Tag Archives: wine

Casual Elegance at Casa Luca

20 Nov

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

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

Luca Antipasto Misto

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

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

Bucatini

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

Pappardelle

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

Smoked potato gnocchi

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

Grigliata Mista di Pesce

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

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

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

Casa Luca on Urbanspoon

Monday Night Flights at Jaleo Bethesda

25 Jul

Starting last month, Jaleo of Bethesda launched a new weekly event celebrating the art of Spanish Wine with their “Monday Night Flights” series. For $25, diners get to sample four glasses of wine, each showcasing a different variety from Spain’s wine country.

The month of July focuses on Txakoli wines, which tend to be dry and sparkling with high acidity. The restaurant invited us over earlier this week to take a tour of the Basque Country and see why Txakoli is such a cult hit in Spain. (Full disclosure — this meal was provided by the restaurant).

Monday Night Flights

Curated by ThinkFoodGroup’s wine director Lucas Payá, “Monday Night Flights” also features two different individually-sized paella plates that are specially crafted to pair with the wine flight. Turns out that there are three regions in the Basque Country that specialize in Txakoli – Getariako, Bizkaiko, and Alava.

The first wine we sampled was a 2012 Berroia from the Bizkaiko region. Fruity and refreshing, it was not as dry as anticipated and paired nicely with the acorn-fed cured ham.

Jamón Ibérico De Bellota Fermin

Our next glass was a 2012 Ameztoi Rubentis rose from the Getariako region. Light and crisp with a slight fizz, it provided some quality refreshment given the muggy summer evening. Combined with the Cana de Cabra (slices of goat’s milk cheese paired with raisin walnut bread and fig jam), it made for a quality pairing. Although the wine may have gone a little better with a harder cheese, the one we chose was equally delicious and we were happy with our selection.

Cana de Cabra

The next glass in our flight was a 2012 Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina from the Getraiako region. What’s great about Txakoli is that it is a great sipping wine which makes it an ideal beverage for sharing plates of tapas. For instance, the Txomin Etxaniz featured a lemony flavor and went well with one of Jaleo’s more innovative dishes, Oysters Gin and Tonic.

Oysters Gin and Tonic

Our final glass of the evening was a 2010 Gorrondona Txakolina Tinto from the Bizkaiko region, and was the only red wine of our flight. Featuring a great deal of minerality as well as a slightly spicy finish, it paired excellently with the Canary Island-style rabbit confit with apricot purée.

Canary Island-style rabbit confit with apricot purée

The Txakoli also complemented the restaurant’s paella dish of the evening, Arroz Mediterrano. Prepared with porcini mushrooms, mixed vegetables, green and black olives, and thyme, it was nice being able to share a paella dish between two people instead of having to order one for the entire table.

Arroz Mediterrano

One of our favorite tapas of the evening might have been the Setas Al Ajillo Con La Serena, sautéed seasonal mushrooms with cheese potato purée. Both Rachel and I gushed about the texture of the dish as it felt more like comfort food than your traditional Spanish dish.

Setas Al Ajillo Con La Serena

Txakoli also pairs really nicely with seafood as we learned while sipping a glass along with an order of seared scallops with with pine nuts and raisins.

Seared scallops

Before we concluded Monday Night Flights, we decided to try the olive oil ice cream for dessert. At first, we just thought it would be a scoop of ice cream served with a side of grapefruit. Oh how wrong we were. Instead was a scoop of olive oil ice cream surrounded by fresh grapefruit, a grapefruit granita, and topped with candied grapefruit. Our waiter told us to make sure to have every component on the spoon before trying it. He was right as this was one of the most original desserts we have had in quite some time. The tartness of the grapefruit was balanced by the softness of the ice cream and made for a sweet ending to a fabulous meal.

Olive oil ice cream

Monday Night Flights is offered at Jaleo of Bethesda from 5:30pm to 10pm for $25 per person. For additional information or reservations please visit www.jaleo.com.

Jaleo 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

Spring is in the Air at Seasons 52

3 Apr

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend an event at Seasons 52 where they would be debuting their new spring menu. Brett and I have wanted to try this place since it first opened, so this provided to be a good introduction to the restaurant. While we were not seated in the main dining room as this was a private event, just from walking in, we could tell that the ambiance was very inviting. We even noticed a piano man at the bar by the entrance. Anyway, we could not wait to see what we would be trying that night.

