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Range by Bryan Voltaggio

21 Feb

One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2012 was Bryan Voltaggio’s latest project, Range. Located in Chevy Chase Pavilion, just 40 miles south of Volt where Voltaggio first gained fame, the former Top Chef contestant’s latest venture is his most extensive yet.

With nearly 14,000 square feet of space, this is not your typical restaurant. Taking a small plates approach, the menu is broken down into “kitchens”. That’s because Range has its own raw bar, bakery, wood-burning pizza oven, and even a confectionery shop. And just like the restaurant itself, navigating the menu is a massive undertaking.

With a 5:30pm reservation (which we made nearly a month ago) and stroller in tow, we were greeted by the hostess and then taken to our table towards the back of the house. This worked out well since we had more than ample space for our stroller while having a nice view of the kitchen.

As fairly new parents, we have also been analyzing whether restaurants are baby-friendly or not. While Range was able to accommodate our stroller, the restaurant didn’t have a changing table in their restrooms. Needless to say, we had to work around that since a diaper situation arose.

Makeshift Harmony

But enough baby talk, let’s discuss booze! To start off, I ordered the Makeshift Harmony, a rum-based beverage that featured St. Germain, lemon, and bitters. Very refreshing without being too sweet.

As mentioned earlier, the menu is fairly large which makes deciding what to order somewhat overwhelming. For example, there are no more than 19 different items one can order from the salumeria. Our waiter was very helpful in describing the plates, suggesting we should order two to three per person.

Skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade

Our first dish was from the bakery: skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade. First of all, this is probably one of the best values on the menu. The cornbread was enough to feed four people! And as good as the cornbread was it was the bacon marmalade that stole the show. Seriously, I would pay money just for a jar of this stuff. It was that good. A must-order in our book.

Pork cheeks

From the “roasted” portion of the menu came the pork cheeks. Featuring celeriac and moustarda, it was perhaps the most forgettable dish of the evening. At $14, the portions were tiny, and while the cheeks were indeed succulent, there just wasn’t enough on the plate to equate for a satisfying dish.

Goat cheese ravioli with braised meat ragu

On the other hand, the goat cheese ravioli with braised meat ragu was the star of the night. The plate featured a trio of puffy ravioli stuffed with warm goat cheese while being surrounded by the savory ragu. I particularly enjoyed the sauce, scraping every last drop from the plate using my fork.

Kale Caesar salad

The kale Caesar salad was beautifully presented and featured diced Whitmore farm eggs. The texture was a departure from your prototypical Caesar salad, but it was also a lighter dish compared to the traditional recipe. That was a good thing considering what came next…

Lobster mac and chees

Which leads us to the lobster mac and cheese. Undoubtedly the heaviest dish of the night, it was also the most savory. Like the ravioli, the macaroni was homemade, and it showed. My only beef with the dish, however, was the lack of lobster. There were two small chunks adorned atop the macaroni, and at nearly $20 for the plate, one would think you’d get a little more lobster at that price. Other than that, it was an enjoyable creamy dish.

Roasted cauliflower

In between all these dishes we also ordered a side of roasted cauliflower. Prepared with golden raisins and za’atar, it was an excellent accompaniment to the meal and was probably our second favorite dish behind the ravioli. Not only that, but for $6 it was a very generous portion. Not sure if the lowest-priced items are always the largest in quantity at Range, but that was definitely the case with both the cornbread and cauliflower.

Candy cart

Just when we thought we were finished, along came the candy cart. Featuring all the desserts made at the restaurant’s confectionery station and housed in gorgeous glass containers, how could you not order something? We wound up getting a chocolate covered blondie as well as a cashew bark.

Chocolate covered blondie and cashew bark

The service was terrific – our waters were constantly refilled, plates were cleared in a timely fashion, and our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu. Given the menu format, we recommend you dine at Range as a group rather than a couple. Not only will you be able to try more dishes, but it would probably cost you less as well. Our bill totaled to over $100 for just the two of us which kind of took me by surprise. The cornbread and cauliflower alone could have been split amongst a table for four.

At any rate, Range is a welcome addition to what was formerly a dining wasteland in Friendship Heights. Speaking of which, Washingtonian recently broke the news that Voltaggio’s casual outpost Lunchbox will debuting in Chevy Chase Pavilion as well. Hey Bryan, mind opening Family Meal down here as well? Because, you know, fried chicken.

