine’s Day without paying an extraordinary amount on a prix-fixe menu, and Jeffery Buben’s bistro happened to be offering a la carte options and had availability. Additionally, Bistro Bis recently cracked the top 20 of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants of 2016, further piquing our interest.

One thing I love about restaurants is when they offer an assortment of non-alcoholic cocktails. Given that Rachel is currently pregnant (apologies for the lack of formal press release), we asked our waiter if they had any mocktails available from the bar. He came back with a tropical hand-shaken cocktail, poured right from the strainer, into Rachel’s glass. It was a very nice touch.

Mocktail

We kicked things off with a French classic, escargot. This preparation, however, was a deviation from your typical butter-drenched snails and instead was presented in a lighter fashion of garlic, sunchoke purée, fennel, Seville orange and topped with a puff pastry. It was a welcome change while we both marveled at the gorgeous presentation.

Escargot

For our main courses, I opted for the Icelandic cod à la Barigoule. The perfectly cooked potato-crusted fish was placed atop a bed of parsley-spinach purée and accompanied with baby artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and drizzled with tapenade vinaigrette, not to mention what tasted like potato-flavored foam. I have to admit that it’s been awhile since I’ve seen foam, but it was a welcome if not aesthetically pleasing addition.

Icelandic cod à la Barigoule

It’s hard to know if Rachel was more blown away by the presentation of the Sea Scallops Crecy or how the flavors worked so wonderfully together. The scallops were seared along with coriander-roasted carrots, black forbidden rice, a carrot purée, and smoked shiitakes. The best part of the dish had to be the shiitake mushrooms, as they tasted so smoky and meaty in such an intriguing way that she savored each bite. The overall dish was a far cry from a traditional French meal, but she loved it.

Sea Scallops Crecy

For dessert, we shared the Profiterole au Framboise. The appropriately colored for Valentine’s Day choux pastry was stuffed with raspberry mouse and vanilla ice cream, and then toped with a raspberry coulis. It was a sweet and filling dessert that made for a great ending to a terrific dinner.

Profiterole au Framboise

I’m still amazed that this was the first time we have dined at Bistro Bis, but it certainly won’t be our last.

Bistro Bis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sichuan Excellence at Peter Chang

11 Feb

Between the countless number of restaurants that have opened in the Washington metropolitan area, Peter Chang’s not one but two expansions to the region were slightly overlooked. Maybe it’s because he decided upon the suburban locales of Rockville and Arlington instead of Shaw or Petworth, but regardless if it’s located in the District or not, it’s worth the trip up the Pike for some fabulous Sichuan fare (and those in Virgina don’t have to go too far, either).

It’s fair enough to say that nearly all of the dishes we had at Peter Chang were something we have never experienced before. Take for instance the dry fried eggplant. They were essentially eggplant fries sans any trace of grease while the outside remained delightfully crispy. Topped with chilies and Sichuan pepper, this isn’t even the spiciest dish on the menu, but if you’re a fan of heat then the dry fried eggplant is a must-order.

Dry fried eggplant

The scallion bubble pancake is highly recommended just for presentation alone. The pair of piping-hot puffy pastries (say that three times fast) arrives to the table with a side of curry sauce that makes for a great starter.

Scallion bubble pancake

I don’t know what was more memorable about the bamboo flounder: the presentation or how it actually tasted. Just like the aforementioned dishes, this was unlike anything I have had before. Crispy strips of lightly fried flounder were beautifully arranged between pieces of bamboo and, just like the eggplant, were topped with cilantro, chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, adding a nice kick to an already amazing dish.

Bamboo Flounder

Grandma’s noodle was another favorite amongst the table.  Topped with chili power, scallion, garlic cilantro, soy sauce, and hot oil, this is yet another spicy dish but the al dente noodles helped neutralize some of the heat.

