I was at 2 Amys last night, sitting at the bar and eating good food with good company. I'd eaten some dishes from the wine bar menu - Rabbit, chick peas and prosciutto salad, white bean salad, some fried dough with marinara, burrata di buffala cheese. At about 9 PM, in walks Mayor Anthony Williams for a pizza of his own. There was a little commotion when he first came in. A body guard walked around an checked the place over, and then everyone wen't back to minding their own business. I didn't see what he was ordering, but he was there with his wife and two other people. He was there until after I left at about 10 PM.
Friday night, Amy and I visited Afghan Grill again. It's been about five or so months since we'd last been there - too long if you ask me. I had a major craving for their Kadu Buranee (sauteed pumpkin). We didn't bother making a reservation, but we probably should've. The restaurant was packed around 8 PM when we arrived. Overall, Aghan Grill seems to be doing very well. I mean, the last time we'd been there, they weren't nearly as crowded and it was really easy to get a table. This time, we were lucky that they were able to make room for us.
We didn't order appetizers, although, I wish we had. (I saw someone order the sampler and it looked very enticing.) Instead we decided to just get entrees and eat the pita bread that they always bring to the table. They did change the dipping sauce that they bring with the bread - for the better. It is now much spicier. You can see the pepper seeds in it. They've obviously added jalapenos or some other green pepper to the recipe. I also ordered a glass of the Turkish red which has always been a winner in the past.
When the entrees came, I was ready to devour. Amy ordered the Kadu Buranee and it was very good as usual. Knowing that Amy would never finish her entire dish, I went with something new. I should have written down the name of the dish, but I remember the last word in the title was "Pulao". Anyway, it was a basmati rice dish with carrots, raisins, and your choice of chicken or lamb. It was excellent. The meat was tender and adequately seasoned. I don't know what it is about the rice at Afghan Grill, but I swear I could eat plates and plates of it on it's own. The sweetness of the carrots and raisins complimented the spices in the chicken well. The Kadu Buranee that Amy ordered tasted great as usual. Overall it is a very sweet dish. Meat sauce is added to the top of the sauteed pumpkin to add a salty flavor to the dish.
We opted out of dessert. This was probably one of the fastest meals we've eaten in a long time. I mean, we were in and out in less than an hour. Most of the people that were there when we arrived were still there when we left. The pace of the service helped very much. The server brought our food not too long after we ordered it. Each server in the restaurant helped with out table at some point, whether it was filling out water glasses or bringing our food. Service gets an A+ grade. When it was all over, the check only came to $33 which was definitely on the cheaper side compared to most of our meals recently.
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: None - street parking is a rare in Woodley Park. No Valet either. I recommend taking the metro or cabbing.
Nearest Metro: Woodly Park. Literally, it's right there.
Bathroom rating: Eh, they're ok. The actually aren't in the restaurant. You have to go outside the restaurant and upstairs to some comment restroom that the building has. Cleanliness is questionable, but all the utilities are all working.
Valentines Day was very special this year - Partly because of the great food, but mostly because of something else. At about 3 PM, I left work to meet Amy at the radiologist's office in Bethesda. Amy was having a sonagram to find the heartbeat of our 8-week-old baby growing inside her. Amy was about as nervous as I've ever seen her, terrified that there wouldn't be a heartbeat. At about 4:20 PM we were called into the examination room. The technician started performing the sonagram and at first there was nothing on the screen. Then I sort of saw something on the screen - a little spot that seemed to be fluttering. I think Amy and I saw it at just about the same time. Soon after that the technician said, "There it is. I'll let you hear the heat beat." BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. 160 loud beats a minute. The spot that we saw fluttering turned out to be the heart. And then the technician said, very appropriately, "Happy Valentines Day!" I don't think it had occured to either me or Amy how appropos it was that we were doing this on Valentines Day until the technician said that. LOL. You can read more about the Sonagram Story at Amy's site.
After the sonogram was over, we headed home. I stopped to pick up a few things, groceries, something from Tiffany's, etc. (in case you couldn't tell, I spoil Amy). We weren't home for too long before it was time to go to our reservation at Komi. Just as it was time to leave, it started to rain, and of course, we didn't bring an umbrella. I was trying to hail a cab on Wisconsin Ave. What is it with the shortage of cabs lately!? I probably stood there for 30 minutes trying to hail a cab in the poring rain. To say the least, I was soaked. Luckily, Amy was able to hide under a Metro bus waiting area. We finally found a cab that was actually pulling out of our street.
