Thursday, December 3, 2009

Faulty Logic

As I've mentioned before, grad school makes me crave sugar. Just the thought of writing a paper and I want to eat 5 Snickers bars. It's bad. What's even worse is that down the street from where I go to class is an Au Bon Pain (50% off pastries after 5 p.m.!). After a Thanksgiving break off from Dr. Won'tUseHerRealName's torture, I obviously needed to stock up on sweets beforehand.

I was feeling a bit guilty and well...fat. Then, there it was - a beacon in the night to save me from my self-loathing. Maoz Vegetarian. I had seen one in Philadelphia and knew they had falafel sandwiches but had cheesesteaks on my mind at the time. Surely a healthy vegetarian meal could negate my sugar binge, right?

Ok, so first off, the place is SMALL. There are three cafeteria-style tables but for whatever reason the benches aren't all as long as the tables. Am I supposed to be eating standing up? To go? Not really sure on this one, but had little time to ponder as I was completely distracted by the elaborate condiment bar in front of me. This had to be good.

I got the Maoz sandwich ($4.95) and waited... for 20 minutes. They said something about having to heat up the bread because they don't leave it out, but 20 minutes is a long time for semi-fast food. Nonetheless, the condiment bar saves the day again. The concept of unlimited sauces and veggie concoctions to adorn my pita was a little too irrestible.

The falafel was awesome - moist, good sized and not greasy. Even that damn bread was good. Next time I'm going for the Belgian fries too (regular or sweet potato). They also have other sandwiches and will soon have their juice bar.

The verdict: once I started eating, I totally forgot about the wait, how awkward I felt crammed in a cafeteria bench and was even late for class. Plus, it's cheap! I see this being a regular in the future and it'll justify my pastry pig outs. On the weekends, it's open til 3 a.m. so I might be hanging out at Rumors and Madhatter more often.

Maoz Vegetarian
1817 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

[Salad bar image via]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Day(s) After...

Thanksgiving does evil, evil, things to any semblance of a diet anyone might have. For the day or days after, you're probably looking for some healthy alternatives to leftover turkey and ham and all the creamy, rich and overindulgent sides that you are forced to consume. In my measly attempt to eat healthy, I found some delicious new spots to get some old favorites.

Pho & Grill Restaurant
In the newly renovated formerly known Off-Price shopping center in Gaithersburg, Md., some new establishments have brought some class back to an area that in the past 10 years or so have been getting, well... ghetto. Pho & Grill is a star among the newbies bringing Vietnamese cuisine to Montgomery County without having to truck it to Rockville or Bethesda.

The space is clean, neat and welcoming. Order at the counter and your noodle soup, grill entrees and other goodies are brought to your table. Best of all, the prices are more than reasonable ($6.50 for a small pho, $7.50 for the significantly bigger large). I went for the pho with medium rare steak, flank, fatty flank, tendon, tripe and meatballs. The tendons and tripe were tender and made a delicious addition to the dish.

Yogi Castle
As I previously mentioned, I'm on a health quest for more calcium in my diet which I have gratuitously placed on frozen yogurt's shoulders. Luckily, I was introduced to Yogi Castle, which despite the name had nothing to do with a yoga instructor.

It's self-serve, but with more flavors than most other yogurt joints. I went for the cookies and cream and topped with cocoa pebbles, captain crunch, chocolate chips, chopped almonds and caramel sauce. Excellent selection and pretty reasonable at $0.39/oz.

Pho Grill & Restaurant
18310 Contour Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Yogi Castle
12209 Darnestown Rd
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
[Image via]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Guide

Thanksgiving is my kinda holiday. Eating, eating and more eating? Yes, please. Check out my Thanksgiving Guide for eating in Arlington, Va.

Not traveling to family or feel like cooking? Check out this list of restaurants offering Thanksgiving fare on Thursday.
Thanksgiving in Arlington

Statistics show that more than 75% of households order pizza the night before Turkey Day (OK, maybe not, but it's definitely the most popular choice!). Check out these non-chain pie options that deliver.
Non-Chain Pizza Delivery in Arlington

Coming soon... what to eat the day after!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So a Bunch of Asians Walk Into a Dumpling Bar...

Dumpling Bar. What IS a dumpling bar? It's definitely one of those new food concepts going around but no one really knows what it is. If I had to define it, it would be something similar to a tapas bar, except with dumplings, usually meat on skewers and other Asian-inspired nibblers. In other words, it's a good place to go when you can't really buckle down and decide what you want to eat.

With the arrival of the Washingtonian Dirt Cheap Eats edition, Batik is featured front-and-center. A small, very reasonably priced, Asian Fusion restaurant in the Kentlands neighborhood of Gaithersburg, Md., Batik features streetfood-inspired from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Considering that Filipino food doesn't really exist on the DC food scene (where does it?), I had to check this out.

