Tag Archives: Dupont Circle

Vidalia Still Shines Amidst an Influx of Competitors

11 Feb

We have to come clean: After living in the Washington metropolitan area for over a decade, neither of us had ever dined at Vidalia until a couple of weeks ago. And after a superb Restaurant Week lunch, we both wished we had eaten there sooner.

As the D.C. dining scene has blown up exponentially over the past five years, Vidalia has been a staple since opening in 1993 when James Beard award-winning chef Jeffrey Buben opened up shop and introduced diners to his wonderful blend of modern American cuisine and down-home Southern cooking.

And while Restaurant Week isn’t as popular as it once was now that there’s an overabundance of dining options to choose from, Vidalia still offers an exceptional value with a three-course menu priced at $20.15 per person while being able to present its full menu (with minimal up charges on select dishes). It’s an even larger menu than their regularly offered prix-fixe lunch special (a great value in its own right).


Our meal began with their much raved about bread basket, and let me tell you, it’s worth all the praise and is arguably one of the best bread baskets in town. A trio of corn bread, dinner rolls, and onion focaccia (our personal favorite) was accompanied with a side of onion butter and made for an impromptu appetizer as the basket was devoured in seconds.


For the first course I ordered the Shenandoah beef tartare. Prepared with garlic chip, pickled peppers, porcini steak sauce, and deviled egg aioli, it was beautifully presented while both rich and tender.


Between the indulgent bread and dessert still to come, Rachel opted for something lighter with the Shady Lane salad. The bowl of Bibb lettuce was topped with watercress, radishes, almonds, apricots, bleu cheese, and onion vinaigrette.


I went with the pan-roasted Carolina mountain trout as my entrée. Situated on a bed of succotash, crawfish, and bits of country ham, it really complemented the crispy skin of the trout. Unfortunately the fish was a tad dry but the Creole mustard butter helped counter that to an extent.


Rachel’s Atlantic salmon dish proved to be the better entrée choice. It came with sweet potato puree, country ham, lentils, frisee, and whiskey vinaigrette, and each bite was a treat.  There’s always a risk of salmon being too dry, but this piece was medium to medium rare and cooked perfectly.


I could not help but order the Peanut Better S’more for dessert. Artfully arranged pieces of chocolate ganache cake and milk chocolate feuilletine were topped with chocolate cream and cookie crumble which made a wonderful if not decadent ending to lunch.


You can’t go wrong with Key Lime tart, and this lighter dessert that Rachel ordered hit the spot. She was plenty full after, but was so glad we went with the Restaurant Week deal because otherwise we would have passed up on these amazing desserts.

We had a fantastic lunch at Vidalia, and I have to tip my hat to them for not cutting corners during Restaurant Week. While other restaurants tend to slack off in service or not offer their entire menu during this promotional period, it’s refreshing to see a restaurant actually embrace Restaurant Week and show diners what they’re missing out on places like Vidalia. And isn’t that what Restaurant Week is all about?

Vidalia on Urbanspoon

Brunch at DGS Delicatessen

6 Feb

Perhaps one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2012 was Dupont Circle’s DGS Delicatessen. Rachel and I have longed for a Jewish deli that would not only do New York proud but also wouldn’t be another short-lived, poorly-executed knockoff.

Remember Uptown Deli and Bubby’s? Those two didn’t fare so well, and while Parkway does a reasonable job providing an assortment of Jewish fare, the place gets so chaotic on the weekends that we’ve sworn it off for brunch.

DGS MenuDGS DelicatessenDGS Delicatessen

Enter DGS Delicatessen. With head chef Barry Koslow working the kitchen, we knew this wouldn’t be your average deli. We went with a couple of our friends for brunch a few weeks ago to finally see if DGS met the hype.

We kicked the morning off with some libations. The Le Marais is the gem of the brunch cocktail list, comprised of champagne, St. Germain, orange juice, and bitters. It’s a shame this beverage isn’t served in pitchers, because I easily would have had gone through four more glasses.

Pickle plate

While it’s oftentimes nice to do a spin on things and make them fancier, sometimes you just want a good ol’ pickle plate. DGS’ plate included just four pickle spears and some other pickled items such as radishes and cauliflower. And while it was beautifully arranged, we kind of yearned for the complimentary pickle bar at Parkway.

DGS 8 Day Pastrami Sandwich

For our main course, it was no surprise that I went for the pastrami sandwich. This is a sandwich that is prepared with care and for good measure – it takes eight days to make! Brined for over a week, the smoky, succulent meat is sandwiched between two slices of warm double baked rye along with a shmear of house mustard. The result is a tender, smoky sandwich that leaves you wanting more. For $13, the sandwich isn’t piled as high as anticipated, but it’s still one of the best you’ll find in the District. However, one would expect some sort of side to accompany the sandwich given the price. Chips, coleslaw, something.


