New American

David Craig

I have a new favorite Contemporary American restaurant in Bethesda, and it's called David Craig. Amy and I visited David Craig Restaurant in Bethesda last Sunday and everything was excellent so let me tell you about our meal.

I'd say that Sunday is the ideal time to go to David Craig, at least based on our experience there. The restaurant wasn't too crowded when we arrived at 8 PM and the atmosphere was calm and relaxing. About three other tables were full. We were seated in the back where there's a window that allows diners to see the kitchen and watch the cooks prepare the food. I tried not to stare.

Our server told us that the menu that night was new and it was the first time for the kitchen preparing the food. We would never have known unless we were told. My first dish was a simple but artfully prepared Caesar salad that was topped with a whole fresh anchovy (about the size of a sardine). There was nothing revolutionary in this salad considering it cost $11, but it still tasted great. I purposely didn't order the oyster stew because that's what everyone else has written about, but when I go back, I really want to order the arugula salad which just sounds incredible.

The second best dish of the night had to be the tuna carpacio (at least that's what I call it). Take thinly sliced tuna, combine it with Japanese mustard greens (also known as mizuna), a wild mushroom salad (I spied trumpet mushrooms), and top with a red wine vinaigrette and a little wasabi, and you have yourself quite a little appetizer.

I love a good pasta dish(which like all the pastas is available in a double portion as an entree), and the hand-cut fettuccine with a slightly creamy and cheesy meat and mushroom sauce was just heavenly -- the best dish of the night by far and probably one of the best pasta dishes I've had in a while. I'd call the sauce a ragu, except I don't think there was any tomatoes in it. I was supposed to share this dish with Amy, but somehow I only managed to let her have a single bite.

The lobster, fava bean, and sun dried tomato Vialone risotto that Amy had was interesting -- not drop-dead incredible, but interesting. When I first tried it, I thought the texture of the rice was odd, and not quite that of a risotto that I was used to, but that was only because of my own ignorance. Once I returned home, I Googled "Vialone" and found out that "Vialone Nano" rice is another type of risotto rice that is a longer grain rice than Arborio. Unlike Amy, who's unable to contain herself if it's on the menu, I'm not a lobster lover, and not surprisingly, I thought the texture of the lobster was odd, but Amy thought it was perfect.

While we waited for our entrees to come out, I looked jealously at a gigantic whole roasted Loup de Mar as one of the servers brought it to one of the tables near us.

"Jesus, I wish you would look at me like that once in a while," Amy said.

"Sorry. Sometimes I just can't control myself," I replied smugly.

My entree was exquisite -- I can't remember when I've eaten better braised veal cheeks. The texture of the meat was perfect, not too dry and not too moist. I've had veal cheeks that were overly moist and almost undercooked, or overcooked and dry. These were neither. Amy's beef tenderloin would have been pretty average if it wasn't for the creamy Gorgonzola flan, an atypical twist on the usual blue cheese topping.

Our server was very unobtrusive. At one point after we'd finished out entrees, the waiter started to come over to clear our plates and ask us how everything was, but Amy and I were in the middle of a conversation so he turned around and went back in the kitchen. He was also very knowledgeable about wine, aware that the wine maker from vineyard that produces the wine we ordered (Savannah-Chanelle Vineyard), had been to the restaurant recently. Hmm, the wine maker's name happens to be Tony Craig...I wonder if there's a connection??

I wasn't crazy about the chocolate bread pudding what we had for dessert, but I'm very picky about bread pudding (perhaps I should just stop ordering it). While the ice cream that came on the side was a wonderfully sweet and creamy accompaniment, that bread pudding was kind of crumbly.

Our bill came to about $200 before tip -- a little expensive, but considering that we had three courses each, shared a dessert, and drank a fairly expensive bottle of wine, and coffees, I think it was a pretty decent deal considering the quality of food we ate. I'm definitely planning on returning to try the other dishes on the menu.

David Craig
4924 St. Elmo Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 657-2484
Web Site

Corkage: Call.
Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Street: Street Parking and Bethesda Parking garages.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: A short walk from the Bethesda metro.
Reservations: Taken.
Baby friendly rating: 2 Diapers mainly because Amy noticed that they have child seats. Otherwise, I'd be very hesitant to bring Noah here because the atmosphere is quiet and therefore not baby friendly.

Viridian Restaurant

It's pretty rare that I write about a restaurant that I visit during Restaurant Week. Restaurants are so packed at this time of the year; they're often not in top form; and it's hard to tell if the hurried service and slow kitchen are a normal occurrence or just a result of...Restaurant Week.

When I was at Viridian on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (yes, all three days) during Restaurant Week, I didn't witness any of those complaints. Other than the "Restaurant Week" heading on the menu pointing out the special, you wouldn't know...and not only was the full, normal menu available, but there were no up-charges.

Servers were gracious each time we were there, even on the second night when we took Noah with us. Noah was in a rare (for him) cranky form and was being a complete pill -- impatient, squirming, and screaming out often. Despite this, every waiter or bus person that went by made it a point to say hello to Noah and smile at him. I know he's the most adorable baby in the world and all, but I've never witnessed this at any other restaurant.

We were rushed to finish our meal, and our server recognized that we were a little stressed. Our waitress handed us dessert menus while we still had our entrees: "Please don't take this as a sign that I am hurrying you out, but you look like you want to get out of here."

"Thank you! Yes we do!" We replied.

Our check was on the table soon after we received our desserts.

The following day for brunch, our server was again very friendly to Noah, and even took the time to make an origami crane for him...BWAH?!? What world have I suddenly been transported to? Some perfect world for diners with children?

Okay, so the service was great. Get it?

Got it.