Like many restaurants in the Kentlands, Batik is small, with a personality of it's own. The space is adorned with small bookshelves boasting children's books with traditional Southeast Asian bedtime stories. The additional decor makes for a very warm, inviting atmosphere much like eating in a friend's dining room.

The menu, as expected, had a wide variety of choices from small eats, skewers, dumplings, curries, noodles and soups. Notable choices include: fried lumpia, manila chicken bbq, tempura noodle soup and definitely the bulgogi. Bulgogi, Korean-style thinly sliced steak, was the best I've had. It wasn't too greasy or too sweet and cooked to perfection.

Perhaps more memorable than the food was the service. We arrived right before closing time and wondered if they would even be able to seat us. Not only were we seated, but we were welcomed warmly, told to take our time and were even greeted by the owner. (Who, by the way, told us about their other restaurant in Union Station that serves adobo - stay posted, because I'll have to visit that soon.)

So if Batik is the definition of what a dumpling bar is, I'm looking forward to more popping up.

200 Main Street
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fast Food, Italiano Style

What is fast food? On first instinct, the typical offenders come to mind - the arched, run by royalty, value meal offering grease centers. After many a late-night, post-college party drive thru window experience, those places don't really define good eats anymore. Luckily, with the establishment of beloved places like Chipotle, Panera, etc. we can actually get food quickly without feeling like we took a bath in a tub of lard.
Recently, a similar establishment joined the Ballston collection called Vapiano. Vapiano is a Euro-style eatery that offers Italian goodies quickly and affordably without sacrificing taste or quality of ingredients. You grab a menu, order at the appropriate counter and watch as they freshly prepare your pasta, pizza or salad right in front of you. Swipe your "chip card" (given at entrance) at the kiosk and grab at seat in the cafeteria-style dining room.

You can't really go wrong with whatever you order off the menu, but I highly recommend the granchi di fiume pasta (crayfish, lobster sauce) and crudo pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, parmesan). Wine selection is pretty good too and they have a nice lounge area with fireplaces if you're just coming for a drink.

Vapiano (multiple locations in DC area including Arlington, NW, Dulles)

[Image via Vapiano International.]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Never Judge a Thai Restaurant by it's Cover

Somewhere, in some secret Thai restaurant guide it says that all exteriors of  their resaurants should be pretty shabby looking and then be ridiculously lavish on the inside. Until I find said mysterious restaurant guide, I'll just enjoy the fun surprise of walking into Thai places and enjoying the ambiance.

I just had the pleasure of trying Neisha located in Tysons Corner mall. This Thai treasure is appropriately adorned with metallic walls with inset lights, everything that looks like the food should be good. But is it? You don't have much time to think about because about 10 nanoseconds after you order, your food is on your table.

The Pad Thai is good as expected, but was a little drier than I prefer. The Crying Tiger Steak is a winner as is the Passion Beef (hellloooo ginger). Both are well marinated and the Crying Tiger comes with a spicy dipping sauce with jalapenos, fish sauce, cilantro, red onions and other goodies. For all the entrees, the portions are huge and makes this place awesome for sharing food with a group. The prices are reasonable and they also offer carryout and delivery.

I'll be sure to try some others the next go round, because there will definitely be a next time.

Neisha Thai
7924 Tysons Corner Ctr
McLean, VA 22102
(another location in NW DC)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Phonomenal? Not So Much...

It is shocking, appalling and disappointing that in THE city of restaurants (probably aptly self-named by the ahem...affluent citizens) that there are so few choices for good Vietnamese food. Being that it's the flu season, I'm talking namely about pho. Not too long ago, Rice Paddies Grill opened up and starting serving pho near Bethesda Row.

When it first opened, the menu was small and unassuming, offering mostly noodle and rice bowls and a few appetizers/sides. Those were good, but even better was the service at this small establishment. Within the last year, mylar balloons advertised pho some days of the week (now daily, no balloons tho, sad face) so I had to check it out.

I'll preface this by saying that when you really want pho, it's always going to be good. During these cold months coming up, you will really want pho.

The pros - the pho broth is great. Not too much hoisin, soy or sriracha needed to be added.

The meat is cooked perfectly, not overdone like in most other places and was exceptionally tender.

The cons - the bowl costs around $8. Yes, it's Bethesda and I'm sure their rent is ridiculous, but really, $8 for a bowl of soup?

The helping isn't overly generous. For $8, I better be ready to get sick from eating so much food. Not here. The delicious beef  I mentioned? Not enough.

They add all the garnishings already. The sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, etc. are already in the bowl when it's served. Isn't that the fun part of getting pho, getting to customize it?

The verdict - For $8 a bowl this won't be a regular in my book. Have them add more meat to the bowl and maybe.... There are some times, though, that you really need pho and I'll know where to find it.