Rachel opted for more of a classic brunch choice, DGS’ rendition of Eggs Benedict, aptly dubbed the Benedictberg. Featuring poached eggs, house-smoked salmon, latkes, and sumac hollandaise, this dish was a clear winner. The combination between the crispy latkes, smoky lox, and rich hollandaise really worked well and made for an excellent brunch dish.

Overall, we felt the food at DGS was terrific while being slightly overpriced. With tip, Rachel and I spent roughly $60 between the two of us. And this was for brunch. With each cocktail at $10 per glass, a meal here adds up quickly. The service was very accommodating given we had two babies with us, and they gave us a table by the front of the house with more than enough room for the strollers.

Suffice to say, this will be the first of many visits to this establishment. We only sampled just a fraction of the menu and with items such as pickled blue fish, flanken, and kreplach still waiting to be tried, a return to DGS is definitely in order.

DGS Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Summertime Dining at Agora

3 Aug

A few weeks ago we had dinner at Agora in Dupont Circle, known for their Mediterranean meze. We’ve been to Agora before, specifically for brunch, but this was our first time having dinner at the Turkish restaurant.

After enjoying some taramosalata (cured roe spread) and ezme (tomato and pepper salad) paired up with the restaurant’s piping hot, fresh pita bread, we had their beautifully arranged beet & orange salad.

Beet & orange salad.

Comprised of beets, lemon mashed potatoes, blood oranges, onion, and a smattering of light vinaigrette, it was a light and refreshing salad that’s fitting for a hot, summer evening.


The highlight for the two of us, however, was their mücver – better knows as zucchini pancakes. Prepared with shredded zucchini, mint, dill scallions, and Manchego cheese, they transported us back to Greece where we honeymooned. The restaurant’s recipe was without a doubt the closest thing resembling the zucchini pancakes we had in Athens, and it’s a dish I would order every time when dining at Agora.


Up next was pan-seared turbot, a meaty Mediterranean flatfish. Tender and flaky, the turbot was excellently prepared by the kitchen. The Jerusalem artichokes really complemented the dish and gave the plate a summery feel to it.

Lamb tenderloin

While the turbot was a reprieve from the dog days of summer, the lamb tenderloin reminded us of the impending autumn. This can be accredited to the butternut squash puree that accompanied the succulent lamb. Prepared with fresh mint, toasted hazelnut, and a sour cherry sauce, this seemed like a dish more suitable for the fall. Nonetheless, it was very, very good.


For dessert, we tried not one but two selections. Up first was Kadayif, a traditional Turkish pastry. It was comprised of disks of shredded phyllo dough layered with vanilla milk pudding, then topped with honey and pistachios.

Aegean Delight

The second, and my favorite of the two, was the Aegean Delight – apricots stuffed with walnuts over mascarpone cheese, and then topped with caramel sauce and pistachios.

Each visit to Agora has been an enjoyable experience, and our most recent meal there was no exception. The kitchen has proven to be reliably consistent — same goes for the service.  In fact, we’re already looking forward to ordering our next dish of mücver.

Agora Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Boqueria a Welcome Addition to DC

9 May

Last weekend we had the opportunity to check out the District’s latest entrant into the tapas market, New York’s Boqueria. Their first location outside of NYC, Boqueria is the latest import from the city, following in the footsteps of Carmine’s, Hill Country, and Shake Shack. And while DC uber-chef Jose Andres has not one but three locations of his wildly popular Jaleo restaurants in the area (not to mention one in Las Vegas), we entered Boqueria with an open mind and an empty stomach.

When we were seated for our 8pm reservation, it was a tight fit for the three of us (Rachel had a friend visiting from out of town) considering the table was suited more for a couple at best. In fact, another party of two actually declined sitting at the table next to us because of this very issue. It was also a Saturday night, so the place was understandably busy, but they were obviously trying to maximize as much space as they could. Also, a reservation is highly recommended on the weekends considering the wait was an hour and a half otherwise.

Red Sangria

We started the evening off with a pitcher of their red sangria, and while it was rather refreshing, it tasted like there was barely an ounce of alcohol in the entire jug. If you’re splitting an entire pitcher between two people and neither of you feel a buzz, there’s something wrong.

Tortilla Española

While the beverages were a letdown, the food was not. Our first plate was the traditional Tortilla Española. I’m a big fan of Spanish omelets and Boqueria’s take on the dish was very enjoyable. Light and fluffy, it came with a side of olives as well as some bread and butter.

