Tag Archives: DC

A Valentine's Day Dinner at Bistro Bis

31 Mar

After all the years we have lived in the Washington area, this was our first visit to the Capitol Hill staple Bistro Bis. We were looking to spend an evening out for Valentine’s Day without paying an extraordinary amount on a prix-fixe menu, and Jeffery Buben’s bistro happened to be offering a la carte options and had availability. Additionally, Bistro Bis recently cracked the top 20 of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants of 2016, further piquing our interest.

One thing I love about restaurants is when they offer an assortment of non-alcoholic cocktails. Given that Rachel is currently pregnant (apologies for the lack of formal press release), we asked our waiter if they had any mocktails available from the bar. He came back with a tropical hand-shaken cocktail, poured right from the strainer, into Rachel’s glass. It was a very nice touch.

Mocktail

We kicked things off with a French classic, escargot. This preparation, however, was a deviation from your typical butter-drenched snails and instead was presented in a lighter fashion of garlic, sunchoke purée, fennel, Seville orange and topped with a puff pastry. It was a welcome change while we both marveled at the gorgeous presentation.

Escargot

For our main courses, I opted for the Icelandic cod à la Barigoule. The perfectly cooked potato-crusted fish was placed atop a bed of parsley-spinach purée and accompanied with baby artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and drizzled with tapenade vinaigrette, not to mention what tasted like potato-flavored foam. I have to admit that it’s been awhile since I’ve seen foam, but it was a welcome if not aesthetically pleasing addition.

Icelandic cod à la Barigoule

It’s hard to know if Rachel was more blown away by the presentation of the Sea Scallops Crecy or how the flavors worked so wonderfully together. The scallops were seared along with coriander-roasted carrots, black forbidden rice, a carrot purée, and smoked shiitakes. The best part of the dish had to be the shiitake mushrooms, as they tasted so smoky and meaty in such an intriguing way that she savored each bite. The overall dish was a far cry from a traditional French meal, but she loved it.

Sea Scallops Crecy

For dessert, we shared the Profiterole au Framboise. The appropriately colored for Valentine’s Day choux pastry was stuffed with raspberry mouse and vanilla ice cream, and then toped with a raspberry coulis. It was a sweet and filling dessert that made for a great ending to a terrific dinner.

Profiterole au Framboise

I’m still amazed that this was the first time we have dined at Bistro Bis, but it certainly won’t be our last.

Bistro Bis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LivingSocial Launches "Restaurants Plus", Offers Cashback to Diners

7 Dec

Rachel and I have used LivingSocial countless times, especially when it comes to restaurants, but now they have introduced a new feature entitled Restaurants Plus.

Restaurants Plus

Restaurants Plus gives diners the opportunity to earn cashback from over 140 participating restaurants in the Washington metropolitan area just by paying with their enrolled credit or debit card. There’s no voucher or pre-purchase required, making the transaction utterly seamless.

Let’s say you’re in the mood for pizza and want to earn cash back on your purchase. Simply use LivingSocial’s map tool, filter pizza locations, and viola! Now you’ve found 21 participating pizza joints that are offering 10%, 20%, or even 30% cashback when you pay with your registered card. There are some great restaurants already participating, such as Toro Toro, Kaz Sushi Bistro, Baby Wale, and Fat Pete’s Barbecue, just to name a few.

Diners simply register their credit or debit card with LivingSocial and then use said card to pay for meals at participating restaurants.

So head out and grab some sushi and sake at Kaz or order the faux ribeye at Baby Wale and get cash back from your meal this evening. Just be sure to register your card first!

[This blog post was sponsored by LivingSocial]

A Birthday Dinner at Momofoku CCDC

2 Dec

Whenever one of our birthdays rolls around, the normal course of action is to surprise the other with reservations for a restaurant we have never been to before. But given that the much-anticipated D.C. location of Momofoku suddenly opened a couple of weeks ago, I immediately jumped at the chance of securing a table for last Saturday night and had to tell her right away

And while David Chang’s latest venture offers limited reservations on their website, they also offer a few tables on OpenTable as well, the latter of which got us a table for four last Saturday evening much to my amazement. Given the fact that we need to hire a babysitter these days, this was a very ideal situation that was validated more so by the fact that the wait time for walk-ins was three hours. Yes, you read that right. Three hours!

