The following are new reviews published this week and a quick summary of them. I take no responsibility for their taste. :) I'll try to do this once a week for the convenience of my readers.
June 25th - Café MoZu from the Washington Blade
I have no idea who wrote this review. There is no credit that I can find on the article. I also checked the masthead link and there is no food/dining writer. Overall it is a pretty positive review, although the author seemed pretty distracted by the furniture and decor rather than the food. They hated the decor - Loved the food.
"Veteran chef Hidemasa Yamamoto’s snazzy concoctions and striking views of the Potomac make for a memorable dining experience at Café MoZu in the Mandarin Hotel."
June 24th - Scott Haring writes about Jerry's Seafood in The Washington Times
I've actually heard many good things about this place myself. It is located in Beltsville not far from where I work. Scott Haring given them a really positive review. Score one for Scott.
"The wonderful jumbo lump crabmeat that Jerry's uses comes from Venezuela, not the Chesapeake Bay, according to co-owner Philip Gainey. However, it tasted every bit as good as crabmeat from the Bay. You won't be able to tell a difference in the "Eastern Shore-style" preparation of the food."
C.C. Gachet of the Old Town Crier reviews Cieba
The crew over at eGullet only has great things to say about this place. I, myself, haven't ever had the pleasure of eating at this place (sob, sob) but it is on my top 5 to try in the District.
"Though none of us braved the restaurant’s signature queso fundido – Oaxacan cheese melted and mixed with grilled skirt steak and poblano chilies - rest assured I made a mental note to try that on my next visit."
Note: I would have included reviews from The Washington Post, but their entertainment guide was on the fritz and I could not access any of their reviews. Tom Sietsema's featured review this week is China Star. This is another restaurant that the forums at eGullet are praising.
If there are any new reviews that I missed, please let me know. That's what the comments are for. :)
Saturday night, Amy and I were trying to decide where to go for dinner. We suddenly realized that we have not been to Taj of India in Georgetown in a while. It had actually been over a month. Amy wanted Indian food and we were going to see The Terminal at the theater in Georgetown, so it was a perfect choice. Either they were having a really rough night, or the restaurant has just gone down hill. First of all, the staff was completely different from the past times we went to Taj. The old staff used to recognize us when we came by, but the new staff was obviously new and barely trained. I think this included the cook. The tandoori paneer appetizer we ordered too forever to come and was burnt. The cook had obviously left it in the oven way too long. For an entree, I ordered the chicken tikka makhani. For those of you who don't know, chicken tikka is pieces of boneless chicken cooked in the tandoor. It too was overcooked. Luckily, it was edible cause it was drenched in sauce. I don't think this will be the last time we go to Taj of India, but if we have another similiar experience, I doubt we'll be returning.
Early this year, Cities "closed for remodelling". When it reopened, it had a new name, look and menu. The swanky feel that once was Cities has been replaced by the retro-casual environment of LeftBank. The owner, Sahir Erozan, refers to the new environment as a wired bistro lounge. Translation: Retro-looking cafeteria tables, pleather booths, and funky lighting. But who gives a crap about that? On to the food.
The menu changed completely, which is no surprise. You now have a choice of four menus: Garden, Ocean, Farm, and Sushi. The Garden menu contains all vegetarian/vegan dishes, the Ocean menu is all seafood, and the Farm menu, naturally, is for all us carnivores. All of the menus were surprisingly friendly to the fad diets (one of which, I am still on -- sort of). As far as price goes, there were no entrees over $15 and the appetizers all ranged between $5 and $9. There was one appetizer that was only $1, but I wondered if it was a typo. The wine list was nothing to write home to mommy about, but was reasonably priced.
We were seated at a six person cafeteria-style table. All of the tables are large. If there are only two of you, you'll be sharing the table with someone.
"I'm thinking about getting the sausage," I said.
"So was I," Amy replied.
"Grrr. Ok, I'll get the melon and prosciutto. What are you thinking about for a main course?"
"The tuna," she replied.
"Grrr! Well you're getting the sausage, so I'm getting the tuna...okay, how about we just share everything."
Amy and I (well, maybe just I) can be very possesive of our food. Almost like my brother's dog that growls while he eats to ward off any other dogs that might try to stick their noses in his food bowl. We were particuliarly hungry today because we skipped lunch. Grr.
When the appetizers came, we'd already gone through our first glasses of wine and ordered a second. The sausage contained just enough spice and was served with a hearty lentil ragu full of Italian meats and tomatoes. The melon and prosciutto was excellent and by far the better of the two. Not that the sausage was bad, it was very good too. But the melon and prosciutto was GOOD! It actually came with some grapefruit, mint and olive oil as well. It reminded us of a conversation with a certain Italian friend of ours who told us that in Italy, prosciutto is typically served with melon, not mozzarella cheese.