Seasons 52

If you weren’t already aware, Seasons 52 is a chain operated by Darden Resaurants (their brands also include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Capital Grille) but the large space definitely didn’t have the atmosphere of one. Their whole concept is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and they change their menu four times a year. Also, nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories, and that includes their “mini indulgences” desserts.

We were able to try several items on the new spring menu, which ranged from starters to entrees to those decadent desserts, as well as wine pairings for each course. Let’s just say I stared at my wine while Brett indulged.

Plum tomato and artichoke & goat cheese flatbreads

We arrived a little late to the event but the servers were very accommodating and still let us try their well-known flatbreads to start. I particularly enjoyed the plum tomato flatbread, which included fresh basil, roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese. Someone detected a hint of lavender in there and they were right, as that was mixed into the crust. The artichoke and goat cheese flatbread was very light and perfect for spring.

Tomato and Haas avocado salad

Next came the tomato and Haas avocado salad. The server mentioned they use Haas avocados because they are available right at the start of spring and have a higher fat and taste content. I loved the combination of tomato, avocado, balsamic, and arugula, and would definitely come back and make a meal of that with the add-on of chicken or another protein.

Columbia River steelhead trout

For our entrees, we all shared the Columbia River steelhead trout, lamb t-bone chops, and spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms. I really liked the trout, and had no idea that that particular type was part of the salmon family. It paired well with the spring vegetables, basmati rice, and lemongrass sauce. I’m sure it also balanced well with the recommended Botani Moscatel, but I digress.

Lamb t-bone chops

I know that Brett’s favorite was the lamb t-bone chops as he had three of them and couldn’t get enough. He commented how he generally doesn’t order lamb because it is so fatty and gamey, but these pieces of meat were incredibly lean and flavorful. Even more amazing were the truffle mashed potatoes that accompanied the chops. We all asked how it was possible for them to be low-fat, and they answered that the chef uses fat free sour cream instead of butter or cream. Amazing!

Spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms

The snow peas were a nice side dish and we enjoyed the contrast of the crunchy peas together with the meaty mushrooms and almonds, but I don’t think I would call them spicy, more like sweet and savory. That dish was paired with the Lioco Indica Rose from Mendocino which we were told is 100% natural with no additives. This is a wine that is hard to obtain on the east coast, and we will definitely look for it when we are out on a trip to California in a few months.

"Mini indulgences" desserts

Finally, the desserts. We had heard about these small desserts, but until you see them all together it is hard to grasp just how many varieties and indulgences there really are. They had everything from mango cheesecake to rocky road to pecan pie. We tried several of them and I have to say that my favorite might have been the key lime pie, but the chocolate peanut butter was pretty amazing too. Bottom line – none of these are more than 300 calories, so indulge!

Their menu changes every 13 weeks, so you have plenty of time to check out some of these new items, plus some staples. I could definitely see us going back for the flatbreads and desserts alone. But I know Brett is still thinking about that lamb t-bone too, so a return trip is definitely on the horizon.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Anniversary Dinner at BLT Steak

16 Mar

Rachel and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary last week, so what better way to honor the occasion than by, you guessed it, going out to dinner? We headed out to BLT Steak as our friend had given us a gift card as a wedding present for said restaurant and felt that it was an opportune time to finally use it.

Sparking wine flight

We started the evening off by splitting a sparking wine flight of prosecco, rose, and champagne between the two of us. Soon after, we received a plate of crusty bread with chicken pate. The pate had some excellent consistency and certainly beats your typical spread of butter.

Bread and chicken pate

Then the restaurant’s trademark item arrived — their popovers. We have heard the stories and seen the images, but yeah, I’ll let the below shot speak for itself.

Popovers

Piping hot, I nearly singed my fingers trying to crack open this mammoth piece of bread. But the pain was worth the reward once I pried inside and started tearing away pieces. Warm and soft, the restaurant even provides you with a recipe so you can try to make them at home.

