Tag Archives: cocktails

Range by Bryan Voltaggio

21 Feb

One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2012 was Bryan Voltaggio’s latest project, Range. Located in Chevy Chase Pavilion, just 40 miles south of Volt where Voltaggio first gained fame, the former Top Chef contestant’s latest venture is his most extensive yet.

With nearly 14,000 square feet of space, this is not your typical restaurant. Taking a small plates approach, the menu is broken down into “kitchens”. That’s because Range has its own raw bar, bakery, wood-burning pizza oven, and even a confectionery shop. And just like the restaurant itself, navigating the menu is a massive undertaking.

With a 5:30pm reservation (which we made nearly a month ago) and stroller in tow, we were greeted by the hostess and then taken to our table towards the back of the house. This worked out well since we had more than ample space for our stroller while having a nice view of the kitchen.

As fairly new parents, we have also been analyzing whether restaurants are baby-friendly or not. While Range was able to accommodate our stroller, the restaurant didn’t have a changing table in their restrooms. Needless to say, we had to work around that since a diaper situation arose.

Makeshift Harmony

But enough baby talk, let’s discuss booze! To start off, I ordered the Makeshift Harmony, a rum-based beverage that featured St. Germain, lemon, and bitters. Very refreshing without being too sweet.

As mentioned earlier, the menu is fairly large which makes deciding what to order somewhat overwhelming. For example, there are no more than 19 different items one can order from the salumeria. Our waiter was very helpful in describing the plates, suggesting we should order two to three per person.

Skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade

Our first dish was from the bakery: skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade. First of all, this is probably one of the best values on the menu. The cornbread was enough to feed four people! And as good as the cornbread was it was the bacon marmalade that stole the show. Seriously, I would pay money just for a jar of this stuff. It was that good. A must-order in our book.

Pork cheeks

From the “roasted” portion of the menu came the pork cheeks. Featuring celeriac and moustarda, it was perhaps the most forgettable dish of the evening. At $14, the portions were tiny, and while the cheeks were indeed succulent, there just wasn’t enough on the plate to equate for a satisfying dish.

Goat cheese ravioli with braised meat ragu

On the other hand, the goat cheese ravioli with braised meat ragu was the star of the night. The plate featured a trio of puffy ravioli stuffed with warm goat cheese while being surrounded by the savory ragu. I particularly enjoyed the sauce, scraping every last drop from the plate using my fork.

Kale Caesar salad

The kale Caesar salad was beautifully presented and featured diced Whitmore farm eggs. The texture was a departure from your prototypical Caesar salad, but it was also a lighter dish compared to the traditional recipe. That was a good thing considering what came next…

Lobster mac and chees

Which leads us to the lobster mac and cheese. Undoubtedly the heaviest dish of the night, it was also the most savory. Like the ravioli, the macaroni was homemade, and it showed. My only beef with the dish, however, was the lack of lobster. There were two small chunks adorned atop the macaroni, and at nearly $20 for the plate, one would think you’d get a little more lobster at that price. Other than that, it was an enjoyable creamy dish.

Roasted cauliflower

In between all these dishes we also ordered a side of roasted cauliflower. Prepared with golden raisins and za’atar, it was an excellent accompaniment to the meal and was probably our second favorite dish behind the ravioli. Not only that, but for $6 it was a very generous portion. Not sure if the lowest-priced items are always the largest in quantity at Range, but that was definitely the case with both the cornbread and cauliflower.

Candy cart

Just when we thought we were finished, along came the candy cart. Featuring all the desserts made at the restaurant’s confectionery station and housed in gorgeous glass containers, how could you not order something? We wound up getting a chocolate covered blondie as well as a cashew bark.

Chocolate covered blondie and cashew bark

The service was terrific – our waters were constantly refilled, plates were cleared in a timely fashion, and our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu. Given the menu format, we recommend you dine at Range as a group rather than a couple. Not only will you be able to try more dishes, but it would probably cost you less as well. Our bill totaled to over $100 for just the two of us which kind of took me by surprise. The cornbread and cauliflower alone could have been split amongst a table for four.