Rice Paddies Grill
4706 Bethesda Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814

[Image via]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sweet Tooth

So I've just started graduate school and the most valuable knowledge I've gained is that doing homework makes me want delicious baked goods. Fortunately for me, after watching Cake Boss for about 2 hours, I did some research and found Buzz in Alexandria, Va.

Even with the cupcake craze taking over, I had a really hard time finding a bakery that would be open past 7 and well that's when most of the sweets cravings hit. While researching, my roommate and I dreamed of a coffee shop/bakery that would be open late, have delicious goodies and an atmosphere of a city cafe without having to schlep it into the DC. After much Googling and a mandatory change-into-sweatpants session we were on our way.

Buzz is tucked away on Slaters Lane, in a newer neighborhood near Old Town. It was exactly what we dreamed up, a cute, intimate-but welcoming space, with bright colors and a real personality that lets you know this place is definitely not a chain. It's open from 6 a.m. to midnight (score!) and not only serves baked goods but BLD too and even has a great selections of beer and wine. Everything looks delicious and that's because it is. Also, free Wi-fi encourages staying around for more yummy treats. Hmmm, I wonder where I'll be writing my papers?

I always make sure to get the 9:30 cupcake, named after the local nightclub which is chocolate, topped with chocolate ganache and filled with vanilla buttercream. The tarts are great too, as are the cookies. The buttery brioche makes a great breakfast and if I drank coffee, I'd have it with some of their illy supply. Hands down best thing I've had here? A chocolate cupcake topped with peanut butter bacon frosting. If that doesn't get you here I don't know what else will.

901 Slaters Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fro, yo

My doctor, my parents, my roommate - everyone keeps telling me I need to get more calcium in my diet. Unfortunately I don't like drinking milk and there's no way you're getting me to take those supplements (I think only old people should take those). I just want to be healthy, right? Well as opportunistic as I am, I've decided to get my calcium intake in order by loading up on something I can eat - frozen yogurt. Yea, this might be cheating the system a little bit but I'm just looking out for my bone density... or something like that...

Luckily, thanks to Pinkberry and The Hills, frozen yogurt is the latest food trend. New fro yo spots have been popping up everywhere and here's the scoop on my faves:


Got the chance to try out this brand new place in Rockville Town Center and I was pleasantly surprised. If you can get over all the bratty, crying kids, it's pretty good. Very similar to a place I tried in Philly (Phileo Yogurt), this place is self-serve and you're charged by the ounce. You have the choice of four yogurt flavors (original tart, chocolate, cookies n' cream (they were out that night, NOT cool) and honeydew) and a bar of toppings that includes some of my faves (mochi, nuts, oreos, cereals, etc.).

yogen früz

Sometimes shopping requires a few pit stops and this is a must have if you're at Tysons Corner. What I would classify as the healthiest of the fro yo joints around here also happens to be the most delicious. At yogen you can either get regular frozen yogurt or opt for one of the blends. Out of the many fruit choices, you can choose any and they literally blend it (with help from their magic yogurt mashing machine) into a block of tart original yogurt (chocolate or vanilla - non-fat, low fat or no sugar added) and just like that you have mango, blueberry, acai or whatever fruit you choose - flavored yogurt. They have some cool toppings here too, with my favorite being the carob chips that taste just like chocolate. Hey, anyone who can trick me into eating all that crazy stuff gets extra points in my book.


To eat fro yo or to have a smoothie? That is definitely the question at this juice bar/frozen yogurt shop. Though their choices are limited (classic, green tea, pomegranate, featured flavor), this place still wins for its probiotic goodness and environmental friendliness. Plus, its so chicly decorated you feel healthier just being in there. I favor the Dupont location because the Penn Quarter one is next to a Red Velvet and the cupcake vs. fro yo battle is too close for me to choose just one.

36-B Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850

yogen früz
1961 Chain Bridge Rd.
McLean, VA 22102

Dupont Circle
2029 P St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

Penn Quarter
675 E St. NW
Washington, DC 20004

[Image via]

Friday, October 2, 2009

(Not) Great Expectations

I have some preconceived notions about eating somewhere where I may have possibly been while blackout drunk. This puts a lot of establishments on my questionable list, but that's a whole 'nother story for another time. In this case, I was looking for a good restaurant for dinner in Old Town Alexandria and had to find a place where everyone could find something appealing on the menu. So that's where Union Street Public House comes in. Supposedly some kind of institution that promised not to be filled with the evil "T" word (tourists), I figured I'd give it a try.

I have been here before. I've actually been here multiple times. Did I know they served food? No. Let's just say what memories I have of this place have been, well... altered. When I looked at the online menu, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and depth of what I thought would be a simple menu of burgers, fries and other such pub fare. All I needed to see was "Lobster Mac & Cheese," and I was sold.