The good thing was that we were out of the rain. The bad thing was that this taxi driver was the worst we've ever driven with. First, our reservation was at 7:30 and we were already late. This driver practically rolled down the street. Only one pedal existed for this driver, and it was the break. I kindly asked him to speed up because we were in a hurry, so he started using the gas. JESUS CHRIST GO FASTER YOU ASSHAT! I'M HUNGRY! YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH ME WHEN I'M HUNGRY! OK. I didn't actually say anything, but I wanted to scream. Not only that, but the driver decided that he was going to go the scenic route through Columbia Heights to get to 17th and P. AAGGHHH!
We finally arrived. We were about 20 minutes late. I HATE being late for a reservation. Sebastian Zutant, the Wine, Food, and Service Director at Komi (and the person who took my reservation), was at the door greeting people. He introduced himself to me (I'd never met him in person) after we told him who we were. It was nice to finally meet him. We were seated right away and had a pick of places to sit.
The menu was completely different from out last trip. Only a couple dishes remained that I recognized - the Marinated Yellowtail and the Braised Short Ribs. Amy immediately had this panicky look on her face. She was worried that her stomach wouldn't be able to handle the food. Pregnancy is taking its toll on her. She's had to eat like a poor college student, feasting primarily on Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, Spaghettios, and Ramen Noodles. I knew the tasting menu would be off limits this time -- It's just way too much food for Amy. It was no loss, though. There were plenty of great dishes to order off the menu a la carte.
When we ordered, I asked the waitress if it would be possible for them to bring me a wine pairing with the dishes I ordered. Amy wasn't drinking, but that wasn't stopping me - if anything I need to drink more now ;-). I'm not sure this is something they normally do, but she went and talked to Sebastian about it. I guess he said it was ok, because they brought out four wonderful wines with my dishes. I'll go into detail later.
Before our dishes came out, our waitress brought by the little demitasse (small cup) of soup. This time it was a mushroom soup topped with what I thought was sour cream. I wasn't all too crazy about this. I mean, it was better than most mushroom soups I've eaten, but I'm not usually one for mushroom soup. Put it this way, Amy couldn't eat all of hers, so I finished it for her. If it was "bad," I wouldn't have done that.
For our 1st course, Amy ordered the Calabaza Soup. There were two melted marshmallows on the top of it. Amy could also taste strong hints of curry, which we always love. It was very similar to the butternut squash soup we had last time - but better :). For those of you who don't know what a Calabaza is (and that included myself until I just looked it up), it is a South American pumpkin. I, on the other hand, chose to go with the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Papardelle and sheep's cheese. The Papardelle pasta was perfectly cooked. It reminded me of my trips to Il Pizzico in Rockville. I also saw some parsley and olive oil. I didn't really taste the sheeps cheese on it's own, but the whole dish eaten together was outstanding. The mushrooms had a very mild flavor. This dish pretty much made the meal for me. Chef Johnny Monis has a great ability to pick out mushrooms for his dishes that don't have that pungent mushroom flavor to them. For this course, I was given a spicy Soave from Verona, Italy, which was "completely coincidental and not intentional," as Sebastian stated. (The soundtrack for "Romeo + Juliet" was playing in the restaurant when he brought it over.)
Amy opted to skip the second course, but they brought her a little something anyway - a few blood orange slices with yogurt, avocado, pine nuts and baby greens. I think the Chef felt bad that some ass was making her watch him eat the yellowtail. The artistry and attention to detail that went into the creation of this dish amazed me. It was perfect for a pregnant woman and settled her stomach down. Meanwhile, my yellowtail was just as good as the last time I had it. Like last time, it was served with a tiny spoonful of greek caviar and thin-sliced, fried fingerling potato chips. It was served raw and marinated in what I thought was a lemon vinegar. The glass of wine I was served with the yellowtail was a slightly fruity glass of Di Lenordo Tocai Friulano from Fruili, Italy. I LOVE Italian whites.
