Tag Archives: oysters

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

28 Feb

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I made our very first visit to DC’s Union Market. We came with one goal in mind: to have lunch at Rappahannock Oyster Bar. After hearing so much praise from friends and media alike, we were curious what all the buzz was about.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar has perhaps one of the largest vendor spaces in Union Market, complete with a separate dining area in addition to the bar that wraps around the kitchen, which is where we sat. From there, we had a great view of one of the chefs shucking oysters.

Oysters

Speaking of which, we ordered half a dozen oysters which included Rappahannock, Stingray, and Olde Salts. They were arranged, in that order, from sweet to briny and were accompanied with mignonette and cocktail sauce with fresh horseradish. Of course, the oysters were incredibly fresh, but they were just a precursor of what was to come.

Crab cake

And that brings us to the crab cake. I tend to typically stray from hyperbole, but the crab cake served at Rappahannock is perhaps the best in the District. I’m not kidding, this dish was perfect. The kitchen only uses lump and backfin meat, no filler. Served atop a bed of celeriac, the crab cake, which is ever so slightly crisp on the outside, is nearly the size of a softball. Topped with a dab of remoulade, the crabmeat was supremely fresh and just as juicy, a real treat. What’s more amazing was that it only cost $14. A pair of these would easily run over $30 at a restaurant, which makes this one incredible value.

Scallops

Realizing that one crab cake was not enough food to split amongst the two of us, we decided to also order the seared scallops. Once again, Rappahannock tremendously impressed us with this dish. The plate arrived with four large, excellently-cooked scallops that were beautifully arranged with roasted cauliflower and sitting on a bed of chutney. Just like the crab cake, it only cost $14, which is nearly incomprehensible given the size of the scallops as well as the fantastic preparation.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar is a welcome addition not only to the District, but to the already wonderful Union Market. And while it’s not the most convenient location, it’s worth the visit just for that amazing crab cake.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Tel'Veh Cafe and Wine Bar

16 Jan

Brett and I were able to check out Tel’Veh, the relatively new wine bar and cafe located near the Verizon Center, a few weeks back. The restaurant recently announced a new executive chef and wine manager, and they invited us down to try out several items on the menu along with wine pairings. (Full disclosure — this meal was provided by the restaurant).

The new chef at Tel’Veh is Dimosthenis “Dimo” Kolouas, who spent time previously at Kellari Taverna. Not surprisingly, the menu has a clear Greek and Mediterranean focus, with the extensive wine program emphasizing pairings with the small plate offerings.

The nice thing about Tel’Veh is that they offer 48 different wines by the glass through taps so you can try wines in 2, 4, or 7-ounce pours. We decided to go that route and had the waiter bring out wines to complement the dishes we ordered.

Oysters

First up was a set of oysters. The ones we tried were Caribou, Fire Lake, and Malpeque, the latter of which were easily the largest oysters we have ever come across. They were accompanied with a nice house-made cocktail sauce with some roe garnished on top.

Stuffed dates

Next were goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in pastourma, which is a Greek type of cured beef. I’m definitely a sucker when it comes to dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in any type of meat, and these were impressive.

Grilled octopus

We then had the grilled octopus. This was excellent and you could definitely tell the dish came from a chef trained in Greek cooking, as it tasted very similar to the style of octopus that we ate when we were in Greece a few years ago.

Mussels

Up next was a bowl of mussels with goat cheese and a tomato broth. The chef recommended extra bread to sop up the sauce, and he wasn’t kidding. The best part was definitely the sauce that came with it.

Ahi tuna

We then had to try the ahi tuna, since after being pregnant I’ll definitely have ahi any chance I can. I was a little skeptical after reading the description of ahi tuna over hummus, but the flavor combination actually worked and they really balanced each other.

Herb-crusted rack of lamb

Our heaviest dish was the herb-crusted rack of lamb. The crust really added to the flavor and they were moist and delicious. One for each of us was the perfect amount.

Baked goat cheese

For dessert, we shared a dish of warm baked goat cheese with honey, dates and pistachios, as well as a crepe with hazelnut and berries. We were pretty full by this point, but were tempted to try each of them. The goat cheese dish was very different and more of a savory dessert. The crepe was a traditional crepe, but then again, who doesn’t love crepes?