Patatas Bravas

The patatas bravas were so crispy that they almost resembled tater tots. The blend of the salsa brava and roasted garlic allioli saved the dish as it added a nice kick to the potatoes. It was also a generous portion as there were plenty of patatas to go around for three diners.

Pintxos Morunos

The Pintxos Morunos, or Colorado lamb skewers, were excellent. Topped with salsa verde and accompanied with pickled shallots, the seared lamb was tender and flavorful.

Salteado de Setas

The sautéed wild mushrooms were also a hit amongst the table. Prepared with Manchego cheese and thyme, the serving size was more than adequate. It proved to be a great side that had a lot of flavor without being too filling.

Espinacas a la Catalana

Speaking of side dishes, we also ordered their sautéed spinach. Prepared with garbanzos, pine nuts, garlic, and raisins, this was another solid offering. It became evident throughout the meal that Boqueria’s vegetable tapas not only provide a great value with their large portions, but that they’re also finely executed.


And while the grilled baby squid was very good, the amount of txipirones actually served was something left to be desired. It was more of squid salad than anything. Served with frisée, romesco vinaigrette, tomato confit, and crispy scallions, the pieces of squid were far and few between.

Torrija y Helado

Just when we thought we were full, we ordered the Torrija y Helado for dessert. A caramelized Spanish toast topped with yogurt ice cream, it bore a slight resemblance to bread pudding. After tasting it, however, we quickly realized that it was even better. The caramelized coating provided a crunchy texture on the outside, but the inside was warm and gooey. The yogurt-flavored ice cream provided a nice balance and made for an overall impressive dish. If there’s one dessert you should order at Boqueria, it’s definitely this.

Overall, we were very pleased not only with our food but also with the service. The dishes came out a balanced pace while our plates were continuously cleared without feeling rushed. Considering we ordered seven plates and a pitcher of sangria, our bill came out to a little over $100 for three people. That’s not bad at all considering how full we left the restaurant. It’s a great addition to the tapas scene in DC, but we’ll be sticking to wine as our libation of choice on our next visit.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

An Evening at Obelisk

29 Dec

Over the past couple of years, I have gone all out for Rachel’s birthday when it comes to surprise dinners. Not only is it a great gift, but it’s also a fun way to try new restaurants as well as expand our palette. This time, however, I wanted to do something a little more romantic and intimate, but also dine at a restaurant we had never been to before. One destination instantly came to mind: Obelisk.

It’s amazing that after all these years that we had never to been to one of DC’s finest Italian restaurants up until last month. I felt it was an ideal destination given the intimacy (the dining room only hosts a handful of tables) as well as the universal praise. Oh, and compared to past birthdays, it was an incredible value.

Swiss chard stewed with wine and crostini

Obelisk features a prix-fixe menu – five courses for $75 per person. And while that may appear steep to some, between the quality and quantity of food, it is well worth the money.

Fennel and radish salad

After ordering a few glasses of wine and noshing on their delicious bread basket, we chose our primi, secondi, and dolci from the handwritten menu. However our first course, or antipasti, was completely predetermined by the kitchen.

Sardines topped with house made breadcrumbs

Our waitress soon brought over a variety of plates within minutes of each other, the first of which was their homemade burrata. My goodness was this delicious. Drizzled with olive oil, the cheese was creamy, delicate, and really got our taste buds flowing.

Salt cod frittata

Up next was a salt cod frittata that featured a pleasant balance of sweet and salty. Soon after, we received a fennel and radish salad, fresh-roasted sardines topped with house made breadcrumbs, and finally, swiss chard stewed with wine and crostini. While the burrata was our favorite of the antipasti course, the swiss chard was a close runner-up thanks in part to its savoriness.


After finishing our quintet of plates, it was time to move onto the primi course. Rachel ordered the butternut squash ravioli. Meanwhile, I went in a completely different direction and ordered the lentil soup after the waitress remarked how much she loved the house ground sausage that’s in it. Well, it turned out she was absolutely right – the meat was outstanding. It also wasn’t your typical lentil soup since the beans were pureed, resulting in a much thicker consistency. It practically felt like comfort food considering how cold it was outside. It’s not often I opt for soups for a first course, but I’m really glad I took the waitresses’ advice in this case.

Lentil Soup

Rachel’s butternut squash ravioli literally melted in her mouth. She savored each bite and reluctantly gave me some to try, which I agreed were incredibly light while at the same time rich in flavor.

Butternut squash ravioli

For our main/secondi course, I went with the roasted duck breast. Cooked medium-rare, the duck was tender, succulent, and generously portioned. I often forget how fatty duck is, and given the size of the portion, there’s a considerable amount of fat to work around. Nonetheless, I have to tip my hat to the kitchen on the execution of the dish. It was wonderfully juicy, full of flavor, and cooked at exactly the right temperature.