The food was refreshingly good, and fresh, organic ingredients are the highlight of the menu at Viridian. While so many other restaurants serve their steak with some combination of mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and/or spinach, Viridian serves theirs with cippolini onions, figs (not dried -- there's an amazing difference), crispy watercress and a sweet port mustard sauce. Ok, so it's not super dramatically different from what you can get elsewhere, but it's kind of like that change-up pitch that you get after three straight fastballs.

A barramundi with crispy skin like it came out of a deep fryer, beet risotto, lobster and an original beet-ginger reduction sauce was a highlight. Order the cool and refreshing (yes, I used that word again) watermelon soup if you like cold soups. It's given a creamy texture by adding a champagne sorbet to the bowl before pouring the soup in front of you.

I didn't love everything I ate at Viridian, though. I'd suggest ordering the tartare appetizer for the steak and not the tuna. While the lean raw steak is 100% creamy and salty goodness, the tuna is a letdown in comparison in its blandness. And while the beat salad sounds (and looks) like it should be a sure winner, it falls flat on the taste buds.

However, I have yet to try all of the dishes on the menu, and sadly the menu changes on the first of every month, so most likely I won't be able to try the trout with gazpacho and blue crab or the gnocchi with chanterelles. Or maybe I'll luck out and the chef will still have a variation of them on the menu again.

Either way, I don't think that Chef Antonio Burrell is trying to make every diner love each and every dish they eat, but rather he's trying to go for a wide variety of tastes. I'm sure when I return, and the menu has changed, I'll find something new that I'll love -- like the flat iron steak or barramundi -- and there will probably be dishes that I'm not as crazy about. But I imagine that I'll leave happy either way.

Viridian Restaurant
1515 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
Web Site

Corkage: Allowed
Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Street: Street Parking or Park in the lot for $10.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Dupont Circle or U Street. It's a hike from either.
Reservations: Taken.
Baby friendly rating: 3.5 Diapers. As I said before, the servers seem to love kids.


It was a humid Thursday evening when Amy and I found ourselves at a local Tenleytown restaurant called Dahlia. Dahlia replaced the mostly unknown Finding Someone Who's Been There Is Like Finding A Needle In A Haystack Meglio's, or maybe it was called Melio's. I forget. I never went.

Late in the day, I had made arrangements for a babysitter since I never like to take Noah to a restaurant the first time I visit, mostly for fear of the unknown, but also because I sometimes like to see how places treat people with children and without. Luckily, my babysitter had turned me down the night before and "owed" me, otherwise that night I might have found myself playing "Ridin' on a Horsey" and singing along to Dan Zanes' Choo Choo Ch' Boogie for the millionth time instead.

Parking, in what is by day a very packed parking lot, was fairly easy to find around dinnertime. We had a reservation, but didn't need it because the dining room was mostly empty -- save for maybe four or five tables, one of which seemed to be the chef's parents for whom he brought out plate after plate of interesting combinations from the menu all night.

Other than the chef's parents, it was an extremely mixed clientele: a pair of young college girls, one wearing a skirt that was way to short too be wearing out in public, as she was forced to yank it down each time she jumped up to look for her boyfriend, for fear that she was flashing the entire restaurant, an older couple decked out in a wool suit and tie and a formal dress suit with evening pearls, and another couple in t-shirts and shorts. All were treated with the same respect and courteous service that we received.

Our dinner began with a summery salad of fresh mozzarella, mango, arugula, and prosciutto, which most likely gets its influence from the street food of prosciutto and melon, and is even better. The lone special for the night was a bruschetta with smoked salmon, pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella, which we had to order, just because it sounded so interesting.

The wine list isn't huge but is reasonably priced. I struggled to find wines I was familiar with, but ended up choosing the lone Pinot Noir on the menu due to the fact that Amy had ordered a seafood dish and I picked a lamb dish.

I was discussing American food recently with a friend/restaurateur, and the topic came up about what American food would be today if it weren't for the invasion of French Cuisine in the early 1900's, World War II and McDonald's. I normally don't talk about culinary history; in fact, I avoid the subject like the plague because I'm incredibly ignorant about it. I'm more about what I am eating now and tend not to be a "woulda, shoulda, coulda" type of guy, but while I was dining at Dahlia, I thought a lot about the topic. Dahlia is simply American food.

For instance, the Parmesan-encrusted lamb chops I ordered were each on their own a perfect cut of meat, that reminded me of what lamb actually tastes like. You might mistake them as bland, until you realize that they weren't over-salted, which was the key to being able to actually taste the lamb, and they were cooked perfectly with tender meat that ran with juices as you cut into them. I cleaned each of the bones with my teeth when I was done. I also shouldn't fail to mention the vegetables that came on the side: eggplant, zucchini, and a myriad of others, all grilled to perfection. However, the mashed potatoes were in dire need of salt, pepper, or any kind of seasoning at all.

The scallop dish is also very American in its design. Seared scallops are place on top of a large bed of yellow cheddar grits and served with a side of vegetables. Assuming the restaurant is getting their scallops from a decent supplier, it's hard to screw them up, short of overcooking them and these were definitely not. Screwed up, that is. Once again the dish wasn't over-salted which would be the theme for the evening I'd say.

We shared the mini lemon bundt cake for dessert, and by "share" I mean she had a couple bites. Perhaps this could have been a little moister? I don't know. The lemon icing on the top on the cake hid the dryness pretty well and it was good nonetheless.

Dahlia can be a special night out or it can also be a casual dinner depending on the size of your wallet. If you're a person that looks for a more elegant atmosphere for that special night out, you might want to look elsewhere, but if your definition of a special night out is simply good food and service, then you'll probably want to give Dahlia a try. It's comparable in price to that of a Corduroy or Vidalia with entrees between $20 and $30. Our tab ended up being around $150 before tip.

