Archive | October, 2011

Persimmon: A Bethesda Bistro

26 Oct

I am very fortunate that my parents live only a few hours away up in New Jersey, and whenever they come to visit, they like to see new things in the DC area and go out to fun restaurants. Last week, they visited for my mom’s birthday and I decided that we should go somewhere in Bethesda that has a great reputation for quality food: Persimmon.

We have eaten at Persimmon several times for lunch but only during Restaurant Week. This was our first dinner experience off the regular menu, and we have to admit, we had some high expectations. Tucked away on the edge of Bethesda along Wisconsin Avenue, it is easy to miss this unassuming restaurant. However, year after year, it earns high marks both from critics and diners, so off we went to see for ourselves.

Smoked trout spring rolls

The only tricky thing about eating out with my parents is that my mom is strictly kosher and only eats fish when dining out, so I always make sure beforehand that there is enough on the menu for her to choose from. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many options as I had hoped for, but in the end, my mom enjoyed her meal as we all did.

To start, we ordered a bottle of Bex Riesling. I had first learned about this label from my friend Lisa and we really enjoyed it as a light and crisp wine. We all shared the smoked trout spring rolls and the roasted beet salad as starters.

Roasted beet salad

The spring rolls were accompanied with hoisin barbecue and peanut sauce and paired well with the trout due to the appetizer’s smokiness. It was a dish that I wasn’t sure would work from the description, but it definitely did. Meanwhile, the beet salad consisted of roasted beets, arugula, blue cheese, apples, walnuts and a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette. It was a beautiful fall salad and a nice starter to the meal.

Seared Beef Tenderloin

For our entrees, my mom ordered the salmon, which was served with artichokes, mushrooms, and a basil risotto. The salmon was perfectly cooked while the risotto was so delicious that it could have been a meal in itself. My dad got the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, spinach, and fried onions. It seemed like a very conventional dish on paper but that didn’t mean my dad did not devour his plate.

Pan-seared rockfish

I went with the pan-seared rockfish, which was accompanied with shrimp, zucchini, exotic mushrooms, crispy polenta cake, and a lobster beurre blanc sauce. There was a lot going on in this dish, but somehow it all worked. I really enjoyed the rockfish and it was fun mixing all the flavors together in the dish. The sauce was very salty, but overall, I really liked all the components both apart as well as together.

Sautéed lump crab cakes

Brett went with the sautéed lump crab cakes with bacon mashed potatoes, roasted corn hash and a sweet corn sauce. While it was an adequately-sized portion, the crab cakes were rather ordinary as they had a bland flavor and lacked the lump meat consistency that we’ve found at other restaurants (see Jerry’s Seafood). On the flipside, he really liked the roasted corn hash and sauce as it was a nice complement to the crab meat.

While we were very stuffed at this point, my dad ordered a crème brulee for my mom, which we all happily shared. All in all, it was a terrific meal that did not disappoint. We also noticed that Persimmon offers a sunset dinner special that features a three-course menu for only $30. The only caveat? It’s offered Sunday through Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm. We’ll definitely have to take advantage of that deal at some point. We have also been eying their brunch for some time, and if our dinner was any indication, it will definitely be on our list to visit again soon.

Persimmon on Urbanspoon

PS 7's Transforms into Italian Trattoria for One Night Only

25 Oct

When we made a reservation for PS 7’s a few weeks ago, we had no idea that Chef Peter Smith would be transforming his restaurant into an Italian Trattoria the very same night. In fact, we had only found out just a couple of days prior thanks to Eater, but if anything, it made our dinner plans even more appealing.

When we arrived at the restaurant, PS 7’s had gone into full pop-up mode. The tables were adorned with red and white tablecloths, Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” was playing over the PA, and the menus were replaced with handwritten ones featuring Italian dishes inspired by Smith’s great grandmother, complete with illustrations scribbled in pen. It felt very authentic.

