Monday, October 18, 2010

East Coast Fish Tacos

I'm ashamed to say it, but it's true. I've never had In-n-Out Burger. It's disgraceful, especially considering I've been on the West Coast on numerous occassions. But the truth is, when I'm on that other coast, what I'm really feenin' for is some fish tacos.

Once you get over the fact that I just used the word "feenin,'" you need to understand that fish tacos are something we seriously lack in the DMV.  Note: Baja Fresh DOES NOT count, but theirs are fairly acceptable when in dire need. Also, with the demise of my OCMD fave, The Toucan, I've been at a serious loss for the islandy combo of fresh fish, tortilla and rice and beans.

After some serious research, I find Surfside. Located in Glover Park, this two-story restaurant boasts some of DC's best beach-style fare. Their drool-worthy menu has a little bit of everything from grilled tacos, quesadillas, burritos, salads and rice bowls, all featuring their fresh catch of the day and other goodies.

I, of course, had to go with the Maui tacos since that seems to be their specialty, along with the guacamole. My companions had an assortment from the menu and everyone was more than pleased with not only how delicious and fresh everything was, but also the HUGE portions and reasonable prices.

The Maui tacos (pictured) feature two grilled fish of the day tacos in corn tortillas with black bean and corn salsa, guacamole, cilantro and lime sour cream.

Also, if you like spicy food, they have an awesome bright green chile habanero sauce that you MUST try.

Surfside
2444 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, DC 20007
202-337-0004

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicago (Part 2) - Pork Love

Dear Chicago,
I want to thank you sincerely for helping me rediscover a long lost love - pork. Here I've been just eating boring chops and shoulders and ribs when I could've been seeing the magic in pork belly.

Love,
This little piggy

This little piggy loves herself some little piggies. And for whatever reason whenever I saw it on a menu in Chicago, it was a must-order-situation. Here's the scoop on my favorite pig-out places:

Urbanbelly

I didn't even mean to want a pork dish here. All I wanted was a massive bowl of ramen and maybe some dumplings to go with our BYO. (Yes, Chicago has a ton of BYO spots and get one million cool points for this.) But then, like a beacon in the night (or on the specials board) was the slow roasted pork with kimchi and cilantro. Spicy broth, crispy kimchi, and tender, delicious pork. Perfect meal for the windy city.

The Publican

I can't stop smiling when I think about this place. I get it. Or is it that they get me? Either way, it's magic, baby, and I want more. Owned by the genius team behind Avec, Blackbird and The Violet Hour, this pig palace really knew how to reignite my pork lovin' flame.

I started with the spicy pork rinds. Note: do not expect that mouth-injuring substance you see in plastic bags near the checkout at the beer store. This was the real deal. Freshly fried, crispy, more crackly than Pop Rocks, all sprinkled with a spicy powder that you can't help licking off your finger tips later.


For my hangover cure brunch, I went with the pork roll sandwich. I obviously had to have something from their infamous charcuterie and their rendition of pork roll accompanied by a fried egg (what's not made better when topped with a runny egg?!), caramelized onions, provolone and sweet pickles, did not disappoint.

Chicago, this little piggy will be back in June. And now she knows what she's looking for ;)

Urbanbelly
3053 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
773-583-0500

The Publican
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
312-733-9555

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chicago (Part 1)

There is a very good reason why Rick Bayless won Top Chef Masters. He is a damn genius. Naturally, on a recent trip to Chicago, I had to make a stop at one of his masterpieces, Topolobampo.

The locals call it Topolo and judging from chatting with a few Chicagoans, they are very proud of Bayless's trifecta of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and newest fast-casual addition, Xoco. After unsuccessfully debating on which entrees to choose, my companion and I decided to just go for it and get the five course tasting menu. This was the best decision I've made in a long time.

Course one:

Sashimi-grade Hawaiian day boat catch with balled jicama, salsa, grilled pineapple and proscuitto crust - This was like a Mexican take on the classic proscuitto and melon. Salty, spicy, sweet, differing textures. This was a delicious start.

My friend started with the Pan-seared red-chile "enchiladas" of jicama "tortillas." Basically they were like tasty little croquettes of chicken, carrots and potatoes presented like sweetbreads. Cute.

Second Course:

If I could re-order any one part of this entire experience, out of all ten courses, this would be it. The slow poached egg had a consistency I wouldn't ever predict. It was a solid, essentially, but more like a gel. That sounds disgusting, I'm sure, but paired with the seared pork belly all swimming in a roasted tomato-habanero sauce, it just WORKED. Rick Bayless, you are a genius.

Second course numero dos I am really going to crave on a cold, rainy day. Badly. This was a soup with short rib and these yummy little pockets of love of masa dumplings.

