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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

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

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.

Receipt

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

An Anniversary Dinner at Marcel's

12 Mar

As is the tradition every year, Rachel and I always love to try out some of the very best restaurants in the Washington metropolitan area whenever our wedding anniversary rolls around. From the glamorous Inn at Little Washington to the gluttonous BLT Steak to the classical L’Auberge Chez Francois, we have always looked for a romantic backdrop to celebrate the occasion.

When choosing a restaurant, we always pick a place we have not been before, and considering that Marcel’s, chef Robert Wiedmaier’s flagship establishment of his ever-growing brand of restaurants (his Ballston branch of Mussel Bar being the most recent opening), has been a mainstay at the top of the charts, we thought it was an ideal venue for dinner this past Saturday night.

Marcel’s is the epitome of French-Belgian fine dining without the stuffiness and outdated dining room. Instead it felt homey and modern. When we walked in, maitre d’ Adnane Kebaier warmly greeted us by wishing Rachel and me a happy anniversary and seated us at a table for two while pouring us each a glass of celebratory champagne. Needless to say we were both taken aback by this gracious gesture and already fell in love with the place.

Our table captain Jonathan then introduced himself and broke down how the menu works. It is a prix-fixe format where diners have the option to choose four to seven items from each of the seven courses on the menu. For example, if you do a four-course menu, you can choose two items from the first course, one from the third, and then a dessert. Four courses start at $85 per person, five courses at $105, six at $125, and if you’re hungry enough, seven for $145.

For some odd reason, we had the preconceived notion that every meal included the dessert course, so we opted for the four course menu, not realizing that we were doing five courses at the time. That was our fault as we should have asked sooner, but I’m honestly glad we made the miscue as there was literally zero regrets about what we ordered once the meal concluded. Besides, this is a special occasion place, so you might as well go all out, right?

Jonathan was great as he was extremely familiar with the preparations and was entertaining to boot. Restaurants always carry a certain kind of charm when the staff has such great personalities, and Jonathan was no exception. Being the head captain of Marcel’s, it’s a big responsibility to ensure that his diners leave satisfied, so we knew we were in good hands all evening.

Lobster bisque

Before we got started, we were served an amuse bouche of lobster flan that was housed in an egg shell. Despite just being a teaspoon or two worth, the amount of flavor packed inside was tremendous. Just one taste and we knew we were going to be in for a very memorable dinner.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon

For our first official course of the evening, I had to go with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon. Served atop a slice of grilled brioche and situated on a bed of blackberries and port syrup, the foie gras was sublime and was one of the best preparations I had ever come across.

Nantucket Bay Scallops,

Rachel decided to go with the Nantucket Bay scallops, along with marinated octopus, black garlic purée, and smoked tomato coulis. The combination of all the flavors was outstanding, and she particularly loved the black garlic with the octopus. It was a light and lovely dish to start things off.

Seared rare 'big eye' tuna

For our second course, I went with the seared rare ‘big eye’ tuna. Topped with seared foie gras (because hey, you can never get enough foie gras) and accompanied with purple potatoes and a Cabernet reduction, the tuna, which was a generous portion, was actually cooked more on the medium to medium rare side. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the seared foie gras/tuna combination despite the slight overcooking.

Roasted monkfish cheek

Next for Rachel was the roasted monkfish cheek with white asparagus, mandarin, and a Maltaise sauce. This might have been the weakest dish of the evening, but she still loved the perfectly cooked monkfish and the decadent sauce. The mandarin added a nice tang as well.

Boudin Blanc.

While we were waiting for what was to be our third coach, Chef Wiedmaier surprised us with his renowned Boudin Blanc. If you are to ever dine at Marcel’s, I highly recommend you order this dish. In fact, we felt foolish not ordering it to begin with as it is one of their most ordered items. The housemade sausage, prepared with a blend of chicken and pheasant, was deceptively light and wrapped in a lightly browned casing. Topped with a generous amount of black truffles and placed under a bed of butternut squash puree, caramelized onions, and Madeira sauce, the savory, melt-in-your-mouth sausage is one of the very best dishes you will ever come across in the District. There’s a reason why it’s so popular.

Five Spice Beaver Creek Wood Pigeon Breast

Following that extravagant course was the Five Spice Beaver Creek Wood Pigeon Breast. The juicy slices of pigeon breast were complemented with a stuffed leg, Napa cabbage slaw, and Madeira sauce.