At any rate, Range is a welcome addition to what was formerly a dining wasteland in Friendship Heights. Speaking of which, Washingtonian recently broke the news that Voltaggio’s casual outpost Lunchbox will debuting in Chevy Chase Pavilion as well. Hey Bryan, mind opening Family Meal down here as well? Because, you know, fried chicken.

Range on Urbanspoon

A Waterfront Dinner at Sou'Wester

14 Jun

Root Beer FloatA few weeks ago, Brett and I decided to have a date night in DC as we wanted to check out Doug Aitken’s Song 1 exhibition at the Hirshhorn before it ended. It was definitely a unique and breathtaking exhibit and we were glad we went. First came dinner, and we thought a perfect place to try would be Sou’wester in the Mandarin Oriental since it wasn’t a far walk from the Mall.

This was the first time we had been to the Mandarin since Brett surprised me with dinner at CityZen the night we got engaged, and that night almost seems like a blur now, so it was nice to walk in and see the views from the hotel of the waterfront. Luckily, we were seated at a great table facing the water, so we were able to see the boats and sunset right from our table.

Sou’wester’s menu is mainly local fare with a southern influence and a heavy focus on fish and seafood. We had heard so much about the hush puppies that we knew we had to try them as a starter. Brett also ordered the bar’s alcoholic rendition of a root beer float, which consisted of Jack Daniel’s, housemade root beer, vanilla bean, bitters, soda and vanilla nuage. It was strong yet refreshing, especially since it was so muggy outside.

Corn bread and biscuits

Before we could even try the hush puppies, out came a basket with cornbread and biscuits accompanied with a honey butter spread. I’m not sure which I liked better, but they were both excellent and I would have eaten more if we weren’t limited to one per person.

Hush puppies

As for the hush puppies, they lived up to the hype. In fact, they may have been the best we’ve had in this area. They were piping hot and had the perfect balance of sweet and salty when paired with the honey butter spread. We certainly had enough carbs to start our meal, but hey, we weren’t complaining!

Roasted local rockfish

For our entrees, Brett ordered the blackened red drum atop a bed of jambalaya with a spicy tomato emulsion, while I got the roasted local rockfish with a farro salad. My rockfish was excellently prepared, and I loved the farro and lightness of the sauce it came with. Between the shaved cucumbers, grapes, and tomatoes, it was a perfect dish for spring.

Blackened red drum

Brett really enjoyed the red drum and remarked that he felt like he was back in New Orleans, which was where we last had this fish back in December. The seasoning gave the fish a nice kick while the outstanding shrimp jambalaya could have an entrée in its own right.

Collard Greens

We also shared a side of collared greens, which I couldn’t get enough of. They were cooked with stewed tomatoes and had a slight sweetness to them which I loved. They may have been my favorite part of the meal.

By the time we got to dessert, everything looked amazing, but we had to pass because we were simply too full. This was a case of us trying a place we likely wouldn’t have come to other than the fact that we had a LivingSocial deal, but we were glad we were able to try it out and would definitely go back again, if nothing else but to sit outside by the water and eat a basket of hush puppies.

Sou'Wester on Urbanspoon

Eleven Madison Park

22 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, we went to New York City for the weekend to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Why NYC, you ask? Well, we wanted to be tourists for a change. Seeing as how we have friends and relatives around the area, we have never stayed in Manhattan, at a hotel, just the two of us. Instead of trying to make the last bus to Jersey or catching a late train back to Queens, we were on our own schedule, absorbing the sights and sounds of the Big Apple like we had never visited before. We saw a show on Broadway (Memphis – which was outstanding), walked the entire length of the High Line, and frolicked around Central Park… the whole nine yards.

And then of course, there was the food. I surprised Rachel that Saturday night with dinner at one of the city’s top restaurants – Eleven Madison Park. One of the toughest tables in NYC, their reservation system is very similar to that of Minibar: you can only make a reservation exactly 30 days to the date starting at 9am (Jose Andres’ phone line opens an hour later, but I digress).

However, Eleven Madison Park also takes reservations not only by phone but also via OpenTable, which made things a lot easier. While vigorously pressing the F5 key, I grabbed whatever slot was available. As soon as the clock struck 9, a 6:15pm table for two soon showed up. I clicked, and it was booked. Certainly beats hitting the redial button 100 times. Patting myself on the back, I had to keep our reservation a secret for an entire month.