Roasted Duck Breast

Rachel had the grouper which was lightly seared with artichoke, pork belly, and onions. The fish was superbly cooked and even I agreed how well the artichokes and pork went with the fish, and I’m not even a fish person. To put it succinctly, I would have ordered this dish for myself.


Following our excellent entrees, we then moved onto the cheese (formaggi) course. We received three different varieties of cheeses as well as a side of sour cherries. I’m not going to lie, we forgot to take notes at this point in the meal (blogger fail), but to my recollection, we had Pipe Dream Farm’s goat cheese, Bonrus (a soft sheep’s milk cheese), and Pecorino (a harder sheep’s milk cheese). Again, I am not entirely sure if these were the exact cheeses we received, but the sour cherries were a nice accompaniment.

Cheese Course

We had finally reached the dolci part of the evening, and given how much food we had consumed up until this point, it was a good thing that this was our final course! Naturally, it did not disappoint. I went with the chocolate cake accompanied with a mint crème anglaise. I, like others I’m sure, love the combination of mint and chocolate and this dessert absolutely nailed it. The chocolate cake was wading in a small layer of anglaise which contained just the right amount of mintiness. An excellent dish all around.

Chocolate cake accompanied with mint crème anglaise

Rachel didn’t want to get the same dessert as me, so she got the pear polenta tart with basil ice cream. This was the only dish she was a slightly disappointed with as it was tasty but didn’t really wow her. She felt she should have ordered the chocolate cake after she tried a bite of mine, but what is the fun in that?

Pear polenta tart with basil ice cream

We had an exceptional meal at Obelisk and I was very glad we ended up going here this year for Rachel’s birthday. The service was pleasant, helpful, and we never felt rushed. We were even more amazed that we received so much food for just $75 per person. While DC is in the midst of opening more restaurants than ever before, it’s good to know that Obelisk has proven that they are still one of the very best in the city.

Petits fours

Obelisk on Urbanspoon

Casa Nonna

28 Sep

While Casa Nonna has been open for a little over a year, we made our first visit to the Southern Italian restaurant just last weekend.

After some cocktails and appetizers at nearby Vento, we ventured over to the restaurant around 8:30pm and had no problems procuring a table for four. I was kind of surprised we were seated so soon given that it was a Friday evening and footsteps from the Dupont Metro, but then again, the space is huge as it used to hold a California Pizza Kitchen.

Our waiter soon came over and dropped off a basket of cheesy flatbread while we glanced over the menu. It’s a shame we had not dined at Casa Nonna during their initial family-style format (which was scraped just months later) just to compare and contrast their current a la carte offering.

Polpettine (Meatballs)

Offering a selection of antipasti, homemade pastas, Neapolitan pizzas, as well as chicken, beef, and seafood entrees, one has plenty to choose from. In fact, it was almost daunting at times as they offered a multitude of items under each category. Our waiter had mentioned that they were debuting their new fall menu that day, so we couldn’t wait to try out some of their recommended dishes.

We decided to start off the evening by sharing a plate of their braised miniature meatballs. Sitting in a bowl of rich tomato sauce, the meatballs, which were comprised of beef, veal, and pork, were rather good. I’m still partial to the ones found at Olazzo, but given that the bowl was wiped clean in a matter of minutes, our table didn’t have any qualms with these.

Bigoli Con Vongole e Salsiccia

As for our entrees, I ordered the Bigoli Con Vongole e Salsiccia. The housemade bigoli, otherwise knows as “fat spaghetti”, was served with cockle clams, crumbled sausage, and hot pepper. Blended with garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did feel, however, that the portion was just slightly undersized for the price ($21). That’s not to say there wasn’t a fair share of clams included, but it wouldn’t have hurt to include a little more pasta and sausage to the dish.

Rachel got the pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter and shaved parmesan. These dumplings were so rich with pumpkin flavor that they, as Rob Lowe’s character would say on Parks and Recreation, literally melted in your mouth. It was delicious and tasted so decadent that she couldn’t finish it all, and I certainly enjoyed whatever bites I had as well.

Butternut squash gnocchi

We were too full for dessert, but our friends Mike and Randi decided to order a cannoli to-go. When the waiter came back with the container, packed inside were not one but three mini cannolis! They insisted we take one, and since I’m one to never turn down food, we obliged.

Drizzled with chocolate sauce, the dessert featured a touch of pistachio which was different than your typical Italian cannoli. Not to bring up Olazzo a second time, but Casa Nonna’s were just all right.