When the main courses came, again we had finished our glasses of wine and ordered another. It was an ongoing trend. Perhaps it was just our waiter, but overall service was a little slow. MY tuna was okay. Although the menu said it was a seared, rare tuna, it was cooked more like medium. Served with pineapple (I thought it was mango), red curry sauce and green beens, there was a lot of flavor to make up for the fact that it was overcooked. Chefs, when the menu says seared, it should be barely cooked in the middle. This tuna tasted like I had been cooked it on my George Foreman grill.
Amy ordered the spiced vegetable burger which came with garlic-tahini and radish sprouts. When she tried to eat it with the bun, the "burger" started to fall apart. Amy just ate it without the bun. I also tried a little of the burger. I thought it was a little chalky and dry. Definitely vegan...could have used a little egg or cheese to hold it together.
The dessert menu had a lot of interesting choices on it. In particular, the chocolate volcano cake looked wonderful. However, we decided to get the cheese for dessert. The cheeses were very strong-flavored and came with some raisin-walnut bread and poached figs.
Bill came to $92 with tip. It seemed a little expensive for the atmosphere, but the bill would have been cheaper if we had ordered a bottle of wine rather than six separate glasses. Overall the food was pretty good, however, I would probably not go back for a full-course meal. Rather, I'd probably just drop in to order a bunch of appetizers and drinks. Overall, I think this place goes well in Adams Morgan where there are always people walking around at night and you can just drop in for a quick bite and a drink. I wouldn't recommend it for much more than that though.
2424 18th St. NW
Hours: Sun-Thu 7:00AM – 2:00AM, Fri – Sat 7:00AM – 3:00AM
(Today’s post written by special guest star, Mrs.DCFoodie, aka Amalah.)
In a burst of non-creativity, I took Jason to Palena for his birthday last night. I’d been hoping to take him to Laboratorio del Galileo or the Minibar at Café Atlantico, but I didn’t get my act together soon enough to get a reservation. So for a Tuesday night, we decided to stay close to home and go back to Palena.
We’d been there once before: Jason took me there to celebrate after my college finals were over. And we were extremely impressed. The food was delicious, the service was attentive and our courses were nicely spaced. (Palena's menu is price fixe and you can order three, four or five courses for $50, $57 or $64, respectively. We chose the four-course option.)
So I copied his idea and made a reservation for 8:30. We arrived early to check out the wine-bar portion of the restaurant (which serves a separate, more casual menu) and told the hostess we were fine with having a drink at the bar before she sat us.
And the trouble began immediately.
There were two bartenders working the front area of the restaurant, and while they were clearly busy, we weren't even acknowledged for about 10 minutes. And then another five minutes went by before we were actually offered drinks. I would have liked to have looked at a wine menu, but at this point I figured I'd damn well better order before I lost the bartender's attention forever. We ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio and were given Palena's equivalent: a wonderful Coda di Volpe by Grotta del Sole. The bartender, while beyond distracted, did know the wine list quite well and made excellent recommendations. (Another peeve: we were both carded, and when Jason presented his ID I sort of expected the bartender to notice his birthday. I'm sure he just glanced at the year, but seriously, I've met bouncers in Adams Morgan who pay better attention to detail.)
After we got our wine we were pretty much ignored again. We finished our glasses and started trying to guess how much time had gone by (no watches or cell phones at the birthday celebration!). It certainly felt like 8:30, but the hostess (who was also helping out at the bar) hadn’t offered us a table yet. Finally, Jason got the bartender’s attention, which triggered the hostess’ memory and she offered to seat us.
There were about half a dozen empty tables in the main restaurant section. Well then!
And the distracted service continued. I don’t believe our waiter ever really made eye contact with us. (Our waiter, by the way, looked EXACTLY like the kid who played Finch in American Pie. You know, the one who slept with Stifler's mom? This unfortunate resemblance led to much giggling by me whenever he came to our table. Very mature, Amy.)
For our first courses, we chose the antipasto primavera and the chilled pea soup. They. Took. Forever. We'd finished our second glasses of wine by the time they arrived. The waiter passed on the chef's apology for the delay, but didn't give a reason or explanation for the wait.
Anyway, I'd ordered a slightly different antipasto on our last visit (one that paired smoked salmon with pesto, mozzarella and sweet vegetables) and enjoyed it. Jason felt this version (buffalo mozzarella, beets, fennel salami, artichokes and some wild greens) fell a little flat. I have to agree: the flavors were certainly nice and fresh, but there was nothing distinctive about it.