Fast forward to March 3rd. We grab a cab from the hotel and make our way down towards Madison Square Park. Rachel still has no idea where we’re going, and when we arrive, she admits she has never heard of it before. Nonetheless, the friendly host greets us at the door, takes our coats, and congratulates us on our anniversary while showing us to our table.

The sommelier then comes over and hands me their wine list while providing Rachel a menu of “soft cocktails”. You see, Rachel is… well, you guessed it (surprise!), and I gave the restaurant a heads-up when I originally made the reservation. We were already wowed by the service with that gesture, and we hadn’t even ordered anything yet.

Then comes their fascinating menu concept – the meal is set up as a four-course tasting menu, but the menu lists 16 main ingredients arranged in four rows of four. Diners choose one main ingredient from each row which represents that course, and each dish revolves around said ingredient. For example, the first row had a choice of hamachi, octopus, fois gras, and sunchoke. Needless to say, but we have never seen anything like this before. No descriptions, just the name of the ingredient.

Black and White Cookie Box

And despite that the menu lists only four courses, the restaurant also provides an array of amuse bouches and small plates along the way. For instance, the meal started out with the kitchen’s take on a New York staple, the black and white cookie, served in a wrapped box. This rendition, however, was savory and comprised of parmesan and black truffle. From there on out, we knew we were in for a memorable evening.

Savory Black and White Cookie

We then received a cup of smoked apple-thyme tea accompanied with a sunny side up quail egg on toasted brioche with applewood smoked bacon.

Our next amuse bouche was a mackerel and scallop crudo. Unfortunately for Rachel, she was unable to have it since she obviously has to avoid raw fish, but the waitress was very accommodating and offered to bring her a cooked version of it. She returned with a new plate within a matter of minutes, leaving Rachel and I very much impressed by the outstanding service.

Mackerel and scallop crudo

Our fourth and final amuse was perhaps the most impressive – frozen Greek yogurt lollipops with curried lentils, as well as a plate of panisse (chickpea fritters) with yogurt. Yes you read that correctly, frozen Greek yogurt lollipops!

Frozen Greek yogurt lollipops with curried lentils, panisse (chickpea fritters) with yogurt

We were then served a pair of their croissant rolls, which were accompanied by fresh cow’s milk and goat’s milk butter. The goat’s milk butter was irresistible as we both kept spreading it across the warm, flaky rolls. They reminded us of the ones you can find at Fiola.

After a wonderful array of small plates, we then began our first course. Rachel ordered the octopus, which was poached and prepared with chorizo, onions, and lemon.

Octopus

I went with the hamachi, which was marinated with horseradish and peppercress. It was a lovely piece of yellowtail.

Hamachi

For our second course, Rachel ordered the lobster. The beautifully presented plate featured poached knuckle and claw meat with Meyer lemon beurre blanc and was accompanied with charred leek, leek puree, charred bay leaf, and dehydrated squid ink. The lobster was impeccably poached in the lemon sauce and each bite was heavenly. Amazingly, the charred bay leaf had the flavor of toasted bread.

Lobster

I, on the other hand, decided to be a little adventurous and opted with… a vegetable? Seeing as how I typically stick to proteins, I’m very much a fan of potatoes and felt that the kitchen could wow me with such a simple ingredient. The plate featured several smoked miniature potatoes on a bed of potato puree, topped with bacon crumbles and black truffle shavings. It was good, but I was definitely eyeing Rachel’s lobster for a good duration.

Potato

It was then onto our main course. Rachel ordered the rabbit, which was prepared two ways: loin wrapped in pancetta, and rabbit rillette. It was accompanied with mustard seed au jus, endive, and fried tapioca balls. Now Rachel isn’t one to normally order something like rabbit, but she thought she’d try something different, and it was certainly of the most unique dishes she had.

Rabbit

I ordered the beef, which turned out to be a 55-day dry aged rib eye. It was an exceptional piece of steak, prepared medium-rare and delightfully tender. Lightly drizzled with sorrel sauce and served with picked mushrooms, it wasn’t the largest cut of beef but it was satisfying nonetheless.