As our meal was winding down, I overheard another table talking to the Chef's parents.

"It must be nice to have a chef for a son!"

"Yes, it can have its privileges", they replied.

"Everything is was excellent," they said in a sincere tone, "we'll be coming back for sure."

I look forward to trips back to Dahlia and I'm happy that a restaurant like it has opened in my neighborhood.

4849 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 364-1004

Mon-Sat: 11:30 AM - 9:30 PM
Sundays:  11:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Corkage: Allowed
Dress Code: You decide.
Parking: Street: Parking in the shopping center.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Probably Tenleytown, but it's a hike from there.
Reservations: Taken. Probably not needed.
Baby friendly rating: 2 or 3 Diapers. I'll probably try to bring Noah on our next visit. 

Restaurant Eve Bar

It's not every day that you walk into a bar for the first time, and get treated like a regular, but at Restaurant Eve, it seems to be the usual experience. Two weeks ago, Amy and I went to Restaurant Eve for the second time and sat at the bar instead of eating at the Bistro or Tasting Room. (Our first visit being for the chef's tasting room, where I had the nine-course tasting menu and nearly passed out from the amount of food I consumed.) 

We sat at the far end of the bar for a bite to eat and I observed the people at the bar, who all seemed like a regulars, carefully. This seemed odd to me. The bartenders were conversing with everyone at the bar like they had been there many, many times. I wondered what the likelihood was that all 12 or so people sitting at the bar were regulars.

It's probably not too significant, but it made an impression when one of the bartenders (her name was Tammy) came over to greet us, we didn't get the standard, "What can I get you?", but were greeted with "How's your evening going so far?" 

The bartenders even treated the insufferable woman sitting next to us with a level of patience that I've only seen once before at a restaurant. I won't go into too much detail about this person except to say that when you're sitting at a bar, and you talk to someone sitting next to you, please take a hint when they don't reply to you with anything other than, "Thanks, that's nice." Also, if you feel that it's your purpose in life to tell those sitting next to you what wine to order, and when they decide NOT to listen to you, please don't get all pissy and laugh under your breath about what they actually did order.

Ok, so do you get the point? The bartenders are cool.

Dsc00255 As the first night progressed, we went through our usual exploratory dining, sampling different dishes from the menu, and taking the bartender's advice on what food to get. A succulent softshell crab appetizer deep-fried in a light tempura batter and roast duck breast, duck sausage and with duck foie gras and were the highlights from this evening. However, the beef short rib entree that I had was fatty and skimpy on the meat. This was despite the fact that my friend told me the night before to order the beef short ribs because they "were the best short ribs he'd ever eaten." Perhaps I got a bad batch.

The other thing I remember vividly from that first night at the bar was that towards the end of ourDsc00263 meal, Tammy (who by the second course managed to tell us where she lived, what her neighborhood was like and the name of her dog) was making secret trips back to the wine cellar to "find the good stuff."  This made for an interesting night to say the least, and led to me having to spend another hour at the Starbucks sobering up before Amy or I could drive home.

My second trip to the bar at Restaurant Eve was probably one of the most decadent meals I've ever eaten. More hyperbole: the night began with some of the best fried calamari I've ever eaten. Rest assured, if you find something as common as fried calamari at Restaurant Eve, you'd better order it. I don't think I've ever tasted such tender Dsc00262 squid.

Ok, so fried calamari isn't so decadent. I'll continue.

For entrees, we had pan-roasted veal sweetbreads and confit of braised house-cured pork belly. My portion of sweetbreads was gigantic --if your normal portion of sweetbreads was a 9oz. filet mignon, this would be a 28 oz. porterhouse. I appreciated the preparation of the sweetbreads, pan-roasted instead of fried, you could actually taste the flavor of the sweetbreads. The pork belly, which Tammy told us was a "chef's specialty", was a very unique dish. While I thought that our serving could have been more tender, the complex, smoky flavor of the pork with the cannelini beans more than made up for that.

We returned a third time to Restaurant Eve, but I won't go into too much detail, except to say thatDsc00268 you should definitely order the monkfish if it's on the menu.. I'd say that of all the entrees I ate there, this was my favorite. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristically tenderness of the monkfish, or the complexity that the spicy chorizo sausage added to the ragu it was served in. I'm not sure exactly, but it was well worth the $28.50 that it cost.

Our desserts each evening were very good and changed every evening we were there, but my favorites were the chocolate mouse cake, which...ok, you just can't go wrong with a good rich chocolate mouse, and the strawberry panna cotta which had a very delicate flavor and pleasant texture.

Dsc00256 The cost of each of our meals at Restaurant Eve were pretty expensive -- ranging from $200 to $225 before gratuity. Keep in mind though, that each time we were there, we probably had at least three or four glasses of wine each, and with prices ranging from $8 to $15 or so per glass, this can have a serious impact for on your bill. Don't be a stupid lush like me. Ask the Sommelier to recommend a good bottle to go with your apps and entrees. So a normal person  -- who only drinks a glass of wine with dinner -- will probably be able to keep the cost of the meal down a bit, especially considering that most entrees are below $30 and the appetizers are between $10 and $15.

So I know that this is news to no one, but Restaurant Eve should be on everyones list of must-visit restaurants in this area. The food is original and unlike anything you'll get at other restaurants and you certainly won't be disappointed by your meals there.

Restaurant Eve
110 S. Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA
(703) 706-0450

Lunch Mon - Fri: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Dinner Mon-Sat: 5:30 PM - 10 PM
Tasting Room:
Dinner Mon - Sat: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Bar and Lounge
Mon - Thu: 11:30 Am - 11:30 PM
Fri: 11:30 AM - 12:30 AM
Sat: 5:30 PM - 12:30 AM
Closed Saturday Lunch, Sundays and all major holidays

Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Street parking in Alexandria isn't too hard to come by, except on weekends. There are also parking lots all over the place. No valet.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: King Street and it's a hike.
Reservations: Taken in the Bistro and Tasting Room and are recommended.
Amy's Bathroom rating: Very clean and well taken care of.
Baby friendly rating: 1 diaper. Yeah, babies don't belong here during dinner. The only time I think it may be appropriate to bring a baby is during lunch in the lounge.