Grandma's noodle

The hot and numbing combination speaks for itself. A simmering bowl of flounder, shrimp, chicken, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and sweet potato noodle situated in a spicy broth, with nearly one out of four bites involving a unique numbing sensation. If you’re sensitive to spice then this isn’t the dish for you, but if you’re an adventurous eater and crave heat then this is right up your alley. Just take a breather or three once the numbing takes over.

Hot and numbing combination

On the flipside, Chang’s seafood in a stone pot was a much milder option. Featuring jumbo shrimp, flounder, scallops, and mixed vegetables, the curry-based broth was a nice retreat from the hot and numbing combination but still a very enjoyable, generously portioned entrée.

Seafood in a stone pot

The grand finale was the tea-smoked duck, arguably my favorite entrée of the evening. Accompanied with a side of crispy onions, the perfectly cooked medium rare duck had a delightful smokiness to it that really impressed me. Had we not ordered a dish too many, I would have finished it on the spot (rest assured the leftovers didn’t last long).

Tea-smoked duck,

Overall, I couldn’t be happier about our dinner at Peter Chang. I’ve never eaten such a unique array of dishes in one sitting and was very impressed with each preparation. Our only downfall was ordering too many items between four people – we simply got too much food, as the portions are very generous. Needless to say I’m really looking forward to our next visit as this is a wonderful addition to Rockville.

Peter Chang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Our Favorite Dishes of 2015

30 Dec

With a three year-old and a house in the burbs, DMV Dining shifted towards exploring more family-friendly dining options this year than routinely dining in the District proper, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a variety of amazing dishes regardless of venue. And while we were able to have a date night or two in the city, there’s a multitude of terrific options outside the D.C. border. With that said, here are our favorite dishes of 2015:

Pork Lychee Salad – Rose’s Luxury

First of all, we’re just proud of the fact we were able to walk into Rose’s on a humid summer day and get a seat within half an hour (it can be done!). After coming off that high, we were brought back to cloud nine with their incredible pork lychee salad. Composed of pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, and raw onion, it’s a combination of ingredients that somehow works, and works well. Like, really well.

Pork Lychee Salad

Shoyu Ramen – Ren’s Ramen

I’ve expressed my love for Ren’s Ramen countless times, but it really is one of the best ramen shops in the area. Despite the lack of parking, the Soup Nazi-reminiscent list of rules posted on the front door, and cash-only policy, it’s still worth the trip to Wheaton. My go-to is their Sapporo-style Shoyu ramen. For $10 you get a heaping bowl of soy sauce flavored soup prepared with Tonkotsu broth, roast pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, scallions, onion, and ground pork. It’s a rich and hearty ramen that makes for an ideal wintertime meal.

Shoyu Ramen

Palak Chaat – Rasika

What needs to be said? This is a quintessential dish at a classic venue.

Palak Chaat

Baklava – YiaYias’s Kitchen

This Beltsville restaurant servers up some incredible gyros (although I’m still partial towards Marathon Deli in nearby College Park), but the baklava stands out as one of their top dishes. With endless layers of filo held together by honey, it makes for a wonderfully sticky treat.

Baklava

 

Injera Plate – Ethio Express Grill

Silver Spring’s Ethio Express Grill marks the first time Ethiopian food has entered the incredibly popular fast-casual market, but rest assured quality is not compromised despite the express moniker. Their trademark platter features grilled beef (tibs), hot sauce, ayib cheese, collard greens (gomen), spicy lentils (miser), and split peas (kik), and is accompanied by warm injera bread. It made for a quick, affordable, and certainly delicious lunch.

Injera Plate

Szechuan-style Duck – Crane and Turtle

Chef Makoto Hamamura is doing incredible things at Paul Ruppert’s Petworth restaurant, where Japanese cooking wonderfully intertwines with French cuisine. Paired with pea shoots, braised Yuba, and dan dan sauce, the savory, perfectly cooked duck was the highlight of an outstanding birthday dinner.