55-day dry aged rib eye

Just when it couldn’t get any better, our next course was the restaurant’s take on another New York classic — egg cream. Prepared tableside, our waitress mixed whole milk infused with cacao nibs, orange syrup, and seltzer poured from a classic soda siphon. We loved every second of it.

Egg cream

Then came the deconstructed New York cheesecake. Prepared with goat cheese and situated in a glass with blood orange sorbet while topped with vanilla “snow”, this dessert was simple divine. Oh, and we hadn’t even got to our actual dessert course yet.

Deconstructed New York cheesecake

Speaking of which, that came next. I ordered the chocolate dessert, which was a combination of sweet and salty. It featured crunchy mounds of chocolate atop of layer of crème, lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Chocolate Dessert

Rachel went with their renowned “milk and honey” dessert, which featured milk sorbet with a honey center, dehydrated milk foam, and milk snow.

Milk Dessert

Our waitress soon came by pouring me a glass of cognac, leaving the bottle at the table in case I wanted to refill it. Yeah, they left us alone with the entire bottle! The restaurant was probably fortunate in that I’m not a huge fan of cognac, so the bottle was left untouched, but still, that’s one incredible gesture. And of course they one-upped themselves by serving Rachel a glass of sparkling cider so she wouldn’t feel left out.

Cognac

And to top things off, the meal ultimately concluded with black and white cookies, but this time they were actually sweet, prepared with vanilla, chocolate, and lemon. A fitting end to a fabulous meal.

Sweet Black and White Cookies

Just when we thought we were done, they not only handed us a jar of granola to take home for breakfast, but also gave us a box of chocolates with a “Happy Anniversary” insert placed inside. Talk about leaving your customers with an everlasting impression. Chef Daniel Humm even stopped by our table to say hello. The staff at Eleven Madison Park went above and beyond and truly made our anniversary a memorable one. If you’re ever in the city for a special occasion, Eleven Madison Park is highly recommended.

Chocolate Box

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Local 16

12 Jan

When one thinks of Local 16, their bar scene instantly comes to mind, specifically their rooftop terrace in the summertime. We haven’t been in years (mostly because it is typically too crowded), but an offer from The Capitol Deal a few months ago piqued our interest: $15 for a brunch entrée as well as bottomless mimosas or Bloody Mary’s.

At first, we honestly had no idea that they served brunch, but after doing some digging, it turns out that Local 16 was also home to DC pizzaiolo Edan MacQuaid, formerly of local pizzerias 2 Amy’s and Pizzeria Orso. Evidently Local 16 was MacQuaid’s new residence and that his pizzas were receiving some rather high acclaim.

Aden Pizza

While the brunch menu offered typical fare such as Eggs Benedict, pancakes, and French toast, both Rachel and I opted for one of their pizzas instead. I ordered the Aden, which included house made sausage, piquillo peppers, caramelized onions, fennel, and mozzarella. The chewy crust had a nice char to it while the peppers added some spice to the dish. I particularly liked the sausage as it had a very pronounced flavor and blended well with the caramelized onions.

Rachel went with the Garfield, which featured tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan. Local 16 sources their produce from Whipple Farm in Virginia, so it’s no wonder that the cherry tomatoes were delightfully rich in flavor.

Garfield Pizza

And how we could not mention the bottomless pitchers of mimosas? Local 16 kept the libations flowing throughout our meal, even well after we finished our pizzas. Even better – they weren’t gradually diluting the beverages after each pitcher, something we’ve experienced at other restaurants offering unlimited drinks.

For $15, it was an excellent deal. The pizzas alone will cost you $12 a la carte while glasses of mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are $3 and $5 each, respectively. The funny thing is that it had turned out we didn’t even need to buy The Capitol Deal voucher as Local 16 offers the brunch special year-round as long as you are a fan of their Facebook page. Good to know for next time, obviously. Just be sure to make a reservation as they do book up for this special.

Coincidentally, Don Rockwell recently announced that MacQuaid will be partnering up with one of Local 16’s owners to open his very own pizzeria on 1832 14th Street NW. The menu will feature a handful of wood-fired oven pizzas as well as some other dishes. No projected opening date as of yet, but rest assured, we’ll gladly keep our eyes peeled on it.

Local 16 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.