La Belle Farm duck breast

Rachel then had the La Belle Farm duck breast, with braised salsify, duck confit, chocolate, and brandied cherries. The duck was phenomenal, but the best part may have been the cherries. These deceptively small gems packed a powerful punch, and you could taste the brandy in each bite. What you would think is a traditional duck with cherries dish was anything but.

Border Spring lamb chops

I went with the Border Spring lamb chops as my final main course of the evening. Outside of the Boudin Blanc, this was my favorite dish of the meal. Prepared medium rare with a horseradish crust, the succulent lamb was simply extraordinary. Served with a smoked mozzarella polenta cake and rainbow chard, it was at this point that I began to hit the proverbial wall in terms of being full, but I marched on as I could not leave one bite of lamb behind. I just felt it would have been sacrilege to do so.

Martin's Angus filet mignon

The last savory dish for Rachel was the Martin’s Angus filet mignon, with Yukon gold potato purée, wild mushrooms, lemon zest, and horseradish. It may sound boring to have a filet, but how can you not? Of course it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and paired with the potato puree and sauce made for wonderful bites. Granted, she was slowing down too, but what a way to cap off dinner.

Melting hot chocolate cake

For dessert, each of our plates arrived with “Happy Anniversary” spelled out in chocolate, which was a very nice touch. Despite being absurdly full, I could not resist ordering the melting hot chocolate cake. Beautifully arranged with a scoop of salted praline gelato and a dollop of hazelnut coffee crema, the melting cake was as decadent as it sounded. The warm, rich chocolate cake paired incredibly well with the creamy gelato, which as it turned out was caramelized on the bottom! Just a transcending finale to a great meal.

Pineapple souffle

Rachel went with the special dessert for the evening, which was a pineapple souffle, served table side with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and pineapple sauce on the side. Jonathan had mentioned that the sauce was particularly sweet so to use it sparingly, and he was spot on. While you didn’t need much of it, the sauce added just enough to bring it all together.

And then there was the service. Part of going to Marcel’s is the white tablecloth experience, and the waitstaff operates like clockwork. Between the timing of the dishes, the highly knowledgeable sommelier, our enjoyable table captain, and the friendly maitre d’, the service was immaculate. It really adds to the overall experience and makes the evening feel that more special.

Miniature desserts

Overall this was arguably one of the best meals we have had in the District. Between the outstanding cooking and exceptional service, Rachel and I left with a smile on our (very full) faces. I was already joking with Rachel that I would gladly go back here for my birthday in a few months. With so many new restaurants that have opened in DC the past few years, Marcel’s is one that should not be overlooked. Wiedmaier works wonders in the kitchen and this is one place you should not pass up for your next special occasion.

Marcel's on Urbanspoon

A Long-Awaited Dinner at Le Diplomate

24 Feb

Considering that Rachel and I are the only ones  in the DC foodie blogosphere who still haven’t been to Stephen Starr’s bustling brasserie in the ever-growing 14th Street Corridor, we finally booked a reservation for Le Diplomate the week before Valentine’s Day. We decided to celebrate the holiday seven days early, as we wanted to avoid the trap of prix-fixe menus and overpaying for a meal, especially that we have also have to spend extra for a babysitter these days.

With repurposed materials being all the rage in new restaurants, the interior of Le Diplomate is absolutely stunning. You would never know that it was the site of a former laundromat, let alone open for a little under a year.  The moment you step inside, you’re instantly transported to a classic French bistro that looks like it’s been open for business for decades.

After a drink at the bar, we were seated at a lovely booth in the corner of the dining room. Great for couples, we had a view of the entire restaurant and watched as servers were jumping from table to table delivering some French classics like escargot and Onion Soup Gratinee.

Bread basket

While reviewing the menu, our server dropped off their famous bread basket. Overflowing with three different kinds of bread, ranging from sourdough to a classic French baguette to my favorite, cranberry walnut, it’s no wonder why Le Diplomate (along with Rose’s Luxury) features one of the best complimentary bread baskets in the District.

Mushroom Tart

For our appetizer, Rachel and I decided to split the mushroom tart after hearing such glowing recommendations from friends. Arriving to the table at room temperature, the buttery, flaky crust combined with the pioppini mushrooms and grated truffle pecorino made for an outstanding first course. Perfect to split between two people, it’s a great if not filling dish.

Steak frites

As for our entrees, considering that this was our first ever visit to Le Diplomate, I simply had to go with the traditional order of steak frites.  Prepared medium rare and served with two handfuls of crispy pommes frites, the pan-roasted hanger steak was topped with a hearty amount of maître d’ butter resulting in a smile to my face. There’s a reason why this is one of their bestsellers. If I wasn’t biting in the succulent, buttery steak I was dipping the crisp frites into the accompanying side of mayonnaise. You can’t go wrong with this dish.

