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An Anniversary Dinner at Rasika

27 Mar

Like many in the D.C. area, Rachel and I have enjoyed wonderful meals at Rasika and its West End counterpart several times over the last few years.  But when we were researching a Washington restaurant to celebrate our five-year anniversary that not only offered exquisite food but also didn’t break the bank (date nights now require a babysitter these days), chef Vikram Sunderam’s Penn Quarter establishment was a perfect match.

Between the outstanding consistency from each prior visit as well as the countless dishes we still had yet to try from the menu, we felt that Rasika was an ideal destination. We started the evening off with some cocktails at the bar while waiting for our table. On top of that, we brought along a bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage 2000 that we received as a wedding gift five years ago. We felt that it was the ideal time to finally pop it open, plus the $25 corkage fee was rather reasonable and would pair up nicely with some of the dishes we would soon be having.

Before we even ordered, our waitress poured us two complimentary glasses of sparking rose since they knew it was our wedding anniversary – a very nice touch!

Mattar Pudina Tikki

We kicked off with the Mattar Pudina Tikki – minced green peas shaped into two patties and blended with mint and mozzarella. This was only our first dish of the evening but even with that initial bite we could tell we were going to have a memorable, enjoyable dinner. The combination of flavors works wonderfully yet you’re still able to distinguish all the ingredients with one forkful.

Mango shrimp

Next was another popular dish, the mango shrimp. Perfectly cooked, the quartet of shrimp was prepared with fresh mango, cashews, ginger, and coriander while the mint chutney made for a great dipping sauce.

Palak Chaat

The following dish was one that has been previously covered on this blog and needs no further explanation, the Palak Chaat. Fine, it was amazing. As always. Just an essential D.C. dish.

Chicken green masala

For our main course, we decided to be a little more adventurous and order the chicken green masala. Our waitress warned us that it was spicy, grading it a 7 out of 10 on the unofficial spice scale. While I’m a lover of all things spice, Rachel had some slight trepidation. Let me tell you, this dish is spicy! I would probably grade it an 8/10 myself in terms of spice, but unfortunately it was too much heat for Rachel. Having said that, I still really enjoyed it although I did need a few rehydration breaks (the champagne helped!). I sopped up the extra sauce with the garlic and truffle naan we ordered, too.

Wild mushroom korma

We also ordered sides of the broccoli cashew nut poriyal and wild mushroom korma. The latter was very rich but helped balance the spice of the green chicken masala thanks in part to the coconut milk base.

Apple jalebi

For dessert, we opted for Rasika’s bestselling dessert, the apple jalebi. Basically an Indian beignet, it’s the cardamom ice cream that’s the real star of the show. They also threw in a complimentary dessert to celebrate our anniversary which was another nice touch.

There’s a reason why Rasika is continuously rated as one of the best restaurants in the District year in and year out: the food is consistently exceptional. This is probably the fourth or fifth time we have dined at Rasika and after each visit we are wowed by the cooking. It also helps that they not only take reservations, which makes it much easier for when we have to hire a babysitter, but that it is also very reasonably priced. Honestly, I would be happy rotating visits to Rasika, Red Hen, and the Corduroy bar whenever Rachel and I have a date night in D.C., because these are the places you know you’ll have a good, filling meal without spending an inordinate amount of money. I’ll just make a mental note that the green chicken masala is really, really spicy on our next visit.

Rasika on Urbanspoon

Quick Bites: The Fried Chicken at Boss Shepherd's 

24 Oct

DMV Dining is introducing a new feature called Quick Bites where we profile a popular menu item from an area restaurant. It’s also an excuse to use grainy cell phone pics when Brett forgets to bring his (bulky) camera. 

Boss Shepherd’s has received a lofty amount of praise for being open less than two months. The Penn Quarter restaurant was recently featured in Tom Sietsema’s Fall Dining Guide in the Washington Post as the food critic gushed over Chef Jeremy Waybright’s exquisite fried chicken.

It just so happened that Rachel and I were a few blocks away at Taste of DC a few weeks ago, and while walking back to the Metro, we noticed that Boss Shepherd’s was directly across the street from the annual food festival. Considering that we’re not downtown much these days, we had to take advantage of the situation. Despite the fact it was only 5pm, all the tables in the dining room were already reserved for the evening. Needless to say word travels fast in this city!

No matter, we were able to procure a couple of seats at the bar. And despite sampling a variety of foods at Taste of DC, we were on a focused mission to try this fried chicken. And let me tell you, both Rachel and I agreed that it was the best fried chicken we have had in our nation’s capital. 