PS 7's Trattoria MenuPS 7's Trattoria MenuPS 7's Trattoria Menu

The full menu was also available, but it proved difficult not to partake in the festive atmosphere given the exclusive dishes being served that night. On top of that, the menu also featured its own wine selection as well as several desserts.

Roasted peppers

For our first course, Rachel ordered the roasted peppers appetizer. Featuring fire-roasted red and yellow peppers, arugula, ricotta salata, black pepper, and drizzled with a white balsamic and rosemary reduction, it was a nice way to start off our Italian meal. The best part, however, might have been the polenta croutons.

Rice balls

I went with the rice balls, or Arincini. While I’m partial to the ones found at Taylor Deli, Chef Smith’s rendition took it to the next level. Comprised of mozzarella, salami, ricotta, roasted garlic, tomato confit, and a ricotta schmear, the Arincini were nicely crisp on the outside and completely savory on the inside.

Veal Saltimbocca

As for our entrees, I went the traditional route with the veal saltimbocca. Topped with slices of house-cured ham, and accompanied with a hard-boiled egg as well as a side of spinach while sitting in sage sauce, it really exceeded my expectations. The veal was excellently cooked, tender, and full of flavor. Combined with the fact that you received two cutlets for a very reasonable price of $18, it proved to be an incredible value.

Zuppa di pesce

Rachel ordered the zuppa di pesce, which included clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari, all sitting in a bowl of shellfish tomato broth. She loved the richness of the broth but thought it was just a tad too salty. The seafood was delicious but felt that the bread was a little too oily. She only wished that there was more seafood or even some pasta to accompany it.

As much as we wanted to continue the Italian theme, we went against the grain and ordered dessert from the regular menu instead. PS 7’s is particularly known for its desserts thanks to pastry chef Lauren Whitledge, and let me you, she did not disappoint. We decided to share three of her dishes amongst our table so we could try a bite of each.

Lemon Ice Box

First up was the Lemon Ice Box. If you’re a fan of all things lemon, then this might prove difficult to pass this up. Featuring blueberry jam, lemoncello gelée, and lemon custard, just the presentation alone was stunning. This might have the unanimous favorite with the table.

P.B. & J

Up next was the P.B. & J. Comprised of peanut butter crème, peanut sponge, and concord grapes, it was by far the richest of the three desserts. It was a great interpretation of the lunchtime favorite, though Rachel felt that the grapes were a little overpowering at times. Still, it was a fun, imaginative dish that you wouldn’t be able find at other places.

Sorbet trio

We decided to keep it simple with our last dish, a sorbet trio. While it might have been the least creative dessert of the three we ordered, the flavors were some of the best. Seriously, this is some excellent sorbet. Featuring raspberry, mango, and lavender, we were all wowed by the taste as well as the texture.

All and all, we felt that PS 7’s trattoria concept was an unqualified success. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical how the dishes would turn out since this was the first time they were running this event, but the saltimbocca tasted like the chef had been cooking it for years. The whole concept was executed very well, and what’s even better was that the prices were substantially less than what is offered on the regular menu.

Trattoria Menu

PS 7’s has hosted their trattoria event twice now, and we hope that it continues. They served up some fine Italian cuisine that evening, and while they might be known more for their ahi tuna sliders and housemade hot dogs, I hope it’s not the last we see of that saltimbocca.

PS7's on Urbanspoon

Primanti Brothers: A Pittsburgh Institution

21 Oct

I was recently in Pittsburgh for a few days for a conference and figured I should try to make the most of it by checking out some food establishments that are quintessential to the city. Based on the suggestions I received from friends as well as from the exposure from Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel, I knew the one place I had to check out was Primanti Brothers. It wound up being my last stop before the airport and definitely the most memorable.