Overall, we had a very pleasant experience at Casa Nonna. I think the two of us felt it was slightly overpriced for what you received, but at least all of their plates feature homemade pasta. The pizza appears to be a better value given the size, but I’m still kicking myself for missing out on their Monday night endless spaghetti and meatball promotion (which was discontinued earlier this year). That would have been trouble.

Casa Nonna on Urbanspoon

A Surprise Dinner at Komi

12 May

With my 30th birthday coming up, I knew Rachel had something up her sleeve. I just didn’t know when, and importantly, where we would go.

We started this tradition of surprising each other back in ’09 when we got engaged with a dinner at CityZen which was unbeknownst to Rachel until we literally arrived at the Mandarin Oriental. From there, we took turns at who could one-up the other with surprise meals at Volt’s Table 21, Restaurant Eve, and Sushi Taro.

This time, however, I had let my guard down.

Considering that my birthday is May 19, I had no idea that Rachel’s plan would be executed a little more than two weeks prior to my 30th. As it turns out, she secretly collaborated with our friend Casey as her husband Keith also recently turned 30 in order to surprise us both.

Essentially, everyone was in on the plans except the husbands.

Birthday Greeting from Komi

Coincidentally, I had asked Rachel what I should wear Friday morning since she had mentioned about going to Hank’s Oyster Bar for happy hour later that evening. Considering that I typically dress down on casual Fridays, it fortunately turned out that my wardrobe choice was optimal for where we were eventually going to go for dinner.

Once we had met up with our friends at the Dupont Circle Metro, we made our way towards Hank’s. And then we passed it. Confused, and with the girls staying silent, I thought that maybe we were going to Agora instead. Once again, everyone continued walking until we reached the steps of Komi. And then we stopped.

Needless to say, I was completely taken aback. And then really, really excited.

Rachel and Casey just pulled one of the greatest coups by not only securing a reservation for four at one of the best restaurants in all of DC, but by keeping it a secret for well over a month! My wife and friends are so awesome.

Now that I’m already 300+ words deep without going into the food, I suppose I should talk about our absolutely wonderful meal…

Komi isn’t like most restaurants. They don’t even have a menu. Diners simply take a seat and are taken on a whimsical journey of some of the best food you’ll ever have in the District.

Considering that Komi disallows its patrons from taking pictures of its food, I apologize in advance for the lack of images as some of the plates they served were visually stunning. I also want to apologize if I don’t go into full detail about each of our many courses as there was simply too much to remember and, well, I didn’t write everything down.


Chef Johnny Monis and Co. - Image courtesy of www.komirestaurant.com


Anyway, our meal started off with several amuse-bouches, or small bites.

The first was a brioche bun with Greek yogurt, sea beans, and salmon roe. With one bite, I could tell that this was going to be an exceptional evening. It was only going to get better from here.

There were two other crudo dishes that followed, but I honestly can’t remember all of the details. I do recall that they paired one of the crudo with the freshest beets we have ever tried.

The scallop two ways was up next – one served in a shell, and one on a spoon. I preferred the one on the spoon over the shell in terms of taste, but they were both great.

The next course featured burrata cheese with asparagus. It’s hard to explain this dish given the complexity of the flavors, but somehow, it just worked. Chef Johnny Monis is obviously a master of his craft.

After that we were served salmon with crème fraiche and a toasted chip. Now we’re talking! It was like a deconstructed version of bagels and lox. An abundance of flavor found in such a small package.

The small, savory plate of smoked foie gras (served chilled) was terrific. Served with black trumpet mushrooms, pea shoots, and strawberries, it wasn’t a generous portion by any stretch, but it literally melted in your mouth. The foie gras that was atop the tuna at the Inn at Little Washington, however, holds a dear place in my heart.

Their take on Spanikopita was so creative – the ingredients were liquidly infused inside a crispy ball while rightfully acknowledging the original Greek dish.

The portions began to increase at this point. Up first was one of Komi’s legendary dishes – their take on a DC staple: the half-smoke. I have long heard about how Chef Monis’ recipe is an ode to the District, but let me tell you, this one knocked it out of the park. Using sausage, grounded in-house no less, tucked inside a housemade toasted bun, and then topped with tomato marmalade, the half-smoke was exceptional. But wait, along with a homemade pork rind seasoned with Old Bay, Komi paired the dish with a Lagunitas IPA! Just brilliant all around. It was at this point that we spotted the chef himself serving dishes in the dining room. Let’s just say, Rachel was swooning about as much as she did over Mr. Voltaggio at Volt.