My soup was…interesting. And very green. It seemed to use both regular green peas and snow peas, flavored with a little mint and garnished with shitake mushrooms and a small square of unidentified cheese. (The menu may have named it, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten.) My first few spoonfuls were delicious, but soon the pea flavor became a little dull. The cheese was completely overpowering and far too ripe for a sweet soup. The chef was obviously aiming for a contrast in flavors but stepped just a tad too far.
Our second courses came slightly faster than our first, but still seemed a little late. Jason ordered the gnocchi and I ordered a homemade sausage plate. Last time, we both ordered the gnocchi and thought it to be a highlight of the meal. This version was a little different (spinach gnocchi) but just as good. The homemade sausage was also excellent—flavored with cinnamon and some savory spices, served with a little dollop of potatoes and a sweet sauce.
On to the main courses! There were four choices: lamb, Kobe beef medallions, day-boat halibut (not sure I really buy the whole “day-boat” fad, but whatever), and Alaskan salmon. On our last visit, Jason ordered a lamb dish and I ordered the beef. This time, Jason ordered the salmon and I...ordered the beef. What? I liked it. Sue me.
Neither dish disappointed. Both were cooked perfectly and plated with root vegetables and delicate sauces. I was also pleased that our waiter remembered the glass of red wine I'd requested to arrive with my main course. Jason was dismayed, however, that the salmon came with just three of the tiniest mushroom raviolinis you have ever seen, which were some of the best we have ever tasted. Please, offer an entire dish of these!
As usual, the dessert menu was amazing. Ann Amernick of the Amernick Bakery, is the executive pastry chef (and co-owner) of Palena, so desserts are always a highlight. Jason ordered cheesecake with fresh berries, and it was fantastic. Served with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and cherries, the cheesecake was perfect. (Unlike some fluffy whipped-cream-like cakes that basically taste like ice cream. Do not screw up our cheesecake.)
As usual, I'm a sucker for a cheese plate, so I ordered the three cheeses of the day, served with fresh almond and fruit bread. Yum.
We also ordered coffee, but this didn't arrive until we flagged down our waiter and reminded him.
Gazing around the restaurant, it appeared that Palena was having an off-night all around. Everybody seemed to be perpetually waiting for something. The next course, a wine refill, a dessert menu, the check. I noticed that desserts had a tendency to come out sporadically, so one person's dessert would sit at the waiters' service station for quite some time until the rest of the table's desserts emerged from the kitchen. We counted two waiters, a good number of expeditors, and one busser. The waiters were clearly overwhelmed and the kitchen must have had its own staffing shortage.
The bill came to $191 with tip. Huh. I felt a lot better about that price tag last time.
That said, I really believe our last visit (on a Saturday night) was more typical of Palena than our experience last night (on a Tuesday). It's an ambitious and seemingly well-run restaurant that really lets its chefs get creative and show off. While it's a shame we had to encounter some kind of staffing snafu on Jason’s birthday, we'd certainly go back and give it another chance. (In particular, I’m really interested in trying the under-$9-wine-bar menu and plan to bug Jason endlessly about going there.)
3529 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Hours: Monday - Saturday 5:30-10 pm; Closed Sundays
Cleveland Park Metro (Red Line)
Dress code: Business casual (Sportcoats recommended)
Here is an great article on Indian Food in the DC area by Monica Bhide. Her list of most authentic Indian food restaurants is right on, although I haven't had a chance to try all of them yet. I also like that she included a list of Indian markets, although there still are none in DC ANYWHERE!
There is a good post on eGullet about restaurants in the DC area that allow corkage. I definitely plan to take advantage of Lavandou's free corkage on Mondays. I went to Lavandou a when I first moved to DC and, if I remember correctly, it was very good.
I had a late dinner there last night with Amy. We arrived around 9:30 and there was still a wait for a table. Big surprise. We sat down for a drink at the bar and just as we finished our drinks, they called us.
There was something different from the start. Shortly after we were seated, someone came by to give us water and ask us if we wanted a drink. The best thing, though, is that the drinks actually arrived before our food. In the past we would have gotten our drinks after the main course has been served. Our appetizer came out shortly after our drinks. Oh, and get this: Someone actually asked me if I wanted another drink -- an event that never happened before at Indique.
It seems like Indique (click for my original review) has instituted the captain system and hired a bunch of new people. In previous trips to Indique, we had always noticed that there just weren't enough people on the floor to take care of all the tables. This time, however, we saw a full staff of food expeditors, head waiters, secondary waiters, bus people, and a person who did nothing but walk around and fill water glasses. These were all welcome changes to what was an otherwise perfect restaurant. I hope the change is permanent.
Who knows, though, it might have only been better because we were there so late.
