Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

Blue Duck Tavern

February 9, 2009

My dad is hard to please when it comes to food.  Part of the problem is that he (like all of us in my family) finds pleasure in food more than most other activities.  When we talk about travel, we talk about what we ate.  When we talk about what we did for the weekend, we talk about what we ate.  And when Dad comes to visit, we plan where we’re going to eat.  We had a great dinner at Corduroy, a decent dinner at the now defunct 21P, and a bit of a disappointment at Brasserie Beck (which killed me because we had such an incredible meal the time before). 

There’s a lot of pressure to pick the right place, and with his wonderful girlfriend and her parents joining us for a holiday dinner out, we decided on our favorite restaurant in DC: Blue Duck Tavern.

Blue Duck Tavern

The setting:
Blue Duck is connected to the Park Hyatt in the West End, and the restaurant is reached through massive wooden front doors.  The foyer and lounge is sleek marble, with the tables and chairs looking like a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse.

As a party of 8, we were seated in an alcove of a room for privacy, away from the hustle of the open kitchen.  However, you have to walk through the edge of said kitchen to get to the restrooms – a move that’s strategic since they march you right by the heavenly apple pies.

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On this occasion, I asked if I could take a picture of the kitchen, and was jokingly told, “We’re going to have to confiscate your camera.”  Alison believed he server (Alexander – who we’ve had before – he’s fabulous) and protested that I had a little food blog and they couldn’t take my camera.  Instead, Alexander took me over to meet the chef

The service:
Servers at Blue Duck seem to have just the right balance of formality and familiarity.  They were responsive to our needs, and made excellent recommendations (and I should have listened to what our server was suggesting…)   I think the vignette above about taking pictures of the kitchen perfectly illustrates the type of service you’ll get at Blue Duck.

I also have to mention because it was so cool when it happened…when we were served our entrees, multiple servers brought the plates and served us from the right side at the same time – it felt very fancy and old school.

The food:
To me, what’s so great about the food at Blue Duck is that I recognize what it is and where it came from.  The menu lists the farmers who provide the food, and you have the feeling that what you’re eating is seasonal – an old fashioned “new” trend.

Since we were here in winter, it just seemed appropriate to eat meat that had been slow cooked.  I opted for the lamb shank, whereas the men in my life (Dad, Brian, and Matt – future brother-in-law) out ordered me with the short ribs.

Blue Duck Tavern by you.

Oh, those short ribs…to die for.  Really.  Warm, flavorful, comforting.  My lamb shank (above) was good, but the short rib (below) was better.

Blue Duck Tavern by you.

The sides are my favorite things at Blue Duck, and what side do you think is the best in my humble opinion?  You guessed it: the grits.  It is very rare to find a restaurant that does grits correctly.  I’ve been to many places in the south that don’t make them as well as my grandfather did (one, they were so wonderful…slow cooked over a double boiler with butter and salt…) and it’s usually laughable what passes for grits up here.  But Blue Duck makes them creamy and delicious – usually flavored by another ingredient in season.  We ordered two for the table to share, and none went to waste.

The duck fat fries are also excellent – triple cooked, one blanched in water, and the twice fried with duck fat – have a great outside crunch with a velvety interior – I just wish I could train my palate not to want ketchup with them!

Blue Duck Tavern by you.

Even though you might be stuffed from a decadent and heavy dinner, do not forgo dessert.  The “individual” (read: feeds 3) apple pie with hand churned ice cream is not to be missed.  It isn’t overly sweet, and you can really taste the freshness and wholesomeness of the apples.  Delicious.

Blue Duck Tavern by you.

Blue Duck Tavern is my favorite restaurant in DC for a reason, and it didn’t disappoint on this trip as a great spot for 3 generations at one table, and for impressing a hard to please foodie father…

Best for: Celebrating the little big ocassions –  a new job, a holiday, or 11-month anniversary.

Worst for: Watching your budget and waistline.

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The Source

January 10, 2009

What better first restaurant post of the new year than to write about the RAMMY New Restaurant of the Year for 2008?