Szechuan-style duck

The Hot Mess – Frankly Pizza

Frankly Pizza has been one of the biggest additions to what has been a somewhat lackluster dining scene in Kensington. Starting off as a mobile wood-fired pizza trailer back in 2011, Frankly Pizza opened its doors in 2014 and has been incredibly busy since. All of their pizzas are outstanding, but the Hot Mess really stood out. Topped with mozzarella, pickled jalapenos, caramelized onions, bacon, Gruyere and Romano, we had to get this amazing pie to go since the wait for tables was so long!

The Hot Mess

Crispy Miso Kushi-Katsu – KAZ Sushi Bistro

Chef Kaz Okochi’s downtown restaurant is more than just a sushi spot, albeit a great one. From an extensive sake menu to an array of small plates, KAZ also offers some popular Japanese street food such as these incredibly delicious panko-crusted pork and onion skewers. Topped with sweet red miso sauce and Japanese mustard, this deep-fried delicacy makes for great bar fare.

Fried pork skewer with miso and mustard

Brisket Buns – Momofoku CCDC

The opening of David Chang’s latest venture in CityCenter brought much ballyhoo to the District, and while no restaurant can match that amount of hype, Momofoku delivered when it came to its brisket buns. The combination of pickled red onion, cucumber, horseradish sauce, and slow-roasted brisket is well worth the wait.

Brisket buns

Dry fried Eggplant – Peter Chang

We haven’t even had time to write about our wonderful dinner at Peter Chang’s Rockville spot from last week yet (rest assured, we will), but the dry fried eggplant was an exceptional dish and nothing like I have had before. They were essentially eggplant fries sans any trace of grease while the outside remained delightfully crispy. Topped with chilies and Sichuan pepper, this isn’t even the spiciest dish on the menu, but if you’re a fan of heat then the dry fried eggplant is a must-order.

Dry fried Eggplant

LivingSocial Launches "Restaurants Plus", Offers Cashback to Diners

7 Dec

Rachel and I have used LivingSocial countless times, especially when it comes to restaurants, but now they have introduced a new feature entitled Restaurants Plus.

Restaurants Plus

Restaurants Plus gives diners the opportunity to earn cashback from over 140 participating restaurants in the Washington metropolitan area just by paying with their enrolled credit or debit card. There’s no voucher or pre-purchase required, making the transaction utterly seamless.

Let’s say you’re in the mood for pizza and want to earn cash back on your purchase. Simply use LivingSocial’s map tool, filter pizza locations, and viola! Now you’ve found 21 participating pizza joints that are offering 10%, 20%, or even 30% cashback when you pay with your registered card. There are some great restaurants already participating, such as Toro Toro, Kaz Sushi Bistro, Baby Wale, and Fat Pete’s Barbecue, just to name a few.

Diners simply register their credit or debit card with LivingSocial and then use said card to pay for meals at participating restaurants.

So head out and grab some sushi and sake at Kaz or order the faux ribeye at Baby Wale and get cash back from your meal this evening. Just be sure to register your card first!

[This blog post was sponsored by LivingSocial]

A Birthday Dinner at Momofoku CCDC

2 Dec

Whenever one of our birthdays rolls around, the normal course of action is to surprise the other with reservations for a restaurant we have never been to before. But given that the much-anticipated D.C. location of Momofoku suddenly opened a couple of weeks ago, I immediately jumped at the chance of securing a table for last Saturday night and had to tell her right away

And while David Chang’s latest venture offers limited reservations on their website, they also offer a few tables on OpenTable as well, the latter of which got us a table for four last Saturday evening much to my amazement. Given the fact that we need to hire a babysitter these days, this was a very ideal situation that was validated more so by the fact that the wait time for walk-ins was three hours. Yes, you read that right. Three hours!

Brisket buns

The four of us decided to share a variety of appetizers amongst the table before ordering their own entree. Without hesitation we kicked the meal off with an order of their brisket buns, arguably my favorite dish of the evening.  Topped with a creamy horseradish sauce, picked red onion, and cucumber and sandwiched by an incredibly warm and soft bun, the slow-roasted brisket was delightfully tender and flavorful.