Primanti Bros Turkey and Cheese Sandwich

There are several Primanti Brothers locations throughout the metropolitan area, with the original being in the Strip District. I went inside and sat myself after a friendly employee asked if I was expecting anyone else. Staring right at me was the famous menu. Each sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, coleslaw, and French fries. That’s right, what you would normally find as sides on your plate are actually on the sandwich. I guess the thinking is that it saves time for a quick lunch break as well as not having to use a fork.

All items are cash only, with no sandwich costing more than $6.49. I opted for what I thought was the “healthiest” option and got the turkey and cheese sandwich. When it came, I was blown away by how quickly it arrived as well as the sheer size of it. It’s a shame my DMV Dining partner in crime wasn’t with me because he certainly would have enjoyed this experience.

Primanti Bros Menu

The thick white bread held the ingredients together without getting soggy. The turkey was smoked and had a nice char to it. I thought the fries would be too much but it actually wasn’t. Combining the melted cheese, turkey, fries, and vinegar-based coleslaw with lettuce and tomato led to one perfect bite. And then another. And another. I had to literally step away from the sandwich to avoid eating the whole thing.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical if Primanti Brothers would live up to the hype. After trying one of their countless varieties of sandwiches I can say that it is definitely a must-visit in Pittsburgh, like Ben’s in DC or Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City. I don’t know when I’ll be back there, but when I do, it’ll definitely be on the list so I can revisit that delicious sandwich.

Primanti Brothers (Strip District) on Urbanspoon

Shagga Coffee and Restaurant - Ethopian Excellence

20 Oct

While DC has a plethora of Ethiopian restaurants to choose from, perhaps one of the best lies outside the District’s borders. Situated in Hyattsville in what used to house a former donut shop, Shagga Coffee and Restaurant is as unassuming as they come.

Written up in Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats column for the third consecutive year, I have driven by this establishment many times while traveling to and from DC. Little did I know that they were cooking up some phenomenal Ethiopian cuisine inside.

Beef Tibbs

Considering that my friend Betsy and I work near each other in Prince George’s County, we decided to make a lunch date at Shagga and see if the acclaim was justified. Located off a major thoroughfare in Baltimore Avenue and a stone’s throw from the University of Maryland, the dining room was barely occupied save one or two tables.

Nonetheless, we glanced over the menu which had a vast variety of options to choose from. From chicken to lamb to beef to vegetarian, selecting what to order could be a daunting task if you’re unfamiliar with Ethiopian fare. Fortunately, Shagga offers several meat and veggie combinations that allow diners a chance to explore multiple dishes.


We started the meal with a couple of sambusas. Similar to empanadas, they are pastry shells stuffed with vegetables as well as lentils, beef, or chicken. We opted for an order of the lentil as well as the beef. Freshly prepared, the sambusas were hot, crispy, and downright tasty.

While Shagga offers discounted lunch specials during midday, the full menu is also available which features combinations for two. Betsy and I felt that this was the best approach for our meal since we wanted to try a little bit of everything and not limit ourselves to one item.

Combination Platter

We decided to order “Combination #3”, which included Yebeg (lamb) Wot, Doro (chicken) Alicha, and Yesega (beef) Tibbs. It was also accompanied with four vegetable sides (lentils, cabbage, potatoes, and lettuce) as well as a basket of warm injera (Ethiopian bread).

When our combo arrived, we couldn’t believe the size of the portions. There were three huge serving bowls for each of the meats, not to mention the platter placed in the center of the table that included the four veggies. This was a combination for two, yet could have fed four easily.

Chicken Alicha

The Alicha was comprised of chicken simmered in onion, garlic, ginger and herbed butter with a hard-boiled egg. It was the mildest dish in terms of spice while the chicken was very tender.

Meanwhile, the lamb wot was the spiciest of the three plates but its sauce proved to be my favorite of the meal. The stew featured massive chunks of lamb (including shank) as well as a delicious red pepper sauce, onions, spices and butter. If you can tolerate the heat, then this one dish you have to try.