Trout Amandine

Rachel, who already felt somewhat full after the mushroom tart, opted for a “lighter” entrée in the Trout Amandine. The filet was layered with almonds and sitting in a bed of haricots verts and cooked in a brown butter sauce. While the fish was nice and moist, the sauce had an overpowering flavor of vinegar that detracted from the overall taste of the dish, not to mention the overabundance of butter used. Not sure if it was a bad night in the kitchen, but it was slightly disappointing as Rachel regretted not ordering the Beef Bourguignon instead.

Despite the snafu, we had a lovely time as the atmosphere made for a romantic evening. The service was great if not a little rushed, but then again, we left at 10pm and people were STILL waiting for tables. One thing is for certain — Le Diplomate is a legitimate cash cow. No wonder we had to book a table a month in advance.

Le Diplomate on Urbanspoon

 

An Anniversary Dinner at L'Auberge Chez Francois

8 Apr

Last month, Rachel and I were contemplating where we should go for our anniversary dinner. We wanted to stray away from something over the top expensive, but also find somewhere that was romantic and new to us. A few weeks earlier, we received Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants issue, and there it was: L’Auberge Chez Francois.

Originally located in downtown DC and opened in 1954, L’Auberge Chez Francois relocated to Great Falls, Virginia in 1975 and the rest, well, is history. Driving to the restaurant on the windy, mansion-lined Walker Road was a bit of an adventure as you’re trying to keep your eyes on the curvy road while trying not to gawk at all the over the top real estate.

The exterior of the restaurant reminds you of a lovely French cottage, and it’s even homier once you step inside. In fact, L’Auberge Chez Francois is about as old school of a restaurant as you’ll ever find in the Washington metropolitan area. From the wood fireplaces to the wicker chairs, the atmosphere was cozy yet refined. It looks like time has stood still when surveying the interior of L’Auberge, but that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a welcome departure from what we’re used to these days with dimly lit rooms and large white plates with small servings of food.

The four-course dinner is prix-fixe, with the price depending on which entrée you order, and they range from $68 to $81. While looking over the wine list, our waiter brought over a basket of warm toasted garlic bread accompanied with a cottage cheese spread. Naturally, we finished the basket in minutes. You wouldn’t think cottage cheese would complement the bread, but it helped balance out the strong garlic flavor.

Braised Wagyu beef cheeks

Shortly after, we received our amuse bouche: leek and potato soup presented in a tea cup. Nice touch, and the soup was delicious. As for our appetizers, I immediately decided upon the braised Wagyu beef cheeks. Accompanied with wild mushrooms, vegetables, and a sherry wine sauce, this dish was exceptional. Presented in a Le Creuset pot, the beef cheeks practically melted in your mouth. Considering that this was only our first course, the bar was certainly raised high after enjoying this phenomenal appetizer.

Crêpe

Rachel ultimately decided on a crêpe with chives, stuffed with a duxelle of mushrooms, tomato concassé, with a truffle sauce. While a crepe may not seem as indulgent or over-the-top as wagyu beef, it was definitely the best crepe she’s ever had. Every bite was perfect and she only wished there was more than one on the plate.

Following the appetizer course, L’Auberge Chez Francois provides their organic mesclun salad with vinaigrette. You can, however, opt for one of their special salads for an upcharge (approximately seven dollars), but we passed.  If our first course was any indication, we knew we were going to be in for a filling meal.

After the salad course, we were served a grapefruit sorbet intermezzo. I distinctly remember the sorbet having a strong, pungent flavor.

Peppered sirloin

And that brings us to our main course. Keeping with the beef theme, I opted for the peppered certified Angus Beef sirloin. Diners have their choice of having it topped with Roquefort cheese or shallots, and I went with the latter. Cooked medium rare and wonderfully tender, the steak was an incredibly generous portion. So large, in fact, that I couldn’t even finish it. That, my friends, is a rarity for someone like me.

Poached Maine lobster

For Rachel, there was no indecisiveness here. As soon as she saw the words “whole Maine lobster”, that was instantly her choice. Her dish was a poached Maine lobster, along with jumbo lump crabmeat, Sauternes butter sauce, and citrus pieces. It felt so gluttonous eating a completely declawed lobster in a rich sauce. The only small complaint would be there could have been a little less sauce so it wasn’t as heavy, or maybe she should have asked for it on the side. Nevertheless, she was in heaven.

Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream

For dessert, I went with the chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream. Incredibly rich, this was a surefire choice, though Rachel’s dessert still managed to trump it.

Chocolate soufflé

And that brings us to the chocolate soufflé. Should you ever dine at L’Auberge Chez Francois, do yourself a favor and spring the extra $8.50 for this. Saying it is well worth it would be an understatement. In fact, you have to order it when you order your entrée because of the preparation time. You have the option of ordering the chocolate, hazelnut, raspberry, or Grand Marnier. She had to go with the classic chocolate soufflé, and it was definitely worth the upcharge. She only wishes she weren’t too full and was able to finish it all.

And on top of that, the kitchen treated us to a complimentary anniversary gift – a soft caramelized meringue with kirsch and vanilla ice cream! Very nice gesture by Chez Francois, yet we were so stuffed that we could barely finish it.

As for the service, it was impeccable. Remember, you’re dining at a high-class French establishment, and our waiter was incredibly helpful given our trademark indecisiveness. We’re so glad that we ventured out to Great Falls to experience L’Auberge Chez Francois for the very first time. While the food isn’t as adventurous as, say, the newest restaurant on 14th Street, the execution was outstanding while the romantic atmosphere made for simply a wonderful anniversary destination.

L'Auberge Chez Francois on Urbanspoon

An (Early) Valentine's Day Dinner at Et Voila

12 Mar

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I headed out to The Palisades neighborhood for an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Et Voila. We wanted to venture somewhere we haven’t dined before, but that was also romantic, and Et Voila fit the bill nicely.

The space is very intimate, situated in a rowhouse with tables solely on the left and right of the house with a narrow aisle in the middle separating them. It’s a tight fit, so don’t even think about bringing your baby here. Good thing we had a sitter that evening!

The menu focuses around French and Belgian cuisine, and while we’re always a sucker for mussels, we wanted to explore some of the other dishes the restaurant offered. We started the evening off by splitting their warm goat cheese salad.

Warm goat cheese salad

Situated atop of bed of greens, the generous block of warm goat cheese was sitting on a slice of warm French bread and topped with a sundried tomato. It was a fantastic way to kickoff our meal as we loved every bite. Highly recommended.

Flemish beef stew

For our entrees, I ordered the Flemish beef stew. Simmered in dark beer and served with a side of their pommes frites, it was pure comfort food. Given the cold, dreary weather that day, it was a perfect choice. While the meat was flavorful and tender, it more resembled a bowl of beef chunks than an actual stew. Not that it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the hearty stew I envisioned when originally ordering it.

Grilled trout

Meanwhile Rachel ordered the grilled trout, which was accompanied with leeks fondue and a champagne sauce. The perfectly grilled fish, adorned with beautiful grill marks, paired nicely with the creamy leeks and light sauce.

Chocolate mousse

Given our incredible knack for indecisiveness, we asked our waiter what he recommended for dessert. He immediately suggested the chocolate mousse. The waiter was right on the money as the mousse was indeed heavenly. Beautifully presented with a thin almond pistachio cookie “dunked” into the mousse, it was smooth and rich.

We left Et Voila with a smile on our face. Not only did we get to enjoy an excellent meal without the Valentine’s Day rush, but we discovered a new restaurant that we would happily return to. And once we’re feeling adventurous enough, we will have to try the mussel burger. Yes, there’s a mussel burger on the menu.

Et Voila! on Urbanspoon

Mintwood Place

26 Oct

One of the District’s most buzzed about restaurants since opening in the beginning of this year was Adams Morgan’s Mintwood Place. From critical acclaims (it made Tom Sietsema’s Fall Dining Guide) to presidential visits, executive chef Cedric Maupillier has delighted diners with his eclectic blend of French and southern American cuisine.

Mintwood Place has been on our bucket list of restaurants to visit since they first opened their doors in January, but it wasn’t until a late August day that we finally made our way over there. We decided to dine out on the patio as the weather was perfect for an outdoor dinner.

The menu adds a French twist to southern classics, as was the case when we decided to order a plate of escargot hush puppies as an appetizer. And if you were curious, they were as delicious as they sounded. Wonderfully crispy on the outside and delicately rich on the inside, it’s a clever dish that’s well-executed. Generously-sized portion, too.

Escargot hush puppie

We took some time deliberating over what to order as the main course, but instead of each ordering a different entrée, we tried something different and opted for the roasted pork for two. It turned out to be a very good choice as we were served a mammoth platter of sliced, succulent pork.