Bombolini

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

Brunch at Napoleon

19 Dec

While I had never been to Napoleon since it opened in Adams Morgan several years ago, I have now been for brunch twice in the last few weeks. I can now say that it is a great place to catch up with a close friend as well as a fun gathering with a group of girlfriends.

Walking into the restaurant, it definitely has a fun and classy vibe, with the red and black walls, chandeliers, disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and French music playing in the background. I was told that this place is known for fun coffee drinks, champagne cocktails, and of course, croissants, crepes, and Croque Monsieur.

Blood Orange Mimosa

The first time I went with my friend Livya, she insisted I share the chocolate croissant with her, and what a great decision that was! Buttery, flaky, and with just the right amount of chocolate inside, it tasted like something straight out of Paris.

We then chose from some of the decadent-sounding coffee drinks, and I went with the mocha cappuccino while Livya ordered the French vanilla latte. And what would brunch be without mimosas? We got the blood orange mimosa with Sicilian blood orange juice and prosecco. If the drinks were any indication of how the food would be, then this was a good start.

Bolivar

For my entrée, I ordered the Bolivar, which consisted of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs rolled into two crepes and topped with a citrus caper sour cream. I loved the lightness of the crepes, and the fact that they were filled with salmon and eggs made for a great bite, especially with the cream on top. I generally avoid filling up on potatoes during brunch, but these were too good to resist.

As I mentioned, I didn’t have to wait too long, as a group of us went again and warmed up from the cold this past Sunday. Again I got the blood orange mimosa, as well as the tropical green tea that came in a nice individual pot. I wanted to try something different this time, and was torn between one of the crepes or getting a benedict. In the end, I went with the smoked salmon Benedict, and was very happy with my choice.

Smoked Salmon Benedict

The portions of smoked salmon beneath the nicely poached eggs were generous, and with those lovely potatoes it was just a satisfying dish all around.

Napoleon may also be known as a champagne bar at night and a fun lounge in Adams Morgan, but I would highly recommend it as a great brunch option that won’t break the bank but will make you feel like you’re in a Parisian cafe in downtown DC.

Napoleon on Urbanspoon

The Atlas Room Shines on H Street

1 Aug

It seems like yesterday when Granville Moore’s and The Argonaut were the pioneers of the rapidly developing Atlas District back in 2006. Flash forward five years: H Street is now lined with sushi shops, biergartens, and concert venues. It has truly become a neighborhood of its own within a few short years. The Atlas Room might be the gem of the block.

Rachel and I have been meaning to try The Atlas Room since they first opened last November after hearing friends rave about the place. We felt it was an ideal place to go with friends, including some who were visiting from New York City. The six of us made a reservation for Saturday night after spending the day as tourists, which was capped by a stunning view from the top of the Old Post Office Pavilion (highly recommended by the way, DC resident or not).

Short Rib Ravioli

If you have never been to The Atlas Room before, it’s easy to miss. Granted, it has more signage than Granville Moore’s, but it is one of the smaller restaurants you’ll find in the District. In fact, they only have seven tables (with seating up to 28) in their dinning room according to their website. There was a bar in the back left corner of the space which had some additional seating as well.

Speaking of the bar, we started the evening off with some pre-Prohibition style cocktails. I ordered the Ward 8, which was made with bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine. Props to the bartender as this was one tasty beverage – it went down smooth without being overly tart. Rachel ordered a Pisco Sour, which featured Macchu Pisco, lime juice, and egg whites. It was sweet and frothy and was a great hint of what was to come in terms of creativity.

Macchu Pisco

The menu at The Atlas Room is different from most restaurants as dishes are categorized by their main ingredient (chicken, pork, beef, etc.) and then broken down into three sizes (small plate, appetizer, entrée). Our waiter helped explained the structure of the menu and provided a very helpful method on how to order.

He suggested that the plates be broken down into a points system, where the small plate is equivalent to one point, the appetizer is equivalent to two, and the entrée is equivalent to three. He recommended that each diner should order four points worth of dishes for dinner.

Roasted Free Range Chicken Breast

I decided on the short rib ravioli and roasted free-range chicken breast after following the waiter’s advice. The former sounded delicious just from its description while the latter was an appealing main course without the red meat double-dipping.