Lamb Wot

Saving the very best for last were the tibbs – tender pieces of beef sautéed in onions, green peppers, and herbs. Perhaps the most flavorful of the three meats, I could have eaten the pieces of beef by themselves let alone wrap them up in the fantastic injera.

If you’re ever in Hyattsville and/or looking for excellent Ethiopian cooking, then I cannot recommend Shagga enough. Even if you’re in DC, it’s a short drive up Rhode Island Avenue. It really is some of the best Ethiopian I have ever come across in this area, and considering that Little Ethiopia is just a few miles away, that’s saying something.

Shagga Coffee & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

An Autumn Lunch at Addie's

18 Oct

Rachel and I have dined at several of the restaurants operated by the Black Restaurant Group, yet we had never been to Addie’s until a few weeks ago. We had a Groupon that was expiring (surprise, surprise) and were scrambling to redeem it before the week’s end. Due to not being on top of it sooner, we were only able to make a reservation for lunch. Then again, combined with the discount it made for a more affordable meal than going for dinner.

Located between Bethesda and Rockville along Rockville Pike in a quaint house, Addie’s is the oldest and smallest of restaurants owned by Jeff Black. The outdoor patio was full of patrons as the weather was perfect for a fall day. As much as we wanted to sit outside, the next available table was located inside the dining room. Oh well.

Seasonal Vegetable Salad

We split the seasonal vegetable salad which featured arugula, red onion, butternut squash, potatoes, and bleu cheese and was accompanied with a peppercorn ranch dressing. We both liked the combination of vegetables and felt that it really associated with the autumn weather outside.

Shrimp and Grits

For our entrees, I ordered the shrimp and stone ground grits. Compared to the last time I had shrimp and grits, which was at The Cheseapeake Room back in June, Addie’s rendition was much, much better. The sautéed shrimp were prepared in a sweet pepper-tomato butter sauce, topped with grilled Benton ham, and surrounded by a bed of thick herb grits. A very hearty lunch and atypical to what I usually eat in the middle of the day, but I enjoyed it.

Rachel ordered the pan roasted Atlantic salmon, which was accompanied with green beans, fingerling potatoes, as well as a dollop of corn tartar sauce. The fish was excellently cooked at medium-rare temperature, nicely seasoned, and by the looks of things, much healthier than what I ordered. Not that I didn’t like my dish, but I’m sure Rachel felt a little less guilty leaving the restaurant than I did.

Pan roasted Atlantic salmon

All and all we had a great meal at Addie’s. It’s a charming restaurant in an area where you would least expect it what with downtown Bethesda down the road along with the bustling activity of Rockville Pike just minutes up it. While all the buzz right now is focused on Black’s newest venture, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, don’t overlook their oldest establishment either.

Addie's on Urbanspoon

Recap: Taste of DC

14 Oct

We couldn’t have asked for better weather than last Monday for the District’s revival of Taste of DC. With temperatures peaking at the high 70s and not a cloud to be seen, more than 60 restaurants set up shop along Pennsylvania Avenue for the three-day festival.

Fortunately both and Rachel and I had Columbus Day off from work, so we were able to avoid the large crowds and not have to wait in any long lines.

Taste of DC

We started the day off with Medium Rare’s filet sliders. Topped with their delicious secret sauce, it made for a satisfying first bite. It’s one of many restaurants that we still need to try.

Medium Rare Filet Sliders

Up next was a miniature lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster. This was our first encounter with the NYC import, and after biting into the roll, it was definitely not our last.

Luke's Lobster Mini Lobster Roll

Nearby was Local 16, serving up their Neapolitan pizza made famous by pizzaiolo Edan MacQuaid. There was a lot of buzz regarding MacQuaid’s arrival to the restaurant earlier this summer, and after buying a slice of their cheese pizza, it definitely warrants the hype.

