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A Valentine's Day Dinner at Bistro Bis

31 Mar

After all the years we have lived in the Washington area, this was our first visit to the Capitol Hill staple Bistro Bis. We were looking to spend an evening out for Valentine’s Day without paying an extraordinary amount on a prix-fixe menu, and Jeffery Buben’s bistro happened to be offering a la carte options and had availability. Additionally, Bistro Bis recently cracked the top 20 of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants of 2016, further piquing our interest.

One thing I love about restaurants is when they offer an assortment of non-alcoholic cocktails. Given that Rachel is currently pregnant (apologies for the lack of formal press release), we asked our waiter if they had any mocktails available from the bar. He came back with a tropical hand-shaken cocktail, poured right from the strainer, into Rachel’s glass. It was a very nice touch.


We kicked things off with a French classic, escargot. This preparation, however, was a deviation from your typical butter-drenched snails and instead was presented in a lighter fashion of garlic, sunchoke purée, fennel, Seville orange and topped with a puff pastry. It was a welcome change while we both marveled at the gorgeous presentation.


For our main courses, I opted for the Icelandic cod à la Barigoule. The perfectly cooked potato-crusted fish was placed atop a bed of parsley-spinach purée and accompanied with baby artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and drizzled with tapenade vinaigrette, not to mention what tasted like potato-flavored foam. I have to admit that it’s been awhile since I’ve seen foam, but it was a welcome if not aesthetically pleasing addition.

Icelandic cod à la Barigoule

It’s hard to know if Rachel was more blown away by the presentation of the Sea Scallops Crecy or how the flavors worked so wonderfully together. The scallops were seared along with coriander-roasted carrots, black forbidden rice, a carrot purée, and smoked shiitakes. The best part of the dish had to be the shiitake mushrooms, as they tasted so smoky and meaty in such an intriguing way that she savored each bite. The overall dish was a far cry from a traditional French meal, but she loved it.

Sea Scallops Crecy

For dessert, we shared the Profiterole au Framboise. The appropriately colored for Valentine’s Day choux pastry was stuffed with raspberry mouse and vanilla ice cream, and then toped with a raspberry coulis. It was a sweet and filling dessert that made for a great ending to a terrific dinner.

Profiterole au Framboise

I’m still amazed that this was the first time we have dined at Bistro Bis, but it certainly won’t be our last.

Bistro Bis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rose's Luxury is an Instant Classic

23 Oct

It’s very rare that the first visit to a brand new restaurant can leave such a joyous first impression. In fact, I almost feel guilty blogging about it because I want it all to myself. Rose’s Luxury, the newest addition to Capitol Hill, is already one of my favorite restaurants. I feel confident in saying that because every aspect, from the food to the service to the atmosphere, made our evening special.

We were able to procure a table for four in the upstairs part of the restaurant without a wait on a Saturday night, something I sincerely doubt will happen anytime soon once the word gets out on this place.  I loved the cozy, unpretentious vibe of Rose’s – from the antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to the dining room soundtrack that featured Divine Fits. Everything just felt so homey while the crisp, autumn breeze drifted through the open windows.

Chef Aaron Silverman’s menu focuses around small plates and is broken down into several categories such as cold dishes, pasta, and grilled items. On top of that, the restaurant offers two family-style entrees to share amongst the table. What really impressed us was that nearly half of the dishes were either vegetarian or could be prepared as vegetarian-friendly (the pork sausage, for instance). Considering we had a vegetarian in our party, this was music to our friend’s ears.


Before we had even placed our order, our waiter brought over what I thought was our first dish. Instead, it was actually an amuse bouche of grilled octopus, compliments of the chef. And I should use the term “amuse bouche” loosely as this was a portion large enough to share for the entire table.  Gorgeously presented and garnished with a burnt lemon puree, the fresh octopus was a real treat.


Up next was a fresh loaf of potato bread from the kitchen. Served on antique china, which would make several appearances throughout the meal, the bread was so warm, soft, and delicious that I almost asked a second loaf. When you pair it up with the accompanying butter, which was topped with fried pieces of potato skin, it almost feels like you’re eating a loaded baked potato.  (Side note: Jessica Sidman of the Washington City Paper wrote a fantastic article on the resurgence of bread baskets in the area).


The dish that followed was Rachel’s favorite of the night: popcorn soup with grilled lobster. One of the most creative dishes we have tried this year, it’s exactly how it sounds – creamy soup that tastes like movie butter popcorn. Blended with bits of lobster, the soup was able to achieve its buttery flavor without being overpowering. Our waiter was even kind enough to provide them in separate jars as each couple was sharing their respective soup. Very nice gesture.