Walking in with all my senses intact made for a very different experience this time. Being located in Old Town, the atmosphere was very Bedford Falls - hardwood all around and dim lighting like a good ol' bar should be. There's table service downstairs for the more raucous crowd but upstairs is much more relaxed and appropriate for a dinner with conversation.

So the ambiance is nice, but what about the food?! The menu has some pretty good choices for what is technically bar food - lots of sandwiches, but also an oyster bar, plenty of seafood options, salads and some small plates. My party and I opted for the calamari (option of grilled or fried, we went with fried) and the sirloin tips and chips to start. Pretty straight forward but the steak was actually cooked well and the cheese sauce on it was delicious. Just OK calamari as I know for a fact that Chart House down the street has a way better version.

As previously mentioned the Lobster Mac and Cheese was a must order and that totally lived up to my expectations. Creamy, cheesy, but not so cheesy that you can't taste the lobster. Pretty surprised with this one, I must say. Also had the Taproom salad which was huge and surprisingly the shrimps and calamari in it were cooked well. My fellow tablemates all enjoyed their food as well and we were still sober(!). Weird.

So what is the lesson we learned today children? Just because a place just so happens to have strong liquor accompanied by hazy memories doesn't mean you can't eat there. On that note, expect a possible dining experience soon from Mister Days in Clarendon. Just kidding, I think.

Union Street Public House
121 South Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

[Image via]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pet Peeves

A Redskins loss. Overdraft fees. Finding out you already ate the last cookie. These are all things that get on my nerves. However, of all things, the thing that annoys me most is when a restaurant doesn't have an online menu. There's something about having an insatiable appetite and having a type A personality that just hits me the wrong way when I can't know exactly what I'm ordering before I walk into a restaurant. Call it a character flaw - I'm working on it.

If I can't see a menu and easily access it at all times, that's pretty much a deal breaker for me with a few exceptions. The greatest example of this is Raku, my hands down, favorite restaurant in Bethesda. I know what you're thinking - "Your favorite in THE city of restaurants? You're crazy hungrylittlegirl, you can't possibly choose just ONE favorite!" You try and eat there and tell me I'm wrong.

Ok, so I don't want to totally hype this place up and make you think you'll be eating with golden utensils and be getting a massage with dessert because there are some flaws. The place is SMALL. They really cram you in there so forget it if you're considering a quiet romantic dinner or catching up with grandma. In such a small joint, the service can be pretty spotty since getting around isn't easy unless you're an olympic gymnast but they do the best they can. Then again, all of these things can be remedied with an order of sake.

Lucky for me, the last visit I made was during Bethesda Row's restaurant week (who knew they had one?!) so I got 3 courses for $30. Raku offers pretty much their whole menu for RW with only a few surcharge options. Even luckier for me I went with my family so I got to taste a whole array of this place's Asian fusion goodies.

Chicken Satay Salad

Pretty straight forward, but so delicious. Chicken satay, mixed greens, micro greens, cilantro and mangoes. Yummy and refreshing start.

Grilled Asian BBQ Octopus            
Ok, now don't get all weirded out on me. It looks weird - it's an octopus. Well your beloved fried calamari is a SQUID so get over it.

Usually you can't get very fresh octo around here so it's usually pretty chewy by the time it gets to your table. However, this was tender, not too chewy and grilled with a delicious Asian BBQ sauce that had a little kick at the end. Definitely looks like this will be a repeat offender for me.

Fried Calamari

While we're at it, let's eat another tentacled sea creature, shall we? By principle I shouldn't like this version of calamari (breaded with cornmeal so it's not as... squid feeling) but they make it work.

Oh! and the sauce! The sauce! Call me a cilantro-whore but the creamy cilantro dipping sauce is to die.

Chinese Spiced Duck Breast

Are you still wondering why I love this place? It's duck, people, cooked a perfect medium-rare with a killer plum sauce that doesn't overwhelm the fatty goodness of this delicious piece of poultry.

In fusiony nature, they serve this with spaetzle instead of rice which actually soaks up said sauce quite well. There were vegetables on this plate? Forgive me for forgetting.

Grilled NY Strip

How do Asians do steak? Covered in thinly sliced caramelized onions and a hoisiny sauce on top of a perfectly cooked piece of meat so tender you'd think it was a ribeye.
Grilled Whole Bronzino

Stuffed with tons of aromatics, this little fishy wins for the night. Simple, yet so flavorful you wonder what's really in there. The sweet potato chips add a nice touch too.

So how do I deal with this pet peeve? At Raku it doesn't even matter because with food this good, I already know whatever I order will work.

7240 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814

A Tribute to Arlington

I know it's been a while, but I place all the blame on Verizon Fios for the delay in my internet service. In accordance with my change of internet service is my change of address. Sadly, I have moved from my beloved city of Arlington, VA. Usually when someone moves, they grow to miss their friends, their neighbors and simple parts that they become accustomed to when living at a certain place. For me, I already miss my favorite spots to eat.