The ravioli was indeed excellent, and even then some. Between the tender short rib, al dente pasta, and outstanding demi-glace, it was a marvelous dish. While the plate only came with three ravioli, I tried to ration them as much as I could. In fact, at least half of our table ordered it and had the same glowing response as I did. If there’s one dish I would wholeheartedly recommend at The Atlas Room, this would be it.

That’s not to say the chicken wasn’t great, because it most certainly was, it was just a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, it was a generous amount of food for $19. The plate came with a breast and thigh as well as roasted potatoes, grilled spring onions, sautéed oyster mushrooms, and a rosemary jus. Chicken is typically difficult to pull off given the potential dryness, but Chef Beard executed it wonderfully. The meat was juicy, the skin was crispy, but it was the rosemary jus that really brought the flavor out and made it a more memorable dish.

Beet Salad

Rachel went with two small plates and one appetizer. First up was a beet salad, which was one of the day’s specials, and consisted of mixed greens, fresh heirloom tomatoes, balsamic, and fresh beets. You could tell the produce was straight from the market as it was a great, fresh summer salad, but it didn’t particularly wow her.

She had heard from friends that we had to order the chicken wonton soup, and it may have been her favorite dish of the night. The soup featured chicken dumplings, shitake mushrooms, and a savoy cabbage broth with crispy onions. If wonton soups were prepared like this in Chinese restaurants she would order them all the time.

Her last dish was the grilled seafood salad and was prepared with chilled mussels, calamari, and shrimp over Israeli cous cous. You could tell that this was meant to be a small plate in that it felt like a dish that would build to bigger flavor profiles. There was definitely enough food and she felt full after these three plates, but Rachel wondered if she would have been better off just trying one of their main entrees (with the wonton soup, of course).

Pineapple cake topped with hazelnut ice cream

We split two desserts amongst the six of us. The first was an upside-down pineapple cake topped with hazelnut ice cream while the other was a chocolate cake topped with lavender ice cream. Looking back, we probably should have ordered the ricotta fritters as we didn’t need two ice cream-topped pastries, but I digress.

The pineapple cake proved to be the favorite between the two given how refreshing it was. The hazelnut ice cream was a nice touch and complemented the pineapple flavor without overwhelming the cake. The chocolate cake was clearly the more decadent of the two desserts as the chocolate was topped with an almond cookie which was then topped with hazelnut ice cream! I really enjoyed it but I think it was too a little heavy for some of our tablemates.

Chocolate Cake

Overall, we were very impressed with The Atlas Room not only because of the great service (our waiter was extremely accommodating), but also because of the excellent food. Our entire party was very happy with the entire experience and left The Atlas Room full and content. It really is H Street’s finest.

Atlas Room on Urbanspoon

A Classic Cocktail Hour at Occidental

17 May

As much as we love going out to dinner, sometimes all you need is a great happy hour. And during the month of May, I think Occidental may hold the title for the best deal out there.

One of the oldest establishments in the District, Occidental is celebrating its birthday by offering some of its classic cocktails at its original 1907 prices of 18 cents. At first it seemed too good to be true, but then we learned that there was one catch: the 18 cent cocktail was valid for the first drink only, and had to include the purchase of a food item.

Cable Car

I remember going to the Occidental years ago for my first ever Restaurant Week experience and being amazed by the countless portraits on the walls of Washington’s elite, from presidents to sports figures. We sat at the old-fashioned bar and you could just feel the history within those walls.

My friend and I both ordered the Cable Car, which was a mixture of rum, orange liqueur, and fresh lime juice, topped with an orange slice. It was incredibly refreshing, and quite strong!

Risotto Balls

To eat we shared the tuna tartar and risotto balls, along with the basket of fresh rolls and butter that came out with our food. The bread was just out of the oven and came with butter that had a hint of basil in it. The tuna was layered with avocado and crispy onions on top, which added a nice crunch to the creamy dish. The rice balls were crispy on the outside and came with an olive dip that nicely complemented each other.

Tuna Tartar

All in all, we spent $10 each on a fantastic cocktail and appetizer. I highly recommend checking out the Occidental before the deal is over.

Occidental Grill & Seafood is located on 1475 Pennsylvania Ave NW in downtown DC.