Burnt romaine salad

The burnt romaine with avocado, poblano, and Cotija cheese was another hit amongst the table. The poblano gave the charred romaine a subtle kick while the crumbled Cotija added a good amount of texture to it. I also appreciated how the kitchen was able to take something as bland as a romaine salad and transform it into such an inventive dish.


The caramelized cauliflower, which was situated under a bed of Greek yogurt and raisins and topped with breadcrumbs, was also fantastic.


After that came our first pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe, which literally means cheese and pepper. As minimalist as it gets, the execution was flawless. The homemade pasta seamlessly blended with the cheesy, peppery sauce. In fact, it was so good that we ordered a second helping of it!


Just as good was the strawberry spaghetti. Prepared with ricotta and black pepper, there was more a hint of strawberry in this dish than a burst of it, and that’s a good thing.


Then came the main event. We decided (well, at least three of us) to conclude dinner with the family-style serving of smoked brisket. Served with slices of Texas toast, pickled cabbage, and horseradish cream, the incredibly tender brisket rivaled that of barbecue you’ll find in Kansas City, or anywhere else for that matter. It was so soft that you didn’t even need a knife. And while it was a little fatty, it didn’t matter. I loved every bite of it. For $28, it’s one of the better values at Rose’s considering the generous portion as it was more than enough for the three of us.


Just when we thought we were full, our waiter ran down a trio of dessert options available, with the homemade brioche battered in cinnamon toast ice cream sounding the most tantalizing. Originally topped with foie gras, our waiter was able to take it off for half the price so that all four of us could share it.  Instead, it was topped with the cinnamon toast ice cream. And yes, it was just as amazing as it sounded.


As for the service, it was impeccable.  Our waiter was not only very knowledgeable about the menu but also had a great personality to boot. Everyone was so warm and inviting, and the positive vibes kept flowing throughout the evening. Each and every one of us was very happy not only with the meal, but also the overall experience. It’s hard to find a flaw in Rose’s Luxury, and considering they have only been open less than a month, that is pretty darn impressive.

Rose's Luxury on Urbanspoon

An Evening at Acqua Al 2

18 Apr

Rachel and I have wanted to try Acqua Al 2 in Eastern Market for quite some time, so a few weeks ago we finally checked out the D.C. outpost of the legendary Florence eatery.

Our friends Kelley and Ari fell in love with the original Acqua Al 2 when they were in Italy, and once they found out the restaurant would be opening in Washington they instantly became frequent diners of the establishment. Because of that, we left the ordering in their hands.


We kicked the evening off with the kitchen’s homemade burrata. Served over heirloom tomatoes and a bed of arugula, the double-cream mozzarella was spectacular. Rich and creamy, this is a must-order dish. The only other burrata that was just as good as Acqua’s was the one found at Obelisk – so yeah, that’s high praise.

Greek salad

We also shared a Greek salad, which featured escarole, tomatoes, black olives, cucumber, scallions, feta, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Parmigiana al Forno

Next was the Parmigiana al Forno, which was baked eggplant with tomato sauce and Parmigiano. I really enjoyed this appetizer, but then again, I’m a big fan of all the listed ingredients. The abundant eggplant blended with the gooey cheese and homemade tomato sauce was a hit amongst the table.

Following the trio of appetizers, we then moved onto the highly-recommended pasta tasting. Priced at $15 per person, the tasting includes five vegetarian pastas selected by the chef.

Orecchiette ai Broccoli

Our first tasting was Orecchiette ai Broccoli, ear-shaped pasta served in a light broccoli sauce. Rachel liked this pasta the most out of the five we sampled.

Riso Sugo Verde

Next was Riso Sugo Verde, Arborio rice prepared with parsley, basil and rosemary. Both Rachel and I really enjoyed this dish, particularly the parsley sauce.

Topini al Zucca

Our third plate was Topini al Zucca, gnocchi with pumpkin sauce. The gnocchi were light and fluffy while the pumpkin sauce was pleasantly not too heavy.

Maccheroni alla Vodka

The classic penne and vodka sauce, or Maccheroni alla Vodka, was our fourth dish. And despite its simplicity, it was excellent.

Fusilli Lunghi alla Fiaccheraia

The best was saved for last with the Fusilli Lunghi alla Fiaccheraia. The spicy tomato sauce gave the dish some kick, while the thick and long housemade fusilli was a delight in its own right. This was my personal favorite.

It was a brilliant idea to do the pasta tasting amongst the four of us not only because Kelley is a vegetarian, but also that we were able to try so many pasta dishes without feeling overly full.

Filet with balsamic reduction

And that brings us to the secondi piatti: Ari ordered two of their hand-carved filets to share between the three of us – one topped with a balsamic reduction and the other with their famous blueberry sauce.