We decided to split their Caesar salad for our first course, and it’s a good thing we did since the portion is large enough to share between two people. It was a unique presentation in that it is served with two giant croutons that you breakdown into smaller pieces. We also liked the fact that it wasn’t drenched in dressing yet wasn’t dry enough where you needed to ask for extra.

Caesar salad

Following in the tradition of our previous courses, Rachel and I decided to share their 12 ounce filet for our entree. Rachel preferred a medium temperature while I wanted mine medium-rare, so BLT was able to accommodate both of our requests by indicating as such when the steak arrived.  You also have your choice of sauce to accompany the steak, so we went with the béarnaise and peppercorn (our waitress was kind enough to let us try both).

12 ounce filet

The steak was excellently cooked as it had a subtle amount of char on the outside but melted in your mouth once you took a bite. It’s as simple as it gets – a dash of salt and pepper, then seared to perfection. I was very impressed by the tenderness as well as the flavor.

As for sides, we ordered the caramelized brussel sprouts with bacon lardons and truffle mashed potatoes. While we enjoyed the former, the latter was the more memorable of the two. Not to make such a bold statement, but these were some of the best mashed potatoes we have ever had. Creamy and buttery, we were savoring each bite until the bowl was scraped clean.

Caramelized brussel sprouts with bacon lardons and truffle mashed potatoes

BLT Steak proved to be a great place to celebrate our anniversary in DC. And while we also celebrated in New York as part of a weekend getaway, the write-up on that extraordinary dinner will have to wait until next week.  Stay tuned…

BLT Steak on Urbanspoon

International Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines

10 Nov

I used to live in Cleveland Park (and in Van Ness prior to that), so I became very familiar with that particular stretch of Connecticut Avenue. Being that there is so much at our doorstep in Bethesda, I don’t go back to my old neighborhood as often as I would like. Given the recent resurgence of new establishments opening in Cleveland Park, it’s nice to see the area continue to change and develop.

Weygandt Wines

Just last week, we were able to attend an event at Weygandt Wines to celebrate International Champagne Day. It’s hard to imagine that the same spot used to belong to a Blockbuster Video, and right next door is the expanded Palena where I used to do my daily shopping at MacGruder’s. There are still the old standbys like California Tortilla and Indique, but we’ve definitely been eying Medium Rare and still need to make a trip to Ripple as well as the renovated Ardeo/Bardeo.

The Heart of Champagne

Anyway, back to the wines. We will fully admit that we are not winos and cannot claim too much expertise in that department. We do, however, enjoy trying new varieties and going to tastings at vineyards, but when it comes to choosing the right bottle at a restaurant to pair with a dish, consider us clueless… which is where the folks at Weygandt Wines come in.

Weygandt Wines

If I still lived in the neighborhood, I could see it being my go-to store for choosing the perfect wine. The store itself is a showcase for Peter Weygandt’s wine selections as an importer from wines all over the world. The store’s partner and manager is Tim O’Rourke, a former chef who hails from restaurants such as Cafe Atlántico, Michel Richard Citronelle, and Tosca. Along the way, he fell in love with fine wine and came to the store with the idea of a place to showcase wine and discuss food.

The space may seem a little intimidating at first, but the staff is very warm and helpful, and if you are looking for something within a particular budget, they can steer you in that direction. There is even a showcase in the front of quality wines for $15 or less.

Champagne Tasting

On this particular night, we were able to sample several varieties of champagne along with several red wines. They were all wonderful, but we have to say our favorite was the champagne from Nicolas Maillart. We even had some small bites to try courtesy of Ripple, and I was definitely drawn to their chicken liver and apple butter crostini.

Crostini from Ripple

In addition to providing helpful guidance on wine selections, they also hold regular tastings on Saturdays as well as other events. If you visit their website, there’s a handy guide of corkage fees in the DC area.

Weygandt Wines

Their wine club is very intriguing, as you can receive two bottles a month as part of the Classic Wine Club for only $29.99. Considering the selection and quality of wines available at Weygandt, that definitely seems like a bargain.The event itself was a great way to connect to the store as well as other local food and wine bloggers, and we will definitely be back again the next time we are looking for a special wine or to learn more about vino in general.