Fried Chicken at Boss Shepherd's

A wooden plank arrives at our table carrying a gorgeously fried half chicken that was brined in the kitchen for 12 hours. Incredibly crispy without being overly greasy, each bite of the delectably juicy chicken left a pair of smiles on our collective faces. The bird is not only accompanied with a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit, but a trio of dipping sauces – a housemade smoked egg yolk sauce, honey, and a housemade hot sauce, the latter of the three being my personal favorite. In addition, the platter also came with a pair of sweet corn cobs.

But what’s truly amazing is that you really don’t need any of the sauces to enjoy this incredible chicken – that’s how good it is. For $24, it was a large enough entrée to split between the two of us resulting in a terrific early bird dinner (no pun intended).

Boss Shepherd’s is located on 1299 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Boss Shepherd's on Urbanspoon

Casual Elegance at Casa Luca

20 Nov

While I have only been to Fiola, chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Italian gem of a restaurant, just once, I was elated to find out that he would be opening a more casual, affordable venue within the same square mile of downtown Washington. His trademark lobster ravioli remains one of my favorite dishes, but given the high price tag, I was hoping his sister establishment would be a little more reasonable for those just looking for a nice Italian dinner.

When we arrived for our 8:30pm reservation, the bar was nearly two rows deep. Whether it was the Friday happy hour crowd or people simply waiting for a table, Casa Luca was incredibly busy. We weren’t even seated until almost half an hour later – not the best way to start the evening, but we had a glass of wine while we waited for our table to be ready.

Luca Antipasto Misto

We started the meal off by ordering the Luca Antipasto Misto, a platter of prosciutto, pecorino fieno (sheep’s milk cheese), and a couple of small bites. The heirloom beets, which featured stracciatella and walnut pesto, as well as the lentil salad were well-received by our party of five.

And while we enjoyed the thin-grilled crescia, having to pay $8 for a small amount of bread for the table was slightly off-putting.


As for the pasta course, we decided to share three dishes amongst the five of us. All housemade, the bucatini was prepared with guanciale, tomatoes, and pecorino.


Meanwhile, the pappardelle was blended with Borlotti beans, rosemary, duck livers, and Parmigiano Reggiano – an interesting, if not slightly intimidating combination for those of us not a fan of all things liver, but thankfully it didn’t overwhelm the dish and made for an enjoyable pasta.

Smoked potato gnocchi

My favorite pasta, however, was the smoked potato gnocchi. Engulfed in a hearty duck ragu with a smattering of Cremini mushrooms, the soft, pillowy gnocchi perfectly complemented the outstanding sauce.

Grigliata Mista di Pesce

We also decided to split the Grigliata Mista di Pesce amongst the table, which was a heaping family-style platter of grilled seafood. It included bronzino, calamari, prawns, clams, and scallops and made for a great sharing dish between our group. The fish was impeccably cooked while the grilled calamari was excellent.

While the service was fine, my one qualm with Casa Luca was the prices. Given how expensive Fiola is, I had assumed that Casa Luca would be more affordable, but when looking at the menu, the majority of the pastas still cost over $20. And not only that, but the portions weren’t even that generous. In short, it turned out to be a more expensive meal than anticipated which was slightly disappointing.

On the flipside, Casa Luca also offers 20 bottles of wine for $28, a very reasonable price that helps offset the cost of the otherwise expensive food menu. It was a very good restaurant, but if Casa Luca were to either slightly lower its prices or increase the portion of its dishes, I probably would have left dinner a little more satisfied.

Casa Luca on Urbanspoon

An Early Birthday Dinner at The Source

13 May

Rachel and I have dined at The Source several times for their incredible Dim Sum Brunch on Saturdays, but we have still never been for dinner. That is until Rachel surprised me with an early birthday meal at Wolfgang Puck’s Washington outpost a few weeks ago…

With our friends Keith and Casey, we ventured to the upstairs dining room where we were treated to an amuse bouche of chef Scott Drewno’s Chinese dough knot soup, which featured two crispy duck wontons swimming in a broth of duck stock, fava beans, and water chestnuts. I’m not one for hyperbole, but this was arguably one of the best wonton soups we have come across. The broth had a very robust flavor, and I wished that there were about 20 more wontons swimming in the broth after devouring the two that were in there.

Chinese dough knot soup

After some deliberation, the four of us decided to split four appetizers so we could share some of The Source’s “First Flavors” amongst the table. Up first was their Border Springs lamb lettuce cups. Blended with toasted pine nuts and rice sticks, these were not your typical P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps. The lamb, locally sourced from the nearby Virginia farm, was wonderfully cooked while biting into the cool, crisp lettuce.