Wolfgang Puck’s The Source

The setting:
Attached to the Newseum, I expected a setting with a theme relating in some way to news.  Instead we couldn’t tell the restaurant was connected to a museum.  The downstairs consists of long, high communal tables, with a bar dominating most of the area I saw when we came in.  We were seated upstairs in low banquet/chair seating, enclosed in an area made more cozy by blocking off sections with thick glass panels.  The effect broke up what could be a monster space, and also helped with the noise level.  (Except when you’re seated next to a table of 8 SCREAMING women who thought everything that anyone said was the. funniest. thing. ever. and proceeded to do the women en masse squeal.  To everything.  For the amount of money you’re paying to eat at The Source – about $150 for 2 people sans wine and tip – I would like the other patrons to hush and be respectful of other patrons.  Luckily, the waitstaff eventually asked them politely to be quiet).

© 2002, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide Inc.

© 2002, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide Inc.

The service:
Our service was great – our waiter had just the right mix of formality and familiarity to make for a very positive experience.  The staff wished Brian a happy birthday – I had noted it in my OpenTable reservation – and bent over backwards to get me a copy of my receipt after I left it at the table.  (As a good to know tidbit: your receipt is good for 15% off Newseum tickets on Mondays or Tuesdays).

The food:
The Source serves Asian-inspired cuisine, but not so overtly that you don’t recognize most of the ingredients.  The amuse bouche was several bites, and may have been our favorite dish of the night: simply dressed and slightly spicy green beans.  Delicious.  The appetizers were also big winners, with a duo of crab consisting of a crab salad and a small crab cake, and tuna tartare “cones” – served in a sesame and miso cone with raw tuna, roe, and microgreens.  It was a close second of best dish of the night, and the presentation was fantastic.

For dinner I went with venison served with Brussel sprouts and a Japanese squash blossom puree that was, in my mind, just about perfect.  Venison is very tricky to get right…it has such a low fat content that it needs to be served rare or medium rare at the most, and most times I have it, it’s been either over or under cooked.  At The Source, my meal seemed like it had been kept on the pan about 20 seconds too long on just one side, but was still really fantastic.  The squash blossom puree added a perfect sweetness, and the Brussel sprouts balanced the dish.  I would have a hard time ordering anything else from the menu, I enjoyed this so much.

Brian was slightly disappointed in his scallops.  He claims I’ve spoiled him, and I agree that his dinner needed more spice.  The Drunken Noodles accompaniment was great, though, and the presentation was very cool as well.

We rounded out the meal with a blueberry and almond crumble that looked and tasted like a fancy coffee cake.  It was served with a ginger ice cream to carry on the Asian theme, but I thought good old-fashioned vanilla would have been better.

With the hefty price tag, the dining room at The Source isn’t somewhere we’ll frequent on a regular basis, but I’ll be back for the tuna tartare cones and pork belly dumplings in the affordable lounge.

Best for: A special evening out.

Worst for: Penny pinchers – hit up the lounge to get a taste of the good stuff at a fraction of the cost!

Corduroy

November 14, 2008

It was a favorite of mine in its old space, but this is my first time back since Corduroy moved to their new digs.

Corduroy

The setting:
I think we drove by it– running late, of course – at least 3 times before we spotted the row house with lighted porch lamps and a non-descript sign.  The area of town isn’t exactly what you’d expect for fine dining, but Corduroy is getting into a neighborhood early in its revival.  The new space is calming – almost a little too white and non-descript.  We were hoping for a table in the front by the window, but found ourselves in the back dining room.  It’s also very, very quiet in the restaurant, but not so quiet that we were able to tell what the canoodling couple 2 tables away was canoodling about so passionately.  (More on these two later…)

The service:
Virtually perfect service.  Really.  The host who greeted us was also our server, and displayed the perfect balance between familiarity and courtesy.  We were the last table to finish our meal, and in that time we joked that we wished we knew what was so engaging to the couple who was hugging (like, a passionate embrace hugging) across the table.  So our server found out: he went to the kitchen and found their server, who relayed that the man was divorced and her father was having a fit that his princess was involved with a divorced man.  However, said their server, the man paid with a black AMEX, so maybe the father could forgive his past relationship.

This was all done in a very conspiratorial tone, and wasn’t said maliciously.  And it made for great fun.

The food:
Chef Tom Power is my kinda cooker: keep it simple and let the food taste the way it’s supposed to taste without making a fuss. 