Persimmon: A Bethesda Bistro

26 Oct

I am very fortunate that my parents live only a few hours away up in New Jersey, and whenever they come to visit, they like to see new things in the DC area and go out to fun restaurants. Last week, they visited for my mom’s birthday and I decided that we should go somewhere in Bethesda that has a great reputation for quality food: Persimmon.

We have eaten at Persimmon several times for lunch but only during Restaurant Week. This was our first dinner experience off the regular menu, and we have to admit, we had some high expectations. Tucked away on the edge of Bethesda along Wisconsin Avenue, it is easy to miss this unassuming restaurant. However, year after year, it earns high marks both from critics and diners, so off we went to see for ourselves.

Smoked trout spring rolls

The only tricky thing about eating out with my parents is that my mom is strictly kosher and only eats fish when dining out, so I always make sure beforehand that there is enough on the menu for her to choose from. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many options as I had hoped for, but in the end, my mom enjoyed her meal as we all did.

To start, we ordered a bottle of Bex Riesling. I had first learned about this label from my friend Lisa and we really enjoyed it as a light and crisp wine. We all shared the smoked trout spring rolls and the roasted beet salad as starters.

Roasted beet salad

The spring rolls were accompanied with hoisin barbecue and peanut sauce and paired well with the trout due to the appetizer’s smokiness. It was a dish that I wasn’t sure would work from the description, but it definitely did. Meanwhile, the beet salad consisted of roasted beets, arugula, blue cheese, apples, walnuts and a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette. It was a beautiful fall salad and a nice starter to the meal.

Seared Beef Tenderloin

For our entrees, my mom ordered the salmon, which was served with artichokes, mushrooms, and a basil risotto. The salmon was perfectly cooked while the risotto was so delicious that it could have been a meal in itself. My dad got the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, spinach, and fried onions. It seemed like a very conventional dish on paper but that didn’t mean my dad did not devour his plate.

Pan-seared rockfish

I went with the pan-seared rockfish, which was accompanied with shrimp, zucchini, exotic mushrooms, crispy polenta cake, and a lobster beurre blanc sauce. There was a lot going on in this dish, but somehow it all worked. I really enjoyed the rockfish and it was fun mixing all the flavors together in the dish. The sauce was very salty, but overall, I really liked all the components both apart as well as together.

Sautéed lump crab cakes

Brett went with the sautéed lump crab cakes with bacon mashed potatoes, roasted corn hash and a sweet corn sauce. While it was an adequately-sized portion, the crab cakes were rather ordinary as they had a bland flavor and lacked the lump meat consistency that we’ve found at other restaurants (see Jerry’s Seafood). On the flipside, he really liked the roasted corn hash and sauce as it was a nice complement to the crab meat.

While we were very stuffed at this point, my dad ordered a crème brulee for my mom, which we all happily shared. All in all, it was a terrific meal that did not disappoint. We also noticed that Persimmon offers a sunset dinner special that features a three-course menu for only $30. The only caveat? It’s offered Sunday through Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm. We’ll definitely have to take advantage of that deal at some point. We have also been eying their brunch for some time, and if our dinner was any indication, it will definitely be on our list to visit again soon.

Persimmon on Urbanspoon

A Shining Spotlight on Charlie Palmer Steak

22 Sep

Not only was it just a year ago that DMV Dining launched, but around the same time, OpenTable debuted Spotlight, their Groupon-like website. Their very first offer was for Charlie Palmer Steak, and naturally we took the bait.

Needless to say, Charlie Palmer was (in our assessment) Spotlight’s most enticing offer since they launched, as the restaurants since then have not quite matched the caliber of the Capitol Hill steakhouse.

Amuse Bouche - Rock Shrimp Ceviche

Anyway, we nearly forgot about the certificate until we realized it was about to expire in a couple of weeks. On a related note, we really need to create a Google Calendar for our soon-to-expire Groupons…

We were able to book a reservation for Friday evening, and wouldn’t you know it, the restaurant offers free corkage on Fridays! This was purely coincidental when we originally booked our table, but upon finding out the news, we brought along a bottle of King Estate’s Acrobat Pinot Noir.