Warm crepe

While this does seem like a lot of food, keep in mind that they were all small plates. It would be great to come back here with a group to try more things. It seems like they have great happy hour deals, especially on oysters and wine. Unfortunately, we’re out of commission for happy hour these days with a baby to be put to bed and all, but we’d definitely recommend this place for dinner, drinks, or a stop before or after a game at the Phone Booth.

Tel’veh Cafe & Wine Bar 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.

Oysters

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.

Hushpuppies

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

Bethesda Restaurant Week at Food Wine and Co.

20 Jul

We already wrote about Food Wine and Company when they first opened last fall, and while the restaurant definitely had a promising start, we thought the food was just okay yet was lacking some direction. Clearly our hunch was right, as since that time Food Wine and Co. has been through several chefs and growing pains.

One chef, the well-known Carole Greenwood, only made it 48 hours. Since then, we have noticed great changes in the menu and offerings. Their new chef, Michael Harr (formerly of Butterfield 9), brings much experience with him that is clearly evident in his dishes and overall presentation.

Watermelon and tomato gazpacho

We have always enjoyed Food Wine and Co. and welcomed it as a much-needed replacement to the generic Pizzeria Uno’s. This past week was the first time I tried dinner there, and what better way to experience multiple dishes than during Restaurant Week.

Since their happy hour is one of the best in Bethesda (in our humble opinion) we couldn’t resist enjoying some drinks at the bar first. While the place is called Food Wine and Co., we should note their extensive beer selection. It’s one of the best in Montgomery County, which isn’t easy to do given their alcohol restrictions. Even better, their happy hour menu includes both beer and wine flights for $9.

Oyster Platter

I decided to get the beer flight, which included any four draft beers in 4oz pours. It was a great way to try some new beers that I haven’t tasted before, and after finding one I really liked, I ordered a full draft which also happened to be on special. They also had dollar oysters, so you know we couldn’t pass that up. We tried a mixture of Blue Point, Rappahannock, and Old Salts, and I have to say, they really are some of the best oysters I’ve tried recently, and at a dollar a piece no less!

Beer Flight

Happy with our drinks and oysters, we made our way to the dining area for our reservation. I should point out that they did offer a fairly extensive menu for Restaurant Week. It wasn’t the complete menu, but it wasn’t just three entrees either. After some debate, I decided on the watermelon and tomato gazpacho with ricotta. It was light and refreshing, but not too chunky or heavy like some gazpacho dishes I have had. In fact, I had one earlier that day at Assaggi and you couldn’t even compare the two in terms of quality.

Wedge Salad

The main courses included everything from pizza to salads to sandwiches to mussels, as well as full entrees. I figured I might as well try one of their pricier selections, so I ordered the salmon with English peas, alba mushrooms, radishes, and a horseradish cream sauce. It was perfectly cooked, seared on the outside while medium rare on the inside. The vegetables that accompanied the salmon were so fresh that I felt like I was tasting part of summer. I was really happy with my dish but tried not to eat it all so I could save some room for dessert.

Roasted salmon with english peas, alba mushrooms, and horseradish sauce

We decided to each pick a different dessert so we could try a few different ones. I ordered the Coconut Joy while my friends got the double chocolate bread pudding and the Elvis. I have to admit, I definitely had some food envy when I tried theirs. Mine was good, but it was originally supposed to have coconut and chocolate sorbet along with coconut macaroons, chocolate almonds, and rum syrup. Turns out they were out of the coconut sorbet and substituted it with raspberry instead. It was still decent, but it didn’t even compare to my friends’ dishes.

Coconut Joy dessert

I would order the Elvis next time – peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, fudge crispies, sweet and salty peanuts, bananas and chocolate sauce. The bread pudding was to die for as well. And considering that I work in the same building as this restaurant, there will be many next times. I may have forgotten to mention that before, but Food Wine definitely isn’t a bad place to work right above! Maybe we can get a discount for being neighbors?

Food Wine & Co on Urbanspoon

First Look: Tackle Box Cleveland Park

2 Jun

After years of vacancy at the former McDonald’s space, Tackle Box finally opened its doors yesterday. Between this and Medium Rare, new life has been injected into the Cleveland Park dining scene.