Arlington, to say the least, is an affluent area chock full of pretentious eateries, but I have my favorites that I went back to time and time again. This post will highlight those for your viewing pleasure.

Mei's Asian Bistro

To say that I love sushi would be the understatement of the century. Some want to die in their sleep and I would prefer a death by mercury poisoning – that would be the most pleasant way to go. I've tried every sushi place in Arlington and out of all of them this is my go-to. Don't get me wrong, its not perfect. This place is always understaffed so the sushi takes forever and sometimes the owners have to chip in as servers. As far as food goes, this place is worth the wait.

They have a great variety of sushi rolls but my favorites are the white fish tempura, crunch tuna hidden dragon and alligator maki. Sashimi is always fresh here too for you purists. I'll be honest though, I can't vouch for anything else but their sushi is the best you'll find in the area.

Cafe Pizzaiolo

Ok, so we don't live in New York City. I get that. I don't get why good pizza is so hard to come by around here. On the endless search for good pizza, I stumbled across Cafe Pizzaiolo in Crystal City. It's a really small place with board games so it's very family oriented and casual. They also serve sandwiches, beer, wine and gelato for dessert.

Extra Virgin

Psst... don't tell anyone but this place is actually a chain. After stepping into this Shirlington restaurant, you would never know. One taste of the bread and olive oil (with pureed olive or something of the sort in it) and you can pretty much guarantee that everything here will be good. The menu changes seasonally but the pizza here is a constant winner (you have to ask specifically for the pizza menu). Don't miss out on the live jazz every week either.

Mei's Asian Bistro
3434 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

Cafe Pizzaiolo
507 South 23rd St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Extra Virgin
4053 Campbell Ave
Arlington, VA 22206

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beach Food Special: The Toucan

The sad truth is, summer is over. Luckily for me, I was able to get a last visit to Ocean City, Md. for Labor Day weekend and visited all of my favorites places to try to soak in the last bits of summer 2009. Of course I had to visit all my sentimental favorites but I also like to try a new place each time to see if I can add a newbie to the mix for next summer.

I had heard great buzz about The Toucan, a small Costa Rican-style restaurant located adjacent to a K-Coast surf shop near the boardwalk. I was always bitter that we didn't have more restaurants like this, ones more likely to be found on the west coast, where "surfer food" (think fish tacos) was served. I convinced my family to come along and it was definitely worth it.

The place is very small inside with a few bayside picnic tables, all with table service. The staff was pleasant and definitely supported the laid back theme. The worst part of this place was trying to decide what to eat because every single thing on the menu sounded amazing.

We started with chips and guacamole and it was clear right off the bat that everything here was made fresh. The chips were freshly made and the salsa and guacamole were nice and chunky.
I ended up ordering the fried tilapia taco platter, which comes with 2 tacos, rice, beans and chips and salsa all for $6.99. I was concerned the breading would overpower the fish taste, but it was just right and the tacos were flavorful with just the right crunch. Everything else that my family ordered was equally delicious including the carnitas rice bowl and the shrimp rice bowl.
All in all, this place surely secured a spot in the 2010 summer rotation for OCMD and was cheap enough to maybe make 2 trips the next go-round. This kind of establishment is what the beach needs and a great addition to the area!
The Toucan
3505 Coastal Hwy
Ocean City, MD 21842

Bethesda Street Food?

Still reeling off a recent episode of No Reservations (hosted by my boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, if you didn't know) about street food, I have been recently craving an equally delicious find in the DC area. I found this a great excuse to try Ali Baba's Falafel in Bethesda. I had been hearing great reviews on this place, located next to the Farm Women's Co-op on Wisconsin Avenue, so I figured this would be the place to satisfy my street food craving.

I made my way at lunchtime and got in line. It smelled great and the line was long so I got excited and anticipated something along the lines of the New York City food carts' falafels. This may be where I went wrong.

Don't get me wrong, the actual falafel was delicious. It was made mostly of fava beans instead of the usual chickpeas, giving it a different texture and a bright green color. Unfortunately, that was the only part of the experience I enjoyed.
The wrap (not a pita) they used wasn't heated up enough and really bland tasting, the sauce (SO key!) was watery and flavorless and I'm not even sure that hummus (which they don't have in these sandwiches!) could have saved this. Thorough disapointment.

The worst part is that I really wanted to like this place. I guess I'll be sticking to Levante's if I want falafel in Bethesda.

Ali Baba's Falafel
7155 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814

Monday, August 31, 2009

DC Restaurant Week: La Tasca

First and foremost, I have to apologize. I didn't actually make it to La Tasca for RW and it has left me feeling shameless, untrue to my word and worst of all... hungry. However, I have frequented La Tasca's amazing unlimited tapas special before and I have lived to tell about it.

