Archive | May, 2013

Rasika West End

22 May

Rachel and I have always loved Rasika, and with her brother in town from Seattle, we wanted to show him that Washington D.C., just like the Emerald City, is a dining destination.

Rasika West End, just like its Penn Quarter counterpart, has been in high demand since it first opened its doors. In fact, we had to book our reservation nearly a month in advance to lock down a table for a Saturday night.

After toying with the idea of ordering the four-course tasting menu, we ultimately decided to share a bunch of plates and go the a la carte route instead. That turned out to be a very wise decision since there was so much we wanted to try from Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam’s kitchen.

Palak chaat

Of course, one cannot visit Rasika without ordering the trademark palak chaat. There is a reason why this is one of the top dishes in the District. Featuring crispy baby spinach, yogurt, tamarind, and dates, the combination of ingredients amounts to a memorable first course.

Honey ginger scallops

Just as good were the honey ginger scallops. Typically two to a plate, our waiter was able to accommodate an additional scallop for our table for an additional fee. The scallops were large with with a nice blend of flavors from the honey and ginger with just the right amount of sear from the kitchen.

Banana avocado chaat

Not to be outdone was the banana avocado chaat. Just like the palak chaat, this was an exceptional dish. Prepared with cumin, red chili powder, tamarind, and date chutney, the combination of crispy banana and creamy avocado made this my favorite plate of the evening so far. You wouldn’t think these flavors would go well together, but they blended perfectly and we couldn’t get enough of the grilled banana.

Khatta Meetha black cod

We decided to share two entrees amongst the three of us after a trio of fantastic first courses. First was their signature Khatta Meetha black cod. Unlike the Penn Quarter location, it’s prepared two ways at West End. The first preparation uses their classic recipe of fresh dill, honey, star anise, and red wine vinegar. The second preparation, however, incorporates a cheddar and tamarind glaze. In short, both pieces of fish were absolutely stellar.

Salli Boti

Next was another West End exclusive — Salli Boti. This savory Parsi dish features tender chunks of lamb, onions, tomatoes, apricot, and straw potatoes. It was essentially an Indian stew and made for great comfort food.

Ringana Nu ShakGobhi MattarDal Dhungaree

On top of all of this, we also ordered a trio of vegetarian sides to share which ranged from eggplant to smoked lentils to cauliflower. Oh, and you can’t have an Indian meal without an order of naan. Rachel and I opted for the garlic naan while David, Rachel’s brother, went with the spicier chili olive variety.

Garlic naan

There’s a reason why both locations of Rasika are one of the toughest tables in town – they serve up the area’s best Indian food. All three of us were incredibly happy with what we ordered, and there were no regrets once we finished. On top of that, our waiter was incredibly knowledgeable with the menu and actually recommended the Salli Boti to us after debating what to order with the magnificent black cod. Between the exquisite food and wonderful service, it’s no question why Rasika is so cherished in the District.

Rasika West End on Urbanspoon

An Early Birthday Dinner at The Source

13 May

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

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

Chinese dough knot soup

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

Border Springs lamb lettuce cups

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

Crystal garlic chive dumplings

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

"Tiny Dumplings"

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

Tandoori arctic char

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

Day boat scallops

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

Lacquered Chinese duckin

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

The Source on Urbanspoon

Pizza in Washington Premieres Tonight on WETA

7 May

Be sure to tune in to WETA at 8pm tonight for a wonderful half-hour program on Washington’s ever-growing pizza scene.  This program covers an array of pizzerias, old and new, in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.

Marco Pizza

From Neapolitan to deep-dish Chicago to New Haven style, Pizza in Washington talks to the owners and chefs of some noteworthy establishments such as Pizzeria Orso, Matchbox, Menomale, and the original Ledo Restaurant, just to name a few.

So sit back, grab a slice, and watch as WETA takes you around some of the area’s best pizzerias.

Pizza in Washington airs tonight on WETA at 8pm. Future showings as well as a channel guide can be found here.

Cedar Restaurant

3 May

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

Seared tuna

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

Beets and bleu cheese salad

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

Lobster and white chocolate soup

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

Mocha Cervena venison

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

Saffron oil poached salmon

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

Chocolate peanut butter pralineCherry Glen goat cheese mousseKey lime pie

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

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

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

Cedar Restaurant on Urbanspoon