I'm officially adding Komi to my Foodie Experiences category. Why? Let me explain.

Actually, let me give you some background was Amy's birthday (December 27th) and there was no other restaurant that she wanted to go to more than Komi. So when I tried to make reservations last Monday for tonight, I learned that Komi was going to be closed for two weeks for renovations. "WAIT NO!! You can't be!"

It wouldn't have been that big a deal if this didn't happen to us every year on Amy's birthday. Every year, we try to go out on her birthday and the restaurant we want to go to is closed for some reason. Her birthday either comes on a Sunday, or the restaurant is closed the week after Christmas, or the whole restaurant gets the flu.

I wrote some quick emails to our babysitter, "Hey, are you gonna be around this week at all? Any chance you're free for babysitting ANY night this week?!!" Lucky for me, she was.

So on Thursday night, we headed over to Komi for dinner. It had been a while since we'd been there -- probably at least two months and a good deal had changed, but in the end, it was still the same old Komi.

The most noticable change was the menu. There were a many new dishes on the menu, all of which I wanted to try. Lucky for me, there was a tasting menu available. For $57 a person, you get a series of small plates (which basically ends up being small portions of all the appetizers on the menu), your choice of pasta course and dinner course, a cheese course and your choice of dessert course. We also asked for a wine pairing which will run you an additional $40 a person, but is well worth it because they basically never let your glass get empty.

Our first dish was just a few olives that Chef Johnny Monis and his girlfriend discovered during their trip to Italy last summer. They were mild flavored and juicy to the point where you bit into them, the juices would squirt into your mouth.

Following the olives, was another amuse bouche and quite possibly the world's most perfect food -- two dates, heated to just before the point of carmelization, filled with mascarpone cheese and topped with olive oil and a touch of sea salt.  There's so much to this: flavors of sweet, salty, creamy, smooth. It's a huge dish of contrast and simplicity in four little bites.

Shortly after we finished the dates off, out came the Burrata di Bufala, which came topped with crispy breadcrumbs, a slice of fresh anchovy, and just the right amount of sea salt. If you've never had burrata before, it's a type of mozzarella cheese that's very creamy and rich in flavor -- and quite hard to find. I loved that the cheese was topped with the crunchy breadcrumbs. Normally burrata is great on its own, and I didn't think it was possible to make it better.

Next, two dishes were brought out at the same time. The first was a grilled bread topped with prosciutto and figs -- a perfect contrast of sweet and salty -- and is representative of Johnny's menu which embraces influences from Italian and Greek cuisine. The second was a crostini topped with a slice of deviled egg. Both were fantastic and nothing I ever would've thought to make myself.

Those dishes were followed by a fried ricotta ball, which was good, but a little too salty for my taste. Moving on.

Following the ricotta ball was probably one of the more adventurous and different dishes I've eaten all year -- a cauliflower and tallegio panna cotta. It took me a little while to figure this dish out, but once I found the quail egg surprise in the center of the panna cotta -- oozing out when you sliced into it with your fork -- and mixed it with the shaved rutabega and (of all things!) blood orange slices, I realized that Johnny Monis has raised the culinary bar for dishes in DC. Absolutely delicious!

One of the nice things about Komi is the pacing of the meal. When you order the tasting menu, the kitchen spaces it out each of the courses well to give you time to digest the food. I took advantage of this time to clear my mind of the panna cotta, finish off my glass of wine, and allow myself to move onto our upcoming pasta course. Lucky for me, our pasta course was excellent as well.

I chose to go with the bread soup with kale and homemade lamb sausage, which I had loved during our last trip to Komi when Amy had ordered it. This was overshadowed, however, by the ricotta ravioli with mushrooms and almonds that Amy ordered. After trying the ravioli, the bread soup just didn't seem quite as good as the last time I'd had it. I still have yet to eat anything with mushrooms at Komi I didn't love.

Moving on to our entrees, I decided to order the one thing that I've never had at Komi: a grilled lamb tenderloin with lentils and rutabega. The lamb was quite complex. The lentil and rutabega salad on the side was seasoned with something spicy -- most likely a curry of some kind, which went well with the lamb. Once again, Amy went with her favorite, the Bronzini Me Harti -- and why shouldn't she? It was her birthday for Christ's sake. The bronzini is a very light and fluffy fish which is simply topped with olive oil, lemon and salt and served with fingerling potatoes and some fresh greens.

At this point, I was pretty full, despite the spacing of the meal. We'd been there for close to two hours, and we still had the cheese and dessert courses to go. Luckily, the cheese course wasn't very big with three small pieces of cheese, one of which was a delightfully stinky blue. The cheese was served to us with a glass of Vin Santo, a traditional dessert wine from central Italy.

We had our choice of any dessert on the menu, which was a difficult choice. "Should I take the safe route and order the donuts?" I asked Amy.

"The donuts are good." Amy replied. "But you can't always write about the donuts. You should try something new."

It might have been because we were so full, but the desserts didn't leave quite the impression on us that the rest of the meal did. I tried the Pumkin Flan which was dense and sweet but I really wished we'd ordered the homemade donuts, because there's no dessert in the city that's better.

Ever since our first trip to Komi, service has never been an issue, and this time was no different. As usual, the whole restaurant worked as a team to make our meal seamless. No complaints there.