Local 16 Neapolitan pizza

Our next dish was a beef patty from Patty Boom Boom. Our friend Kim ordered the veggie patty and we both agreed it was the better of the two as the beef was not as flavorful and somewhat dry.

Patty Boom Boom Beef Patty

Meanwhile, Co Co. Sala’s four-cheese bacon mac and cheese was one of the most savory dishes of the day. On the sweeter side, they also offered their famous Chocolate Onyx. Featuring dark chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulee, salted caramel, crispy chocolate pearls, brownie, dark chocolate sorbet, and cinnamon toffee bon bon, decadent doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Co Co. Sala’s four-cheese bacon mac and cheese

Chocolate Onyx

Moving onto Surfside, we cashed in four of our tickets for a fish taco from their food truck. Considering that the weather made it feel like you were on the West Coast, at least for a day in October, it was an apt choice.

Surfside Fish Taco

Speaking of food trucks, our next destination was Sauca. A few of our friends ordered the butter chicken, but because I’ve been on a banh mi kick lately (I had a heavenly banh mi burger at Masa 14 the previous day), I went with that instead.

Sauca Banh Mi

And of course, you can’t end any sort of food festival without consuming a giant cookie. Firehook Bakery’s Presidential Sweet oatmeal cookie fit the bill, containing chocolate chips, dried cherries, pecans, and coconut.

Firehook Bakery’s Presidential Sweet Cookie

Overall, Taste of DC was a bonafide success. Redeeming our tickets from the will-call table was painless, purchasing additional tickets was effortless (and to think, credit card was the preferred method of payment), and the vendors had plenty of food with little to no waits (at least that was the case on Monday).

It’s amazing that the festival has been on hiatus since 2003, but given the plethora of vendors this weekend as well as the large crowds it attracted, let’s hope Taste of DC remains a mainstay for years to come.

Corned Beef King Reigns Supreme

11 Oct

We have already talked about several food trucks that primarily travel around Montgomery County, so I was lucky enough to try the newest entrant to the field, Corned Beef King. After being in business less than a week, they decided to make their debut in downtown Bethesda a few days ago. We caught up with them right at Woodmont Triangle, a perfect location for the lunch crowd.

Corned Beef King

Their focus is on slow-roasted corned beef and pastrami, and they also serve specialty sandwiches such as the classic Reuben, a vegetarian Reuben, the Manhattan, and the Milly Ann. If sandwiches with one-third of a pound of meat aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger come lunch time, combos are also available that include sides such as potato salad, knish, coleslaw, or chips.

Of course, you got to have a Dr. Brown’s to complete your meal, and I happily ordered a corned beef on rye sandwich with a diet Dr. Brown’s cream soda. I’m generally not a huge corned beef person, but I figured I had to order the company’s namesake. And let me just say, it lived up to it.

Corned Beef on Rye

The corned beef was warm, juicy, and piled high on thick rye bread. It was such a big sandwich that I could only eat half, saving the other half for Brett. He enthusiastically seconded my thoughts on the sandwich, noting the generous amount of meat stacked in between the soft rye bread.

My friend Carlye ordered a hot pastrami sandwich, and after trying one bite I have to say, I think the pastrami might be even better than the corned beef. They were both excellent sandwiches, but the pastrami had a bit more flavor and zest to it.

Corned Beef King

Needless to say, we are thrilled that there is a new food truck in town, and a quality one to boot. I can’t wait until it comes around again so I can try something else next time. The only downside is that I was in a bit of a food coma after lunch, but then again, it was definitely worth it!

You can find out where Corned Beef King is parking its truck by following them at @cornedbeefking or by becoming a fan on their Facebook page.

Burgers and Beers at Quarry House Tavern

5 Oct

Tucked away from the bustling activity of downtown Silver Spring, Quarry House Tavern offers an escape from suburbia. It’s hard to imagine that a bar filled with such charm and character is mere blocks from the commercialization of nearby City Place, yet Quarry House Tavern is the dive you’ve always been looking for.