Brian and I originally planned to order exactly the same thing: lobster carpaccio to start followed by buffalo.  Our server suggested perhaps we order another appetizer and split them, so I wound up with a simple tomato salad and Brian stuck with the lobster.

food-corduroy-and-oyamel-0011  food-corduroy-and-oyamel-0021

The sauce you can see in the picture of the lobster is actually BUTTER.  Ah, delicious, creamy butter…one of foods more perfect creations.  (Also, see Bacon.)  It was decadent and rich: I could only eat one or two bites, but Brian declared he could eat plate after plate without ever becoming full.  The tomato salad was a perfect starter for me with the basil aioli ringing the plate.  The tomatoes were skinless – perhaps through a quick blanching process?

The buffalo entree was rich and flavorful, but my favorite part of this dish was the excellent potato side, with mandolined spud layers set off by sweet onion and a light cheese.  It was gratin in such a delicate and elegant presentation.

food-corduroy-and-oyamel-003

For dessert we were finally caught snapping pictures.  “I’d better not see that on the internet” joked our server.  At least…I hope he was joking!  Whoops!  Brian went with the famous “kit kat” bar – a hazelnut and chocolate bar surrounded by a vanilla bean cream anglaise, while I sampled a local apple tarte tatin, which Brian found not sweet enough.

food-corduroy-and-oyamel-004  food-corduroy-and-oyamel-005

The dinner – our 2nd year anniversary – was wonderful.

Best for: Canoodling couples with a story that isn’t too scandalous and people who like clean, unfussy food.

Worst for: Couples having an affair and people who savor sauces.

Oyamel – Day of the Dead

November 1, 2008

If you aren’t familiar with traditional Mexican food – and the holiday Day of the Dead, you might be surprised by what you find at the Penn Quarter hot-spot.

Oyamel

The setting:
I was at Oyamel the week of Halloween, and at first glance it appears as though this restaurant has gone overboard with decorations: skeletons wearing traditional Mexican prints, candles that have been burned to allow all the wax to drip and create something akin to an altar, a bathroom decorated with tarot card-looking figures.  But it pays homage to the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.  The space still has that terra cotta color palate associated with Mexican restaurants, but there are also cool wire mobile and festive carnival flags hanging from the ceiling in the multi-tiered eatery.

The service:
Our waitress was very deliberate in pronouncing every dish in authentic-sounding Spanish, but she wasn’t so great at telling us what was in something or being able to put the name of a dish to what we were describing (even though she has worked there forever).  She also told me the drink I ordered – mango puree with tequila and infused with chili oil – wasn’t very spicy.  Um, it was basically like drinking Tabasco.  She had to make two orders of guacamole for our table, so I’ll forgive her for letting the chips run low: the ultimate Mexican restaurant faux-pas.

The food:
There are no fajitas on the menu here, and you’d be disappointed if Taco Bell is the picture that forms in your mind when you hear the word “taco.”  Instead, Oyamel prides itself on serving traditional Mexican food – and evidently that includes grasshoppers.

Oh, yes.  I did.

But first!  Guacamole!  Your server will make it fresh table-side, ranging from a little too mild (no more than avocados and tomatillos) to red-oniony spicy.  At our end of the table, we enjoyed the mild version, made even better by mixing a little of the salsa with it.

   

Oyamel serves food tapas-style, so I ordered 4 dishes to sample:

The Queso fundido con tequila is basically cheese with tequila on top that they light on fire. Yeah, buddy! I’d recommend sharing this because even the cheese-lovers who walk among us may find it to be a bit too much cheese for them. Also, if your server has brought you enough chips, the cheese is really better on them than the tortillas served with the cheese.

The Sopes de frijol con hoja de aguacate was really fantastic – four discs made from corn, topped with cheese and beans, and evidently avocado leaves (somehow I missed that part when I was eating them). But don’t eat these if you’ve recently had dental work – they’re a bit…hard.

The carnitas taco was just a teaser.

And then, the coup de grâce: grasshopper tacos. Yes, they were really grasshoppers. Yes, I really ate them. No, I probably won’t again. I’ll let the pictures speak for me:

     

Catch your breath, people…this is considered a delicacy in Oaxaca. To report, they were crunchy (“that’s the exoskeleton” observed our astute server) and a bit tasteless, and I later picked a grasshopper leg from between my teeth. Call before you go if you want to try them because – according to our server – they “have peculiar mating habits” and aren’t always available.

