Convivial: Best Meal of 2016 Thus Far

9 Sep

In what is a really overdue post, Rachel and I dined at Cedric Maupillier’s newest restaurant in Shaw a few months ago and were wowed by every facet the French-American bistro had to offer.

From the modern interior that seeped in an abundance of sunlight to the straightforward menu (actual entrees!) to the impeccably executed food, Convivial is a gem in Shaw and rightfully deserves its #4 ranking in Washingtonian’s “100 Very Best Restaurants 2016.”

Escargot in a blanket

As fans of Mintwood Place, where Chef Maupillier first made his mark in the District, it was great to see a refreshing take on his beloved escargot hushpuppies with escargot in, well, a blanket. Crunchy and delectable, this is the appetizer you need to start your meal off with.

Soccer with beets

The socca, however, is an absolute must-order just on presentation alone. The chickpea pancake sets the foundation for a tower of beets, citrus fruit, shaved fennel, and picholine olives. The combination, as eccentric as it sounds on paper, works so effortlessly well and is the epitome of a summer dish – light, refreshing, and full of flavor.

soft shell crab meunière

Rachel’s soft shell crab meunière was a delight, which was complemented by sweet corn and hazelnut grits.

fried chicken "coq au vin"

Naturally I had to try the fried chicken “coq au vin” which was just as good as it sounded. The doubly fried and braised chicken was incredibly juicy, bursting with notes of red wine, yet maintained a satisfyingly crunch after each bite.

key lime pie with speculoos crust

The key lime pie with speculoos crust was an outstanding dessert and rivaled any slice originating from Key West. Topped with slices of kiwi, Rachel and I would buy an entire pie if we could.

And while the food was incredible, the service was top-notch as well. Our friendly waitress helped us navigate the menu and was continually checking up on us.

Furthermore, given the quality and size of portions, I honestly think Convivial is one of the better values in the city. Both of our entrees were under $20, and considering the work Chef Maupillier and Co. are doing in the kitchen, I tip my hat to them for offering five-star food at such an affordable price point in a city that’s getting more expensive by the year if not month.

Convivial is an exceptional restaurant and both Rachel and I are comfortable in saying in that it’s been our best meal of the year so far.

Convival Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mezze Box Brings Fresh Mediterranean Meals to Your Door

11 Aug

As working parents with two young children, we’re always on the lookout for trying new ways to handle the logistics of having dinner ready between picking our kids up from daycare and getting them ready for bed in hopes of avoiding a late night meal after the dust has settled.

And while we’re fans of meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Home Chef, those recipes are still time-consuming and involve a good amount of both prep and cleanup.

Enter Mezze Box; a local startup that offers freshly prepared Mediterranean meals to your doorstep. Founder Johnny Seikaly, originally from Lebanon, cooks traditional Mediterranean fare using recipes passed down from his family that are both hearty and healthy.

Mezze Box

 

Mezze Box offers a rotating weekly menu featuring four individually sized main dishes as well as a handful of sides. And if you’re dining for two or more, they also offer Mezze Boxes, which mix and match entrees and sides that can accommodate four to up to ten people.

Last week, we had the opportunity to try their okra stew, lentils & rice, and cauliflower. Prepared with whole ingredients, all of which were listed on the packaging, the food tasted incredibly fresh and was bursting with Mediterranean flavor.

Okra Stew

 

The best part is that Mezze Box delivers not only to D.C., but also Maryland and Virginia, and the delivery is free if your order is over $25. And while they exclusively deliver on Mondays, they will be introducing daily delivery starting August 22!

DMV Dining readers can get 10% off their entire order by using code “DMVDINING”

A Birthday Dinner at Tail Up Goat

7 Jul

Let’s face facts – Rachel and I don’t go out nearly as much as we used to before we had kids, and now that we have two, expect that frequency to dip even further.  But then there’s the sacred “date night”, a time where Rachel and I hire a sitter, have a glass of wine, and enjoy each other’s company at a restaurant that’s either a staple of ours or has garnered some recent buzz.