Filet Mignon

When we were seated, the waitress poured two glasses of the wine we brought and soon returned with an amuse bouche of rock shrimp ceviche. It provided some excellent flavor for such a small bite and was a nice way to start off our evening.

For our entrees, we kept it rather simple: we both ordered the European cut filet, Rachel opting for the petite size while I went for the standard portion (surprise, surprise). The quality of the meat was exceptional as it was evenly cooked and deliciously succulent. Not to throw Grapeseed under the bus, but the difference was night and day between the two restaurant’s steaks.

Parmesan gnocchi

Following the advice of EatMore DrinkMore’s Jenna, we ordered the Parmesan gnocchi as one of our sides. Folks, this could have been a meal in itself. For eight dollars, we had more than enough pasta to share between the two of us. Oh, and it was really, really good. It was such a clever way to complement the filet rather than serve it with your typical baked potato or order of fries (though the ones at Charlie Palmer did look delectable).

Wild mushrooms and onions

We also ordered a side of wild mushrooms and onions which we both really enjoyed. Nothing really to write about here, but the garlic nicely supplemented the filet.

We didn’t wind up ordering dessert as we were both so full from our meal, but then the waitress brought over a small assortment of bite-sized treats which included peanut brittle and chocolate truffles. Unsurprisingly, they were gone within seconds.

Dessert Assortment

Overall, we both really enjoyed Charlie Palmer. Our waitress was very friendly, topping off our wine glasses the moment they were no more than a third full. Meanwhile, the food was fantastic. I was very impressed by not only the cuts of the filet, but also by the superb gnocchi. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Ray’s the Classics, but Charlie Palmer is right up there as one of my favorite steakhouses in the DMV.

Charlie Palmer Steak on Urbanspoon

Grapeseed American Bistro and Wine Bar

30 Aug

After years of living in Bethesda, whenever someone has asked for recommendations of nicer places to eat, I generally think of Grapeseed as an obvious choice. We had been there several times for dinner, mainly for Bethesda Restaurant Week, and have always enjoyed our meals there. Earlier this year, we had purchased a LivingSocial deal for Grapeseed and were finally able to use it before it expired.

We arrived early for our reservation hoping to be seated, but they were still busy so we got a drink next door at Freddy’s Lobster and Clams, Chef Heineman’s new venture and one of our new favorite spots in Bethesda. After some tasty beers we made our way back and were seated by the front of the restaurant. It was nice to be able to see the full menu rather than a limited Restaurant Week one. One thing I noticed right away was that some of the dishes that stood out on the “sample menu” on the website were missing. I understand that many restaurants do this to only show a taste of what they offer, but I had to change my game plan and it threw me off a bit.

Sautéed calamari

We already had some drinks so we appreciated that you could order half glasses of wine, so we each ordered based on the sommelier’s recommendation on what to pair with our entrees. To start, we shared the sautéed calamari. I’m a sucker for grilled or sautéed calamari (as opposed to the fried stuff), so we had to try it. I enjoyed the lemon and caper flavors but the calamari rings themselves were fairly thin and limp. I guess I’m used to calamari when it is the thick tubes you have to cut, not the smaller rings. It was still a nice dish, but I’ve had better.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops

For the main course, I opted for the scallops that came with a lobster sauce, asparagus, and curried mashed potatoes. Overall I liked the scallops, but the lobster sauce was too salty for my taste and it in turn made the seafood taste overwhelmingly salty. They were definitely generously-sized scallops, but something was lacking in the dish overall. Interestingly enough, the dish listed on the “sample menu” came with roasted cauliflower and mustard greens as opposed to the asparagus and potatoes that I received. I’m not sure when it was changed but I’m wondering if it would have been better if I had tasted the dish as it was originally intended.

Pan Roasted Filet Mignon

Brett ordered the pan-roasted filet with horseradish mashed potatoes with an oxtail-mushroom ragout. Just like scallops, he thought the filet was good, not great. He ordered it medium rare, but it was unevenly cooked and just wasn’t as flavorful as anticipated. Meanwhile, the mashed potatoes were something we could have made at home and were a tad dry. Brett was also surprised how there wasn’t any sort of green found on the plate. Granted, you can order a side of mustard greens (for $7.50), but this was strictly a meat and potatoes dish that really needed a vegetable.