Border Springs lamb lettuce cups

Up next was one of Chef Drewno’s classics, the crystal garlic chive dumplings. If there’s one dumplings dish at The Source you have to try, it’s this one. Stuffed with king crab and Kurobuta pork, this is as good as it gets. In fact, we’ve ordered it on every visit thus far.

Crystal garlic chive dumplings

Speaking of dumplings, we also ordered a plate of  their “Tiny Dumplings”.  Good for sharing, the miniature dumplings were prepared with pork belly, black vinegar, chili oil, ginger, and topped with cilantro leaves.

"Tiny Dumplings"

Finishing out the round of appetizers was the Tandoori arctic char. Sitting on a bed of cardamom raita, the fish was topped with pickled Japanese cucumbers. The arctic char was impeccably-cooked, and I especially enjoyed the crispy skin while the raita really complemented the fish.

Tandoori arctic char

As for our entrees, Rachel got the day boat scallops, which were accompanied with cilantro raita, curried cauliflower puree, and rhubarb lime pickle. After so many appetizers and small dishes to start, she was glad her entree was on the lighter side and wasn’t too heavy. She only wished she maybe picked a different dish since the flavors were similar to the arctic char appetizer and didn’t seem as unique as some of the other entrees that were chosen amongst our party of four.

Day boat scallops

Meanwhile, I went with one of The Source’s trademark dishes, the lacquered Chinese ducking. Chef Drewno’s outstanding rendition of the classic Peking duck recipe made this meal one to remember. I have never come across duck that was so tender and flavorful. Throw in the crispy skin, housemade lo mein, and star anise-plum wine reduction, and you have yourselves one stellar entrée. In fact, the table reached a consensus that I had ordered the best plate of the evening, so that’s saying something. In other words: order it.

Lacquered Chinese duckin

Once again, we left The Source full and content. After three visits, the restaurant has impressed us each and every time. The service was excellent as always, but it’s Drewno’s cooking that keeps us coming back for more. Well done, chef.

The Source on Urbanspoon

Cedar Restaurant

3 May

Cedar, which has been open since 2009, recently welcomed the addition of Chef Aaron McCloud to its kitchen last year. McCloud, who left the Inn at Perry Cabin for the Penn Quarter restaurant, has revived Cedar and its focus on “field and stream” cuisine. Rachel and I were invited to try McCloud’s cooking a few weeks ago, so we were curious to check out the game-animal focused menu. (Full disclosure — this meal was provided by the restaurant).

Seared tuna

Should you opt for a cocktail from the bar, I highly recommend the Presidential Pardon. Featuring applejack whiskey, apple cider, honey, and bitters, it was a refreshing libation before the amuse bouche of seared tuna arrived. Rachel ordered the Ideal Husband, which the waitress said was a signature drink and was actually based on a play that was shown recently right down the street from the restaurant. It was fruity but wasn’t too sweet, and great for a warm early spring evening.

Beets and bleu cheese salad

Cedar puts an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, but Chef McCloud takes things one step further by curing and smoking all his meats in-house as well. The freshness was highly evident after tasting their beets and bleu cheese salad. Featuring baby greens and pickled onions, this was one of the better beet salads I have come across in the District.

Lobster and white chocolate soup

Not to be outdone, Rachel opted for one of Cedar’s most famous appetizers, the lobster and white chocolate soup which featured roasted baby vegetables.

Mocha Cervena venison

For our entrees, the mocha Cervena venison caught my eye, and considering how infrequently I actually order venison, I went with my gut and ordered it. Topped with parsnips and accompanied with roasted garlic croquettes, the espresso jus gave the dish a subtle hint of coffee without overpowering the meat. Cooked medium rare, the venison was slightly dry, but such is the case when cooking with such a lean protein.

Saffron oil poached salmon

Rachel ordered the saffron oil poached salmon. Prepared with artichoke, pequillo pepper, olive custard, and picked fennel, the dish was artfully arranged.

Chocolate peanut butter pralineCherry Glen goat cheese mousseKey lime pie

Just like everything else at Cedar, the desserts are prepared in-house. We got to try a trio of confections, from the chocolate peanut butter praline with candied peanuts and chocolate ice cream to the Cherry Glen goat cheese mousse to McCloud’s creative take of key lime pie (a citrusy, refreshing panna cotta).

The 55-seat restaurant is one of the more intimate dining rooms we have encountered, and considering that the First Lady recently dined here, it’s no wonder Cedar has been picking up some buzz as of late.