Yes, you can argue that Jose Andres has a monopoly on all tapas in the DC area, which is mostly true, but La Tasca takes the cake for RW. They offer the same prices, $20.09 for lunch and $35.09 for dinner but you can have anything on the menu - unlimited. Now, I don't know how gluttonous you are, but this kind of deal pretty much just screams my name.

Now depending on the location, La Tasca offers a pretty nice atmosphere for tapas pigging out and their sangria (the main pull during my college happy hour days) is pretty damn good too. I highly suggest the cava sangria for it's clean taste that freshens your palate up for your next small plate of goodness.

Now, with every all-you-can-eat situation, after trying a lot of things, I decide on the "all-star" team. The real MVP's of the meal, the ones that really changed the game up and I feel the need to tell many, many people about so that we can, together, celebrate the success of our respective all-star teams.

Patatas de Churreria - essentially just chips, but they come with a killer tomato dipping sauce and now the Cabrales cheese sauce that used to only come with the fried eggplant

Selección de Embutidos - mmmm, protein. It's like an antipasto plate... just with yummy replacements like serrano ham.

Calamares Andaluza - fried calamari with garlic mayonnaise? I don't need my heart to beat anyway.

Mejillones a la Marinera - this can be a little hit or miss, but when the mussels are fresh this is killer. Save some bread for dipping in this sauce!

Chorizo a la Parrilla - you could swear this was made in house it tastes so homemade. And plus it's sausage, you can't lose with sausage.

Solomillo de Cerdo Iberico - (this is the description from the menu, cause I couldn't say it tastier) Grilled pork tenderloin medallions wrapped in bacon and served with our famous Cabrales cheese sauce

Setas al Ajillo - delicious sauteed mushrooms, just to deepen the bench on this team of MVP's

Also, you NEED to save room for their tres leches cake!

La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant
Various locations around the DC area

[Image via]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DC Restaurant Week: Kaz Sushi Bistro

For me, Kaz is an old fave. I did my college internship down the street and this was the place I would go to splurge on a good lunch every once in a while. (By the way, their $13.25 daily lunch specials are killer.) I especially liked this place because I am what I call a sushi schizophrenic. I love the purity of really fresh sashimi and nigiri and all the traditional preparations, but I also crave all the crazy maki rolls in all their spicy mayo-ed and tempura-ed goodness. Luckily, Kaz is the kind of place where all of the above are exceptionally good.

I'll be honest. Kaz is one of the places where the RW menu isn't necessarily "a deal" but as one of my companions put it, "it just nicely narrows down the choices at a place where you want to order everything." Let's get down to business:

Seared Sock Eye Salmon with Wasabi-Tofu Sauce
This appetizer came as a surprise. I was expecting a small fillet with sauce and instead got what looked more like a salad. The dish was made like a chicken salad except filled with delicious salmon and other goodies. Also, the wasabi wasn't too strong but just enough to give the dish some flavor.

Scallop w/Lemon Cilantro
WOW. This was the ultimate winner of the night. If you look on the regular menu the full description includes that this was poached in sake. When you look at it, the amount of garnishing is so small that you almost don't think it will taste like much. But WOW, once you taste this guy... amazing. The flavor not just explodes but keeps developing as the scallop melts in your mouth. It was so good I had to order another a la carte.
Salmon w/Mango Sauce
This was definitely second place to the scallop. They tell you not to use soy sauce with this one and I'm glad they did. The mango sauce which you would think would be really sweet was just right. Great and unexpected combo.

Tuna w/Olive Pesto
I was the most excited for this one and it was just OK. I almost would have rather had it sans pesto. It was still a good piece of fish though, so no regrets.

Crunchy Eel Roll
OK, Kaz gets me again. You think "crunchy" any roll and you think tempura flakes. I would have been OK with that. But this is why Chef Kazuhiro is a damn genius. The "crunch" in this case was a pickled radish. The contrast with the sourness of the radish and the sweetness of the eel was killer. Definitely ordering this next go-round.

Spicy Scallop Roll
Pretty straightforward but in Kaz's style. Creamy, not too spicy, fresh and delicious. A tried and true favorite.

Lychee Panna Cotta w/Mango Sorbet
I was intrigued by how much lychee flavor was in here. It was refreshing and ended the meal perfectly.

Other notables from Kaz: green mussels, seaweed salad and spicy tuna roll

Kaz Sushi Bistro
1915 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

[Image via]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DC Restaurant Week: Siroc Restaurant

There's something about going to a new restaurant that makes me feel fabulously Paris Hilton-esque, like paparazzi will be waiting outside the door for my girlfriends and I and make me feel the need to get dressed appropriately so. Once I caught wind of the new Mediterranean spot in McPherson Square, I knew this would be one of those nights.

