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.


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.


“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.”


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.


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.

A.G. Kitchen Opens in Silver Spring

23 Jul

While several New York chefs have imported their restaurants into our nation’s capital, chef Alex Garcia decided to open the second location of his popular A.G. Kitchen in downtown Silver Spring.

Chef Alex Garcia

The original, which is located the Upper West Side, offers an array of Latin American fare in a casual, colorful setting. The Maryland location continues that theme of vibrancy in the heart of Silver Spring with a menu full of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.

AG 1940 Sparkling MojitoAG KitchenAG Kitchen

Rachel and I were invited to a preview event a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to sample some of Chef Garcia’s menu.

Seafood Ceviche

We started the evening off with a seafood ceviche that featured a medley of shrimp and lobster, blended with tomatoes mango and avocado.

Braised short ribs arepa

The braised short ribs arepa prominently showcased Garcia’s Cuban heritage with the traditional sweet yellow corn cake.

Seafood paella

The gorgeously arranged seafood paella was overflowing with crab laws, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, chorizo, rice, and last but not least, calamari salad.

Ultimate potato skin burger

Meanwhile, the “ultimate potato skin burger” fuses some American elements into the Cuban-inspired menu with a ribeye patty topped with crispy potato skin, cheddar, bacon, and crema.

Ultimate potato skin burger

The table even got to sample the full-size version of this behemoth as the smaller plate didn’t do it enough justice – there’s a reason why it’s listed under the menu as one of chef Garcia’s favorites amongst nearly a dozen burger offerings.

Chocolate empanadas and salted caramel milkshake

We concluded the evening with a trio of chocolate empanadas, complete with chocolate dipping sauce, as well as a miniature salted caramel milkshake. In fact, all of the milkshakes can be made boozy for an additional $5, because who doesn’t love boozy milkshakes?


One of the most memorable if not creative moments of the night was reading the dessert menu off of a 3D View-Master. Certainly brought back memories of our childhood (P.S. we’re officially old now).

A.G. Kitchen not only offers another exciting option in the ever-expanding dining scene of downtown Silver Spring with its first NYC import, but also brings a lively atmosphere complemented by a colorful backdrop of Latin American fusion.

A.G. Kitchen is located on 931 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.

The Room at McGinty's: Fine Dining within an Irish Pub

1 Jul

One of the newer concepts we have observed in the Washington dining scene are restaurants within a restaurant. We’ve seen Bryan Voltaggio do it with Aggio inside Range, his behemoth Chevy Chase restaurant (he even opened a standalone Aggio up in Baltimore). And to a lesser degree, there are also tasting menu experiences like Nonna’s Kitchen within Alphonse and Fishnook at Fishnet, separating diners from the bustling activity in the main dining room to a secluded part of the restaurant for a more intimate experience.

Now Silver Spring gets in on the action with The Room at McGinty’s. Wait, McGinty’s Public House? You mean that Irish bar across the street from the Regal Cinemas? Yep.

Unbeknownst to this writer, executive chef Nico Amroune, who has been helming the kitchen at McGinty’s Public House since 2011, has previously worked with famed D.C. chef Roberto Donna at the original Galileo, as well as at Tosca, Teatro Goldoni, and M Café. And while he’s been cooking classic Irish dishes the past few years, the newly-opened Room at McGinty’s has given Chef Amroune an opportunity to let his talents really shine.

Ahi tuna tartar

Take for example the ahi tuna tartar. Prepared with avocado, spicy radish, poppy seeds, and a ginger marinade, this isn’t exactly pub fare. What it is, however, is a deliciously fresh, gorgeous preparation of raw fish in the upstairs of an Irish bar. (Don’t worry – the large, separate dining room isolates a lot of the noise from the Public House patrons).

Burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad,

The burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad, adorned with roasted beets, quinoa fritters, arugula, and a blueberry vincotto immediately wowed Rachel, who remarked on the freshness of the locally-sourced ingredients.

Spring lamb Provençal

As for our entrees, the spring lamb Provençal was simply outstanding. Perfectly cooked at medium-rare, the herb-crusted lamb was complemented with an olive-oil potato puree, a wonderful ratatouille, and then capped off with a savory mint lamb jus. I had to do a double-take while eating this in the upstairs of an Irish pub – I can see why this dish deserves its very own dining room!

Roast Icelandic cod

Not to be outdone was Rachel’s roast Icelandic cod. Prepared with English pea creama, heirloom cauliflower, zaatar, and pea tendrils, this dish was superbly executed.

Salted caramel panna cotta

For dessert, we decided to be adventurous and try both the salted caramel panna cotta and the strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp

Both proved to be excellent endings to what was an incredible meal. While The Room at McGinty’s has been only open a month, Chef Amroune is doing some amazing things in the kitchen. This is downtown cooking that just happens to take place in the upstairs of a pub in the ‘burbs.