We had the opportunity to check out the restaurant’s newest location (the original is located in Georgetown, right next to sister venue Hook) for a friends and family event. Tackle Box offered a stripped-down version of their regular menu, at no cost, from 4pm to close. Talk about spreading goodwill to the neighborhood!

Raw Bar

If you are not already familiar with Tackle Box, they are a casual seafood eatery that offers selections of grilled and fried fish, oysters, lobster rolls, clam chowder, and much more. The Cleveland Park location, however, is not only two stories, but also features an expanded menu.

Friends and Family Welcome LetterShucking oysters at the raw bar

The space sets the tone of a lobster shack, complete with buoys lining the walls while American flags are adorned in several corners of the restaurant. As their website proclaims – “We like summer vacation at the beach. That’s why we decided to open a lobster shack in the middle of the city for those days we couldn’t make the drive.”

Tackle Box Menu

Once we stepped inside, we felt like we were transported to the shore as the place was packed with communal picnic tables along with servers who looked like they were no older than 20 years old. Not that you’ll be looking for elite service with this type of venue as orders are brought out by number with servers hunting you down with plastic trays with meals prepared in paper plates/platters.

The huge bar that runs down nearly the entire length of the bottom floor looks like a great gathering place after work. The best part? They offer Natty Boh on tap!

Natty Boh on tap!

Rachel and I split a half dozen raw oysters prepared at the raw bar by the front of the house. Accompanied with cocktail sauce and vinegar, these were some surprisingly large oysters. They were freshly shucked, very clean, and nicely presented in a wooden bowl (orders of dozen came out on a steel tray).

Raw Oysters

As for our entrees, we both ordered the Maine Meal which comes with a choice of fish, two sides, and a sauce. I ordered the grilled tilapia with lemon-garlic aioli, grilled broccoli, and mashed potatoes while Rachel got the grilled cod with a grilled portabella mushroom and corn on the cob.

Lobster ArtworkTackle Box InteriorAmerican Flag

Rachel originally wanted to order the whole steamed lobster, but alas, it was 86’ed by the time she stepped up to the counter. The fact that they included this on the complimentary menu spoke volumes on their effort to appease new customers though.

Anyway, I enjoyed the tilapia. It was nothing fancy, but for $7 a la carte (the Maine Meal is normally $14.50), one shouldn’t need to complain. While it was a tad salty, it was a decent piece of fish. When my platter arrived, I received a generous portion of grilled broccoli but my mashed potatoes were nowhere to be found. After informing the waiter, he told me that they had run out. Minutes later, he delivered a fresh batch of French fries! Nice gesture (and really good fries, to boot).

Maine Meal - Grilled cod, portabella mushroom, corn on the cob

Rachel’s cod was excellently grilled and had great flavor to it, especially when dipped into the lemon-garlic aioli sauce. The corn was a little cold by the time she had bit into it, but it still had a nice char to it, if not a tad too buttery. The star of the show had to have been the mushroom, which she thought was huge, until she saw a fellow diner’s even larger mushroom. She said that alone could be an entree, and was a great deal as a side.

We also split a brownie sundae which arrived with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was a great way to end the meal as the homemade brownie was soft and delicious while the ice cream, which was nearly melted by the time we got around to eating it, was still very rich in flavor.

Grilled TilapiaFrench Fries

We can see Tackle Box being very successful in Cleveland Park given the location, expansive menu, and huge dining space. It’s been a long time coming for that long-vacant space, and we can’t think of a better restaurant to fill the void than Tackle Box.

Tackle Box is located on 3407 Connecticut Avenue in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of DC.

Tackle Box on Urbanspoon

A (Post) Valentine's Day Dinner at Kinkead's

18 Feb

Having traveled the last few weekends in a row, and simply turned off to the idea of going out to dinner for Valentine’s Day along with the rest of the world, Rachel and I postponed our plans until two days after the Hallmark holiday.

It could not have worked out better.

With Groupon in hand (by far one of the better deals the website has offered), we made our way to Foggy Bottom, but not before partaking in some Happy Hour first. Kinkead’s kicked off their bar specials earlier this week, so the timing was perfect.