Eww…

Best for: Adventurous eaters who can’t afford a a trip south of the border with these airfare prices.

Worst for: The squeamish. You know who you are.

Let Them Eat Cake! Hello Cupcake vs. Georgetown Cupcake

October 20, 2008

And the winner is…

I’m not going to tell you that quickly!  One thing is for sure: I love cupcakes, and having Hello Cupcake within walking distance to work and Georgetown Cupcake within (a long) walking distance to my apartment isn’t good for my svelte figure!

Hello Cupcake vs. Georgetown Cupcake

The Setting:
I had read all about Hello Cupcake on my favorite food blog, Apples and Bananas, when Bananas did an interview with Ms. Hello Cupcake before they opened.  The place is decorated by her architect husband with an eye towards eco-chic.  I’m not so much a fan of the faux-grain wood motif, and the frosting wave patterned cupcake counter was lost on me.  But I do love the “Murano” glass chandeliers and being able to sit and eat my sugary treat.

Georgetown cupcake is much smaller and doesn’t lend itself to hanging out.  The line is often out the door and down the street, but when you get inside it looks exactly like you want a cupcake shop to look: white and pink with a dainty dollhouse table and gorgeous flower arrangements.  The cupcakes are stacked so beautifully on cake platters, and it made me want to sample more because they all looked that much more pleasing.  And the smell…pure frosting and butter!

Hello Cupcake: 0
Georgetown Cupcake: 1

The Service:
I’ve seen Ms. Hello Cupcake front and center every time I’ve been in or walked by – it’s clear she’s running the place.  Her employees aren’t quite as sugary sweet and enthusiastic, but what do you expect when the boss keeps telling you to not put the cupcakes in a box automatically, and the customer gets irritated.  I have to admit I didn’t notice last time I was there if they were still trying to get away with putting the cupcakes in a paper bag.  They did try to sell me a $3 “cupcake holder.”  Thanks, but no thanks…

Georgetown Cupcake is a high school drama kid’s dream job.  Sweet, eager, and totally silly in a way that makes me SO glad I am no longer that sweet, eager, and totally silly drama kid I was.  When I asked which cupcake they recommended, they gushed, “OMGTHEY’REALLSOGOODICOULDN’TPICKJUSTONE!!!”  And then when I ordered, “OMGTHATISTOTALYLMYFAVORITEIFREAKIN’LOVEIT!” 

But they were sweet.  And eager.  And for that, I award points, bringing us to:

Hello Cupcake: 0
Georgetown Cupcake: 2

The Food, AKA: Cupcakes:
I’ve had more from Hello Cupcake than Georgetown Cupcake just because of it’s proximity to work and the Friday doldrums.  I’ve sampled the Prima Donna, You Tart!, Peanut Butter Blossom, Heart of Darkness, and Triple Coconut.  By and large, the cake ain’t great.  It’s a little dry and flavorless – how is it that Betty Crocker cake mix is so much better than a $3 cupcake?  I’ll take BC Devil’s Food Cake any day over a Heart of Darkness.  What’s great about Hello Cupcake’s creations, though, are the frostings.  The strawberry cream cheese frosting on the Prima Donna was just meh, and I thought the Peanut Butter frosting was a little too good-for-you peanutty.  But the lemon goodness that tops You Tart!?  And the fantastic doesn’t-taste-like-a-Mounds Triple Coconut with the toasted coconut bits?  YUM!  And my co-worker literally licked her fingers clean of the chocolate ganache frosting on the Heart of Darkness.

My favorites, in order: Triple Coconut, You Tart!, Heart of Darkness, Prima Donna, and then the Peanut Butter Blossom.

Georgetown Cupcake is a hair cheaper than Hello Cupcake – $2.75 at Georgetown Cupcake.  The strawberry banana cupcake I had was basically like eating a slice of banana bread with Philadelphia Strawberry Cream Cheese on top.  The cake was a little dry, and the frosting heavier than Hello Cupcake.  But there are more traditional flavors at Georgetown Cupcake, so the purist in you will be happy.  (Hello Cupcake, by the way, has a Maya Favorite cupcake – chili-infused and topped with red pepper flakes.  My friend Megan said you could feel the heat in your throat – not your mouth).  Georgetown Cupcakes also sport girlier toppings – they’re just screaming to be served at a bridal or baby shower.