Brisket buns

The four of us decided to share a variety of appetizers amongst the table before ordering their own entree. Without hesitation we kicked the meal off with an order of their brisket buns, arguably my favorite dish of the evening.  Topped with a creamy horseradish sauce, picked red onion, and cucumber and sandwiched by an incredibly warm and soft bun, the slow-roasted brisket was delightfully tender and flavorful.

Pork buns

The pork buns, stuffed with hoisin sauce, scallion, and cucumber, were nearly as good but the brisket variety was my preferred choice of the two.

Spicy cucumber

The spicy cucumber appetizer was a very good if not unique appetizer. The thick slices of cucumber were smothered in a spicy green sauce and topped with crushed peanuts, but the heat was mild enough that it didn’t overpower the dish. Kudos to Eater on the tip as it was a great suggestion that we never would have ordered otherwise.

Biscuit bites

The biscuit bites were another favorite amongst our party, and the creamy Szechuan honey butter definitely stole the show.

Kimchi

We also got an order of the kimchi but it was pretty standard stuff. Not bad but nothing out of the ordinary.

Kimchi stew

I opted for the kimchi stew for my main course as the ingredients really piqued my interest as opposed to the other ramen offerings. Served in a behemoth bowl, Chang uses a pork bone ramen broth that is accented with two-week old kimchi, generous slices of pork shoulder, roasted onions, and rice cakes. The stew had just the right amount of spice without going overboard, and while $19 is a bit steep, this could have easily been shared amongst two people.

Hozon ramen

Rachel ordered the hozon ramen which came with scallion, kale, and panisse. Being a vegetarian ramen, it was very different from the traditional types of noodle soups and even more so then any other vegetarian version. The broth is actually chickpea-based and is very earthy and rich while the noodles were pretty perfect. The other thing she didn’t love about it was the panisse, which was essentially like large pieces of dried bread or croutons on top. The problem was that there was so much of it that it got soggy and appeared to overwhelm the rest of the dish.

Crack pie

For dessert, we decided to share a slice of Milk Bar’s famous Crack Pie between the four of us. Suffice to say the pie was a bit of a letdown as the typically decadent pastry was a bit stiff and nearly required a knife to cut. Maybe we should have gotten the full pie instead, or perhaps we just got a bad piece.We also got a bunch of individually wrapped cookies to go because, well, it’s pretty damn impossible to leave the place without a compost or corn cookie.

Cookies

Overall both Rachel and I thought Momofoku was solid but not OMG YOU GUYS YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS. The hype machine has fueled the place for months (and yeah we’ll take partial responsibility for that) but it’s not the most amazing meal you’ll ever have and certainly not worth a three-hour wait! (I mean is any restaurant worth waiting that long for? No.)

And when you live a couple of miles down the road from Ren’s Ramen, it’s really hard to justify spending $18 on ramen that’s just not as good as the no-frills Wheaton shop for the expectation of the aforementioned kimchi stew. Where Momofoku really shines is with its terrific buns and small plates. At any rate, it’s nice to see David Chang return home after all these years. So yes go, but for goodness sake, make a reservation! Now pass me a corn cookie.

Momofuku CCDC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sake Sipping Classes at KAZ Sushi Bistro

20 Oct

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly well versed when it comes to sake, but that’s where Kaz Okochi, chef and owner of downtown staple KAZ Sushi Bistro, steps in.

Sake sipping class

Okochi, who has been working behind some of the District’s best sushi counters since the early 90’s, has started offering weekly sake tasting classes as a way to introduce his American audience to a beverage mostly associated with hot cups and sake bombs (both of which contain the cheap stuff).

Mozzarella cheese marinated in miso with blueberry

But Okochi wants his customers to experience the extensive range of cold sakes available, especially since the Japanese drink is widely accessible these days thanks to its rising popularity.

Sake

Back when Chef Kaz was working at Sushiko, it took him nearly a year to convince a D.C. distributor to carry it. In fact, not only did he find the one person in California that imports sake, he guaranteed to buy every bottle they got.

Sake can

Now there are nearly 400 sakes available in the states, and with sake breweries emphasizing exports, the beverage can now be found in several shops in the metropolitan area both in bottle and can formats.