For the third and final course, I had it down to a decision between the speck-wrapped tuna and the roasted pork. I was incapable of a decision so I let our waitress decide. (It turned out that we had the same waitress as our last trip. She was great!) She convinced me to get the tuna. It came served on a bed of bulger wheat, mango, olive oil and seranno ham - a mixture of ingredients that I never would have pictured going so well together. The tuna itself could have been cooked a lot rarer. I like my tuna still flapping on the plate. The speck wrapping was a wonderful added touch. The smokey flavor of the meat complimented the flavor well. With my tuna, I was served a glass of a 2003 Le Paradou Grenache from Cotes du Luberon, France. I'm usually never one to drink a grenache, but I really liked this. It was just slighly sweet enough to compliment the salty, smokey flavor of the tuna and speck.
Amy's ribeye was absolutely, perfectly medium, like she asked. Well, actually, a little more on the medium-rare side, but that's really the way she likes it anyway. She only ordered it medium because the site of blood makes her stomach do loops. It came with a creamy spinach paste. Overall, I found the flavor of the paste a little too strong for the ribeye, but that was after eating my dish, which had some pretty stong flavors itself.
For dessert we chose to chare the Key Lime Flan. It was very TART! A little too tart for my taste, but still very good. If any of you have had the blood orange sorbet at 2 Amys, you'll know what I am talking about by TART. As far as texture was concerned, it was right on. Firm and not mushy as flans tend to be. Anyone who isn't into really sweet desserts will love this. The flan was also served with a side of chamomile sorbet, which helped settle Amy's stomach after the ribeye. Sebastian brought me a small yet interesting glass of German wine, which wasn't on the menu, nor was it really a dessert wine. The name escapes me, but I remember him saying that I'd need German characters to write about it. :-)
The cost of the meal when it comes to a restaurant like Komi is really inconsequential, but if you must know...The bill came to about $145 - Well worth it. That included two appetizers, one middle course, two entrees, a dessert, and my wine pairings. Your first courses run from $7 for the soup to $13 for foie gras. 2nd courses (or Thalassina, according to the Komi menu) are priced from $8 for grilled squid to $14 for the oysters. Entrees run from $17 to $22. Desserts cost about the same as you first courses. As far as the wine menu goes, Sebastian Zutant had done a wonderful job picking out wines that complement the dishes on the menu. Glasses of wine cost anywhere from $6 to $9 -- really quite a bargain considering what other similar restaurants in the area charge for a glass of wine. As far as bottles are concerned, there are many in the $20 to $40 range.
As usual, service was excellent. The ONLY time I had any issues with service was the first time we visited Komi, and even then, I only got pissy because my drink glass wasn't kept full.
1509 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: None - street parking is a rare in Dupont. No Valet either. I recommend taking a cab (just find a cab driver that drives faster the 20 mph and knows where the hell he's going).
Bathroom rating: Immaculate.
As many of you know already, Chef Sudhir Seth changed the menu over at Passage to India in December. If you had been to Passage to India before then, you'd know that their menu prior to this was nothing to be ashamed of. Chef Sudhir took a risk by making the drastic changes to his menu that he has and I'm happy to report that the change of menu is definitely for the better.
The new menu is divided up among the different regions of India – North, South, East and West. Missing completely from the new menu are the usual Rogan Josh, Paneer Makhani, and Chicken Curry. If you look at the East and West section of the menu below, you'll see that a majority of the dishes can't be found at other Indian restaurants. With dishes like Shorshe Bata Mache and Panchphorner Parmal Shaak from the East or Salli Boti Jardaloo and Chutney Ni Murgi from the West, Chef Sudhir is giving us the chance to increase the depth of our taste buds.
Most dishes that we're all used seeing in Indian Cuisine are from the North and South of India. So if you are looking for some of the more traditional Indian dishes (traditional in the sense that they are more common to Indian restaurants in the DC area), you can order from the North and South menus. Passage to India still has Lamb Korma, which Chef Sudhir would be crazy to remove. I believe it's the best I've ever tasted. One of Phyllis Richman's recent articles backs this opinion up as well. Also, the classic Chicken Tikka-Masala still remains on the menu. Chef Sudhir says, "I originally wanted to leave it (chicken tikka-masala) off, but people complained enough about us not having it, that I had to leave it on."