Tail Up Goat, which opened earlier this year amidst much fanfare, boasts staff from the outstanding Komi and, perhaps one of my favorite restaurants, Little Serow. Located in Adams Morgan, Tail Up Goat is situated in the ground floor of a The Adamo; a condo building I didn’t even know existed that demonstrates how long it’s been since I’ve last visited this particular D.C. neighborhood.

Stracciatella

We kicked off the evening with the Stracciatella. The texture of the cheese resembled that of burrata, but was even creamier, and was accompanied by crispy artichokes and salsa verde. It was a very pleasing summer appetizer.

Charred chocolate rye

Up next was arguably the most unorthodox dish of the night – the charred chocolate rye. The freshly baked bread was generously smeared with a pea pesto and then topped with pickled tomatoes and salt-crusted sardines. Yep, sardines. There was a lot going on with this dish, and while I appreciate how the kitchen tried to create a balance of sweet and salty, the complexity of flavors was slightly overkill.

Carrot ravioli

On the other hand, the carrot ravioli demonstrates how Tail Up Goat excels in its pastas. The carrot-stuffed pasta, accompanied with baby leeks, apricots, and topped with pistachio breadcrumbs, was one of our favorite dishes of the evening. Just an incredibly unique dish that was perfectly executed.

Lamb ribs

And then that brings us to the crown jewel of Tail Up Goat: the lamb ribs. Quite reminiscent to the family-style main event goat platter at Komi, the ribs are meant for sharing, and Rachel and I went to town on this Mediterranean-style dish, complete with sumac onions, beets, and a wonderful yogurt sauce. Between the incredibly tender meat and generous portion (roughly 8-9 ribs), the visit is worth it alone just for this entree. Trust me.

lemon curb-stuffed cannoli

For dessert we decided to order a pair of lemon curb-stuffed cannoli. Topped with pistachios and placed on a dab of citrus marmalade, it was a playful interpretation of the classic Italian dessert.

Another highlight of the meal was the outstanding service. You could tell that the staff was disciples of Johnny Monis’ attention to detail, from the food, to the atmosphere, right down to the interaction between waiter and customer. Our server was incredibly helpful, attentive, and just all around pleasant.  I’m glad we had the opportunity to enjoy one of the rare nights Rachel and I get out at an establishment like this.

Tail Up Goat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pi Pizza Opens in Bethesda

9 Jun

While downtown Bethesda isn’t necessarily devoid of pizza joints, the St. Louis-based pizzeria Pi Pizza is famously known for its deep-dish cornmeal crust pizza and adds a Midwestern flair that helps it stand out from its nearby counterparts.  This is actually the second Pi in the Washington market as their D.C location, District of Pi, opened nearly three years ago in Penn Quarter.

In the space that formerly housed Pitzze and its previous incarnation, Haven, Pi Pizza looks to welcome Bethesda diners with their trademark deep-dish pizza as well as an array of toppings that includes prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, roasted chicken, and even daiya vegan cheese.

Thin-crust pizza

Since I was dining with my three year-old, I opted instead for the thin-crust style, as that was a bit more toddler-accessible as opposed to the deep-dish.  The crust was delightfully crispy and incorporated a sweet tomato sauce without being overly greasy.

Meatballs

Meanwhile, the biggest hit of the evening for my son was the meatballs.  Incorporating a pork and beef blend and topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan, my kid gobbled these up… and even asked for seconds!

Oven-blazed wings

And while the pizza is great, the oven-blazed wings are highly underrated. Prepared with a dry rub and baked in the oven (not fried!), the wings were accompanied with a yogurt cucumber dressing which was a nice, refreshing twist compared to your typical ranch dip.

Pi Pizza is a great addition to Bethesda, and with ample public parking in the back of the restaurant this looks to be a great destination for diners in search for a pie and a pint.

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.