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 http://www.latascausa.com/]

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.

Nigiri
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.

Maki
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
202-530-5500

[Image via http://www.kazsushi.com/]

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
202-628-2220

[Image via http://www.sirocrestaurant.com/]

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 http://www.newfortunedimsum.com/]

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

Cheese

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.