While pretending to be hard at work during my full-time job, I was doing some extensive research on a new place to try for restaurant week. Considering the extremely critical nature of DC food critics' typical reviews of new restaurants, I was almost shocked to see how raving the reviews were for Siroc. So as Chief Food Advisor for my group of friends, I grabbed a couple girls and made a reservation.

We arrived at the restaurant on a perfect DC summer night and were hoping for outdoor seating, which they do have but is extremely limited. This would be a perfect spot for people watching and enjoying a break from the always present humidity but ended up being the only negative of the evening. We were then seated in the surprisingly small dining room, which was dimly lit, simply decorated and painted in warm colors. But who really cares? Let's talk about the goods...

Siroc offers a choice of appetizer, entree and dessert and sadly, after a week of near memorizing the menu we were ready to order before we even sat down. I ordered the scallops to begin, a salmon steak for my entree and tiramisu for my dessert. Let's break down my choices:

Pan Roasted Scallops, served with Braised Black Lentils, Tomato Sauce and Roasted Artichokes
With this order you get two massive scallops which were perfectly cooked. The tomato sauce dousing the lentils and artichokes accompanied it beautifully and made for a delicious and well-plated first course.

Seared Salmon Steak served over Sautéed Broccolini with Pancetta and Cipollini Onions with a Roasted Garlic and Orange Sauce
I ordered this because I love a good piece of fish you can cook to order (how it should be everywhere, but not a lot of places can get it that fresh) but was a bit skeptical of said "orange sauce." However as soon as it came out, the scent was too savory for me to think of anything but how beautiful the dish was. The salmon was cooked perfectly, a perfect portion and it all tied in together surprisingly well. And let's talk about the onions -  wow. I don't even like onions but I could've just eaten these on toast and been satisfied.

Tirami Su Wrapped in Chocolate topped with Cocoa and Fresh Berries
Nothing too surprising here, just a great rendition of one of my dessert faves. The cake was moist, the berries fresh and the chocolate framed it all nicely and provided for a nice texture contrast.

Overall, I totally agree with Todd Kliman's Tier 1 placement of Siroc as a RW choice. I think this is a great restaurant not just for RW but for a date, girls night out or a special occasion.

Siroc Restaurant
915 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC

[Image via]

Monday, August 24, 2009

DC Restaurant Week Special

I hope I'm not the only person that thinks that Restaurant Week should be treated as a holiday. A week-long holiday, maybe like that week that goes from Christmas to New Years'. It's a time to try a new restaurant that's fairly pricey that you would be skeptical to try under normal circumstances, a tried and true favorite that is too expensive to go to unless it was a special occasion or just flat out take advantage of an amazing deal.

For me, I like to do all of the above. Don't get me wrong, $35.09 is a lot to be paying for a dinner but hey, priorities are priorities people! I'll be keeping a journal - a food diary of sorts of my personal restaurant week experiences for RW summer 2009. Here's my schedule so far:

Monday - Siroc Restaurant
Tuesday - Kaz Sushi Bistro
Saturday - La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant

I'll keep you updated on what I like, don't like and what you just can't pass up. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dim Sum Heaven

When a place has been around for a long time, especially in through this not-so-pleasant economic time, you gotta wonder why they're still around. New Fortune is one of those places that has taken me way too long to discover.
Located on 355 in Gaithersburg, Md. this Chinese restaurant and banquet hall has made it's mark in the Walnut Hill area. One of the few places serving push cart dim sum daily (including that sham of a Chinatown in the city), New Fortune made it clear to a picky Asian food eater like me why they've gotten such a good reputation and a hardcore fan base.
If you've never been here, the atmosphere can be a bit overwhelming. It's fast-paced, loud, crowded and is the kind of place that can make an Asian feel way too Americanized. However, this atmosphere only helps in making the dim sum experience that much more authentic.

Once you've been seated, it's game time. Carts push and pull all around you and if you're not paying attention and flagging down something that looks good (which can be hard because everything looks good, even the vegetables!) you won't get the full experience. You flag down your cart pusher and order away and then they jot down some incoherent Chinese on a paper on your table. Prices vary and if you don't ask you won't know how much something cost until you're paying but it's all pretty reasonable.

Make sure you get an early start on the head-on shrimp. They are simply seasoned with salt and pepper and quickly fried but are so flavorful you can eat it whole; head, legs, eyeballs and all. Also, make sure you get an order of the roasted pork which can go fast as well.

A large, borderline nauseating lunch for 4 will cost you around $65. Try to come early on the weekends to get the best plates and you'll conquer this dim sum heaven.

New Fortune
16515 S Frederick Ave
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
(301) 548-8886

[Image via]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beach Food

There's something very nostalgic and warm-and-fuzzy about heading to the beach. When you think of your favorite beach, flashbacks of family vacations, drunken spring breaks and quick weekend getaways there are always good memories. For me, there are the endless lists of places to eat at each visit, sometimes more than ever possible in a vacation's time.