Cedar is located at 822 E Street NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Cedar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Minibar by Jose Andres

7 Dec

First off, let me preface by saying that we had no idea we were going to Minibar, Jose Andres’ crown jewel of his ThinkFoodGroup empire, until two days prior. You see, our friend Casey proposed the venue to celebrate a joint birthday dinner. Her birthday and Rachel’s are about a week apart, so I said “sure, go for it”, pretty much assuming that we would never make the cut given how tough a table at Minibar is.

If you are not aware, Minibar’s reservation system is as follows: you send an email to the restaurant at exactly 10 a.m. on the dot, 30 days prior to when you want to dine there. If you’re one of the lucky few, congratulations, if not, try again for the next day. And the next. And then the next.

Casey, however, was fortunate enough to be placed on the waitlist. Considering that we were a party of four, on a Friday night, I thought there was no chance we would ever make the cut, so I went about with plans for dinner at Makoto for just the two of us. At about midday Wednesday, Casey texts me saying that we got in. I could not believe it. What party of four actually cancels a reservation for Minibar on a Friday night?! Whoever you are, I would personally like to thank you for letting us enjoy one of the most memorable dining experiences we have ever taken part of.

On top of all that, Rachel had no idea where we were going. Like past birthdays, I kept the whole thing a secret. So once I found out about the Minibar news, I promptly had to shuffle plans with our babysitter (thanks again, Brian and Kim!) as well as inform Rachel we were now going out on Friday instead of Thursday.

Minibar’s new location at 9th and E is unmarked, so Rachel still had no clue where we were until the hostess greeted us with “Welcome to Minibar”. Right on cue, Rachel’s mouth dropped to the floor.

Once they took our coats, we were seated in a small vestibule which acted as a greeting area. Our server introduced himself and ran down a listing of no more than four different beverage package options that ranged from $45 to $200 per person. Considering how expensive this meal was going to be from the get-go, we opted to go the a la carte route for booze, but more on that later.

Minibar Kitchen

Once we made our beverage selections, our waiter then showed us to the main attraction, Minibar’s dining room. The open kitchen is situated in the center of the room while a bar of six seats is on both the left and right sides, creating an enclosure where Jose Andres’ top chefs work their magic directly in front of you. This isn’t dinner. It’s an all-out production.

I’m going to buck the trend of carefully detailing each plate because, well, there were 27 of them in total. For this post, I’ll simply let the pictures do the talking.

Oaxacan Snowball

Our first course of the evening was an Oaxacan Snowball cocktail. The twist, however, was that you ate it with your hands. Propped on top of “snow”, it tasted slightly like a margarita.

Parmesan leaf and walnut mimetic

Up next was one of the most gorgeously arranged presentations of the night, a parmesan leaf and walnut mimetic. And yes, you opened the walnut shell to find the small bite tucked inside the enclosure.

Asian "Coca de Vidrio"

Next was an Asian “Coca de Vidrio”. The translation means “glass” because of how the sugar crystallizes when cooking it.

Pillow of PB&J

The next course was a pillow of PB&J. Pretty self-explanatory – in one bite you got a burst of homemade peanut butter with a dash of raspberry jelly on top.

"When Pigs Fly"

Next was one of the more clever dishes of the evening, dubbed “When Pigs Fly”. Placed inside the box were two apple meringues, shaped liked little pigs, and stuffed with bacon ice cream. Yep, bacon ice cream!

Foie bomb

What followed was perhaps one of Jose Andres’ trademark dishes in molecular gastronomy: the foie bomb. You simply popped this delicately-prepared item in your mouth and what followed was a flavor explosion of foie gras. Outstanding.

Churro tendon

Next was a churro tendon, Minibar’s rendition of the Mexican staple which was stuffed with beef tendon.

Almond tart with blue cheeseAlmond tart with blue cheese

Watching the kitchen carefully prepare an almond tart with blue cheese was a show of in itself. Apologies if I cannot recall every single detail, but liquid nitrogen and cold stones were involved.

Pig tail curry Panini

Next was a pig tail curry panini. The curried pigtail was sandwiched between two “slices” of butternut squash meringue.

Chicken "shawarma"

The next plate was their take on chicken “shawarma“. They managed to turn it into a light and airy dish, and the yogurt sauce was a real delight.

Sea urchin ceviche with hibiscus

What followed was sea urchin ceviche with hibiscus. Not much to report here other than it was one of the least memorable dishes of the evening.

Baby carrots with coconut

However, the next dish was one of our favorites, both in taste and presentation: baby carrots with coconut. Liquefied baby carrots blended with a light coconut cream. Simple ingredients using advanced cooking techniques yet flawlessly executed.

Beech mushroom risotto with shaved black truffles

Just as good was the beech mushroom risotto with shaved black truffles. The cooking pouch was placed in a bowl with our server scissoring the bag, releasing the contents right in front of our eyes. Nice touch.