In my opinion, Komi is an extremely good value when you consider what you're getting. The food easily competes with that of Michelle Richard's Citronelle and Maestro and at those places you're guaranteed to spend twice what you'll pay at Komi. Our check came to $200 before tip and taxes. This included the tasting menu and wine pairing for both of us. I believe when Amy and I went to Citronelle for my birthday, the check came to over twice that, and Amy wasn't even drinking at the time.

One last thing I want to add (and for those of you who are still reading, I thank you): For every person I talk to who eats there at my recommendation and loves it, there's someone who just doesn't get it, and here's the reason I think they don't get it. They go, and order off the menu like it's a normal appetizer, entree, and dessert kind of place. This, in my humble opinion, is a mistake. You really need to get at least four courses at Komi to truly get the full experience.

Read about my past trips to Komi.

1509 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-9200

Closed Sunday and Monday.

Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: None, nada, zip - street parking is a rare in Dupont. No valet either. I recommend taking a cab. Or take the Metro to Dupont Circle and walk a few blocks.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Dupont Circle
Reservations: Taken
Amy's Bathroom rating: Immaculate.


I'm not really sure how to classify Matchbox. They have a menu similar to Chef Geoff's or Cafe Deluxe, but maybe a little fancier -- and then they have pizza. There's ALWAYS a crowd and people tend to make a big deal about the place. I went there at 2:30 on a Saturday and I still waited 20 minutes for a table -- it must be the location.   The MCI Center is the ideal area for a restaurant like Matchbox, where you can get a wide variety of dishes that satisfy everyone in your crowd. (Although Matchbox isn't great for seating a large crowd.)

The layout of the restaurant takes full advantage of its location in a thin row house. Downstairs, you have the bar and pizza oven, which take up most of the first floor. The second and third floor are where the tables are. Overall, the restaurant can only hold a mere 59 people according to the Fire Marshal.

Our hostess was very helpful. We were there with Noah, and she was very interested in both him and Amy. How old is he? How are you feeling? We get that just about every place we take him too, and who can blame them? He's a beautiful baby. The hostess was able to get us a table for four, which was nice because we could put Noah's carrier in a chair while we ate.

We had some of the infamous mini burgers. They come in batches of three, six, and nine for $7, $11, and $14 respectively. They're worth every penny in my opinion. The brioche buns are coated in about a quarter stick of butter each. The burgers are made with what seemed to be fresh Angus beef and topped with pickles and cheese (if you like). I could do without the mountain of onions strings, which seem like filler and are more of a distraction than anything else. I think the next time I go to Matchbox, I'll get two orders of the nine mini burgers.

To soak up some of the grease, we had a salad as well. The Bistro Salad was mixed greens with pear and toasted bread topped with goat cheese. We only ordered a half portion for $7, but it was plenty after the burgers. I rather liked the method of having a full piece of toast (rather than little croutons), buttered and toasted, and then topped with the goat cheese. It allowed you to tear off pieces of the "crouton" and mix it with the salad. The goat cheese was tangy like it should be and went well with the sweet vinaigrette.

For the big finale, we had the Matchbox Meat pizza. It came topped with tiny pepperoni, bacon and a spicy Italian sausage. While the toppings were fresh and flavorful, I wasn't all too crazy about the crust, which was weak and bland. Pizza, for me at least, is all about the crust. If the crust doesn't rise at the edges, there's something wrong with it. Also, the cheese and sauce went all the way to the edge of the crust. Eh.

I also have to note that the bar at Matchbox serves Magic Hat #9 on tap which gives it huge points. I know it's not the only place that has it on tap in the area, but still it's a great beer.

I think I'll be back to Matchbox the next time I'm over by the MCI Center. The mini burgers are worth the trip alone and I'd like to try some of their entrees rather than the pizza.

713 H St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 289-4441

Open Monday through Friday, 11:00 AM - Close
Saturday 12:00 PM - Close (no clue what "Close" means. This is what the web site says.)
Closed Sunday

Dress Code: Casual
Smoking: Allowed at the bar
Closest Metro: Metro Center
Parking: There's not very good street parking in the area and there's no valet. Take the Metro.
Reservations: Not taken.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers. The stairs make for a difficult trek with the baby carrier and stroller, but the hostess made up for this with how accommodating she was.

You'll notice the new baby-friendly rating which is my diaper scale. No, this doesn't count the number of times we have to change Noah's diaper at the restaurant. It's just my ranking of how accommodating I think a place is for people with a baby.

Circle Bistro

I often wonder what goes through the average Washingtonian's mind when they are deciding where to dine. Maybe because it's summer time and everyone was away for the weekend, but the first time I went to Circle Bistro, it was nearly empty. I made a late reservation at about 9 PM, and when we arrived, there were only two other tables. Now, I knew from my research that Circle Bistro was good, but I'd started to think that maybe I'd missed something. Could the chef recently have changed? Had the restaurant been closed due to a failed health inspection in the last couple days? What the hell??

Lucky for me, all of those questions were answered with a resounding, "NO!" Our meal that night, and every other night we've been to Circle Bistro, has been quite good. Of course, there were some annoyances, but I'll get to them in a bit.

I'll start with the appetizers. Picture two large fried zucchini blossoms, stuffed with goat cheese and pine nuts and served with a colorful, chunky vegetable "salsa" on the side -- I wish I could've taken a pint of the salsa home with me. (Sadly, the fried zucchini blossoms are a summer dish and are no longer on the menu, but they've been replaced by a tomato and zucchini tart.) A soft shell crab fried in tempura batter is also done especially well -- I thought frying the crab in a light tempura batter was a nice touch and kept the batter from getting too heavy.