Lobster medallions, lobster "knuckle" sandwich, onion rings

And how could one not resist half-priced oysters? Certainly not us. With Bass drafts for $5, a glass of their wine of the day for $8, and not to mention a very friendly bartender, it was a shame we only had a short time to enjoy it since happy hour only lasts till 6:30.

After we paid our tab, our reservation was ready and we made our way to the upstairs dining room. We started our meal off with their fresh bread basket which included some very warm and delicious pieces of cornbread, soda bread, and whole wheat.

Shrimp Bisque

For the first course, Rachel ordered the lobster medallions, served in an asparagus stew with a lobster “knuckle” sandwich and crispy Vidalia onion rings. While the presentation was gorgeous, it was the medallions that really stole the show. Flavorful and tender, it was hard to ration the lobster given how large the medallions were.

In fact, it might have been the dish’s only downfall as the medallions were too difficult to cut away at as we eventually wound up eating them too quickly. It might have been better if the soup was served in a shallow bowl so that one could cut the lobster instead of it being served in a deeper, smaller bowl.

The “knuckle” sandwich was a nice touch and felt like a seafood takeoff on grilled cheese and tomato soup. Rachel also had the great idea of throwing the onion rings into the broth which gave it a subtle, crunchy texture.

Sesame Seared Rare Tuna

I went with the shrimp bisque, but had we known beforehand that Rachel’s appetizer was also primarily a soup (we overlooked that when reading the menu), I probably would have ordered something else. That’s not to say the bisque wasn’t good. In fact, it was fantastic!  Hearty but not too rich, it was the perfect dish for a winter’s eve. We just did not realize the texture of both soups would be so similar.

For our main course, I ordered the sesame seared rare tuna, served with seaweed salad, soba noodles, wasabi, and a soy dipping sauce. It turned out to be a generous portion as the tuna was perfectly cooked while the seaweed salad and noodles were fitting sides for the Asian-inspired entree. The sauce was very salty, of course, but at least it was served on the side so I could add just the right amount onto the fish.

Skate with lemon sabayon, grapefruit segments, and jumbo grilled asparagus

Rachel decided to try the skate since it’s a fish she has never had before, and the crispy wing balanced out well with a lemon sabayon, grapefruit segments, and jumbo grilled asparagus. It was a beautiful presentation and she enjoyed the dish, but I could tell that she was eyeing mine more than her own. I think the sauce was a little too overpowering, and while she debated ordering the skate versus the whole black bass, the latter may have been the better choice. At least now she knows what skate tastes like.

Overall, we had a great meal, and combined with the $50 discount from Groupon, it was an even better value. Kinkead’s might be part of the “old guard” in DC, but as evidenced on Wednesday night, it has held up rather well throughout the years.

Kinkeads is located on 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Kinkead's on Urbanspoon

Culinary Adventures in New Orleans: Day One

1 Dec

New Orleans is a city that we have always wanted to travel to, both for its fun factor and famous Creole cooking. I was originally planning to go this past February for my bachelorette weekend, but thanks to Snowmageddon, that didn’t quite happen.

I still had a credit on AirTran that was going to expire at the end of the year, and Brett had always wanted to travel there too, so we planned a four day weekend on the weekend before Thanksgiving with our friends Jess and Travis.

Of course, we could not go to a culinary mecca such as New Orleans without doing our diligent research, so by the time we arrived we already had most of our meals planned out.

Since we did so much and had so many delicious meals to tell you all about, we thought it would be best to break our trip up into days instead of establishments. So, without further ado, we bring you Day One…

We arrived in New Orleans around lunchtime, and as soon as we checked into our hotel, we made our way towards the French Quarter. We knew we wanted to try po-boys as our first meal, and since Johnny’s Poboys was a short walk and a staple destination for the New Orleans sandwich, off we went.

Shrimp and Oyster Po-BoyClub Po-BoyShrimp Gumbo

The menu was very overwhelming with at least 20 types of po-boys to choose from, as well as muffaletta, gumbo, fried chicken and more.  I decided to get the special which consisted of half a shrimp po-boy and a bowl of shrimp gumbo, and boy, was I glad I did!