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Mardi Gras Brunch at Acadiana

7 Apr

After Rachel and some other friends completed the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, a group of us headed over to Acadiana for their Mardi Gras Brunch.

We were trying to find a brunch in DC that met certain criteria: a) it was prix-fixe, b) had something for everyone, c) was well-received, and most importantly, d) had either unlimited or highly discounted libations. Acadiana met each and every one of these prerequisites.

We have been craving New Orleans cuisine since our trip to the Big Easy last November, so we were literally counting down the days until brunch. I myself shied away from any food before our 1pm reservation just knowing that we would most likely be stuffed once we finished.

Fried Gren Tomatoes

Acadiana features a three-course brunch for $29. For $9 more, diners have access to the raw bar where they can feast upon unlimited shrimp and oysters. The kicker, of course, were the dollar Bloody Marys and blood orange Mimosas. Yes, you read that right. Each cocktail during brunch is only one dollar!

Once we were seated, the table received a few baskets of freshly baked buttermilk biscuits served with a side of red pepper jelly. After one bite, I knew we were in for a great meal. It was the quintessential biscuit: flaky on the outside, soft in the inside, and still warm when it reached the table.

Turtle Soup

For the first course, I went with the turtle soup. Having eaten this for the first time at Commander’s Palace and fallen in love with it, I could not pass up another opportunity to try it again. Acadiana’s version had a thicker consistency than that of Commander’s as well as a significant amount of turtle meat. In comparison, Commander’s Palace was more of a bisque and featured a subtle combination of turtle and pork. Overall, I preferred the version I had in New Orleans over Acadiana’s, but don’t let that discourage from you ordering it as it was still very good.

Rachel went with an old favorite – fried green tomatoes, topped with Zatarain’s spice boiled gulf shrimp rémoulade. When eating southern food, you can’t go wrong with that dish. Her only issue was that while each component may have worked separately, as a whole it was too much as the sauce overpowered everything else. The shrimp was a nice touch, but in the end, the fried tomatoes were left a little soggy.

Shrimp and Grits

After sipping on a few mimosas (and some of Rachel’s Bloody Mary), I ordered the southern shrimp and grits for my entrée. They were simply outstanding. I have had shrimp and grits before (notably in Charleston), and while it wasn’t prepared in a traditional style last Sunday, these were still the best. I’m not sure if it was the delicately-prepared cheddar cheese grit cake, Tasso ham, or the rich sauce poured on top, but I cannot recommend this dish enough. Just wonderfully executed.

Eggs Acadiana

Rachel ordered what appeared to be their specialty, the Eggs Acadiana, which consisted of two poached eggs, Louisiana crawfish crab cakes, and Tasso ham hollandaise. She got the hollandaise on the side, and it came with a side of diced potatoes. She could have done without the potatoes because they didn’t add much to the dish, but the crawfish cakes were delicious with all meat, no filler, and a perfect blend of spices. It wasn’t a wowing dish, but it was a great spin on the regional Chesapeake Benedict.

As if it could not get any better, it did. I ordered the pecan tart for dessert and it was absurdly delicious. I’m dead serious: if you ever go to Acadiana, you have to order this. Describing it as rich would be an understatement. While the chocolate ice cream scooped on top might be a tad overboard, the bourbon and caramel glazed on top made every bite worthwhile.

Pecan Tart

Rachel was torn between the traditional beignets with chicory coffee crème anglaise or going a little lighter with the sorbet trio. At first she ordered the beignets, but that was before the first two courses. Halfway through the entree, she switched out her dessert to the sorbet, which featured caramel apple, pineapple, and Abita root beer flavors. Having been to the Abita Brewery and trying their root beer, I can attest that its like likeness was uncanny. Each scoop was incredibly refreshing and was a great way to conclude the meal.

To top things off, the server dropped off turtle pecan fudge bites with the bill. We could barely eat the small morsels given how extraordinary full we were, but the whole table managed to try one and left Acadiana that much fuller.

Sorbet Trio

Overall, Acadiana served up an outstanding brunch. The food was delectable, the service was exceptional, and the price was just right given the portions as well as the highly popular dollar mimosas. Throw in the live jazz that was being performed throughout the day and you have yourselves quite the experience. Well done, Acadiana.

Acadiana is located at 901 New York Ave NW in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC.

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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.

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