Executive Chef Brendan Cox, who's trained under such notable local chefs like Todd Gray of Equinox and Roberto Donna of Galileo, has a purpose for every ingredient on your plate at Circle Bistro -- you want to be sure that you get a little bit of each ingredient in every bite. This was so with the hanger steak which I had on my first visit. The steak is seared on cast iron and then served on a bed of baby spinach with roasted fingerling potatoes, and organic sweet onions. Each ingredient on its own is good, but the combination of all of them together does wonders for my mood. If it weren't for my incessant need to always try something different, I'd probably order this on every return trip.

Soups at Circle Bistro are magnificent.

In our first visit, Amy ordered an un-ordinary minestone soup (sadly no longer on the menu either -- serves me right for doing a thorough review after multiple visits). I counted 13 ingredients ranging from rapini (or broccoli rabe) to lima beans. What really made the soup, though, was a fritter (that looked like a wonton) filled with herbed goat cheese. When you cut open the fritter with your spoon and mixed the goat cheese in with the soup, it gave the broth a creamy texture. Brilliant!

Other than the minestrone, you'll find a hearty and spicy gazpacho with heirloom tomatoes and jumbo lump crab remoulade, which just had to be the best damn gazpacho I've ever tasted. I commented to Amy that if she's overdue with our baby boy, we should go to Circle Bistro and the gazpacho might kickstart labor. More recently, there's a yellow pepper soup that's so popular, they ran out last Saturday night when I was there.

Other highlights include just about anything with mushrooms. Brendan Cox is a self proclaimed "Mushroom Maniac" (as am I).  The pan-roasted rockfish with girolle (or small chanterelle) mushrooms and zucchini is evidence of this. The fish is roasted with the skin side up in order to leave the skin extra crispy. As I was eating this dish, I noticed a pleasant salty flavor and I said to Amy, "I taste a slightly salty flavor in this dish, but it's not from extra salt." Then I noticed the little bits of crispy pancetta and it all made sense. Yum. I recall eating a similarly served dorade at Citronelle that wasn't nearly as good as this dish.

Of course, Circle Bistro isn't The Most Perfect Restaurant In The World like I've made it sound so far. The nights that I've been there when they were actually busy, I noticed that the kitchen would get a little behind and there was a noticable wait between courses. Luckily, my wife and I have plenty of things to talk about, but if I was on a first date with someone, it might get awkward.

Also. glasses of wine are more expensive than I like to see, ranging from $8 to $13. They seem especially expensive when you can get a full bottle of the $9-a-glass Kermit Lynch Cote du Rhone for just $28.

In all my trips to Circle Bistro, I've had no complaints about the service. It is always spotless and the servers are very familiar with the menu. I'd say the only tiny complaint would be that sometimes my empty glass of wine wasn't replaced with a new one quite as fast as I like. But honestly, I drink like a fish, and most people can stand to have their glasses empty for a short period of time. I also wouldn't mind if when I order the cheese plate the server explain what each cheese is instead of vanishing instantly. It tends to remove some of the guess work.

I'd be remiss if I left out details about the desserts. Heather Chittum, Circle Bistro's pastry chef, makes a bad-ass madeleine -- one shouldn't leave Circle Bistro without trying them. Others worth noting are the profiteroles with homemade mint ice cream and chocolate sauce and a bittersweet chocolate mousse with raspberries.

And finally, if you get a chance, stop by the Circle Lounge, Circle Bistro's bar, for happy hour from 5-7 PM, Mon - Fri, where all glasses of wine, beer and cocktails are half off. Make sure you order the pomme frites with garlic aoli (butter) and ketchup -- they're a guilty pleasure.

Circle Bistro
One Washington Circle Hotel
One Washington Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 293-5390
Circle Bistro Web Site

See the Circle Bistro web site.

Dress Code: Business Casual
Smoking: Allowed at the bar
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom
Parking: Free Valet at the hotel!
Reservations: Taken
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Hotel restrooms are always pretty clean, although the location right next to the hotel's basement-like laundry room is a little weird.

Sonoma - Update

So I went back to Sonoma last Saturday and I noticed that a few things had changed. First of all, the bread that came with the cheese was now a toasted Italian bread (it might have been last time as well, but the four glasses of wine I had might have made my memory of that night a little fuzzy). Spreading cheese on thin toasted bread is fairly challenging, since whenever you put slight pressure on the bread, it crumbles. This time, I paid more attention to the menu's descriptions of the cheese and ordered some that sounded better to me. My favorites of the night were the taleggio vecchio (cow) and the Pennsylvania Pipe Dreams Farm goat, which spread like cream cheese on the bread and when mixed with the figs we ordered, has some nice, sweet undertones to it. The one cheese we ordered, the ricotta salata, actually didn't come on our plate, but instead we were given what looked to be like a blue cheese. I know this now because I just looked up what ricotta salata is supposed to look like, and what was on out plate was surely not that. At the time however, when the expeditor brought the cheese to our table, he pointed to the cheese and said it was ricotta. Amy and I looked at each other very puzzled-like and just shrugged out shoulders. Sadly, I'm not the cheese expert that I'd like to be and I didn't speak up and say, "But that looks like blue cheese to me."

Other changes...the focaccia was missing the rosemary, which I thought was a welcome change, and to add a little more detail -- whatever they're grilling the focaccia on has quite a bit of smoke to it. Be ready to ask for more bread, because they only gave me three pieces when I ordered the pate, salami and bresaola (which they actually had spelled on the menu as bresola?) -- so that's one slice of bread per meat selection. Amy ordered the pizza, and I'm happy to report that my first impressions from looking at it were 100% correct. The crust was bland as I've ever had and you all know that imho, the crust is the most important part of the pizza. The only thing separating it from what I used to get at my high school cafeteria, was the fresh toppings. The fresh marinara that the red pizza she ordered came with was very chunky and was made with very fresh tomatoes. I, on the otherhand, ordered the wagyu burger which was very good (in fact, I thought it was better than the $10 burger at Palena), which came out a perfect medium just as I had ordered it. I also asked for the pancetta and fontina which added a nice, salty flavor to the meat, although I wondered if it would have taste as good without the extra toppings. The meat was juicy, which I find isn't always the case with burgers made with beef like wagyu which tends to be a little dryer sometimes because restaurants use leaner beef. There were some changes to the menu. For  instance, the arugula and fennel salad that I commented on in my first post, was absent from the menu, but that's expected since Sonoma's web site says that they'll change the menu often depending on what ingredients are in season.