Grilled fava bean

Kaz’s sake tasting class is more like a wine program than matching certain types of sake with food. “Sake can match with any Japanese food”, remarked Okochi, and after trying several varieties and complementing them with dishes such as grilled fava bean, fried pork skewers, and Japanese fried chicken wings, he’s absolutely right.

Sake

“I want the customers to learn the different kids of sake, and learn which ones they like.” And with sakes flavored with strawberry or aged in cedar, Kaz takes you on an amazing journey with a beverage that tastes wildly different from the next. And this is sake we’re talking about!

Fried pork skewer with miso and mustard

Kaz Sushi Bistro offers its sake tasting class every Monday in October. The $45 course includes gratuity and tax, making for an exceptional value given the broad range of sakes you’ll get to sample along with Kaz’s outstanding cooking.

Japanese pancake

The class is sold out the rest of the month, but don’t hesitate to sign up for the waitlist as there will most likely be more openings in the near future. Oh, and be sure to leave room for the sake kasu ice cream.

Sake kasu ice cream

Kaz Sushi Bistro is located at 1915 I Street NW, Washington D.C.

Night at The Yards: Friday, October 16

5 Oct

What better way to spend a Friday evening than under the big top at The Yards for an evening of food, drink, and music benefiting Living Classrooms, a nonprofit organization that strengthens communities and inspires young people to achieve their potential through hands-on education and job training, using urban, natural, and maritime resources as “living classrooms.”

LivingClassrooms

Night at The Yards will feature music by New Orleans funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk as well as D.C’s own Queen Beez. And with over a dozen food and beverage sponsors ranging from Bluejacket to Osteria Morini, Night at The Yards will be a memorable event for an even greater cause.

Tickets are $110 in advance and $120 at the door with the festivities kicking off at 7pm at the D.C. waterfront. Hope to see you there!

'Chups: A Capital Condiment

10 Sep

Summer may be almost over, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy dinners outside and make use of your grill. Earlier this summer, we received a sample pack of ‘Chups fruit ketchups, and really enjoyed the opportunities to try the different flavors and pair them with meats, fries, and veggies.

Chups

What exactly are ‘Chups? A small local company founded by couple Matt and Kori Wallace, ‘Chups are fruit-based sauces and dips meant to serve as a flavorful alternative to standard run-of-the-mill ketchup. Over the last few weeks we have tried cherry, blueberry, plum, mango, and spicy pineapple.

We enjoyed all of them but especially the spicy pineapple and cherry. The cherry and blueberry paired best with filet mignon on the grill, and we made some simple grilled chicken strips we loved with mango and spicy pineapple. And all were great with fries, both sweet potato and regular.

Filet with blueberry Chups

The blueberry Chups really complemented this grilled filet

 

‘Chups are actually made right at Union Kitchen, a food incubator in DC. To purchase your own, you can order directly online or find them at several local markets including Little Red Fox, Glen’s Garden Market, select Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and more.

The ‘Chups website offers some great recipes to try that incorporate different flavors. The recipe for ‘Chups Glazed Roasted Brussels Sprouts is one we definitely can’t wait to test in the kitchen!

Galley Offers New Alternative to Stress-Free Dining

13 Aug

Between both of us working full-time jobs and having a toddler, we have tried to be creative over the last few years when it comes to dinnertime. The big question was if we could get dinner on the table before it’s time to get our son to bed. Otherwise Brett and I wouldn’t be able to sit down and have dinner till after 8:30 at night.

We did meal subscription services such as Blue Apron for some time, but we actually found it more complicated and time-consuming than dishes we would normally make. I also try to find some easy crock-pot meals or dishes that can be frozen in advance and then cooked that day. Sometimes, dinner is just veggie burgers and fries, or pasta and steamed vegetables — not that there’s anything wrong with that!

But there are times when you simply don’t wish to cook, but also don’t necessarily want to go out to dinner or bring in greasy takeout food. Enter Galley.

Shrimp tacos

A relatively new local company, Galley started earlier this year and offers a way to have restaurant-quality food delivered to your doorstep, made entirely with fresh and organic ingredients. You can sign up through the website and order directly there or via your Apple device. Just recently, Galley also began offering lunch service in certain areas of the District. Again, it’s an easy way to get locally-sourced meals without the hassle.