The roasted dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese. Wow, just wow. Unanimously one of our favorite plates of the night. The sweet and salty combination was flawlessly executed with this dish. I could have eaten a table’s worth myself.

The egg yolk ravioli with shaved tuna kicked off the pasta course. My word was this delicious. While watching others cut theirs in half where the egg yolk drained out of the pasta, I instead ate the entire piece of ravioli whole. Granted I wanted to ration it, but this way I was able to enjoy every last drop of yolk stuffed inside.

Our waiter then served us tagliatelle with seafood ragu and fried caper berries. The pasta, prepared in-house of course, was fine and delicate while the cod added some nice flavor to the dish. It might have been lost in the shuffle coming off the high that was the half-smoke and ravioli, but the excellent pasta, as well as the ragu, stole the show.

Then, it was time for our main course. The table received two massive plates of meat: one was Katsikki, or roasted goat shoulder, while the other was suckling pig. It also came with four pieces of wonderfully prepared warm pita bread that were so fluffy that they nearly resembled the texture of pancakes. Additionally, we received two plates of “condiments” which included the best tzatziki we have ever tasted (and we’ve been to Greece!), picked radishes, olive horseradish spread, roasted red peppers, and lemon salt.

The four of us then concocted our own gyros using some of the finest quality ingredients courtesy of Komi and their kitchen. Based on Keith and Casey’s recommendation (they had been to Komi before), they suggested that I try the suckling pig skin first. Crispy, salty, and savory is all I can say. Meanwhile the actual meats, both pig and goat, were incredibly tender and so full of flavor that I almost felt bad adding any toppings. All four of us were in heaven while going to town on the two plates. They even provided an additional set of pita and condiments so we wouldn’t have to waste the small amount of goat that was still on the serving dish.

With the entrée being a hard act to follow, the cheese course featured a miniature biscuit stuffed with housemade Mizithra cheese. The cheese was light and mild and was a nice way to bring us down from the highs that we incurred from the previous course.

After the cheese course, our waiter presented a cardboard box (adorned with me and Keith’s names) which contained, as our waiter described, a homemade take on ROLOS. If only the real ROLOS tasted this good. I popped one of these cardamom-scented treats in my mouth and the caramel contained inside was of a caliber you typically do not find in Hershey assortments. On top of that, the chocolate used made Komi’s version all the more memorable.

What followed next was a dish composed of olive oil gelato, balsamic-glazed strawberries, and a lemon shortbread cookie that each couple shared. So refreshing and refined.

The next dessert, which was our favorite of the night, was the chocolate square infused with peanut butter, caramel, and sea salt. Holy moly, words alone cannot do this dessert justice. It was just that good. The crunchy, salty texture of the square was one of the best flavor combinations for a dessert I have ever come across. Simply heavenly. This alone would have been amazing, but accompanying the sinful dessert on the same plate was caramelized banana with coconut sorbet. While also delightful, it just didn’t compare to the chocolate/peanut butter/caramel/salty goodness.

Our final course, which was more of a take-home treat, was their elderberry lollipops – one for each of us.

We skipped on the wine pairings and instead got a bottle of white, red, and dessert wines throughout the evening. Komi even had Grande Reserve Naoussa by Boutari, a winery we visited while in Santorini during our honeymoon last year.

It goes without saying, but we have to mention how amazing the service was throughout the meal. The way Komi works is that there is no set waiter, but instead we were graced with several different staff members tending to us throughout the night. We seemed to have a main server who started off the evening, as well as a sommelier, but at one point we looked like we wanted another bottle of wine and within a minute someone else was on hand to take our order.

Our waters were refilled as soon as they were half empty, and a fresh napkin was brought out or refolded within seconds of someone leaving to go to the restroom. There was definitely a laid-back vibe and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing some of our favorite artists in the background during our meal.

Without a doubt, this was the best meal we have ever had in DC proper. After years of hearing about Komi being the top restaurant in the District, we finally have justification to backup that very same claim.

I am fortunate to not only have dinner at one of the most celebrated restaurants in all of Washington, but to also spend my 30th amongst my wonderful wife and close friends who conspired behind this great surprise. I cannot express my gratitude enough. Rachel’s birthday will be quite the challenge come November.

Komi on Urbanspoon

Omakase at Sushi Taro – An Unforgettable Evening

17 Nov

When Rachel turned 30 last year, I surprised her with a dinner at Table 21 at Volt up in Frederick. Little did we know how popular it would become once Bryan Voltaggio became a household name thanks of course to Top Chef.

It was an amazing culinary adventure, and even though DMV Dining did not exist at the time to document this extraordinary meal (though it was recorded over at my other blog – with four posts no less!), it heavily influenced the creation of this site.