Pork buns

The pork buns, stuffed with hoisin sauce, scallion, and cucumber, were nearly as good but the brisket variety was my preferred choice of the two.

Spicy cucumber

The spicy cucumber appetizer was a very good if not unique appetizer. The thick slices of cucumber were smothered in a spicy green sauce and topped with crushed peanuts, but the heat was mild enough that it didn’t overpower the dish. Kudos to Eater on the tip as it was a great suggestion that we never would have ordered otherwise.

Biscuit bites

The biscuit bites were another favorite amongst our party, and the creamy Szechuan honey butter definitely stole the show.

Kimchi

We also got an order of the kimchi but it was pretty standard stuff. Not bad but nothing out of the ordinary.

Kimchi stew

I opted for the kimchi stew for my main course as the ingredients really piqued my interest as opposed to the other ramen offerings. Served in a behemoth bowl, Chang uses a pork bone ramen broth that is accented with two-week old kimchi, generous slices of pork shoulder, roasted onions, and rice cakes. The stew had just the right amount of spice without going overboard, and while $19 is a bit steep, this could have easily been shared amongst two people.

Hozon ramen

Rachel ordered the hozon ramen which came with scallion, kale, and panisse. Being a vegetarian ramen, it was very different from the traditional types of noodle soups and even more so then any other vegetarian version. The broth is actually chickpea-based and is very earthy and rich while the noodles were pretty perfect. The other thing she didn’t love about it was the panisse, which was essentially like large pieces of dried bread or croutons on top. The problem was that there was so much of it that it got soggy and appeared to overwhelm the rest of the dish.

Crack pie

For dessert, we decided to share a slice of Milk Bar’s famous Crack Pie between the four of us. Suffice to say the pie was a bit of a letdown as the typically decadent pastry was a bit stiff and nearly required a knife to cut. Maybe we should have gotten the full pie instead, or perhaps we just got a bad piece.We also got a bunch of individually wrapped cookies to go because, well, it’s pretty damn impossible to leave the place without a compost or corn cookie.

Cookies

Overall both Rachel and I thought Momofoku was solid but not OMG YOU GUYS YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS. The hype machine has fueled the place for months (and yeah we’ll take partial responsibility for that) but it’s not the most amazing meal you’ll ever have and certainly not worth a three-hour wait! (I mean is any restaurant worth waiting that long for? No.)

And when you live a couple of miles down the road from Ren’s Ramen, it’s really hard to justify spending $18 on ramen that’s just not as good as the no-frills Wheaton shop for the expectation of the aforementioned kimchi stew. Where Momofoku really shines is with its terrific buns and small plates. At any rate, it’s nice to see David Chang return home after all these years. So yes go, but for goodness sake, make a reservation! Now pass me a corn cookie.

Momofuku CCDC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sake Sipping Classes at KAZ Sushi Bistro

20 Oct

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly well versed when it comes to sake, but that’s where Kaz Okochi, chef and owner of downtown staple KAZ Sushi Bistro, steps in.

Sake sipping class

Okochi, who has been working behind some of the District’s best sushi counters since the early 90’s, has started offering weekly sake tasting classes as a way to introduce his American audience to a beverage mostly associated with hot cups and sake bombs (both of which contain the cheap stuff).

Mozzarella cheese marinated in miso with blueberry

But Okochi wants his customers to experience the extensive range of cold sakes available, especially since the Japanese drink is widely accessible these days thanks to its rising popularity.

Sake

Back when Chef Kaz was working at Sushiko, it took him nearly a year to convince a D.C. distributor to carry it. In fact, not only did he find the one person in California that imports sake, he guaranteed to buy every bottle they got.

Sake can

Now there are nearly 400 sakes available in the states, and with sake breweries emphasizing exports, the beverage can now be found in several shops in the metropolitan area both in bottle and can formats.