Filet with blueberry sauce

Both toppings have their merits, but I have to admit, I was big fan of the blueberry sauce. It definitely sounds like an odd pairing on paper. I mean, steak and blueberries? But after the first bite, the blueberry flavor is subtle yet effective, and not as sweet as first perceived. It just somehow manages to work.

Assaggio di Dolci

Once we finished our steaks, we ordered the Assaggio di Dolci, a sampling of four desserts. Included on the plate were panna cotta, flourless chocolate cake, tiramisu, and ricotta cheesecake. The tiramisu was my personal favorite followed by the panna cotta. Again, this was a great way to try a variety of their desserts given our party of four.

We had a lovely time at Acqua Al 2 and were very impressed not only by the food but also the first-rate service. Being a former waiter, I notice the little things like clearing plates and refilling waters, and the staff at Acqua was very consistent about things like this. Rachel and I would return here in a heartbeat, especially since it’s so easy to park around Eastern Market. All I can tell you is that the pasta tasting will be ordered on each and every visit.

Acqua Al 2 on Urbanspoon

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.


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.


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

A. Litteri

4 Jan

One of the reasons I love DC so much is that, despite its relatively small size as a city, there is something new to explore each and every day. Take A. Litteri, for instance. I have long heard about this Italian market as the place to get a sub, whether it was raves from my coworker Jeff, a DC native who lives in Brentwood and routinely stops by for lunch, or tweets from Jack Kogod of the Washingtonian, recommending the 9” hard roll sub as one of his favorites in the city.

A. Litteri

Jeff decided that it was due time that I check out this establishment for lunch, so off we went to Northeast DC to buy some subs. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known this place existed if it wasn’t for Jack and Jeff. Situated in the Florida Avenue Market amongst warehouses and a stone’s throw from Gallaudet University, A. Litteri has been operating since 1932 and is a District treasure, albeit a slightly hidden one. Patrons are here for a purpose.

A. Litteri

When you walk inside, you have stepped into perhaps the finest Italian market in DC: a large selection of goods stuffed into the smallest space you can possibly imagine. Stacks of canned tomatoes, pastas, olive oils, and wines adorn the shelves. Around the corner, there’s a cooler housing frozen pastas, pizza dough, and homemade sauces, just to name a few of the many items contained inside.

Meat Counter

The back of the market, however, was our ultimate destination. Not only is this where you order your sandwich, but you can also buy fresh meats and cheeses by the pound. I have never seen such an extensive selection before, let alone where one has a choice between six different kinds of prosciutto!

Italian Sub on 9" Hard Roll

When it came time to order, I went with Jack’s recommendation: the classic Italian on a 9” hard roll. The ingredients? Capicola, Genoa salami, prosciuttini, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and of course, Italian dressing. My coworkers and I tried to resist noshing on the sample tray while we waited for our sandwiches, but it proved rather difficult when they kept replenishing it.

Meat Counter

As we made our way to the register, I had a last-minute urge to grab some pizza dough. I just could not bear to leave A. Litteri with only one item in hand. Oh, and the sandwich? Good heavens, this was as good as it gets. I cannot ever recall enjoying lunch at my desk as much as I did while eating this sub. The freshly-baked hard roll kept the layers of fresh meats and cheeses soaked in dressing intact without getting anywhere close to soggy. As if this wasn’t good enough, the total cost of this excellent sub was a mere $4.95. Yeah, you read that correctly.

I’m so glad I finally got to experience a sub from A. Litteri, but at the same time, I’m a little mad at myself for not checking it out sooner. I cannot believe what I was missing out on for so long.

A Litteri 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

Brunch at Chesapeake Room

8 Jun

This past Memorial Day weekend, Brett and I decided to head down to Eastern Market to walk around the area and check out the Top Chef Tour Challenge. We met up with our friends Kim and Brian, as well as their newborn baby Micah. After seeing some lesser-known contestants battle it out (Spike was stuck in LA while Carla competed the day before), we decided it was time for brunch.

With an ever-increasing number of restaurants now available on Barracks Row, it was just a matter of choosing which one to have brunch at. The Chesapeake Room won out over the others based on the menu, and more importantly, the fact that we could be seated outside right away with enough room for a stroller.

We sat down and had a hard time deciding what to get since many of the choices seemed so unique and enticing. I was torn between the spring frittata, seafood omelet, and the Eggs Chesapeake. I ultimately decided on the , which appeared to be their specialty and was by far the most distinctive dish.

Eggs Chesapeake

Instead of a traditional Eggs Benedict, this entrée consisted of two poached eggs sitting atop fried green tomatoes with a layer of Maryland blue crab and a spiced tomato jam in between. There was no hollandaise with this Benedict, but I actually preferred that since I usually ask for it on the side anyway.

The dish came with mushroom home fries as a side, which I thought were amazing. They were essentially roasted potatoes mixed with sautéed mushrooms and cheese. The egg dish itself was delicious, and I savored each bite of it as all of the components really fit together.