It’s not the easiest place to find, but once you walk down the flight of stairs, it’s hard not to leave. Not only does the bar host over a hundred beers and whiskeys, but they also feature three varieties of tater tots. Need I say more?

Quarry House Tavern Burger

Restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum, who also operates nearby Sidebar and Jackie’s, has given her establishments an identity that is hard to replicate. Combine that with the fact that she is able to stock the bar with a variety of craft beer while dealing with Montgomery County’s arcane liquor laws is a success in its own right.

The bar features a selection of draft beers that change throughout the day in addition to an enormous bottle selection that consumes the majority of the menu. Rachel and I ordered a couple of beers before splitting an order of fried pickles, because let’s face it, how could you not order fried pickles?

The spears were surrounded by so much thick, crunchy batter that it was hard to decipher if there were pickles under there or not. Nonetheless, we wasted no time finishing them off, even though we had to scrape away some of the breading.

Tater Tots

The main event, however, was the burger. Quarry House Tavern is known for serving up some of the best patties in Silver Spring, and after we polished ours off, we can wholeheartedly agree. We ordered our burger medium, topped with American cheese, grilled mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and raw onion.

Served with a side of tots, it’s arguably one of the best meals to pair a beer with while listening to The Smiths blaring on the jukebox. The beef was juicy, well-seasoned, and cooked exactly the way we asked. The tots are great as well, though I would have needed a side of Coumadin if we got them topped with bacon and cheese.

Overall, Quarry House Tavern is a diamond in the rough in Montgomery County. Between the fantastic beer selection, great bar food, and divey atmosphere, it’s one of our favorite watering holes in the area.

Quarry House on Urbanspoon

Panas Gourmet Empanadas Opens in Bethesda

4 Oct

I work a block away from the new Panas Gourmet Empanadas on Elm Street in downtown Bethesda, and have been waiting for its arrival all summer. It looked like a great new lunch option to add to a mix of choices near me.

Once it opened, I went with my friend Aileen to check it out and was immediately impressed with the decor and menu. The design was sleek and modern, along the lines of mainstays Cava Grill and Sweetgreen on Bethesda Row.

Interior of Panas Bethesda

If you were going to order just for yourself, your have a choice of four combinations: an order of three empanadas, three empanadas plus a salad, and then four or six empanadas. You can also choose “canoas” (platters to share) or make a meal out of salads and sides. Each meal also comes with choice of dipping sauces and plantain chips.

Aileen and I each decided to get a combo of three empanadas while selecting different sauces so we could compare them. My empanada order included the smoked eggplant (eggplant, onions, red peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and mozzarella), Popeye (sautéed spinach and onions, golden raisins, cream, and goat cheese), and chicken pesto (grilled chicken with fresh pesto, tomatoes, and onions).

CanoasPanas MenuEmpanadas

I definitely liked the flavors I choose, and we both agreed that the veggie empanadas tasted slightly better than the ones with meat, but with so many options to choose from, we would have to go back to try the other varieties. I think my favorite was the smoked eggplant. The Popeye was great too and tasted a little like Spanakopita.

We tried all the sauces offered: Salsa Verde, Aji, Chimi, and Pimentón. They ranged from mild to spicy to smoky, and it was fun to taste all the different combinations. The empanadas themselves are small, so you can easily eat three and not feel stuffed while four would do the trick if you are especially hungry.

Panas Empanadas

All this plus fresh plantain chips came out to only $7. Not bad for a filling meal that isn’t a salad or sandwich. I hope Panas does well in the area both during the day and as a convenient dinner option. They also have a location in Dupont Circle next to the soon-to-open Tasti D-Lite (which I may or may not be counting down the days till it opens…)

Bottom line: check out Panas. Julia’s Empanadas might be the queen of empanadas in this town, but Panas may give it a run for its money.

Panas on Urbanspoon