A Birthday Dinner at Crane and Turtle

28 May

Let’s cut straight to the chase: Last week’s dinner at Crane & Turtle was my favorite meal of the year thus far. And as much as I want to preface about how Rachel and I surprise each other for where we’re going to dinner on our respective birthdays, I figured out the destination of our reservation rather quickly as the both of us have been wanting to try  Paul Ruppert’s latest restaurant since it opened last year.

Nestled in a residential area of Petworth and located directly across the street from sister restaurant Petworth Citizen, chef Makoto Hamamura skillfully blends his Japanese heritage with his French training, which makes Crane & Turtle’s menu one of the most unique in the District. And with only 25 seats, it’s also one of the most intimate, too.

Big-eye tuna tataki

Take for instance our first course, the beautifully-presented big-eye tuna tataki. The tuna, which was smoked over hay, added a new dimension to the dish as the smokiness really added some flavor to the already high-quality slices of fish. Atop a satay sauce and garnished with pieces of socca, which is essentially a chickpea pancake, the combination of crunch and smoke really won us over after the first bite.

Warm bok choy salad

The warm bok choy salad was another departure from your typical appetizer. Accompanied with a blend of bamboo shoots and snow peas, fried shiitake mushrooms, and a mild ban ban ji sauce, the salad made for a terrific dish for a warm evening.

Szechuan-style duc

The highlight of the evening, however, was the Szechuan-style duck. The pan-roasted duck breast was perfectly cooked as the meat was wonderfully juicy and tender. The duck was paired with with pea shoots, braised yuba (also known as tofu skin), and was brought together by a flavorful dan dan sauce. Overall it was an exceptional entrée.

Pan Seared Maine Scallop

Rachel had the pan seared Maine scallops with asparagus, mores, red pearl onions, couscous, and sauce cardinal. Perfectly-seared scallops are generally good wherever you go, but the accompaniments really made the dish, especially the fresh spring vegetables.

Mount Fuji

As for dessert, our mutual affection towards molten chocolate cake led us to ordering the aptly-titled Mount Fuji. Complemented with salted caramel and coconut ice cream, the warm, gooey chocolate cake made for a delightful sweet and salty combination.

And then there’s the atmosphere, an element which deserves its own recognition. A good portion of that is attributed to none other than floor manager Elizabeth Parker, formerly of Rose’s Luxury. It’s no coincidence that Crane & Turtle shares some of Rose’s charm not only due to its intimacy but also because of its inviting, unpretentious vibe, and Ms. Parker plays a substantial role in that. In fact, she was not only our waiter but also crafted the featured rose menu as she oversees the restaurant’s beverage program. Some fun add-ons to the tab were reminiscent of Rose’s as well.


Oh, and they take reservations! I can’t stress how important this is since we’re parents that need to plan ahead when hiring a babysitter for the evening. Considering how en vogue it is these days with some restaurants only offering first-come, first-serve seating, it’s refreshing to see Crane & Turtle buck this trend. You won’t find them on Open Table though; they are using a new service which can be found through their website.

Birthday at Crane & Turtle

Another great component of Crane & Turtle is their patio menu, which basically offers all of their small plates and appetizers out in the front and can accommodate a little more than a dozen guests at time. It’s certainly a more affordable way to experience the restaurant given that the majority of the entrees start at the mid-20s.

There’s no denying the fact that Crane & Turtle has quickly ascended up the charts as one of my favorite restaurants in the District after just one visit. Between the homey atmosphere, wonderful staff, and inventive cooking, Mr. Ruppert’s latest venture might be his best yet.

Crane and Turtle on Urbanspoon

Ethio Express Grill Introduces Fast-Casual Ethiopian to Silver Spring

21 May

When one thinks of fast-casual, the first thought that crosses your mind is Chipotle. But the Washington area has taken that successful model one step further and applied it to salads (Sweetgreen), pizza (&Pizza), and even Greek fare (Cava Grill), all with rousing success. So what happens when you take one of the area’s most beloved ethnic foods and transform it into an affordable, quick meal? You get Ethio Express Grill.

As much as the District has developed over the past decade, one downside of all this gentrification are the rising rents resulting in the smaller mom and pop eateries either closing up shop or moving out to the suburbs. Just several weeks ago, Ethiopian staple Meskerem shuttered its doors in Adams Morgan; representing the sea change of clientele that now frequents the Northwest neighborhood amidst newer, more upscale restaurants (this blogger still mourns the loss of Pharmacy Bar). Washington Post writer Tim Carman even wrote a eulogy for Meskerem as it was the oldest operating Ethiopian restaurant in the U.S.