More on Sonoma...

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar - First Impressions

I figured with all the hype that's behind Sonoma, I'd might was well try it out and let everyone know what I thought about it. I was debating all week about whether or not I'd try Sonoma or if I'd go to one of my usual hangouts, but I decided after receiving a few emails from readers asking about it, that I'd give it a try.

I've read mixed things about it. On, people said the staff was inexperienced, but the food was yummy depending on what you ordered. I have to admit, looking at their menu online, I was fairly intrigued. The appetizers reminded me of the wine bar at 2Amys, with the cheese and meat, but with a better selection. For cheeses, you have many choices of blue, cow, goat, and sheep's cheeses. Your meat selections, or charcuterie, are typical for a sliced meat menu with speck, prosciutto, and capicola and chicken liver pate. I could eat an entire meal at Sonoma and only order off the charcuterie and cheese menus -- and of course I'd order a bottle of wine as well.

I actually tried a French goat cheese, which kind of kicked my ass. I made the mistake of eating a large chunk of it at once, and it was a little more than I could handle because the cheese had a strong, smoky flavor, almost like that of a blue or feta cheese, and it was fairly "stinky". This combination had me drinking large amounts of water to calm down the powerful flavor. My recommendation: if you order the French goat cheese, spread it thinly on the bread they give you. We also had a Spanish sheep's cheese which was fairly mild and pleasant -- a welcome change after the French goat. I also had some of the chicken liver pate which I enjoyed, but the bread that came with the cheese and pate was almost too complex and flavorful. Seriously, all I need is half of a French baguette to enjoy some pate -- not some fancy thick whole-wheat pita bread with rosemary (EDIT: Thanks to Richard for pointing out to me that the "fancy thick whole-wheat pita" is actually Italian flat bread with rosemary). I ended up tasting the bread too much instead of the cheese or pate.

Moving past the cheese and meat courses, you have salads, with an arugula and fennel salad topped with shaved Parmesan, lemon and olive oil, leading the way. I like how simple this salad sounds, and I'll be ordering it when I return, but I skipped it for the pasta courses I'll describe later. Amy ordered one of the other salads, with wood-grilled apples, watercress, pistachio, Gorgonzola and red wine vinaigrette, which I very quickly found out sounded better than it actually tasted. I think the texture of the apples was what did it for me because the grilling left the apples a little less than crisp (perhaps they were overcooked a bit this time). I think if I go back, I might try the venison carpaccio or grilled cuttlefish apps.

I saw many people around me ordering pizza, and they seemed to be enjoying it. There aren't any "prebuilt" pizzas and the toppings are all a la carte ranging from $3 to $5 each. You start with your crust and red tomato-based, green pesto or white olive-oil-based sauces. On top of that, you have your choice of cheeses and then your toppings. The cheapest combination if toppings is a plain cheese pizza for $8. You can easily build a pretty expensive pizza by choosing a couple $5 toppings like morel mushrooms, bottarga (tuna roe), or Vermont buffalo mozzarella. Seeing other people order the pizzas, I wasn't overly impressed with the way they looked, but I'll reserve judgment until I can actually try one.

For my entree, I ordered a double portion of the bucatini with the house-made wild boar sausage, summer squash and pesto. If you're unfamiliar with what bucatini is, it's a thick, hollow spaghetti and it's probably one of my favorite kinds of pasta. I used to order this bucatini dish with sausage and a creme sauce that blew my mind at Il Pizzico and Spezie. Unfortunately, Sonoma's bucatini wasn't nearly as good -- plain and simple. Not that it was bad, but seriously, not even in the same ball park. The bucatini was cooked perfectly al dente, but the homemade wild boar sausage was dry and crumbly which was not a good combination with the pesto sauce, and the summer squash didn't add much flavor. Perhaps when I return, I'll skip the pasta dishes and go straight for the Wagyu beef burger, which is very obviously on the menu to compete with Palena's $10 cheeseburger (a welcome addition since you know I'm not all that crazy about Palena's cheeseburger). Sonoma's version comes with some potatoes on the side and you have the option of adding some toppings like fontina cheese, pancetta or speck.

The high point of the meal for us was definitely dessert. That evening, Sonoma was featuring a smooth, creamy yet fluffy chocolate pudding, and my wife, being the pregnant pudding fiend that she is lately, could not resist. I have to admit that I'm not usually a pudding-type-of-person, but I did fall in love with this after my first taste. It had a very rich bitter chocolate flavor and it wasn't overly sweet like puddings tend to be. I hope it's on the menu again when we return.

In summary, I'd say that (at least right now) Sonoma is a great place to hang out, have some wine, cheese and salads after work. I could spend all night eating a flight of cheese and sampling different wines, then top it off with that chocolate pudding and you can call it a night. I'll reserve my final judgement on the rest of the menu, though, until I can return again and try some of their entrees.