Smoked oyster escabeche

The smoked oyster escabeche was presented with a tall glass lid covering the plate. Once it was lifted, the aroma of a campfire was released. I don’t know how they did that.

Fabes con almejas

Minibar’s take on fabes con almejas, a traditional Spanish dish, featured liquefied clams and beans. Yes, somehow the kitchen was able to make the entire clam edible.

Parmesan egg with migas

Dinner soon became breakfast as our next course was a parmesan egg with migas.

Espardenyes with bone marrow

The next dish might have been our favorite out of the entire meal – espardenyes with bone marrow. The bone marrow was a terrific complement to the flavorful sea cucumber. An interesting pairing that somehow worked.

Olive oil soup with mandarin

Another gorgeous dish, both in presentation as well as flavor, was the olive oil soup with mandarin.

One of the most interactive plates of the evening was dubbed Dragon’s Breath. Featuring a chunk of popcorn placed in liquid nitrogen, you were instructed to put it in your mouth while chewing and staring at your partner. The effect, of course, was the “smoke” from the liquid nitrogen being released from your nostrils. Can’t say I’ve done this in a restaurant before.

Pine snow with honey

We soon entered the dessert portion of the meal, starting with pine snow with honey. Artfully arranged, the “snow” was drizzled with honey creating a winter-esque landscape on your plate. And no, the pine was not edible.

Coconut sticky rice with mango

The next dish, however, was perhaps the best dessert of the night: coconut sticky rice with mango. The sticky rice was capped off on both sides with what at first appeared to be mango slices, but was in fact mango sorbet. One of the prettiest courses of the meal.

Apple Chair

Soon thereafter, we were escorted from the main dining room into a futuristic lounge that was part EPCOT and part 2001: A Space Odyssey. White walls adorned with hanging plants, a chain curtain, and a foam chair that resembled an apple were just some of the quirky aspects of this chic room.

Pina colada tablet

We were treated to our final bites of the evening in here, all of which were desserts. The first was a pina colada tablet. Apparently all cocktails at Minibar are to be served edible.

White chocolate lychee with coffee toffee and a sable bonbon

Next was a duo of white chocolate lychee with coffee toffee and a sable bonbon.


I really enjoyed their version of TerraMisu. All the flavors found in this traditional dessert were encapsulated in one single bite.

Rhubarb binchotan

Our final taste of the evening was rhubarb binchotan. Resembling tree bark, it marked the conclusion of, count’em, 27 dishes.

As for wine throughout the evening, Rachel and I decided to order a la carte. While the beverage pairings were out of our price range, wines by the glass were fairly reasonable, some of which were as low as six dollars. Not too shabby considering how expensive the meal was.

And that brings me to my next point: price. This was hands down the most expensive meal I have ever paid for in my entire life. At $225 per person, I honestly feel that no meal should cost that much, no matter what high-tech food wizardry is involved. And yes, while I understand that this is more of an experience than a meal, I’m still in shock at how much the final bill was.

As for the service, what could you say other than it was exceptional. The sommelier was very helpful while the chefs appeared very engaged in explaining the concoctions they were crafting in their kitchen slash laboratory.

In the end, Minibar was truly a memorable experience and I can see why Chef Andres can charge whatever the hell he wants. It’s still the toughest table in town and for good reason. Just don’t expect much new content anytime soon as our restaurant budget is pretty much shot for the rest of the year.

Minibar By Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum Brunch at The Source

19 Jul

This was one of our most-anticipated brunches in quite some time. Not only was it the first time that we would be dining at The Source, but we postponed our original reservation for six weeks because of our busy schedules. And because The Source only offers its dim sum brunch on Saturdays, I was literally counting down the weeks until the date finally arrived. Why? Well, this is no ordinary brunch.

Chive Dumpling

Wolfgang Puck’s DC establishment features the renowned cooking of executive chef Scott Drewno. While dinner at The Source is very expensive, their brunch, which was launched a little over a year ago, is rather affordable. For $32, you have a choice of five tastes from nearly 30 small plates. For an additional $10, you can choose eight plates instead of five. The latter option is ideal for parties of two, and that’s what Rachel and I decided on.

The only problem was figuring out what to order – there were a lot of appealing dishes to choose from! Considering that the two of us are one of the most indecisive couples on the planet, we finally agreed on eight tastes.

Chow Feung

Our first dish of the day was the Chow Feung. Featuring thick yet delicate noodles and spicy rock shrimp in a sweet soy sauce, it became an instant favorite. But as we kept trying to finish the noodles off with our chopsticks, our other plates soon began to arrive.