Now that I've told you about the menu, let me tell you about my experiences there. Sadly, our first attempt in December at sampling the new menu wasn't very successful. We were very excited to try the menu and there were many dishes that we wanted to try – So many, in fact, we couldn't decide which to order. Instead, we both decided to order one of the chef's samplers. The chef's samplers weren't a sample of the dishes that we'd wanted to try unfortunately. Most of them were the dishes that we'd had before. DOH! So if there was one thing I'd improve, it would definitely be the sampler dishes – but that's about it.
Our second attempt two Fridays ago went much smoother. Luckily, we made a reservation for 8:30 PM, because when we arrived, they were pretty busy. This time we ordered differently. For an appetizer, I went for the Crab Masala. For $7.95, you get jumbo lump crab meat mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, tumeric, and other Indian spices wrapped in a papadam. The crab was very tender (and no shell!) and much better than I thought it would have been – plus Chef Sudhir didn't scrimp with the lump crab. Amy ordered the Samosa Chaat which is actually another dish carried over from the previous menu. We'd had it before, and as last time, it was wonderful. The samosa was full of spices and it was topped with just the right amount of chutney sauces. Other restaurants tend to pour on the chutneys and raita, which turns this dish into more of a soup than anything else. The samosa also came on top of a bed of chana (chick peas with curry). One other thing worth noting is that Passage to India's samosas are never greasy which is a common complaint we have at other Indian restaurants. Each appetizer came with a small side salad which you could actually eat and use to cleanse your palate. At most Indian restaurants, the garnishes are barely edible.
Now I get to the good part - the entrees. My entrée, off the West menu called Chutney Ni Murgi, was an interesting chicken dish served in a green, homemade chutney cilantro curry sauce. The menu referred to it as a Parsi delicacy. This wasn't the spiciest Indian dish I've ever had, but not every Indian dish needs to take a layer of cells off your esophagus for it to taste good. I'm sure the next time I go, if I want it spicier, they'll gladly make it so. (Hehe, “Number One, I'd like my Chutney Ni Murgi extra spicy this time - Make it so.”) I really thought this dish made the meal for me. The chicken was lean and very tender. I also had a side of the aloo paratha to go with it. For those of you who don't know, aloo paratha is a potato-filled whole wheat bread. The potato filling is pretty much the same thing as the filling that goes into a vegetable samosa. I like to take a mixture of the curry and chicken, mix it with some rice, put it on a piece of the bread and shove it in my mouth. It makes for a great combination, although it can be quite messy sometimes.
Amy had the Makhmali Kofta off of the North menu, which is called Malai Kofta at other Indian restaurants we've been to. The prime ingredient in this dish is the vegetable dumplings with a mixture of ground vegetables formed into balls and fried. They are then mixed in a yogurt and coconut-based sauce with a mixture of spices. Amy commented to me that she thought the dumplings were a little dry, but when I tasted it, I thought they were perfect. They had soaked up the sauce nicely.
Once we were done with our meal, Chef Sudhir came out to say hello. It turns out he's a regular reader of this site. Go me! We talked to him about the new menu and congratulated him on the successful change of format. He mentioned that the weekends are usually crowded, but during the week they aren't very busy. So if you are looking for a good mid-week meal, or you want to avoid the weekend crowd, try going during the week.
We had our usual rice pudding for dessert, which was dumb. Chef Sudhir actually has some desserts that sound really interesting, unlike most Indian restaurants. We really should have tried the Indian carrot pudding or fresh mango with nutmeg flavored yogurt. Better yet, we should have had the bread pudding. AAEEEEHHH! I can't believe I missed that. Oh well. Next time.
I'll be returning soon to try some of the other dishes that peaked my interest. Our last trip, the bill was fairly reasonable at around $80. That included a Taj Mahal, a Paul Smith Organic lager (which I have to say is a great beer!), 2 appz, 2 entrees, and a single dessert. Compared to other Indian restaurants in the area like Haandi, Heritage India and Indique, it is pretty much equal in price. All of these places are a bit more expensive than your average Indian take-away on the corner, but they are well worth the extra cost.