Last Saturday, Amy and I went for a walk. We started by walking to that Starbucks down the street from us, and then down to the second hand furniture store. Finally, we walked to the Cathedral to see if anyone had put out any homemade tributes to President Reagan. There were none. :( After that we were going to head back, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to keep walking down Wisconson. Anyway, I'll jump to the point by saying we walked all the way to Georgetown. On the way there, we passed Bistrot Lepic. Now, I've heard a bunch of good things about this place. I've almost never heard anyone say anything bad about it, but I had never bothered to check out the menu. A number of dishes looked pretty interesting - Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crabmeat, Salmon Tartare, Tuna with a Chick Pea Crepe. All of which were dishes that were ok for me to eat on my new diet.
Later that night, after we had taken a cab home from walking around Georgetown, Amy and I recalled how interesting the menu had looked at Bistrot Lepic and decided to get dinner there. It was 7:00 when Amy called for a reservation. We were able to sneak on in at 7:15, so we ran down to the car and drove down to Glover Park. Lucky for us, there is ample parking in this area and we made it just in time.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this Bistrot Lepic. Since I had heard so many good things about it, I had pretty high expectations. The restaurant is located in a small row house which means the waiting area is very small. When we entered, we were greeted by a young man with a very French accent. I thought briefly of a funny scene from The Holy Grail and laughed. ("I'm French! Why do think I have this outrageous accent, you silly king-a?!") We were quickly seated at a table that was not exactly private. There were four tables close to the front that were right next to each other. It was pretty much impossible NOT to listen in to the conversation going on at the table next to you. In fact, you're lucky if you aren't bumping elbows. I was happy that I changed out of my jeans and into some nice pants and shirt. There were some people there in sport coats. Amy was looking beautiful in the new outfit she had just bought at Benetton in Georgetown. (Editor's Note: Awww)
To start with, I ordered the salmon tartare, hoping it would be somewhat like the tuna tartare that at Bradley Ogden in Vegas. Sadly, it was not as good, but few things in life are. I can say, though, it was pretty solid, but I kinda wish I had ordered the chilled asparagus soup. Someone at the table next to us ordered it and seemed to be really enjoying it. I’m so nosy. Amy ordered the beet and goat cheese terrine. I didn’t bother to try it, but Amy really liked it.
The proximity of the tables made it easy to check out the dishes that everyone else had ordered. I noticed at least one person at every table ordered the tuna, which went perfectly with the diet that I was on. Amy couldn’t help but get the beef medallions, but I have this feeling she really wanted to order the tuna. We shared each others dishes and liked them both. The tuna was cooked rare of course. The server asked me how I wanted it, to which I replied, “I know you have to ask, but you shouldn’t give people the option.” It’s a sin to overcook good tuna. It was served with tomatoes, lemon confit and mosto oil. I have no idea what mosto oil is. It also came served on a chick pea crepe which had absolutely no flavor at all. I did not really understand the addition of the crepe because it didn’t really add anything to the dish. The tenderloin…uh, I mean medallions, were cooked in a shitaki au jus sauce. The polenta that it came with was slightly sweet, and complimented the sauce well. Looking back, I think we chickened out a bit with the dishes we ordered. When I return, I will try the chicken with curry, lemongrass and basmati rice or sea scallops with ginger broccoli mousse and ginger butter.
We were not planning on ordering dessert, but suddenly the server appeared with a tray of tarts. They all looked awesome, but one in particular, the pear tart, caught my eye. “Did you say pear?," I queried. “Uh, yeah, I’ll have that.” I'm a sucker for anything with pear in it. I actually ended up sharing it with Amy -- How generous am I? Two minutes later, when we were done scarfing it down, the coffee we ordered came. Damn, that was a good tart!
After all was said and done, the bill came to just under $100 for appetizers, entrees, two glasses of wine and coffee and one dessert. Overall, I would say it was a little pricey for me, especially since we did not order a whole bottle of wine. However, the food was good enough that I would say it was worth it.
1736 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007
My friend says that she HATES curry and can't eat spicy food. I couldn’t get her to an Indian restaurant to save her life. What do I do?
I know people like this as well. They suffer from picky eaters disease. Slip her some curry in her lunch some day. Assuming she is not allergic and you don’t have to rush her to the hospital shortly thereafter, continue to do this everyday, adding more and more as the days continue. Soon, she will be addicted like the rest of us.
I've been reading your site, and from what I can tell, you have absolutely no culinary training. Am I accurate in this statement?
G. How could you tell?
Honestly, I'm a Software Engineer. I’ve never written professionally or taken any cooking classes. I do however, eat out ALL THE TIME and I love food. I think you will find that when I write about my experiences at restaurants, I don't bother to write much about the décor or ambiance. There are three things that I care about in a restaurant. Quality of food. Service. Value. Anything else is just a distraction.