Grilled fava bean

Kaz’s sake tasting class is more like a wine program than matching certain types of sake with food. “Sake can match with any Japanese food”, remarked Okochi, and after trying several varieties and complementing them with dishes such as grilled fava bean, fried pork skewers, and Japanese fried chicken wings, he’s absolutely right.

Sake

“I want the customers to learn the different kids of sake, and learn which ones they like.” And with sakes flavored with strawberry or aged in cedar, Kaz takes you on an amazing journey with a beverage that tastes wildly different from the next. And this is sake we’re talking about!

Fried pork skewer with miso and mustard

Kaz Sushi Bistro offers its sake tasting class every Monday in October. The $45 course includes gratuity and tax, making for an exceptional value given the broad range of sakes you’ll get to sample along with Kaz’s outstanding cooking.

Japanese pancake

The class is sold out the rest of the month, but don’t hesitate to sign up for the waitlist as there will most likely be more openings in the near future. Oh, and be sure to leave room for the sake kasu ice cream.

Sake kasu ice cream

Kaz Sushi Bistro is located at 1915 I Street NW, Washington D.C.

Night at The Yards: Friday, October 16

5 Oct

What better way to spend a Friday evening than under the big top at The Yards for an evening of food, drink, and music benefiting Living Classrooms, a nonprofit organization that strengthens communities and inspires young people to achieve their potential through hands-on education and job training, using urban, natural, and maritime resources as “living classrooms.”

LivingClassrooms

Night at The Yards will feature music by New Orleans funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk as well as D.C’s own Queen Beez. And with over a dozen food and beverage sponsors ranging from Bluejacket to Osteria Morini, Night at The Yards will be a memorable event for an even greater cause.

Tickets are $110 in advance and $120 at the door with the festivities kicking off at 7pm at the D.C. waterfront. Hope to see you there!

'Chups: A Capital Condiment

10 Sep

Summer may be almost over, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy dinners outside and make use of your grill. Earlier this summer, we received a sample pack of ‘Chups fruit ketchups, and really enjoyed the opportunities to try the different flavors and pair them with meats, fries, and veggies.

Chups

What exactly are ‘Chups? A small local company founded by couple Matt and Kori Wallace, ‘Chups are fruit-based sauces and dips meant to serve as a flavorful alternative to standard run-of-the-mill ketchup. Over the last few weeks we have tried cherry, blueberry, plum, mango, and spicy pineapple.

We enjoyed all of them but especially the spicy pineapple and cherry. The cherry and blueberry paired best with filet mignon on the grill, and we made some simple grilled chicken strips we loved with mango and spicy pineapple. And all were great with fries, both sweet potato and regular.

Filet with blueberry Chups

The blueberry Chups really complemented this grilled filet

 

‘Chups are actually made right at Union Kitchen, a food incubator in DC. To purchase your own, you can order directly online or find them at several local markets including Little Red Fox, Glen’s Garden Market, select Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and more.

The ‘Chups website offers some great recipes to try that incorporate different flavors. The recipe for ‘Chups Glazed Roasted Brussels Sprouts is one we definitely can’t wait to test in the kitchen!

Galley Offers New Alternative to Stress-Free Dining

13 Aug

Between both of us working full-time jobs and having a toddler, we have tried to be creative over the last few years when it comes to dinnertime. The big question was if we could get dinner on the table before it’s time to get our son to bed. Otherwise Brett and I wouldn’t be able to sit down and have dinner till after 8:30 at night.

We did meal subscription services such as Blue Apron for some time, but we actually found it more complicated and time-consuming than dishes we would normally make. I also try to find some easy crock-pot meals or dishes that can be frozen in advance and then cooked that day. Sometimes, dinner is just veggie burgers and fries, or pasta and steamed vegetables — not that there’s anything wrong with that!

But there are times when you simply don’t wish to cook, but also don’t necessarily want to go out to dinner or bring in greasy takeout food. Enter Galley.