Not only was it the perfect meal to start the trip, but I would have been in trouble if I ordered the full sandwich as they were easily 12 inches and pretty much a meal for the entire day.

Brett got a full po-boy with half oysters and half shrimp, and he could barely eat it all while Travis’s BLT po-boy looked like it could feed an entire family. We left completely stuffed, and ready to explore the quarter.

The next stop was Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop at the lower end of Bourbon Street. Hurriance at Pat O'BriensA friend recommended that we check it out as it is the oldest bar in NOLA and perhaps the entire country.

It was pretty deserted (then again, it was 3pm on a Thursday) but definitely a cool atmosphere and we consumed our first of many Abita Amber Ales there.

Shortly after, we strolled up Bourbon Street and made our way to Pat O’Briens to try the bar’s legendary cocktail, The Hurricane. Since it was still early, each couple split one. We realized the trick was that while they taste strong at first, by the time you get to the bottom, the ice melts a little resulting in a very tasty yet dangerous combination.

We started our night early since we wanted to watch the Maryland Terrapins play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, so we took the St. Charles Trolley uptown, and after a very long ride, we made it to Cooter Brown’s Sports Bar. (Note to self: the trolley seemed like a good idea at the time, but it took an hour to travel nearly three miles on one street.)

Cooter’s had a huge beer selection that rivaled that of the Brickskeller in DC, but I have a feeling they actually had more in stock as well as much better food.

Once our Terrapins put up a good fight but ultimately lost to Pitt, we headed to the famous Jacques-Imo’s Cafe only a few blocks away for some traditional New Orleans cooking.

Cornbread MuffinsWe already knew we would have to wait awhile since they only take reservations for parties of five or more. Fortunately, they have a relationship with the Maple Leaf Bar next door, and after an hour of chilling there with some drinks, our table was ready.

The hostess took us to our table, but not before cutting through the kitchen in order to seat us in the rear dining room.

The waitress came by and served us a basket of cornbread muffins that were to die for. While heavy on the butter (but hey, it’s New Orleans), they were incredible as they proved to be crisp on the outside and moist in the middle with more than a tinge of garlic provided in each bite.

We were told by nearly every person we encountered before stepping foot in Jacuqes-Imo’s is that we must order the Alligator Cheesecake. And, well, they were right.

Alligator CheesecakeMore of a quiche than a cheesecake, it featured pieces of alligator sausage and shrimp and was decadent to say the least.

It might have very well been the single best piece of food we ate on our entire trip. It was bittersweet provided we still had three more days of excellent cuisine down the road, but in all seriousness, this was the dish to top.

We also split an order of the fried green tomatoes which was accompanied with a highly addictive shrimp remoulade. Eating this southern classic while drinking an Abita Amber… life cannot get much better.

As for our entrees, I decided on the stuffed catfish with crabmeat dressing. The catfish was impeccably cooked and slightly blackened, and it came with a hollandaise sauce, which I ordered on the side. The crabmeat dressing was basically stuffing with crab, and it melted in my mouth it was so good.

Each entrée included two side dishes, so I went with the collard greens and beets. The greens were steamed to perfection but the beets were just OK. I know I got some boring sides compared to others that were offered, but I decided to pick the somewhat healthier options, which was a challenge to say the least.

Fried Green TomatoesGrilled Duck BreastStuffed Catfish with Crabmeat Dressing

Brett ordered the grilled duck breast served with an orange soy glaze, shitake mushrooms, and pecans. He said the duck was extraordinary as the meat was not only juicy and well-seasoned, but the flavor encapsulated New Orleans with each bite.

Brett opted for the mashed potatoes and red beans and rice for his choice of sides. He devoured both of them with ease and was impressed with the quality given how easy it is for most kitchens to lose focus on the sides while putting all their effort into the entrees. Not the case with Jacque-Imo’s!

We were so stuffed that we skipped on dessert, as tempting as it was, and made our way home as we had an early start the next day to head to Slidell for our Swamp Tour!