Shrimp diablo with watercress salad

Because Galley also recently expanded to the Bethesda area, we decided to give it a try. While not yet available in Silver Spring, I had the order delivered to my office or gym and then brought it home to heat up in the oven. The only tricky part is that the windows for delivery are not until the evening hours, so if we were to continue Galley we would likely need to wait until they expand their delivery zone to Silver Spring to do it on a regular basis.

Jamaican Escovitch

Another nice feature is that the cost for each meal includes tax and delivery, so what you see is what you get. The majority of meals cost $14 and some are even less than that. All meals are fairly balanced and include a protein and at least one side. Each entrée arrives packaged in cardboard containers that can be used when heating in the oven or microwave, and all have the same instructions of heating for 10 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees, or for a few minutes in the microwave.

Summer steak with watermelon salsa

Also, once your meal is on its way, you receive a text message as a heads up and an email that includes plating instructions, whether you’re serving to impress or simply want a quick meal for yourself.

Now on to the food: Over the last few weeks, we tried two steak dishes, a shrimp diablo, a pasta with spinach and ricotta, a fish dish, and shrimp tacos. Overall, they were very satisfying meals and plating them with the easy instructions made them feel more like eating at a restaurant as opposed to takeout. Some were definitely more hits than others, with the favorites being the steak dishes and shrimp tacos.

Spring pasta with seared steak

The only thing we should mention are that the portions were a little on the smaller side, so it’s something to keep in mind when ordering for two. A good way to keep portions under control, but don’t expect any leftovers.

Overall, Galley is a great new dining alternative in the Washington metropolitan area. We’re excited to see it expand further into the Maryland and Virginia suburbs so others can try it for themselves!

DMV Dining readers: get your first meal free when you sign up for Galley here

A Birthday Dinner at Crane and Turtle

28 May

Let’s cut straight to the chase: Last week’s dinner at Crane & Turtle was my favorite meal of the year thus far. And as much as I want to preface about how Rachel and I surprise each other for where we’re going to dinner on our respective birthdays, I figured out the destination of our reservation rather quickly as the both of us have been wanting to try  Paul Ruppert’s latest restaurant since it opened last year.

Nestled in a residential area of Petworth and located directly across the street from sister restaurant Petworth Citizen, chef Makoto Hamamura skillfully blends his Japanese heritage with his French training, which makes Crane & Turtle’s menu one of the most unique in the District. And with only 25 seats, it’s also one of the most intimate, too.

Big-eye tuna tataki

Take for instance our first course, the beautifully-presented big-eye tuna tataki. The tuna, which was smoked over hay, added a new dimension to the dish as the smokiness really added some flavor to the already high-quality slices of fish. Atop a satay sauce and garnished with pieces of socca, which is essentially a chickpea pancake, the combination of crunch and smoke really won us over after the first bite.

Warm bok choy salad

The warm bok choy salad was another departure from your typical appetizer. Accompanied with a blend of bamboo shoots and snow peas, fried shiitake mushrooms, and a mild ban ban ji sauce, the salad made for a terrific dish for a warm evening.

Szechuan-style duc

The highlight of the evening, however, was the Szechuan-style duck. The pan-roasted duck breast was perfectly cooked as the meat was wonderfully juicy and tender. The duck was paired with with pea shoots, braised yuba (also known as tofu skin), and was brought together by a flavorful dan dan sauce. Overall it was an exceptional entrée.

Pan Seared Maine Scallop

Rachel had the pan seared Maine scallops with asparagus, mores, red pearl onions, couscous, and sauce cardinal. Perfectly-seared scallops are generally good wherever you go, but the accompaniments really made the dish, especially the fresh spring vegetables.

Mount Fuji

As for dessert, our mutual affection towards molten chocolate cake led us to ordering the aptly-titled Mount Fuji. Complemented with salted caramel and coconut ice cream, the warm, gooey chocolate cake made for a delightful sweet and salty combination.