Roast pork for two

Accompanied with a roasted mound of garlic and housemade charcutiere sauce, you also have a choice of two sides, so we ordered the broccolini and roasted mushrooms. Both were very flavorful side dishes and complemented the juicy pork. Blending the roasted garlic with the charcutiere sauce and gently spreading it over the pork greatly enhanced the dish.

Broccolini

Considering that the restaurant’s other entrees average around the mid twenties while the side dishes are a la carte, $46 is a very good value for the platter when you factor in the generous portion of pork and duo of sides.

Roasted mushrooms

In fact, we were so full from our main course that we had to pass up on dessert. Nonetheless, the service at Mintwood Place was exceptional. Our server not only knew the kitchen’s preparations by heart, but he also helped steer us in the right direction by recommending the roasted pork. Mintwood Place is an excellent addition to Adams Morgan and is one restaurant we would wholeheartedly recommend.

Mintwood Place on Urbanspoon

DC Restaurant Week at Adour

29 Aug

Rachel and I were rather strategic about this year’s Restaurant Week. We wanted to a) dine somewhere we have never been to before, b) make sure the $35 price tag was worthwhile, and c) eat at a place that offered the full menu.

Adour covered two out of three of those prerequisites – they only offered a limited menu – but given that Alain Ducasse’s DC establishment serves entrees that are typically priced over $35, we made an exception to that last condition.

With our party of six promptly seated for our 7:30pm reservation, the staff was already very hospitable given that one of our friends had brought their newborn along to dinner with a stroller. Adour isn’t one of the most baby-friendly restaurants in the city, but they were very courteous given the situation, though I think the highest honor should go to baby Micah himself. He was very well-behaved throughout the evening and barely made a peep.

Carrot Ginger Soup

While reviewing the wine menu, our waiter dropped off a plate of warm gougères which were quickly devoured by the table. After placing our orders, we were presented with an amuse bouche of carrot ginger soup. Delightfully creamy, it was a nice way to start the meal off.

Daurade Ceviche

For our first course, I ordered the daurade ceviche. The fish, which was served atop a layer of avocado, was light and refreshing. On top of the daurade were kernels of fresh corn as well as popcorn. The latter was an interesting ingredient to say the least, both texturally and flavor-wise, but it was way too salty and contrasted with the protein.

Path Valley Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Rachel started off with the chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho with compressed watermelon and basil. She debated if this would be a worthwhile Restaurant Week choice given that fact that it was just soup, but after the first bite she knew she had chosen well. The flavor of watermelon was very prominent, and combined with the basil and tomatoes, it was one of the better gazpacho dishes she has tasted.

Braised beef short rib

For our entrees, I went with the braised beef short rib. This dish easily made the meal for me as the short rib was simply outstanding. I barely had to use my knife since the meat was so incredibly tender. Served with sautéed onions, tomatoes, and peppers in addition to a side dish of creamy polenta, I can safely say that it was one of the best short ribs I have ever had. A bold statement, I know, but I was really blown away by the careful preparation of the chef. Considering that this entrée alone is regularly priced at $37, it’s a steal to say the least.

Seared Scottish Salmon

For the entree Rachel ordered the seared Scottish salmon. It wasn’t the best salmon she ever had, but it was well-cooked and melted in her mouth. The mussels on top were a nice touch and overall it was a pleasing dish. After having a bite of the short rib she did encounter some ordering envy, but she happily cleaned her plate.

Milk Chocolate Coffee Bar

As for dessert, I ordered the milk chocolate coffee bar. Served with a side of nougatine ice cream, this was a decadent ending to a great meal. Adour’s spin on the Kit-Kat, I would take Ducasse’s version over Hershey’s 11 times out of 10. Topped with crispy rice drizzled with chocolate, it was incredibly hard to put the fork down. Then again, I had to in order to use my spoon to scoop out every last remnant of the homemade ice cream!

Roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet

Rachel got the roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet. She loved the dessert as the flavors of coconut and pineapple blended together in perfect harmony.  Even though she was full from the prior courses, it wasn’t too heavy as she was still able to fully enjoy her dessert.

Overall, Adour was a fantastic meal. After reading some mixed reviews, I must admit that I felt I was going to be setup for a disappointment, but fortunately that was not the case. We had excellent service as they were very accommodating given our friend’s baby. Despite the limited menu options, the food was excellently cooked and even transcendent at times (see: short rib). We even received some complimentary cookies before we got the bill. For all the flack Restaurant Week receives, Adour is a shining example of how it can succeed.

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