 

This past week I ordered another half dozen cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, making it  a tie with Hello Cupcake.  Georgetown Cupcake’s cake is moist – maybe too moist – and the frosting is still too cream-cheesy and heavy.  Brian, however, likes them better. 

I think if Hello Cupcake and Georgetown Cupcake had a little cupcake baby, it would be nearly perfect!

This tie in the last category brings the total to:
Hello Cupcake: 1
Georgetown Cupcake: 3

The bottom line is that cupcakes make people happy.  You should eat them, whether they come from a Betty Crocker box at $6/dozen, or a little cupcake shop for the same price as a full meal.  Enjoy, and don’t tell your dentist.

Ray’s Hell Burgers

September 2, 2008

In the last few days of summer, seek out that backyard favorite – better than what you can make at home.  But you’ll have to look for it…this is on-a-mission dining.

Ray’s Hell Burgers

The setting:
Everywhere you turn, people are griping (with reason!) about the economy, and food costs are rising like crazy.  Ray’s Hell Burgers is the type of restaurant you want to seek out in a time like this: no frills, just great food. 

Even knowing the small strip mall in Arlington where Ray’s Hell Burgers (and Ray’s the Steaks) is located, it still took some sleuthing to find it.  From Ray’s the Steaks, walk down the strip mall to number 1713.  This door is all you’re going to find:

 

Be prepared to swoop in on a table as soon as you see one open up.  And also be forewarned: this is basically your middle school cafeteria setting.  Ray’s the Steaks looks like a ballroom compared to this hole in the wall.

The service:
There are a few printed paper menus lying around, so grab one and stand as out of the way as you can be to glance it over.  Basically, all you need to decide are how you want your burger, how you want it cooked (and good luck to you if you say well-done in this establishment), and what kind of cheese you want.  Do not think you’re going to make this decision at the counter – choose before you get to the no nonsense faces by the register.  Oh – and take cash.

The food:
I don’t know when it became so difficult to make a good burger.  I make a pretty good burger at home, but I can’t make anything from close to the quality of meat that you’ll get at Ray’s Hell Burgers.  Everyone in the open kitchen has their station: the guy butchering the steak-quality meat, the gal grinding it into the meat grinder, the two girls weighing that meat on a little scale and forming into patties, the guy on the grill manning the onions…it’s a machine back there.  And what they produce is a helluva burger.

Brian beat me with his burger au poivre: the meat was juicer, the flavor better.  I will only order a Ray’s Hell Burger this was from now on.  They also have just about any cheese you could want on a burger for a surcharge ranging on how fancy your cheese is.  I stuck with white cheddar and wasn’t disappointed.

During the summer, you also get a small ear of corn on the cob and a watermelon wedge.  No word yet on how that will change with the seasonal fruits and veggies.

We also decided to cap off our summer evening doing what you do in the summer: we went for s’mores.  Cosi serves them over a can of Sterno, and we had a great time teaching Jack how to get the marshmallow just crispy charred enough so that it’s gooey the whole way through.  A really wonderful evening.

 

Best for: A good burger at a great price: we averaged less than $10 a person – yes, please!

Worst for: A romantic date night or vegetarians.  It’s burgers here and burgers only.

Tangy Sweet

August 18, 2008

Frozen yogurt shops are popping up all over the place, and one is in my neighborhood.  My sisters and I stopped in to see what all the fuss is about.

Tangy Sweet

The setting:
Think Japanese Industrial Minimalism.  Concrete floors, space-agey counters magically coming out of the walls, and lime green.  Because nothing really says “Japanese” like lime green.

The service:
They must not be paying much, because there were the angst-ridden teens of the summer job world behind the counter.  Was I ever really that anxious?

Don’t be fooled by the menu: you can order just one fruit topping.

The food:
Well, in this case, the yogurt: it tastes like…yogurt.  Like Yoplait that’s frozen.  The green tea and pomegranate were a little too – wait for it – tangy for me.  I opted for the classic and added fresh mango.  I felt completely healthy and like I could climb every mountain afterwards. 