It also started a new tradition of taking the significant other out to a new and exciting restaurant for their respective birthday. For example, Rachel surprised me with the tasting room at Restaurant Eve back in May.

So the question was, where do we go from here? I decided to keep it under wraps till the very end, but when we arrived at 17th and P last night, Rachel, who knew Komi was closed on Mondays, somehow had a feeling it would be Sushi Taro.

She didn’t know, however, that we would be dining at the private sushi counter in the back for omakase.

I decided on the sushi counter thanks in part to Tom Sietsma’s Fall Dining Guide. I also knew that this would be vastly different from anything that we have done in the past, and since Rachel loves sushi to begin with, it was practically a no-brainer.

ChopsticksFresh oysters and scallopsGinger Cocktail

When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and promptly seated in the curtained-off area of the restaurant. The counter seats up to six people, but because Monday isn’t necessarily Sushi Taro’s busiest day, we had the room all to ourselves. Well, we and the chef slash owner Nobu Yamazaki.

We started the evening off with some celebratory drinks, with Rachel ordering a ginger cocktail while I went with a Riesling. The chef then asked if we had any dietary restrictions to which we quickly said no. I think he appreciated that since the point of omakase is to let the chef’s creativity run wild. We’ve been adventurous in the past, but we had no idea what was to come.

Tofu with Sea UrchinCrab BallLobster Tail

Our first course was a tofu dish that apparently takes at least an hour to prepare each day according to the chef. It was topped with sea urchin as well as freshly made wasabi. The texture was unbelievable as it resembled a gelatin-like substance. I felt bad eating it as I didn’t want to disrupt its delicate construction and gorgeous presentation.

The next course was a lightly fried crab ball with mushroom in a mild chili sauce accompanied with what I believe was another ball made from tofu. The crab was delicious while the mushrooms were surprisingly rich in flavor despite their small appearance.

Cooking lobster on the stoneUp next was perhaps the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.

The chef grabs a fresh lobster tail and immediately takes his knife out, cutting out all the meat and placing it on two dishes. He then serves each of us a plate with an incredibly hot stone and tells us to then cook the lobster on top of it!

And we did just that. I took my chopsticks, picked up some of the rare lobster, placed it on the stone, and watched it sizzle right before my eyes.  While you could eat it rare, the chef recommended cooking it for at least a few seconds to bring out more of the flavor. Between the quality of the lobster itself and the interaction involved, the experience was second to none.

Seasonal AssortmentThe next course involved a sampling of ingredients in a gorgeous presentation.

We weren’t able to recall everything on the plate, but it involved monkfish liver (which tasted similar to traditional foie gras), marinated mackerel, and a chestnut. It also featured a small, lightly fried fish from the Japanese coast which the chef said was only in season two weeks of the year.

I’ve never devoured an entire fish before, including the head, but we did it without much reservation because it tasted so good.

Up next was the sashimi course, and let me tell you, we are just going to have to let the pictures speak for themselves as there were so many different cuts of fish and seafood we sampled.

Fried shrimp headFatty TunaSashimi

The quality alone was hands down the best we’ve ever had, particularly the fatty tuna, but the most memorable had to be the fried shrimp head. Yes, you read that right. We each ate a shrimp head.

Wagyu BeefAs if the night could not get any better, the chef prepared a decadent Wagyu beef dish right before our eyes.

He sliced the meat, quickly seared it, and presented it to us in a bowl with a ginger sauce that was simply out of this world. Neither of us has ever eaten Wagyu beef before, but we can completely understand why it is so appreciated.

The combination of the tender, fatty beef with the sauce was heavenly to say the least.

What came next, however, was something I’d never imagine being served, or eating for that matter.

Head of Red SnapperThe chef presented us with a large bowl that contained the head of an enormous red snapper. Nobu made it sound so simple, saying “Here we have the head of a red snapper. Enjoy.”

Rachel and I looked at each other in befuddlement, unsure of how to tackle eating an entire fish head. Little did I know my wife’s skill in culling meat from fish heads, because she was quite skilled in this department after a few minutes of observing.

According to the chef, the best meat is from the head of the fish. Well, he was right. Though it kind of creeped us out having to cast aside the mouth (with teeth!) to work our way around it, saying it was a unique entrée would be a complete understatement. What’s even more ironic is that I rarely order whole fish at restaurants, yet here I was, digging away inside this poor snapper’s head.

Of course, we weren’t done yet. The chef served us a hollowed-out brick with what he described were Japanese delicacies inside. One of the most impressive had to have been the squid served in its own ink. I don’t know what was more extraordinary, the flavors or the presentation. Both were breathtaking.