Shanghai Noodles

Up next was the Shanghai Noodles, which was comprised of braised oxtail, curry, and chili. It was a hearty, satisfying portion of noodles with just the right amount of kick to it.

Sea Scallop Sui Mai

Of course, it’s not dim sum without dumplings, and we certainly had our fair share of those during brunch. First up was the Sea Scallop Sui Mai. Gorgeously presented, it was sitting atop a few tablespoons of curried lobster emulsion.

"Szechuan Dan Dan" dumpling

Next was the “Szechuan Dan Dan” dumpling, which was comprised of organic chicken and a very addictive peanut sauce.

Garlic Littleneck Clams

After some heavy dishes, things lightened up a bit with the Garlic Littleneck Clams. Prepared with cilantro and sambal, the clams were sitting on a bed of delicious cellophane noodles.

Duck bao buns

Of course, I had more than enough room for the restaurant’s trademark duck bao buns.  Stuffed with crispy, succulent duck that’s lacquered overnight, the buns were simply fantastic – a must-order dish.

Pork Belly Pot Stickers

Moving onto our seventh taste, we opted for Pork Belly Pot Stickers. I mean, it’s not brunch without pork belly, am I right?

Maine Lobster Club

Just as we were ready to cry out uncle, out comes our final taste of the day – the Maine Lobster Club. This could nearly be an entree in itself, what with the chunks of lobster sandwiched between two delightfully satisfying slices of walnut bread. Oh, and did we mention the bacon vinaigrette? Unfortunately, we were so full that we were only able to eat a few bites and had to get the rest wrapped up. Let me reiterate, despite the fact each dish is called a “taste”, these plates are generously portioned.

Turnip Cakes

Just as we were tapping out and entering a food coma, out comes Chef Drewno himself! He mentioned how his travels to China inspired him to launch the dim sum brunch and that he has been continuously adding dishes to the menu while making the typeface smaller. Gotta love that.

Dim sum brunch at The Source was hands down one of our favorite brunch experiences throughout the entire Washington area. Between the quality of the food, the size of the portions, and the price you’re paying, it’s an incredible value, especially when you compare it to how much you would spend on dinner at the very same restaurant. Rachel and I would go back in a heartbeat not only because there are so many more dishes to try, but also because the food was just so damn enjoyable. If you want to try Chef Drewno’s cooking without breaking the bank, we cannot recommend The Source enough.

The Source on Urbanspoon

America Eats Tavern

27 Jan

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a staycation and have some fun in our fair city of DC. We had been curious to try America Eats Tavern since it first opened and thought it would be fun to see the corresponding exhibit at the National Archives that was about to close. Additionally, we had a gift card to use for any ThinkFoodGroup restaurant, so we figured what better way to spend it than at Mr. Andres’ newest establishment (trust me, we tried calling Minibar… no dice).

Anyway, after a rainy afternoon at the Archives, we made our way over to the restaurant. We got there just in time for their happy hour, which is great and kind of a hidden secret. The Thomas Downing Oyster and Cocktail Hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. and then again from 9 to close. Of course, we had to try their oysters so we started off with half a dozen and then ordered some more because they were that good, and a steal at a dollar apiece.


What makes their oyster hour really fun is their house made vinegars.  Between the two of us we tried the pear vinegar, the sparkling wine, the pear and raspberry, the red wine, and the lemon. It was nice to mix and match the vinegars with the different types of oysters and see which paired well together. Their cocktail list looked awesome, but we couldn’t resist Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald on tap for $4. That’s just too good to pass up.

Housemade Vinegars

Moving on, we were seated upstairs for dinner in their more formal dining room. We didn’t realize till we got there that there were two different menus. The downstairs menu was more casual and had more sandwich options while the upstairs menu featured more entrees. Upstairs we went, even though based on what we ordered, we could have sat anywhere.

The menu itself had an incredible amount of detail in that each item came with a story of the origin of the dish. I have to say what makes the menu confusing is that many of the entrée items are only available on certain days of the week, so you need to pay attention to see if what you are in the mood for is available. Looking at the options, we were definitely drawn to many of the appetizers over the entrees, so we decided to start with a few of those and go from there.


The first two appetizers we tried were the hushpuppies with housemade sorghum butter and the fried chicken with catsup. I have to say, I’m not sure which I loved more.  One of my favorite bar snacks I had in 2011 were the hush puppies at Food Wine and Co., and these blew them away. They were warm, buttery, and somehow incredibly light and crispy. They tasted even better when dipped in the corn butter that accompanied it.