Range on Urbanspoon

Top Notch Sushi at Sushiko Chevy Chase

9 May

Last week was the week of fulfilling our Groupon and Living Social deals before they expired, so we started at Sushiko in nearby Chevy Chase. We have never been to either of their locations, but heard that their Chevy Chase location was a lot swankier than the Glover Park one. Unfortunately we had accidentally made a reservation at the wrong location, so we had to wait 30 to 40 minutes until a table opened up, which was understandable for a busy Saturday night.

Spicy tuna and sashimi roll

Before long, we were sitting in a booth with drinks in hand. I ordered the refreshing lychee martini and was tempted to order several more given how delicious it was. The three of us decided to split several dishes amongst ourselves, and I was ultimately in charge of picking them. In total, we had the edamame, a small plate of seared lobster and scallops with mushrooms and spinach, as well as the spicy tuna and sashimi roll, spicy rock shrimp and cilantro roll, eel and mango roll, and the soft-shell crab roll.

There isn’t much to discuss about the standard edamame, other than to say it was a good start to the meal but overly salty. The lobster and scallop dish was decadent with a cream sauce; we just wished there were more of it to go around.

Seared lobster and scallops with mushrooms and spinach

Each type of maki we tried was unique. The spicy tuna roll was something that most people are familiar with, but the chefs added a twist with pieces of tuna sashimi placed on top. The eel roll was a solid combination of sweet and salty as each bite tasted a little like candy. Meanwhile, the rock shrimp roll had a nice kick with the added jalapeno peppers, which didn’t overpower the  fresh seafood.

Soft-shell crab roll

Their signature roll (which our waitress recommended) was the soft-shell crab roll, and while it was crunchy and full of flavor, it didn’t necessarily wow us as much as they described. While all the rolls were relatively small, they were high in quality and freshness.

We can’t believe it’s taken us this long to visit Sushiko and would definitely return to try more of their fun and adventurous rolls.

Sushi Ko Chevy Chase on Urbanspoon

Frosting: A Cupcakery Bakeshop and Hidden Gem

4 May

In the crowded cupcake field in DC, one would think that once you have tasted the most popular cupcake names, there is no point searching for new cupcake shops. Or at least, that’s what we thought when we finished dinner a few weeks ago and were walking around Friendship Heights.

We wanted to get some dessert and I remembered that there was a relatively new cupcake place called Frosting in a somewhat hidden location behind the Metro by the Giant. We couldn’t find it right away, and Brett wasn’t too enthusiastic about searching for it given the fact that we have four cupcake options in Bethesda alone. However, I was determined to give Frosting a try, and they welcomed us shortly before closing for the evening.

Telly Belly

There were no long lines or large signs describing each treat, but we liked what we saw right away. There were some creations that looked out of this world, like the Frenchie (French toast cake topped with maple buttercream) or the Elvis Pretzely: The King of Choc and Roll (Pretzel cake topped with milk chocolate ganache, pretzel crumbs and coarse sea salt). They also featured miniature cupcakes, muffins, and cakes as well as an extensive coffee and espresso menu.

We finally decided on the Telly Belly (chocolate devil’s food cake with Nutella-buttercream and caramelized hazelnuts) and the Strawberry Blonde (vanilla bottom with strawberry buttercream top). One thing we noticed is that, unlike their Georgetown counterparts, they don’t overdo it on the frosting. Yes we know, ironic given the name of the establishment, but here it was quality over quantity folks. The frosting didn’t overwhelm the cake and was just the right amount, which didn’t leave us feeling sick or incredibly guilty after.

Strawberry Blonde

Somehow, we totally missed the store’s one year anniversary last week, but we hope some were able to take advantage of their free cupcake promotion and the cupcake eating contest!

When you visit the store, you can also purchase a copy of “The Icing on the Cake”, a romance novel based on the owners. Todd Bracken and Michelle Snow’s love story was originally written about in the Post when they first got married, and the publisher of their book was so intrigued by their tale that they approached them about the idea of a novel.

Regardless of the story, we think the cupcakes speak for themselves. If only they didn’t have to compete with Georgetown Cupcake, Crumbs, Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet, Sprinkles, Baked and Wired… you get the idea.

Frosting A Cupcakery on Urbanspoon