Japanese DelicaciesSquid in its own inkJapanese Delicacies

Just when we thought we had seen it all, the sushi course was slated to close out what was already a magnificent evening. The chef, who already demonstrated his excellent skills with the knife earlier in the night, began slicing thin layers of fresh ginger in order to cleanse our pallet between each serving.

He asked us what kind of sushi we wanted by presenting six boxes of fresh seafood, which ranged from scallops to yellowtail to even urchin. It was overwhelming to say the least.

Selection of fresh seafoodChef Nobu preparing the sushiSushi place-setting

The place setting for the sushi course consisted of a bowl of soy sauce that was accompanied by a miniature brush. This way, it allows guests to gently add an appropriate amount of sauce to each piece without overpowering the flavor of the fish.

Nobu also mentioned that, at the sushi counter, you are allowed to eat the sushi with your hands. Because of that, he provided each of us with a miniature “finger” napkin in order to cleanse our hands before the next serving.

We ultimately selected salmon, shrimp, mid-fatty tuna, and two different types of eel. It was amazing to watch Nobu meticulously construct each piece of sushi by hand, and we were even more taken aback by how fresh all the ingredients he used were.


The tuna was so mind-blowingly good it nearly made me want to cry. It pretty much speaks volumes that a chef is doing his job when he evokes that kind of emotion from his patrons.

Just when we thought we had wrapped things up, we still had to select dessert. In the spirit of omakase, we told the chef it was up to his discretion what to serve us, and once again, he knocked it out of the park.

Nobu presented us with two desserts, both featuring green tea as its star ingredient. One was a roll cake (with birthday candle) while the other was a custard with a caramel sauce found at the bottom of the bowl. Both were fantastic and reinforced how enjoyable, different, and special each of the innumerable courses were that night.

Green Tea CustardGreen Tea Roll Cake

The waitress then provided Rachel with a card wishing her a happy birthday, signed by the entire kitchen staff! Between the intimate service already provided by Nobu alone, this was really going the extra mile.

If you want to take one of the most incredible culinary journeys through Japan while never leaving DC, then I implore you to try Sushi Taro’s sushi counter. I don’t want to get all Anthony Bourdain-ish, but it simply is one of the places you must visit before you die. End of story.

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Fall Festivals and Food Events

13 Sep

September and October are usually busy times in the DMV for outdoor festivals. The weather is cooler but still nice enough to enjoy being outside with family and friends. Here are a list of some upcoming food events – some old standbys and some new for 2010:

  • Turkish Restaurant Week – According to the Turkish Festival website, Turkish Restaurant and Cuisine Week will take place September 17-26 at select Turkish Restaurants. 4-course menu for $25. This is not a large list of venues, but could be a great way to try a new restaurant featuring this cuisine, or revisit an old favorite.
  • Taste of Friendship Heights – Now in its fourth year, this event features samples from more than a dozen local restaurants. It will go from 12 to 5 pm on Saturday, September 25th at the Friendship Heights Village Center in Chevy Chase, MD. Taste of Friendship Heights is organized by the Friendship Heights Urban Network (FHUN) and the Village of Friendship Heights. Food and drink tickets are $5 for 4 tickets.  A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place. Visit the website for more information.
  • Taste of Bethesda – The 21st annual Taste of Bethesda is scheduled for Saturday, October 2, 2010 and showcases 50 restaurants and four stages of entertainment. Taste tickets will be sold on-site in bundles of four tickets for $5, and servings cost one to four tickets. The event is held along Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle, three blocks from the Bethesda Metro. Additional information can be found here.
  • Taste of Dupont 2010 – This new event comes from the Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets group and is scheduled for Tuesday, October 5, from 6 – 9 pm. The idea is to create a progressive dinner by visiting any of the 13 participating restaurants with $5 individual tasting tickets. Many will also have special price cocktails or wines paired with the tastings. Tastings can also be bought in packages of 5 for $20, with additional discounts for larger groups. Tickets can be purchased online, or starting at 5pm on the day of the event at the Dupont Resource Center. It seems more restaurants may be added before the event date, so be sure to check the website for more details.
  • Taste of Georgetown – The 17th annual Taste of Georgetown takes place Saturday, October 9th, from 11 am to 4 pm on Wisconsin and M Streets, benefiting the Georgetown Ministry Center. Thirty area restaurants will be on hand to offer tastes, as well as a wine and beer pavilion and jazz from Blues Alley. One tasting costs $5, with 5 for $20. According to the website, tickets will be available for purchase online starting in August, but that doesn’t seem to be the case yet so check for updates.

We will update the site frequently with more events and information as things come our way. Feel free to send us a tip if you know of anything as well!