And then there’s the atmosphere, an element which deserves its own recognition. A good portion of that is attributed to none other than floor manager Elizabeth Parker, formerly of Rose’s Luxury. It’s no coincidence that Crane & Turtle shares some of Rose’s charm not only due to its intimacy but also because of its inviting, unpretentious vibe, and Ms. Parker plays a substantial role in that. In fact, she was not only our waiter but also crafted the featured rose menu as she oversees the restaurant’s beverage program. Some fun add-ons to the tab were reminiscent of Rose’s as well.

Receipt

Oh, and they take reservations! I can’t stress how important this is since we’re parents that need to plan ahead when hiring a babysitter for the evening. Considering how en vogue it is these days with some restaurants only offering first-come, first-serve seating, it’s refreshing to see Crane & Turtle buck this trend. You won’t find them on Open Table though; they are using a new service which can be found through their website.

Birthday at Crane & Turtle

Another great component of Crane & Turtle is their patio menu, which basically offers all of their small plates and appetizers out in the front and can accommodate a little more than a dozen guests at time. It’s certainly a more affordable way to experience the restaurant given that the majority of the entrees start at the mid-20s.

There’s no denying the fact that Crane & Turtle has quickly ascended up the charts as one of my favorite restaurants in the District after just one visit. Between the homey atmosphere, wonderful staff, and inventive cooking, Mr. Ruppert’s latest venture might be his best yet.

Crane and Turtle on Urbanspoon

An Anniversary Dinner at 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

Vidalia Still Shines Amidst an Influx of Competitors

11 Feb

We have to come clean: After living in the Washington metropolitan area for over a decade, neither of us had ever dined at Vidalia until a couple of weeks ago. And after a superb Restaurant Week lunch, we both wished we had eaten there sooner.

As the D.C. dining scene has blown up exponentially over the past five years, Vidalia has been a staple since opening in 1993 when James Beard award-winning chef Jeffrey Buben opened up shop and introduced diners to his wonderful blend of modern American cuisine and down-home Southern cooking.

And while Restaurant Week isn’t as popular as it once was now that there’s an overabundance of dining options to choose from, Vidalia still offers an exceptional value with a three-course menu priced at $20.15 per person while being able to present its full menu (with minimal up charges on select dishes). It’s an even larger menu than their regularly offered prix-fixe lunch special (a great value in its own right).

IMG_2044

Our meal began with their much raved about bread basket, and let me tell you, it’s worth all the praise and is arguably one of the best bread baskets in town. A trio of corn bread, dinner rolls, and onion focaccia (our personal favorite) was accompanied with a side of onion butter and made for an impromptu appetizer as the basket was devoured in seconds.

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For the first course I ordered the Shenandoah beef tartare. Prepared with garlic chip, pickled peppers, porcini steak sauce, and deviled egg aioli, it was beautifully presented while both rich and tender.

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Between the indulgent bread and dessert still to come, Rachel opted for something lighter with the Shady Lane salad. The bowl of Bibb lettuce was topped with watercress, radishes, almonds, apricots, bleu cheese, and onion vinaigrette.

IMG_2047

I went with the pan-roasted Carolina mountain trout as my entrée. Situated on a bed of succotash, crawfish, and bits of country ham, it really complemented the crispy skin of the trout. Unfortunately the fish was a tad dry but the Creole mustard butter helped counter that to an extent.

IMG_2051

Rachel’s Atlantic salmon dish proved to be the better entrée choice. It came with sweet potato puree, country ham, lentils, frisee, and whiskey vinaigrette, and each bite was a treat.  There’s always a risk of salmon being too dry, but this piece was medium to medium rare and cooked perfectly.

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I could not help but order the Peanut Better S’more for dessert. Artfully arranged pieces of chocolate ganache cake and milk chocolate feuilletine were topped with chocolate cream and cookie crumble which made a wonderful if not decadent ending to lunch.

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You can’t go wrong with Key Lime tart, and this lighter dessert that Rachel ordered hit the spot. She was plenty full after, but was so glad we went with the Restaurant Week deal because otherwise we would have passed up on these amazing desserts.

We had a fantastic lunch at Vidalia, and I have to tip my hat to them for not cutting corners during Restaurant Week. While other restaurants tend to slack off in service or not offer their entire menu during this promotional period, it’s refreshing to see a restaurant actually embrace Restaurant Week and show diners what they’re missing out on places like Vidalia. And isn’t that what Restaurant Week is all about?

Vidalia on Urbanspoon