Shrimp tacos

A relatively new local company, Galley started earlier this year and offers a way to have restaurant-quality food delivered to your doorstep, made entirely with fresh and organic ingredients. You can sign up through the website and order directly there or via your Apple device. Just recently, Galley also began offering lunch service in certain areas of the District. Again, it’s an easy way to get locally-sourced meals without the hassle.

Shrimp diablo with watercress salad

Because Galley also recently expanded to the Bethesda area, we decided to give it a try. While not yet available in Silver Spring, I had the order delivered to my office or gym and then brought it home to heat up in the oven. The only tricky part is that the windows for delivery are not until the evening hours, so if we were to continue Galley we would likely need to wait until they expand their delivery zone to Silver Spring to do it on a regular basis.

Jamaican Escovitch

Another nice feature is that the cost for each meal includes tax and delivery, so what you see is what you get. The majority of meals cost $14 and some are even less than that. All meals are fairly balanced and include a protein and at least one side. Each entrée arrives packaged in cardboard containers that can be used when heating in the oven or microwave, and all have the same instructions of heating for 10 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees, or for a few minutes in the microwave.

Summer steak with watermelon salsa

Also, once your meal is on its way, you receive a text message as a heads up and an email that includes plating instructions, whether you’re serving to impress or simply want a quick meal for yourself.

Now on to the food: Over the last few weeks, we tried two steak dishes, a shrimp diablo, a pasta with spinach and ricotta, a fish dish, and shrimp tacos. Overall, they were very satisfying meals and plating them with the easy instructions made them feel more like eating at a restaurant as opposed to takeout. Some were definitely more hits than others, with the favorites being the steak dishes and shrimp tacos.

Spring pasta with seared steak

The only thing we should mention are that the portions were a little on the smaller side, so it’s something to keep in mind when ordering for two. A good way to keep portions under control, but don’t expect any leftovers.

Overall, Galley is a great new dining alternative in the Washington metropolitan area. We’re excited to see it expand further into the Maryland and Virginia suburbs so others can try it for themselves!

DMV Dining readers: get your first meal free when you sign up for Galley here

Not Your Average Joe's Opens in Bethesda

30 Jul

A few weeks ago we were invited to the soft opening of the second Maryland location of Not Your Average Joe’s in Bethesda off of Old Georgetown Road, the same address that once housed Hamburger Hamlet. As beloved as that restaurant was by locals, Not Your Average Joe’s is a substantial upgrade and then some.

The 7,000 square feet space can accommodate up to 200 diners inside as well as an additional 75 patrons out on the patio. The New England-based chain prides itself on its reasonably-priced, seasonally-inspired menu, but it’s even more accommodating to gluten-free diners with an entirely separate menu which is certainly a nice touch.

Bulleit Bourbon Lemonade and Joe's Margarita

Meanwhile the bar area makes for a great gathering spot by offering 20 drafts on tap, with nearly half of the lines dedicated to “Backyard Brews” that feature local breweries such as DC Brau, Flying Dog, and Devil’s Backbone. We started the evening off with a pair of refreshing summer cocktails – the Bulleit Bourbon Lemonade and Joe’s Margarita (the latter of which can be ordered “skinny” for those counting calories).

ahi tuna wontons

The two of us split the ahi tuna wontons as an appetizer. Topped with sesame-crusted tuna, pickled ginger, and wasabi aioli, diners have their preference of Japanese chili spiced crispy wontons or chilled cucumbers (we opted for the latter).

Vietnamese salmon

For my entrée I went with the Vietnamese salmon, which was served in a large bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, vegetables, and lime-infused chili broth.

Herb-crusted haddock

Rachel got the herb-crusted, pan-seared haddock that was accompanied with a parmesan-cauliflower mash, green beans, and tartar sauce.

Molten chocolate cake,

We concluded the evening with the classic molten chocolate cake, because who doesn’t love warm, gooey cake and vanilla ice cream?

Between the great location and accessible menu, Not Your Average Joe’s makes for a solid dining option whether you’re going out as a couple, family, or large party. And with a Silver Spring location on the horizon, the restaurant appears to have a winning formula.