Brett ordered the shrimp and grits, although The Chesapeake Room’s version had its own interpretation of the classic dish. The grits were served in coquette form while the shrimp was topped with blue crab and spring onion-green tomato chow-chow. It was also accompanied with a small house salad.

Shrimp and Grits

While Brett really enjoyed the grit coquette, he felt that the shrimp were rather underwhelming. In fact, there was too much going on between the chow-chow, crab, and shrimp to justify naming this dish “shrimp and grits”, especially since the shrimp were somewhat soggy from the aforementioned ingredients that were placed atop. He felt that the version found at Acadiana was far superior and wished he had ordered the fried green tomato crab stack instead.

In regards to the service, we had one slight hiccup when Kim had asked to swap the potato fritter that came with her frittata with home fries instead. The waitress said that this was not a problem, however, when we received the bill, we were charged an additional three dollars for this substitution. This would have been okay had the waitress informed us of the charge when Kim made her order, but she didn’t, so this caught us by surprise. They ultimately removed it from the bill, but the restaurant really needs to be more upfront about this in the future.

From the looks of things, it looked like brunch was a draw between the two of us as I came away pleased while Brett, well, didn’t. He just wasn’t crazy about his dish for the exception of the grit coquette, though he did agree that my home fries were rather good. The service was also a little off-putting, but not enough to completely write off the place. So all and all – good, not great.

The Chesapeake Room on Urbanspoon

Recap: Taste of 8th 2011

3 May

It was a lovely day last Saturday as the third annual Taste of 8th kicked off in Barracks Row. Twenty or so of Capitol Hill’s restaurants participated in the event where visitors could try a tasting from some new establishments as well as some old standbys.

Unlike Taste of Bethesda, where restaurants charged variable amounts of tickets for an item, the Barracks Row version simplified things: one ticket was equivalent to one tasting. Individual tickets cost $5 while a pack of five was $20. Demand was so high that the event completely sold out of tickets!


We’re embarrassed to say that we haven’t dined in Capitol Hill in ages, and the last time we can recount eating in the Southeast neighborhood was for brunch at Belga Café. Much has changed since then as dining options have exponentially grown since our last visit.

We started the day off with lamb chops from the always-reliable Cava. It’s difficult to turn down lamb chops, especially for me, so this was a no-brainer. As predicted, it was delicious as there was a plenty of tender meat to be had.

Cava Lamb ChopStarfish Cafe HushpuppiesMatchbox Slider and Pizza

Up next was another familiar name, Matchbox. While we have been to Matchbox several times, this was our first encounter with their Capitol Hill outpost. Not that their pizza and mini-slice of pizza didn’t taste any different, but it was arguably one of the better ticket values out there.

We then went across the street to the beloved Belga Café, where they were offering sweet and savory Belgian waffles, along with a sample of beer. I ordered the pistachio waffle with pilsner while Rachel got the salmon and couscous with Belgian white. This might have been our favorite offering as the waffles were simply delectable.

Belga Cafe Pistachio WaffleBelga Cafe Salmon Waffle

We then went over to Starfish Café as they were offering fried chicken along with an Abita beer tasting, however, by the time we got there they had unfortunately ran out of chicken. Instead, they were serving two hushpuppies. Not the greatest tradeoff, but it also included two small pourings of Abita, and we’re always up for drinking Turbodog.

After that, we trekked over to the fairly new DC-3. The hot dog stand was doling out two mini hot dogs with your choice of traditional toppings such as relish, onions, ketchup, and mustard. Rachel and I each had one and really liked how the all-beef dogs tasted. The menu offers some tantalizing options such as the Bay Bridge (hot dog topped with crab dip in a pretzel roll) and sounds like a fun stop before a Nats game.

DC-3 Mini Hot Dogs

As we began to enter dessert mode, we headed over to the year-old, critically acclaimed Ted’s Bulletin where they were offering vanilla milkshakes and homemade cookies. The milkshake was fantastic and, had we not eaten so much already, I would have gone inside and ordered one just for myself. The cookie wasn’t bad, either.

By the time our friend’s meter was about to expire, Rachel had one more ticket left, so she quickly made her way towards Hello Cupcake where they were serving one cupcake per ticket. She got the chocolate banana, and after the car ride home, let’s just say it barely made it back to our place.

Ted's Bulletin Milkshake and CookieTaste of 8th TicketHello Cupcake

All and all it was a wonderful event as the pedestrian traffic was tolerable, and more importantly, the dog sizes were less than bear-equivalent (something that’s rather typical at Taste of Bethesda). Walking was difficult at times due to the abundance of strollers (plus 8th Street was not blocked off), but other than that, you couldn’t ask for better weather nor a great variety of restaurants. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Taste of 8th.