Ethio Express GrillEthio Express GrillEthio Express Grill

So it goes without saying that D.C.’s loss is Silver Spring’s gain, especially now that Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has dubbed the Montgomery County suburb “the new Little Ethiopia” in his Spring Dining Guide. And he’s absolutely right – with at least half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants in downtown Silver Spring alone, you don’t have to go far to get some tibs and kitfo.

Enter Ethio Express Grill. Located off of Sligo Avenue and sandwiched between several auto repair shops and Jackie’s, Ethio Express Grill offers diners a “build your own meal” menu that is comprised of four steps: a base (injera, pita, spaghetti, mixed greens, or brown rice), protein (grilled beef [tibs], chicken, lamb, or tofu), a choice of one of five housemade sauces, and then a choice of nearly a dozen hot and cold sides that range from ayib cheese to yellow split peas. All of the ordering is done at the cashier as opposed to watching it being constructed in line as the meat is cooked to order, but the wait time between placing your order and having it served to your table is minimal.

Injera Plate

The result is fresh, vibrant flavors in an efficient, cost-effective setting. The menu even offers half a dozen preconfigured plates which make it helpful for first-time visitors that get overwhelmed with the a la carte construction method. I ordered the Injera Plate, which was comprised of grilled beef, Ethio hot sauce, gomen (collard greens), spicy lentils (miser), yellow split peas (kik), and two pieces of injera. For $9.29, this was a considerable amount of food that is not only filling but also just as authentic as a meal from a full-service Ethiopian restaurant.

Grilled chicken plate

Rachel went the creative route and ordered grilled chicken, yogurt honey sauce, kik, green lentil salad (azifa), quinoa salad, and cucumber salad.

We were both impressed by our meals, and we’re so glad a place like this exists just down the road from us. If we could offer any critique, it would be to offer a paper menu with descriptions that someone can review before ordering. The list of sides to choose from could be somewhat daunting for a newcomer to Ethiopian food, and since you can’t look at an open counter to point at them, it would be helpful to have that option before going to the counter to order. While the location is a little off the beaten path, Ethio Express Grill has a lot of potential and makes for a terrific quick lunch or dinner should you be in the downtown Silver Spring area, or should I say the new Little Ethiopia.

Ethio Express Grill on Urbanspoon

Ananda: Indian Delight in the Suburbs

30 Apr

When you have friends that live in Baltimore, it’s a bit challenging trying to determine a restaurant to meet in the middle between Charm City and our nation’s capital. But then I remembered reading Todd Kliman’s glowing review of Ananda, an Indian restaurant located in Howard County, last fall in Washingtonian. Only a few months later, Ananda was named the 16th best restaurant in this year’s Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list, prompting Rachel to book a table for four a few weeks ago.

It turned out that Ananda was nearly equidistant from Fells Point and Silver Spring in terms of travel time, and while the restaurant is nestled within the Maple Lawn planned community of townhomes, storefronts, and traffic circles in Fulton, Maryland, once you step inside you nearly forget that you’re dining in the ‘burbs.

The interior was rather lavish, with tables adorned with white tablecloths and formally-dressed wait staff bustling around the dining room as if you were having dinner in Penn Quarter.

We started our meal off by opening with the avocado and roasted corn salad. Blended with red peppers, white balsamic vinaigrette, and topped with a thin, crispy papadam, it was a refreshing appetizer to say the least.

Avocado and roasted corn salad

Up next was one of their appetizer specials, Gobinda. It was a roasted, slightly spicy cauliflower dish that was both crispy and delicious.

Roasted caulifower

Three out of four of us ordered the almond-crusted lamb chops as our entrée, not only because of the acclaim from Mr. Kliman’s review but also based on the waiter’s recommendation. The endorsements from both gentlemen rang true after the best bite. Accompanied with mint chutney and masala, the quartet of succulent lamb chops were perfectly cooked and praised as a terrific dish by the entire table.

Almond-crusted lamb chops

Meanwhile Rachel opted for the roasted wild salmon with a spicy tomato coulis (Fish Tikka). It was another excellent entrée which also had a good amount of heat. While it was probably at the upper end of Rachel’s tolerance for spice, I personally loved it. We also ordered naan for the table, which is always a given, but the cucumber raita was superb and really stood out.

Fish Tikka

To round out the evening, we got the saffron poached pear with cardamom ice cream for dessert. There’s nothing better than melted ice cream atop a pear cobbler, or any type of cobbler for that matter.

Saffron poached pear with cardamom ice cream

Our entire table was not only impressed by how good the food was, but that there was a restaurant of this caliber right in the middle of a suburban town center between D.C. and Baltimore. And that’s not a knock on Fulton – in fact, I’d be pretty jealous of being walking distance to this place if I lived there, especially for happy hour. Anyway, Ananda is worth the visit if you’re driving up or down 95 just for those amazing lamb chops.

Ananda on Urbanspoon