Best for: A summer treat while you’re on a diet.

Worst for: An ice cream craving – this ain’t gonna cut it.

Melting Pot

August 6, 2008

Especially with a 9-year-old in tow, we think of dining out as an outing – we bring card games with us (Rage, anyone?) and whenever dinner is an actual experience, it’s even better.

Melting Pot

The setting:
The Melting Pot sets itself up to be romantic, with dark wood booths and low lighting.  The ever-present sound of fondue pots bubbling makes for a relaxed atmosphere.

The service:
On this occasion at the Arlington Melting Pot, the best thing about our experience actually was our server, Drew.  He belongs in a higher end restaurant and was gracious, had the perfect balance of familarity and professionalism, and kept up with us at a great pace.

The food:
I’m a fan of cheese, so a meal where you start by dipping food into cheese is kinda my idea of perfection.  We had the Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue to begin, which, I have to admit, was completely delicious.  It went incredibly well with the bread and apples, although I’m not one for raw veggies (because, let’s be honest, the bubbling of the fondue pot can only mask so much).

For the salad, the dressing was a little heavy on the Spinach Mushroom Salad, not really providing the palate relief needed after drowning in a vat of cheese.  But don’t skip the salad – you need the ruffage after the fromage.

The main course at the Melting Pot is the weak spot, although what do you expect when a restaurant has you cook your own food?  It’s difficult to get the timing right for all the various meats and veggies, and the only thing that really turns out well are the shrimp.  I eat that “goddess” sauce on everything, though – delish!

   

We finished with the Irish Cream Dream chocolate fondue.  Oh my.  Get this and ask them for an extra plate of bananas.  This was so, so good, and I’m not even really into chocolate!  What I love is that they bring you limitless “dippers” – little bites of pound cake, brownies, strawberries, rice krispy treats.  YumYumYum.

This is an expensive night out – just be ready for it, but you have to view the Melting Pot as an event, not just dinner.  Also, they offer really great deals – Girls Night Out and Monday Military Nights, as well as a FREE CHOCOLATE COURSE just for signing up for their little club.  Um, yes please! 

Best for: People who like to dip things.  And who like cheese.  And chocolate.

Worst for: Picky eaters and germaphobes: this is a community pot, my friend.

Restaurant 3

July 24, 2008

For our monthly anniversary, Brian and I ventured to Eleventh Street Lounge looking for some good food and drinks in a swanky location.  We were disappointed in the setting (it felt like a place to go after you were already drunk – the floors seemed like they’ve been sticky a lot in their history, and the furniture was a little shabby) and the menu (just didn’t seem appetizing once it was in front of us) so we each had a martini and then walked the block to Restaurant 3.

Restaurant 3

The setting:
We were led to a half-round booth for two (with room for 4 total with 2 chairs should you venture in with a larger party) in a dark yellow leather.  The decor seemed southwestern to me, although I think they were going for Tuscan given the paintings on the walls.  Brian felt that the yellow walls and picture lights were too bright for evening.  I saw what he meant, but I kinda liked it.

The service:
Our waiter let us take our time in deciding what we wanted – which was kind since it was 9:00 p.m. on a Monday night and the menu looked so great we simply couldn’t decide!  He was responsive in answering questions, refilling glasses, and making suggestions.

The food:
We’ve had Restaurant 3 on our radar since it opened, but we’ve always put it off.  No more.  The food – and the menu – was fantastic.

There are two types of bread – and two spreaders – in the delicious bread basket.  The white bread must have had a cheese in the batter (asiago?) and the smell – and taste – was wonderful.  There was also equally good wheat bread that I barely tasted after gorging myself on the white bread.  There was both butter and an olive tapenade.

For an appetizer, Brian ordered the fried oysters.  The portion was huge – easily shareable by a party of 4 – and really good, battered in cornmeal.

We also each had a salad – Brian the spinach salad (he can’t resist) and I the Caesar.  The Parmesan “crisp” in my salad was too thick and a little soggy, but the salad good none the less.  I also appreciated that our server waited until I’d taken a bite before approaching me with the (very colorful!) pepper mill.  This just so happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves in restaurants: I don’t KNOW if I want pepper until I try a bite first – it may not need it!  So kudos to our guy for doing it right!  (Brian, by the way, disagrees with me on this and thinks the pepper mill is part of the presentation).