Stay tuned for Day Two of our New Orleans adventure…

Johnny's Po-Boys on Urbanspoon Jacques-Imo's Café on Urbanspoon

Redwood: Beautiful Space, Underrated Happy Hour

5 Nov

A few of us who either work or live in Bethesda decided to meet up this past week in Bethesda for Happy Hour. While we love going to the usual spots like Black’s, McCormick and Schmick’s, or even Caddies, we decided to try something a little different, and headed to Redwood on Bethesda Lane.

I have been to Redwood a few times for lunch but not dinner, while this was Brett’s first visit all together. Redwood has begun to receive more positive reviews after they changed chefs and updated their menu. This is the type of place you would think would always be packed, given the prime location and beautiful layout and size. However, when we went this past Tuesday, the restaurant and bar were fairly empty inside.

Mini BurgersThat’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves. The bartender/waiter we had was friendly and came back frequently to check in and see how we were doing. The girls had glasses of wine for $4 and the guys chose Fordham Light beer for $4 as well.

Eventually, we decided to get some bar snacks, and went for the fried oysters as well as an order of wood-oven flatbread with sea salt parmesan and olive oil. We also ordered several dips, which ranged from fresh ricotta to pesto to olive tapenade, each of which cost a dollar. With the waiter’s recommendation, we mixed together the pesto and ricotta on the flatbread, and it was an excellent flavor combination. If you enjoy kalamata olives, the tapenade had a strong flavor that meshed perfectly on the bread.

We decided we were still hungry, so we ordered two orders of the mini burgers, served with housemade chips. Each order came with two burgers, so each of us was able to enjoy one. While this is fairly common bar food, the burger served was of high quality, and we could tell that ordering a normal-sized burger here for lunch of dinner would be a treat as well.

As we ate and drank, we admired the decor of the place, especially the wood paneling by the bar that resembled actual redwood bark. It was hard to tell how real it was, but it was definitely a nice touch.

For all of you Top Chef lovers out there, a fun fact is that this restaurant was actually used for restaurant wars in the DC season. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try the food then, but we certainly plan on going back soon either for dinner or another happy hour in the near future.

Redwood Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Weekly Restaurant News

30 Sep

As always, I like to be on the lookout for news about new restaurants opening in the DMV. This could include a new concept from a relatively unknown chef or business, a new outpost from a well-known figure either locally or nationally, or a new location of an established restaurant. Today’s post covers all of these categories.

Pizza Tempo: One day I was walking on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda and noticed a small sign in a vacant space where a Pizza Hut used to be.

Pizza Tempo before opening

Pizza Tempo before Opening

I hadn’t been by there recently and forgot all about it, till I thought today to look at the image on my phone and saw a web address. Sure enough, Pizza Tempo’s website says that it is now open, so I did my research on this establishment.

It wasn’t clear if this was a standalone location or if there were others out there. Just from the website alone, it seems that the site is only for Bethesda, as the Map and Contact Us tabs only provide information for that location. However, when doing a Google search on them, I mostly got results for the same company name, but in Rockville as well as a mention of one in Kensington.

So, this is not a brand new establishment, but a relocation of one that has been in business since 2005. It was hard to tell if the other locations were closed, but that seemed to be the case when looking on Google Maps. However, any mention of it on either Chowhound or Yelp showed positive reviews, whether talking about the old or new venues.

From the outside, Pizza Tempo looks like it could be just another pizza joint, but that is not the case. First, their story, according to the website, is that they began in a small gas station in Rockville back in 2005, and then added a second location in Kensington. These were small establishments with only two or three tables, but they received a following from locals. Second, the menu includes not just pizza joint staples such as pizza and buffalo wings, but it is Turkish-owned so pides, hummus, falafel, lamb, and baba ganoushare also included. Looks like we’ll have to check this out soon.

District of Pi: More pizza places are coming to DC, and this one is a transplant from St. Louis. An article from the St. Louis Magazine website reported yesterday that its hometown pizza establishment, Pi Pizzeria, will be adding a new location early next year, on March 14, 2011 to be exact.

This will be the first outpost outside of St. Louis, and the magazine suspects our most famous resident may have something to do with that. Though the new location on 9th and F St. will still be a few blocks from the White House, it may not be long before they start getting delivery calls from the President. The deep dish pizza establishment already has a website up, with more to come as they get closer to opening.

The Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: Finally, there are some chefs and owners that are local favorites, and anything with their name and stamp on it is destined to be a success. This can be said for Jeff Black of Black Restaurant Group. We are definitely regulars at Black’s in Bethesda, particularly for their great happy hour that includes some great oyster specials.

So when I read Tom Siestema’s report that Mr. Black will be opening a new location in DC that features oysters, I could immediately tell that it would be a success. The plan is for the restaurant to open by February of next year, and the two-story space on 14th will include an upstairs bar and even a bocce ball court. We’ll be keeping on eye out for more news about this one, but this is one restaurant empire we’re excited to see expand.

Food Wine and Co. Opens in Bethesda

14 Sep

It’s been approximately nine months since the Pizzeria Uno that occupied a prime spot on Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street shut down. Many people were wondering what would take over the storefront given the large space and ideal location in Downtown Bethesda.

When it was announced that Francis Namin, owner of the outstanding Cork 57, would be opening a restaurant dedicated to continental cuisine and an outstanding wine selection, it immediately piqued our interest.

Food Wine and Co. finally opened its doors early last week which made it the obvious choice for DMV Dining’s dinner plans last night.

As soon as we walked in, we instantly noticed the clean, wood interior which accentuated the wine bar-themed décor. There’s a reason why this place took so long to open as the entire space was gutted from top to bottom. There is a striking display case by the bar of the charcuterie and cheese selection, as well as raw bar options of oysters and crab legs.

Love me some Ommegang
Upon our arrival, the hostess immediately greeted us and seated us at a butcher block-style table. We were also told that we could order happy hour specials in the dining area and did not have to sit at the bar.

Our server soon followed and handed us an impressive beer and wine list. Since this restaurant is owned by the same person that operates Cork 57, this wasn’t incredibly shocking, but it was great to see nonetheless. Any restaurant that features Ommengang Witte on tap is not joking around.  Add in the fact that they were offering $4 Abita Light draughts for happy hour and we’re in serious business.

Speaking of happy hour, Food Wine Co. also featured dollar Malpec oysters. Rachel and I split a half dozen of these and came away very impressed with not only the presentation but also of the three sauces that accompanied them.  As soon as we finished we ordered another half dozen since they were so good, and for a dollar a piece, they were quite a bargain. Instead of your traditional cocktail and horseradish combo, the plate came with wasabi, cucumber, and white wine dressings.  Very different, yet enjoyable. Black’s might have some serious competition here, and I’m all for it.

As for our main course, I went with the pork belly sandwich. It was topped with crispy shallots and glazed with a savory raspberry BBQ sauce and served on a roll that was prepared in-house (as is the case with all of their breads according to the menu).

The sandwich was excellent as it wasn’t excessively greasy yet still encompassed that delicious pork belly flavor while the sauce emphasized the care it took to prepare in the kitchen. Even the fries seemed freshly-cut and were much better than I’ve had at similar eateries.

Rachel opted for the ahi tuna salad which was beautifully served in rare pieces with a sesame seed crust, along with greens, carrot ribbons, kalamata olives, and a wasabi dressing that had quite a kick. It was a rather satisfying salad and a generous portion of tuna as well.

As we were finishing our entrees, the server discreetly dropped off a dessert menu then asked later if we were interested. Everything sounded delicious, most notably the goat cheesecake and a free form apple tart. We reluctantly declined because we were so full, but we will definitely have to indulge ourselves on a future visit.

We mentioned to the server that Rachel works in the building, and he asked us what we thought of our meal and to definitely come back soon as well as tell our friends and colleagues. He gave her a business card with the manager’s name on the back, and even cut us a discount on the bill! It was a very nice touch and you could tell they were anxious to see what we thought.

Overall, this seems like a great new addition to Downtown Bethesda. The prices are a little on the higher side, but so was the quality of everything presented, so it obviously seemed worth it. They also serve lunch which features smaller, less expensive variations of what is offered on their dinner menu. We were already eyeing the large bar area for a happy hour in the near future.

There is currently a website for Food Wine and Co. but the content is severely lacking. We definitely recommend they update it soon with the menu so others can see what this delightful new restaurant has to offer.

Food & Wine Co on Urbanspoon