Fried chicken with catsup

The fried chicken could have been a meal in itself, if only we could have ordered a larger portion. The chicken had a nice crispy crust along with incredibly tender and juicy meat. What was different was the blackberry catsup that came with the dish. Apparently catsups back in the 1800s were much thinner, more vinegary, and came in a variety of flavors before Heinz standardized it. They have several to choose from off the menu, but we were very happy with the blackberry mixture.

Next up was vermicelli prepared like pudding, a dish I had read about which proclaimed it as basically a fancy version of mac and cheese. It had a nice crispy crust and was tasty, but it was almost too small to really enjoy and was probably the least memorable dish we tried.

Vermicelli prepared like pudding

Finally, we decided to continue with the appetizer trend and got the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We had heard so much about this from various reviews complaining how something so simple could cost $8 (I think it used to be $10 but they lowered the price). But yeah, it really is just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You could add foie gras to it if you want (for double the price), though just imagining the combination of PB&J plus liver doesn’t seem too appealing.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

The only difference was that everything was housemade. They even cut the crusts off like mom did, and it came with a small glass of milk with a straw. They definitely got points for presentation with that. It was a tasty sandwich, but the peanut butter overpowered the jelly a little too much.

After all these fun apps, we were pretty full and decided to go straight to dessert. In the end we chose the pineapple upside cake, which was warm and delicious, and I guess pretty fitting since Dole is a sponsor of the restaurant.

Pineapple upside cake

Although we had never been to Cafe Atlántico before, we definitely love what they did to decorate the place for America Eats. It really does mirror the exhibit that ran at the Archives and the restaurant itself looks like something out of a museum, filled with historic pictures and artifacts and decorated in red, white and blue colors. As a final touch, they presented our check inside a book. I definitely appreciate when restaurants get creative with the check presentation.

There’s still time to check out America Eats if you haven’t yet. They were supposed to only be open until January 4th but we were told they extended their run through July of this year. While the food we tried didn’t blow me away, it was definitely fun and felt like a history lesson at the same time. I would go back and maybe share some entrees too, or see what their brunch is like. Who knows what Jose Andres will decide to do come this July?

America Eats Tavern on Urbanspoon

Fiola Shines in Penn Quarter

28 Dec

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner for a girls’ night with a bunch of my close friends in DC. We weren’t celebrating any special occasion, but it had been awhile since all of us were together and we decided to have a fun night out at Fiola, one of the newer and more acclaimed restaurants to open this year.

While I had never been to Fabio Trabocchi’s original restaurant, Maestro, I have always heard great things about his food and reputation, and I was very excited to try his new venue that has been receiving rave reviews all year. We knew this meal would put a dent in our wallets, but we were ready for a fun and memorable evening.

First things first, we had to find Fiola! A word to the wise: while the address says Pennsylvania Avenue, it actually leads you to the back of the restaurant. Turns out that you need to go around to Indiana Avenue to come across the entrance. Tricky, indeed.

Dates stuffed with fois gras wrapped in prosciutto

Once we all gathered and had some cocktails, we were seated to our table. I had heard that Jeff Faile’s cocktails weren’t to be missed, so I ordered a Milan Mule, which was his take on a Moscow Mule but was concocted with Plymouth gin, Amaro Abano, lime juice, and Blenheim ginger ale.

There were seven of us, so we split two bottles of tasty prosseco throughout the meal. The first item brought to our table was their incredible homemade rolls. These were more like buttery croissants or brioche buns as opposed to traditional rolls, and they were a great indication of what was to time. I swear I would go back to Fiola in a heartbeat just for these rolls alone.

We split two appetizers for the table and were very happy with both. First up were the Fiola meatballs, topped with a sunny side up egg and Pecorino Toscano. I’m starting to learn that everything tastes better with a runny egg on it, and these were no exception. The meatballs were wonderful and the sauce was irresistible. The bread we had wasn’t the best for dipping, but we made sure there was nothing left in the bowl.

Fiola meatballs

Next up was one of the restaurant’s daily specials. If they are offering it, do not hesitate to order the dates stuffed with fois gras wrapped in prosciutto and served with generous shavings of Parmesan and drizzled with balsamic. There were only a few dates, so we cut them up for everyone to try. It might not have been the best way to sample it as it is meant to be a singular burst of flavor, but I still savored each bite.