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar
223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC
(202) 544-8088

lunch: 11am - 3pm (Monday - Friday)
dinner: 4:30pm - 10pm (Monday - Saturday)
brunch: 10:30am - 2pm (Saturday/Sunday only)
late night menu is available Thursday-Saturday nights 10pm - midnight
Sunday supper 5:30-10:00pm

Dress Code: Casual to dress casual. Sonoma's web site says that they are upscale casual, but when we went, there were people in shorts there.
Parking: I've no clue what the parking situation is at Capitol Hill. We took a cab.
Reservations: Taken and recommended. It should be easier to get a seat once they finish remodeling the upstairs.
Smoking: I didn't ask if smoking was allowed. Damn.
Nearest Metro: Capitol Hill Metro South.
Amy's Bathroom Report: The bathrooms were kept clean, but they had yet to remodel them like the last place. Everything was pretty old.


If you remember my article about Restaurant Week in January, you remember that I was thoroughly impressed with my meal at Corduroy. The food was excellent and the service was even better. I went there again last night with Amy because I wanted to try Corduroy on a day other than Restaurant Week.

Sadly, Corduroy still doesn't get very crowded. Yesterday at about 4:30, I was able to go online at OpenTable and make a reservation for 7:30PM. I just don’t think people know what they're missing by going elsewhere. Granted, this restaurant is not in an ideal location at 12th and K (located on the second floor of the Four Points Hotel). It's pretty far away from the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, Dupont and Adams Morgan. It's not walking distance from the Capital area or White House. It IS close to the Convention Center though - VERY CLOSE. If I was at the Convention Center for business for the day, I'd be sure to stop off at Corduroy afterwards for an expense account dinner. Corduroy also has free valet parking, so you can drive there and park easily like we did last night and save yourself the cab fare.

Last night, I'd say that only every other table was taken. The dining room is quiet and calm, as well as the bar area where a single bartender is able to handle the small crowd. The servers aren't running around like chickens with their heads cut off and the entire place has a calm, serene feel to it. It's perfect for a romantic evening out, or a lunch-time meal to talk business.

Like last time, the service was impeccable from the moment we sat down. Corduroy does a great job of giving you the atmosphere of a 5-star restaurant. When you order, someone comes by and immediately makes sure you have the right utensils to eat your meal. For instance, Amy ordered a bowl of soup to start, and they brought her a soup spoon as soon as we were done ordering. They also took away any utensils that we wouldn't use. How many times has a restaurant brought me food but I didn’t have any silver to eat it? It’s the little things that matter sometimes.

I actually think that the food was better this visit. Maybe it was the fact that I ordered lamb sirloin rather than scallops, or maybe it was because I tried the lobster salad AS WELL as the buffalo mozzarella porcupine. (Our last trip to Corduroy, Amy ordered the porcupine and I wished to God I had ordered it. You can read my write-up on Restaurant Week for a full description of the porcupine.) The lobster salad is served cold. Chunks of lobster are mixed with tomatoes and mild seasoning, positioned delicately on a layer of thinly-sliced cucumbers, and topped with micro greens and a basil oil. I was very impressed with how a dish as simple and delicate as this one had as full a flavor as it did. I'm not a huge fan of lobster myself, and I devoured this dish.

Amy had a very smooth parsnip soup with fresh tarragon and a tiny dollop of sour cream. The soup had a comfort-food taste to it -- very hearty, but not thick or overly rich. Chef Tom Power doesn’t go overboard trying to make his soups creamy and thick. She thoroughly enjoyed the soup, as did I when she was generous enough to give me a sample of it. (For those of you following Amy’s pregnancy, Amy is now eating more and manages to eat at restaurants without having to run to the bathroom and puke.)

The entrees Amy and I ordered were pretty good. My lamb sirloin was served a perfect medium rare with a simple reduction sauce. The meat was very flavorful - really an ideal cut of meat. It didn't have the usual tough texture that lamb can have nor did it have a gamey taste. On the side it came with an equal portion of tiny goat cheese ravioli topped with a light cream sauce. The only bad thing I have to say about this dish is that the ravioli was a tad overcooked, and tended to stick to each other. Otherwise, the entire dish was delicious. Amy ordered the buffalo striploin. It also was cooked a perfect medium rare and topped with a simple reduction sauce as well. On the side - some perfectly cooked thin green beans with butter and salt (which Amy later commented were the most perfectly cooked green beans she’s ever had at a restaurant) and a gruyere cheese potato cake.

As if I hadn't eaten enough already, we ordered some dessert as well. Amy remembered the vanilla bean creme brulee that she had last time and couldn't help ordering it again. Like last time, it was fantastic. I branched out a little and order the pistachio bread pudding. I was a little disappointed in the bread pudding. It was soggy and had way too much butter in it. I prefer bread pudding to be a bit firmer, but that is just my taste. We also had a bottle of wine with the meal. As I stated in my previous review, the wine list has a wide variety of wines at prices starting around $30. We ordered a $34 bottle of Pinot Noir with our meal, although I ended up drinking almost the whole bottle by myself. Luckily, I spread it out over a couple of hours, so I wasn’t completely tanked by the time the meal was over.

Tom Power's masterful cooking was evident in each dish we ate. He takes quality ingredients and prepares them simply. I wish more restaurants in this area would follow his lead in this respect. You can pile as many fancy-sounding ingredients into a dish, but if they don’t taste well together, or are of poor quality, then it will taste accordingly. (Ok, I’m done preaching for the day.) At about $125, our bill was actually very reasonable considering all the food we had and how good it all tasted.  I'll be heading back soon.

1201 K St., NW
Washington, DC
(202) 589-0699

Corduroy Web Site

Weekdays 6:30am-10:30am, 12pm-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm
Weekends 7am-11am, 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm

Parking: Street parking available, free valet with validation
Reservations: Taken
Smoking: In bar only
Dress Code: Business Casual
Amy's Bathroom Rating: The bathrooms were the hotel's bathrooms and they looked like the hotel had just opened yesterday.
Nearest Metro: Metro Center