Archive | December, 2013

Our Favorite Dishes of 2013, Part II

31 Dec

Okay, my turn. Most of Brett’s dishes I agreed with (although as much as I loved the brisket at Rose’s Luxury, it was a little too fatty for my taste). Here are a few others that I loved from this year, and would get again in 2014 in a heartbeat.

Brussels Sprouts – The Red Hen

We went here for my birthday, and it was a perfect meal. I loved everything we got, but my favorite part might have been the side of Brussels sprouts that we ordered as an afterthought. They were perfectly crispy without being too dry or too oily, and were served atop a garlic and dill aioli. I could have eaten an entire dish of it all to myself.

Brussels sprouts

Popcorn Soup with Lobster – Rose’s Luxury 

Brett already mentioned the brisket, which was the main event of our meal. I have to say the standout dish for me was the popcorn soup with grilled lobster. The only way I could describe the flavor was that it was similar to eating a buttered popcorn Jelly Belly. You know it isn’t popcorn, but it sure as hell tastes like it. It was smooth and velvety without being heavy, and the lobster pieces found at the bottom were the icing on the cake. It was so unique that I felt like I with every spoonful I had to comment about how much I was in awe of the dish.

Popcorn soup

Schmutzy Fries – DGS Delicatessen

We’re already big fans of DGS, and have been before for brunch and lunch. We decided to check it out for dinner when my brother and sister-in-law were in town, and we instantly decided to start off our meal with an order of the Schmutzy Fries. It was basically poutine, or disco fries from a New Jersey dinner, but the toppings instead were what you would find on a Reuben: corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss, Russian dressing, and harissa. In other words, amazing.

Schmutzy Fries

Pork and Crispy Rice Cake in a Sweet and Sour Sauce with Vegetables – Sichuan Jin River 

So this may not be the real name of the dish, but it was how it was described to me. Between the crispy rice cake that soaked in the sauce to comb-shaped Chinese mushrooms, I couldn’t get over how delicious and complex this dish was. After getting something like this, it makes it hard to go back to a generic Chinese takeout place.

Pork and crispy rice cake in a sweet and sour sauce with vegetables

Olive Oil Ice Cream – Jaleo 

I would say that hands down the most unique dessert we had in 2013 was the olive oil ice cream dish at Jaleo. What seemed like a simple dish on paper was actually a scoop of olive oil ice cream surrounded by fresh grapefruit, a grapefruit granita, and topped with candied grapefruit. If you dipped your spoon so you had every component together for each bite, it was a perfect blend of flavors.

Olive oil ice cream

Okonomiyaki – Maketto 

This was a Japanese-style pancake with so many layers to it. Pork belly, shrimp, shaved mackerel, vegetables. There’s a lot going on in this dish that I was fortunate enough to try at the Maketto pop-up at Hanoi House earlier this fall. If this is any indication of what’s to come from Erik Bruner-Yang’s new restaurant opening in early 2014, then you can be sure to wait hours for a table here just like people do at Toki. If only we can make it to either one!

Japanese fish cake

Grilled Trout – Et Voila 

We went here back in February, and it still stands out as my favorite fish dish of the year. Sometimes simple is better, and this was perfectly grilled trout. The grill marks added a smoky flavor to the fish, and the champagne sauce with leeks was lovely to dip it in.

Grilled trout

Our Favorite Dishes of 2013, Part I

30 Dec

It was quality over quantity in our dining adventures this year, and with visits to new restaurants such as Rose’s Luxury and Ghibellina, it’s been an exciting year for eating in the District. With that said, Brett takes a look back at some of his favorite dishes of the year. Be on the lookout for Rachel’s favorite dishes tomorrow.

Rose’s Luxury – Smoked brisket platter

I don’t know what’s more amazing: that Rose’s Luxury was hands-down our favorite dinner of 2013, or that the place has only been open for four months. While each dish was stellar, it was the family-style platter of smoked brisket that was truly outstanding. The smoky, thick slices of beef are so juicy and tender that a knife is not necessary. Making a sandwich with the accompanying Texas toast, pickled cabbage, and horseradish sauce was a real treat.

Smoked brisket platter

Rappahannock Oyster Bar – Crab Cake

Let’s face it: anything you order from Rappahannock Oyster Bar is going to be good, especially the Lamb and Clams, but their crab cake is the best in the city. Yeah, I’m going there. Using only lump and backfin meat, the portion is very generous given the affordable price of $14. Lightly crispy on the outside and topped with a dab of remoulade, it’s hard to find a better preparation of this Maryland staple in the city.

Crab cake

Range – Skillet Corn Bread

One of the best values in Bryan Voltaggio’s massive Friendship Heights restaurant, the iron skillet corn bread is large enough to share amongst four people. But it’s the bacon marmalade that really makes this dish shine. Spreading it over the warm, flaky corn bread creates a flavor combination that leaves you wanting more. And more. And more.

Skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade

Ghibellina – Stracotto

One of the many great new restaurants that opened along the 14th Street corridor this year, the casual offshoot of Acqua Al 2 really stood out with its excellent pizzas and freshly-prepared pastas. But it was the Stracotto, Ghibellina’s version of pot roast, which made this visit a memorable one. Prepared with white wine and tomato, I took my time enjoying the succulent, tender beef with each forkful.


Rasika West End – Banana Avocado Chaat

Both locations of Raskia are always a tough table for one simple reason: they consistently serve up some of this city’s very best Indian cuisine. And while each visit requires an order of their Palak Chaat, it was the banana and avocado preparation that left an indelible impression. You wouldn’t think at first that these two flavors go together at all, but when you pair up a bite of the grilled, crispy banana with the creamy avocado, it’s pretty much transcendent.

Banana avocado chaat

Acqua Al 2 – Filetto al Mirtillo

I’m a big steak fan, but reading over the menu description of the Filetto al Mirtillo made me do a double-take. A hand-carved filet mignon cooked in blueberry reduction sauce? But our friend insisted we order it, and well, he was right. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine pairing up a tender, medium-rare filet with blueberry sauce, yet somehow, the duo worked. Chalk it up to the subtle flavor of the sauce, which added just a hint of blueberry without overshadowing the steak.

Filet with blueberry sauce

Be sure to check DMV Dining tomorrow for Rachel’s favorite dishes of 2013!

A Birthday Dinner at The Red Hen

5 Dec

Let me preface by saying that I fell in love with the Red Hen the moment I walked into the Bloomingdale restaurant. I don’t know if it was the raised ceilings, the bustling yet homey atmosphere, or the exposed kitchen towards the back, but the place felt real and not manufactured. Rachel and I had been meaning to check out Michael Friedman and Sebastian Zutant’s new venue since it opened to rave reviews back in April, so I thought it would be an excellent dining destination to celebrate Rachel’s birthday.

First of all, Red Hen takes reservations! Considering how many new restaurants in the District have opened over the past year that only offer walk-ins, it was incredibly refreshing to know there would be a table reserved for us when we arrived. What a novel concept!

And then there’s the menu. Oh look, an actual list of appetizers and entrees! Judging by my sentiment you can probably tell that I am completely tired of small plates (with Rose’s Luxury being the rare exception), so I was thrilled when glancing over Red Hen’s menu that not only do they offer a traditional carte du jour, but the prices are rather reasonable, too. Like, really reasonable. But more on that later.


After a drink at the bar (which featured some amazing Heroes of the Torah glassware), we were seated towards the front of the house with a terrific view of the neighborhood from our table. We started the evening off with an appetizer of grilled octopus. Topped with frisee and crispy capers while under a bed of Romesco sauce and shelling beans, the octopus was perfectly grilled and had some nice char to it. Both Rachel and I remarked how wonderful it tasted as it was a sign of things to come.


Given how cold it was outside, we opted to split a bowl of their autumn squash soup. Prepared with pumpkin seeds, toasted squash oil, and a dollop of sage cream, the soup was simply phenomenal. Rich and flavorful, the soup warmed us right up as the bowl was scraped clean in a matter of minutes.


Red Hen offers a handful of pastas as well as large plates, but each category represents an entrée-sized portion, so we decided to order one of each as our main course. We ordered the Creste de Gallo, which was prepared with braised duck, wild mushrooms, sweet potato, and basil. The homemade pasta blended seamlessly with the hearty, tender pieces of duck. We really loved this dish, and considering it only cost $17 and was a slightly larger portion of pasta than what you’d find at, say, Casa Luca (where most pastas run for over $20), this was an exceptional value.


As for the large plates, while we initially decided upon the grilled short ribs, we thought it might have been too heavy after ordering the pasta with braised duck, so instead went for the wood-grilled chicken ‘Fra Diavolo’. It turned out to be a great choice. The incredibly moist chicken rivals Palena’s excellent bird, though the Red Hen’s recipe offers more of a kick with its spicy seasoning. Placed atop a bed of Swiss chard, roasted potatoes, and currants, this was one terrific piece of poultry. Juicy and tender, we loved each bite.


We also ordered a side of their crispy Brussels sprouts. Blended with a dill and anchovy aioli, we absolutely adored this side dish. The Brussels sprouts had just the right amount of crispness while the mild sauce really complemented the vegetable.


Closing out the evening, we split a dessert of pumpkin cake with hazelnut sauce and brown sugar gelato. Accompanied with a birthday candle, it was delicious but may have been the weakest course of the night. We were expecting a warm cake but it was actually served room temperature, but the sauce made it delicious while the homemade gelato made for a great ending to a spectacular meal.

And while the service was a little slow at times, I was more than happy with our experience at the Red Hen. Rachel and I kept remarking how great it was to not only see a restaurant offer outstanding food without resorting to a small plates menu, but also offer reasonable prices too. It’s something this city lacks, and I am extremely jealous of those who live in Bloomingdale as they have a neighborhood spot to call their own without having to trek to other parts of the District. We can’t wait to go back.

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