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

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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

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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

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