Now I know people get sentimental and possessive over their beach favorites but these are just a few of mine at my favorite, Ocean City, MD.

OC Wasabi
This place is a definite go-to everytime I head for OCMD. Usually when you think of a beach, you think seafood, and in turn, sushi. Unfortunately, OCMD's sushi offerings are meager at best and I'm sure it's because OC Wasabi exists. This place is for all sushi lovers - purists and crazy roll lovers alike. They've got fresh fish, a great selection, and the kind of atmosphere that makes you feel like a regular. Plus, they've got a roll called "phatty jay," and even just imagining an Asian putting that on the menu should make you want to go there already.

Crabcake Factory

Maybe I just really like this place because it's walking distance from where we usually stay at the beach or maybe it's because I grew up in Maryland and have a constant desire for crab, but it's probably because this place just has flat out good crabcakes. At reasonable prices at that! Well, you get what you pay for in terms of atmosphere (this is practically just a sports bar) but the crabcakes are so full of crab and almost completely devoid of filler it can't be beat. It's definitely one of those places where you look at your food and wonder if it'll be enough to fill you up then halfway through are kicking yourself in the ass and asking for a take out box. I highly recommend any crabcake platter (all lump isn't even necessary), steamer bowls and the lump crab nachos (as you know, I love cheese and they use whiz on these!).

Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill

So, the truth is, I would've never know about this place if the service at the Chinese place up the street wasn't so shitty that we left. Either way, we left and walked to Macky's and had one of the best afternoons all vacation long. (Yes, that's right I said afternoon, this place makes you want to stay and relax). Now don't get me wrong, this place is a mini version of Seacrets at night, their menu doesn't have much variety and it's no 5 star review place but the atmosphere gets you in that "I'm on vacation and I don't give a shit about anything else" feeling like no where else in OCMD. It's located right on the bay, literally steps from the water and there's even room for kids to play while mommy and daddy sip on frozen drinks in the sun. The fish is pretty good "so fresh you'll want to slap it," as is the crab dip, but who really cares when the drinks are plentiful and brought to you quickly?

Fausto's Ristorante Antipasti

Ok, so when you see this place the first thing you notice is that it was very obviously once a Wendy's. Once you walk in, you totally forget because Fausto himself is in your face, greeting your family and getting almost a little too close to your mom. Fausto will probably also seat you, serve you wine and cut the garlic steak up that they are famous for right at your table. Given that my family and I are avid carnivores, this was something we heard about far and wide and needed to try. Oh, and am I glad we did. So you order the steak, maybe a pasta dish as a side and vegetables come with the meal. Your server comes out, cart in tow, with a monstrous piece of beef so beautiful you can hardly speak. He cuts it up into edible pieces and away you go. Unfortunately, my family made the rookie mistake of ordering 2, at which we were laughed at by our server and when we saw the portion, (and the price $75 a pop) we laughed too. But holy moly, this steak represents all that it means to be a meat lover. It's tender, perfectly cooked, an impeccable cut of meat and masterfully seasoned. On an even better note, we had enough for steak and eggs the next morning :)

Monday, August 3, 2009


A friend asked me last week if Asians liked cheese so much because there isn't a lot of it in our food. I should have been offended (I don't like to be stereotyped with other Asians, they irritate me- technically I'm Pacific Islander ok?!), but instead it was a revelation, an epiphany. Is that why I freakin love that stuff so much? Cause honestly nothing can make this girl happier than some queso. If I'm drunk, sad, PMSing... all I need is any form of this dairy filled goodness and I'm ready to party. Quesadillas, nachos, dips, cheese fries.... man, I kid you not when I tell you I am currently salivating.

So what do I eat when I want my cheese fill? Here are my top choices for calcium cravings (in no particular order):

Adobo shrimp quesadillas from La Sandia
This totally underrated Mexican joint has this killer appetizer on their menu that I can't pass up if I'm in the Tysons Corner area. The shrimp are marinated in adobo spices then enveloped in tortillas and topped with avocado and black bean puree. It sounds kinda weird, but trust me, the flavor combination is to die for.

Chili cheese fries from Ben's Chili Bowl
There are so many more reasons aside from the historical that this place is famous - their chili is damn good. Chili cheese fries with a half smoke makes for a perfect (and cheap!) meal and makes it totally worth standing in line for as long as you do. Extra points for having a cheese sauce as opposed to melted shredded cheese.

4 Cheese Pizza from Extra Virgin
It saddens me to know that so few people even know that this Shirlington gem serves pizza. (Be sure to ask for the pizza menu as they don't normally bring it out with the normal menu) Their 4 cheese pie has fresh mozzarella, taleggio, parmesan and gorgonzola. Those 4 melted in a wood fire? That's what I'm talkin about, baby.