Overall we were slightly disappointed in our meal at Grapeseed. It’s not that we had bad service or the food was horrible, but it just didn’t wow us in the way it has in the past. We met a nice couple next to us who had never been before and they too were underwhelmed with their dinner. Maybe we were just there on an off night. Maybe we’re just tougher critics than we were when we last dined here years ago. I’m sure we’ll be back again, but I think we’ll be sticking to Freddy’s over Grapeseed.

Grapeseed on Urbanspoon

DC Restaurant Week at Adour

29 Aug

Rachel and I were rather strategic about this year’s Restaurant Week. We wanted to a) dine somewhere we have never been to before, b) make sure the $35 price tag was worthwhile, and c) eat at a place that offered the full menu.

Adour covered two out of three of those prerequisites – they only offered a limited menu – but given that Alain Ducasse’s DC establishment serves entrees that are typically priced over $35, we made an exception to that last condition.

With our party of six promptly seated for our 7:30pm reservation, the staff was already very hospitable given that one of our friends had brought their newborn along to dinner with a stroller. Adour isn’t one of the most baby-friendly restaurants in the city, but they were very courteous given the situation, though I think the highest honor should go to baby Micah himself. He was very well-behaved throughout the evening and barely made a peep.

Carrot Ginger Soup

While reviewing the wine menu, our waiter dropped off a plate of warm gougères which were quickly devoured by the table. After placing our orders, we were presented with an amuse bouche of carrot ginger soup. Delightfully creamy, it was a nice way to start the meal off.

Daurade Ceviche

For our first course, I ordered the daurade ceviche. The fish, which was served atop a layer of avocado, was light and refreshing. On top of the daurade were kernels of fresh corn as well as popcorn. The latter was an interesting ingredient to say the least, both texturally and flavor-wise, but it was way too salty and contrasted with the protein.

Path Valley Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Rachel started off with the chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho with compressed watermelon and basil. She debated if this would be a worthwhile Restaurant Week choice given that fact that it was just soup, but after the first bite she knew she had chosen well. The flavor of watermelon was very prominent, and combined with the basil and tomatoes, it was one of the better gazpacho dishes she has tasted.

Braised beef short rib

For our entrees, I went with the braised beef short rib. This dish easily made the meal for me as the short rib was simply outstanding. I barely had to use my knife since the meat was so incredibly tender. Served with sautéed onions, tomatoes, and peppers in addition to a side dish of creamy polenta, I can safely say that it was one of the best short ribs I have ever had. A bold statement, I know, but I was really blown away by the careful preparation of the chef. Considering that this entrée alone is regularly priced at $37, it’s a steal to say the least.

Seared Scottish Salmon

For the entree Rachel ordered the seared Scottish salmon. It wasn’t the best salmon she ever had, but it was well-cooked and melted in her mouth. The mussels on top were a nice touch and overall it was a pleasing dish. After having a bite of the short rib she did encounter some ordering envy, but she happily cleaned her plate.

Milk Chocolate Coffee Bar

As for dessert, I ordered the milk chocolate coffee bar. Served with a side of nougatine ice cream, this was a decadent ending to a great meal. Adour’s spin on the Kit-Kat, I would take Ducasse’s version over Hershey’s 11 times out of 10. Topped with crispy rice drizzled with chocolate, it was incredibly hard to put the fork down. Then again, I had to in order to use my spoon to scoop out every last remnant of the homemade ice cream!

Roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet

Rachel got the roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet. She loved the dessert as the flavors of coconut and pineapple blended together in perfect harmony.  Even though she was full from the prior courses, it wasn’t too heavy as she was still able to fully enjoy her dessert.

Overall, Adour was a fantastic meal. After reading some mixed reviews, I must admit that I felt I was going to be setup for a disappointment, but fortunately that was not the case. We had excellent service as they were very accommodating given our friend’s baby. Despite the limited menu options, the food was excellently cooked and even transcendent at times (see: short rib). We even received some complimentary cookies before we got the bill. For all the flack Restaurant Week receives, Adour is a shining example of how it can succeed.

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