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Boqueria a Welcome Addition to DC

9 May

Last weekend we had the opportunity to check out the District’s latest entrant into the tapas market, New York’s Boqueria. Their first location outside of NYC, Boqueria is the latest import from the city, following in the footsteps of Carmine’s, Hill Country, and Shake Shack. And while DC uber-chef Jose Andres has not one but three locations of his wildly popular Jaleo restaurants in the area (not to mention one in Las Vegas), we entered Boqueria with an open mind and an empty stomach.

When we were seated for our 8pm reservation, it was a tight fit for the three of us (Rachel had a friend visiting from out of town) considering the table was suited more for a couple at best. In fact, another party of two actually declined sitting at the table next to us because of this very issue. It was also a Saturday night, so the place was understandably busy, but they were obviously trying to maximize as much space as they could. Also, a reservation is highly recommended on the weekends considering the wait was an hour and a half otherwise.

Red Sangria

We started the evening off with a pitcher of their red sangria, and while it was rather refreshing, it tasted like there was barely an ounce of alcohol in the entire jug. If you’re splitting an entire pitcher between two people and neither of you feel a buzz, there’s something wrong.

Tortilla Española

While the beverages were a letdown, the food was not. Our first plate was the traditional Tortilla Española. I’m a big fan of Spanish omelets and Boqueria’s take on the dish was very enjoyable. Light and fluffy, it came with a side of olives as well as some bread and butter.

Patatas Bravas

The patatas bravas were so crispy that they almost resembled tater tots. The blend of the salsa brava and roasted garlic allioli saved the dish as it added a nice kick to the potatoes. It was also a generous portion as there were plenty of patatas to go around for three diners.

Pintxos Morunos

The Pintxos Morunos, or Colorado lamb skewers, were excellent. Topped with salsa verde and accompanied with pickled shallots, the seared lamb was tender and flavorful.

Salteado de Setas

The sautéed wild mushrooms were also a hit amongst the table. Prepared with Manchego cheese and thyme, the serving size was more than adequate. It proved to be a great side that had a lot of flavor without being too filling.

Espinacas a la Catalana

Speaking of side dishes, we also ordered their sautéed spinach. Prepared with garbanzos, pine nuts, garlic, and raisins, this was another solid offering. It became evident throughout the meal that Boqueria’s vegetable tapas not only provide a great value with their large portions, but that they’re also finely executed.


And while the grilled baby squid was very good, the amount of txipirones actually served was something left to be desired. It was more of squid salad than anything. Served with frisée, romesco vinaigrette, tomato confit, and crispy scallions, the pieces of squid were far and few between.

Torrija y Helado

Just when we thought we were full, we ordered the Torrija y Helado for dessert. A caramelized Spanish toast topped with yogurt ice cream, it bore a slight resemblance to bread pudding. After tasting it, however, we quickly realized that it was even better. The caramelized coating provided a crunchy texture on the outside, but the inside was warm and gooey. The yogurt-flavored ice cream provided a nice balance and made for an overall impressive dish. If there’s one dessert you should order at Boqueria, it’s definitely this.

Overall, we were very pleased not only with our food but also with the service. The dishes came out a balanced pace while our plates were continuously cleared without feeling rushed. Considering we ordered seven plates and a pitcher of sangria, our bill came out to a little over $100 for three people. That’s not bad at all considering how full we left the restaurant. It’s a great addition to the tapas scene in DC, but we’ll be sticking to wine as our libation of choice on our next visit.

Boqueria 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

Jaleo Comes Through for Bethesda Restaurant Week

20 Apr

I almost made it through another Bethesda Restaurant Week without taking advantage of any deals, but when my friends said they were going to Jaleo for lunch, I immediately made an exception.

Jaleo has one of the better deals for Bethesda Row Restaurant Week – for $15 you can choose three items from three sections of tapas. I added up the cost of what mine would have been a la carte and it easily came to around $30.

Seared scallops

As soon as we were seated, we were served a basket of bread with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. After sifting through the menu, it seemed that everyone wanted to order three items from the middle “classic” category, instead of one from each section.