The entrees were also huge.  Brian had a beautiful Japanese sea bass with pea risotto and sweet potato “straws.”  I had short ribs with collar greens and a macaroni and cheese bake.  We only ate a few bites given how stuffed we were on bread, oysters, and salad.  However, I had some great leftover lunches during the work week 😉  The fish had a wonderful flash crunch.  It was buttery and firm, and actually held up beautifully in the microwave at work!  The risotto was great, and the sweet potato straws (which did not hold up so beautifully) really complimented the sea bass.  The short rib was presented with the bone detached (but still presented!) and was good, although slightly overdone.  The collards were good (although I grew up with better greens – and there was a roasted ladybug in them I discovered during a work meeting while I was eating lunch – oops!)  The macaroni (actually a linguine) and cheese bake actually was better on reheating!  We also ordered a side of asiago cheese grits that were too heavy on the cheese, although I couldn’t tell you if they improved on reheating because Brian ate them all the next night and didn’t save me any.  Hmpf.

  

We were surprised Restaurant 3 wasn’t packed to the gills given what a great experience it was.  Brian said there was no excuse with such a great menu that Restaurant 3 shouldn’t have a wait every night of the week – even 9 p.m. on Mondays.

Best for: A romantic evening out, large parties, dinner with the ‘rents. 

Worst for: Someone on a diet who doesn’t want to be tempted by large portions.

Bastille

July 16, 2008

Silly me, I thought Bastille Day was July 14th and I’ve been saving this birthday dinner post!

Bastille

The Setting:
Bastille is set off the beaten path in an unassuming former lumber shop showroom, and looks like a formal living room without the furniture and draperies.  Brian observed, “It looks nice, but not so nice you aren’t comfortable.”  Our table was tucked against a window near the bar, and I spent comfortable lulls watching a bird who kept pecking at the grass in the yard just outside the restaurant.  It was very relaxing.

The Service:
I believe the servers here work with a team approach.  The man who seemed to be the head waiter was always the first to notice us trying to get someone’s attention.  However, Brian asked when he made the reservation that our server be told it was my birthday and simply wish me a happy birthday, and no one did.

The Food:
The menu was a bit confusing, as the Sunday family dinner prices at $24 included an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Cheese was a supplemental $4, or you could have dessert and cheese for $33 – it reads clearer here than on the menu.

I started with the signature shrimp and calamari beignets (which I had read about in the Washington Post) and Brian had a Caprese salad.

   

The Washington Post was spot-on in saying the beignets were too heavy for an appetizer – and the portion was also too large.  However, I would get one order of these to share with the table, and the accompanying sauce gave them an added kick of flavor.  Brian’s Caprese was just lovely, although be ready for a kick in the pants from the garlic spread on toast.

For dinner, Brian went with the mussels, having been converted since his experience at Brasserie Beck.  He declared them as “perfectly fine,” but said if Beck’s bivalves warranted an “A,” these were a solid “C.” 

   

My bistro steak with pomme frites looked fantastic and the marinade was truly great, if the meat a bit chewy.  The frites, however, were in desperate need of salt – the kind that you can only add when the potatoes are still hot from the oil.  I also asked for ketchup, and was brought a little silver pot of housemade sauce.  And…I gotta say it: sometimes the birthday girl just wants a little Heinz 57.  However, I did really enjoy my meal.

No birthday cake for this birthday gal!  (Although I had nearly drowned in cupcakes the night before – Funfetti deliciousness made by Brian and Jack to celebrate).  Instead, I ordered the banana pudding with housemade oatmeal cookies and caramalized bananas.  It was good, although it tasted – dare I say it – almost healthy.  Brian indulged in the peach tatin – and clearly out-ordered me.  (I think his picture alone is all the commentary needed.)

       

Bastille was a really nice experience, while not one that transported us to the continent.  We’ll be back with friends (make reservations and check the policy – parties larger than 5 need to hold their table with a credit card) or perhaps my father – this seemed like his sort of place.

Best for: An enjoyable, relaxing evening out away from the hub-bub of Old Town.

Worst for: Large, loud parties.