Last night, Amy and I re-visited Tallula for dinner. I wanted to see if they'd worked out the kinks we witnessed during our last visit, a mere week after they'd opened. Since Tallula STILL doesn't take reservations for parties under 7 people, we anticipated that we'd have a long wait. (I have to say that's a major pain in the ass.) When we arrived at 8:30, the hostess first told us that there was a two hour wait for a table for two. Amy laughed hysterically. But, it turned out that only a single group of two was ahead of us so they lowered that to ONLY 45 minutes. -- Phew -- I've never been so glad to hear I had to wait 45 minutes to be seated. This is just an observation -- When the hostess took our name, she also took our cell phone number. While this might initially sound smart, the bar is so loud that there's no way in hell you're ever going to hear your cell phone ringing. VIBRATE MODE NECESSARY. We actually were sat only 10 minutes later. The other table of two in front of us was nowhere to be found and they just ended up seating us instead. Lucky us.
The waiter came by soon after we sat down. He had water on the table as soon as he greeted us. Soon after that, he took our drink orders and then our food orders. Everything started out really smooth.
I immediately noticed the same delay getting my drink as our last visit. It's pretty much a 10 minute wait to get a drink. I even thought I saw people getting up from their tables and walking over to the bar to get a drink. That was odd.
We started out with four of the awesome corn dogs and an order of fried green tomatoes which I was unable to get during our last visit due to some supply problems. The corn dogs were excellent as last time. They're so excellent, that they're the reason I added Tallula to my top 5 meals for last month. I love the spicy brown mustard they're served with and the corn breading the chorizo sausage is fried in is heavenly. The fried green tomatoes were worth going back for alone. They were served with duck cracklings and an interesting sauce that I couldn't identify. Anyway, it would be difficult to screw this dish up, but the chef does a good job of making it unique. Our appetizers all came out at the same time, but they took a while to come. I was almost done with my drink by the time they came.
I started noticing a serious decline in the service level. I finished my drink soon after our appz came and it stayed empty until our entrees came. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Keeping peoples drinks full is the easiest way for a waiter to keep a tab up. Mine stayed empty for most of the meal and I was perfectly willing to have one or two more. While we were getting our appetizers, another table of two was seated next to us, and they had asked the waiter three times for bread. (It turned out that they were out of bread, so we offered them ours. I wonder at what point in the night the manager realized that they were going to run out of bread and started recycling bread off the tables...) They ordered a bunch of different "two biters" for appetizers and a couple of them never came out. About this time we started talking to them about how quickly we got our table because the people in front of us left, but it turned out that they were the people in front of us and the hostess just didn't see them at the bar. In a bar as big as Tallula's, they need one of those flashing-coaster pager systems.
After we were done with our appz, we waited a very long time for our entrees to come out. It was probably a good 20 minutes. When they did, the plates were burning hot. Obviously, they'd been under a heat lamp the entire time. They seriously need more expediters. The butter sauce on Amy's butternut squash ravioli had formed a congealed layer on top of the ravioli. So she had this sort of rubbery texture on the top and a soft, overcooked texture on the bottom. As for the diver scallops, I ordered, the quality of the scallops were lacking. There's nothing I dislike more than when I am chewing on a scallop and I get an occasional crunch. It's like getting shell in a crab cake. They fell short of the quality that I expect from a $22 scallop dish where there are only four scallops on the dish. The truffled parsnip puree which the scallops were served on complimented them well. It didn't overpower the flavor of the scallops like most sauces do. I believe that if the quality of the scallops were better, it would have been a great dish.
We skipped dessert.
Overall, we didn't see any improvement from our first visit. The staff was...understaffed. The entrees were inventive, but suffered because of the delay in getting them to our table and lack of quality ingredients. Our appetizers were once again excellent. So at the very minimum, Tallula is a great place to get some drinks and appetizers with some friends after work. I do think Tallula has a lot of potential still. The chef's dishes are interesting and inventive and the concept of the restaurant is great. I'm curious to see if and when they can work out the kinks. The bill came to about $80 for 2 appz, 2 entrees, a bottle of sparkling water, and my 2 drinks.
Well, I received enough complaints from people who said this web site is illegible that I decided to change the fonts and styles. Hopefully, it's for the better. However, if you still think this site looks like crap, then maybe it's because your browser is older than my grandmother (or maybe I'm just a horrible designer). I encourage you all to download and install Firefox. Trust me. You'll thank me.