In the end, I settled on gazpacho estilo Algeciras, their very famous gambas al ajillo, and seared scallops. We decided to share most of our plates, so I also got to have some bacon-wrapped dates, apple Manchego salad, calamari, and pollo al ajillo con salsa verde.

Gazpacho estilo Algeciras

I won’t go into too much detail about the food itself since we previously reported on many of these items, but I can’t say enough about the quality and consistency of the food at Jaleo. Our waitress was a little slow and we noticed tables around us were served before ours, but I guess that is the nature of tapas.

In an age with so much restaurant turnover, especially in Bethesda, it’s amazing that Jaleo has been around for over 10 years and remains a flagship destination in the area. Every time I dine there, I feel that we should come more often and take advantage of the fact that we are so close to such a well-regarded dining establishment in the DC area.

Pollo al ajillo con salsa verdeGambas al ajilloCalamares a la Romana

Although as much as we try to branch out with the menu items, it is hard to move away from such classic dishes that made Jaleo famous to begin with. You have to admit, the patatas bravas, gambas, and bacon-wrapped dates are really, really addictive.

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Christmas Eve Dinner at Estadio

28 Dec

We have been meaning to dine at Estadio for months now, and since there is always a wait on most evenings, on top of not of the fact that they do not take reservations for parties of six or less after 6pm, we thought Christmas Eve would be an opportune time to finally have dinner at the Logan Circle venue.

We arrived at the restaurant around 7pm and were joined by our friends Randi and Mike. Because of the holiday, we had no problem landing a table, not to mention a great parking spot!

Spice Grilled Chicken, Cabbage Slaw, Rice, Salsa LocaMike had recommended we start the night off with some of the Pintxos, skewered selections that were basically hor d’oeuvres. The chorizo, manchego and pistachio crusted quince was a delicious bite but it was the jamon-wrapped fig with bleu cheese that really stood out. It was so good that we had to order two more!

Since we ordered so many plates between the four of us that, giving a brief rundown on each would be the most efficient way to breakdown our meal:

Patatas Bravas: Simply delicious. The rich tomato garlic sauce was not too overpowering while the potatoes were cooked perfectly. I could have eaten another plate just by myself.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Parsley, Garlic: Another excellent vegetable dish. Flawless execution. Seasoned with garlic and parsley, these demonstrated how you serve mushrooms.

Scallops, Roasted Cauliflower & Salbitxada: I don’t know what was better – the impeccably cooked scallops or the accompany cauliflower! I think the scallops rivaled those found at Corduroy, but the tasty Salbitxada sauce gives Estadio the nudge. We asked the waiter if the kitchen could provide the cauliflower as a side, and the chef obliged! The waiter said it best: “Only because it’s Christmas…”

Patatas BravasRoasted Wild Mushrooms, Parsley, GarlicPintxos: chorizo, manchego & pistachio crusted quince and jamon-wrapped fig with bleu cheese

Sautéed Shrimp, Garlic, Parsley & Lemon: The shrimp was good but probably my least favorite dish of the night. The garlic was far too intense and completely masked the shrimp’s flavor. The sauce made for an excellent dip to the bread, however.

Grilled Octopus, Potato Caper Salad, Pimenton: Some of the best octopus we have had, and we were in Greece six months ago! Between the charred flavor and Pimenton seasoning, Estadio hit it out of the park with this plate.

Sherry Glazed Black Cod, Smoky Romesco: Incredible. Cooked to perfection. Melted in your mouth. Need I say more?

Spice Grilled Chicken, Cabbage Slaw, Rice, Salsa Loca: Our final dish of the night. There were a lot of components to this plate between the dark-meat chicken, cabbage, rice, and salsa. The chicken, however, tasted great and while it wasn’t my favorite item by any means, it was certainly one of the most creative.

Sautéed Shrimp, Garlic, Parsley & LemonScallops, Roasted Cauliflower & SalbitxadaGrilled Octopus, Potato Caper Salad, Pimenton

Overall, Estadio was fantastic. It never felt like the kitchen/waitstaff was bombarding you with plates, something we have encountered at similar venues such as at Jaleo, while the service was cordial and pleasant.

I can see why there is always a wait for this place: it’s one of the best tapas restaurants in the entire District. Special thanks to Don Rockwell for the recommendation!

Estadio on Urbanspoon