There were so many appealing entrees to choose from that it was hard to make a decision, especially since you can order most fresh pastas as half portions if you are torn between pasta and something else. In the end, I knew I had to get Fabio’s signature dish that was a carryover from Maestro, and that would be the lobster ravioli. It just sounded too good to pass up, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

Lobster Ravioli

The waiter informed me that the dish consists of one and a half pounds of lobster in total, and I believed him once it was placed in front of me. In the dish were giant chunks of lobster claw and tail sitting in a lobster broth, not to mention even more chunks of lobster stuffed inside the ravioli, which more closely resembled thin wontons. I loved the delicate pasta with the meat inside as opposed to the commonly found version of pureed lobster with cheese. The lobster itself was infused with ginger and the sauce was creamy but somehow not heavy at all. I was in heaven. I don’t think I’ll order it if I come back, only because there are so many other appealing dishes on the menu that I want to try.

We were completely stuffed at this point, but we wanted to try at least one dessert to see what they were like, so we ordered the Bombolini. The dolce comprised of donuts filled with ricotta and were topped with powdered sugar. There was also marmalade and gelato to dip the donuts in, and they were great fluffy bites to share amongst the table. They reminded me of the zeppoles from Graffiato, and I have to admit, I think these were even better.

With the bill came more sweets, including a tiny macaron and a piece of chocolate with cream inside. I always love when restaurants give an extra treat to send us home.


I should also mention just how wonderful the service was. We were a large party with a baby and stroller and they were definitely accommodating to us. When our entrees came, a few of them seemed to be more room temperature as opposed to hot, and when we said something, the waiter quickly took them away and brought up fresh dishes for us within minutes. While some of us were waiting for our dishes to come back, he even poured some extra prosecco into our glasses to make up for the delay. We certainly appreciated the gesture.

Overall, we were all very full and content when we left the restaurant. Fiola is certainly not somewhere I would go on a regular basis as it was certainly an expensive meal, but everything tasted like it was prepared with great care and simply tasted of a higher caliber. I was definitely eying some of my friends’ dishes, like the homemade lasagna, the short ribs, arctic char, bucatini, gnocchi, and scallops.

I should note that Fiola also has a “Presto!” lunch special where you have your choice of entrée and a beverage for only $15.  There are only half a dozen entrees to choose from, but it’s a great way to try Fiola without breaking the bank. There’s also a happy hour from 4pm to 6pm that features $6 cocktails and glasses of prosecco. So whether you go for lunch, happy hour, or dinner, do not miss out on Fiola. I’m sure glad I didn’t.

Fiola on Urbanspoon

Lounging at The Source

31 Mar

Prior to the Brightest Young Things Night at the Newseum party last Saturday, us and a few our friends went to the adjacent Source for a few appetizers and drinks.

Rachel and I have been meaning to go to The Source for awhile now, so we felt by checking out the bar portion of the restaurant that it would give us a preview of what a full meal in the dining room would be like.

Spicy Tuna Roll

We found a table in the lounge portion of Wolfgang Puck’s Asian fusion venue which features a Japanese Izakaya-style menu. The five of us started the evening off with some cocktails, and after glancing over the menu, I went with The Hemingway. A concoction of rum and grapefruit, I’m not sure what was stronger: the actual drink or the gargantuan slice of grapefruit that was atop the rim of the martini glass.

Rachel ordered the Asian Pear which consisted of Absolute Pear, sake and pear puree. Served in a martini glass, she was a little worried that it would be a too sweet like the Pear Sangria she had the other night at Sei. Fortunately, you could taste the fruit as it was more refreshing than overwhelmingly sweet

As for food, our group decided to split two orders of the Kobe beef sliders. Arguably the circumference of a half dollar, The Source instantly reminds you that the “small portion for high price” mantra is alive and well. Each order only came with two, and for $8 per dish, we were hoping that these would meet expectations at the very least.

Thankfully, they did. Prepared with onion marmalade and sandwiched between miniature brioche buns, the quality of the beef was excellent. Were they that delicious enough to justify the $8 price tag? Maybe if they had thrown one more on there.

Up next was the spicy tuna roll, and it was simply wonderful. Eight pieces of fresh cut tuna topped with aioli really gave us a glimpse inside the Asian-inspired kitchen of The Source. And while it was priced at an exorbitant $13, you get what you pay for.

Sichuan chicken dumplings

Our final dish was the Sichuan chicken dumplings, and once again, The Source did not disappoint. The wrapping was delicate while the chili “dan dan” gave each of the five dumplings a healthy amount of heat.

Overall, we had a fun if not expensive pre-party meal at The Source. For a handful of drinks and only four orders of food, our bill came out to well over $100. You’re probably better off having dinner in the main dining room than grabbing a bite in the lounge if you want to justify your expenses as well as leave the restaurant with a full stomach.

Thank goodness the Newseum cafeteria was open during the party. Who knew an order of chicken fingers could be so filling?

The Source is located at 575 Pennsylvania Ave NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.

The Source on Urbanspoon