Third course:

I love baby animals. Especially when they're cooked well ;) Sorry, but baby octopus, but you are delicious and were the highlight of this course.Scallops, crawfish, mussels and squid weren't exactly too shabby either. A common theme here was the quality of the sauces. They were all so complex and enhanced every aspect beautifully.

My girl's third course was my favorite in that tasting menu. Smoky walleye (great, great, great fish) accompanied with a sweet tamale-like crumble made a killer combo.
Fourth course:

Drumroll please.... I present to you the best prepared lamb I've ever had. This baby cut like butter and was surrounded by the deepest, most mind-blowing mole. Seared lamb belly (OMG) and a black bean tamalon completed this epic masterpiece.
This carnitas dish reminded me (in a very good way) of my favorite taco at Oyamel. Fatty, pork shoulder and belly cooked confit-style with tomatillo-avocado salsa melted in your mouth and got a nice limey kick from some salt lime air.

Dessert:

Considering desserts aren't really my "thing," these were pretty good. Note: I don't EVER take caffeine in any way, shape or form. I had one bite of this before my dinner date almost killed me. But that one bite was frickin delicious :)


I ended up mostly having this coconut rice pudding, which not only had infinitely less caffeine but was also sweeter and an overall good fit for me. Excellent end to a meal I won't be forgetting for a long, long time.

                                                            

445 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654
312-661-1434

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bal-da-more

Baltimore, baltimore. You are so close, yet so far away. Your inner harbor smells like trash, yet I still have love for ya, because you have delicious food. During a recent weekend visit, I got to try some new places and some old faves.

Edo Sushi
I have been meaning to try this place in Inner Harbor since well, I'm obsessed with sushi, but only now have gotten a chance. I was a bit weary because this is in Harborplace which is total tourist zone but I've only heard good stuff about it.


It was nice enough to eat al fresco and the balcony overlooking the harbor was nice. The service was great, with hot towels at the beginning and end of the meal. The sushi was great. The fish to rice ratio was ideal and the fish was fresh. We also had the grilled calamari that was amazing.

Tir Na Nog
I don't even really know why I like this place, but we go back here everytime we're in Baltimore. The service is spotty and if you sit near the bar it always kind of smells like a wet rag. But, It's an Irish pub, so it's mostly bar fare but with a few Irish specialties (things that go good with beer, duh). I stick to the classics here, corned beef, shepard's pie, bangers and mash - you get the picture. Something about the Irish fare is comforting to me... it's simple, so I know it'll be good.

Amicci's
I can't believe it's taken me this long to hit up Little Italy. It's shameful, really. Luckily, I don't shame easily or at least forget about it with a good plate of pasta. Mmmm, carbs. Amicci's, which totes itself as a "very casual" eatery, was right up my alley with their affordable prices and atmosphere. The shrimp scampi was creamy and Ihavetorun5milestomorrow delicious, while the chicken lorenzo was also a huge portion and great with the wine.

Vaccaro's
This is a MUST when in Little Italy. This palace of amazing has homemade Italian pastries, gelato and other yummies. They fill the cannoli to order and the tiramisu is to die for. I don't think this place is capable of making something I won't like.
201 E Pratt St #2075
Baltimore, MD 21202
410-843-9804

201 E Pratt St #2075
Baltimore, MD 21202
410-483-8968

231 South High St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
410-528-1096

Vaccaro's
222 Albemarle Street
Baltimore, Maryland
410-685-4905

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nomination Season

Thank goodness the awkwardness that is the Academy Awards show is over. Three hosts and I still cringed. Next time more Doogie! Anywho, now we can focus on a more fun nomination season: the James Beard Foundation awards.

These are the best of the best chefs, restaurants and restauranteurs in the country and plenty of them are right in our backyard. Let's check out who's got a nod:

Outstanding Restauranteur:
Ashok Bajaj, 701, Ardeo, Bardeo, Bibiana Osteria-Entoteca, The Bombay Club, The Oval Room, and Rasika, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Chef:
José Andrés, Minibar, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Restaurant:
Vidalia, Washington, D.C.

Rising Star Chef of the Year:
Johnny Monis, Komi, Washington, D.C.

Best New Restaurant:
Eventide, Arlington, VA
J & G Steakhouse, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Pastry Chef:
Amanda Cook, CityZen at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional:
Derek Brown, The Passenger, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Service:
Marcel’s, Washington, D.C.

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic:
Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA
Tony Conte, The Oval Room, Washington, D.C.
Peter Pastan, Obelisk, Washington, D.C.
Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, D.C.
Bryan Voltaggio, Volt, Frederick, MD

To check out the full list of all the JBF Semi-finalists, click here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Upscale Chinese: Is it worth the money?

When I first looked at the menu for Ping by Charlie Chiang's I could not get over how expensive everything was. I thought it would be P.F. Chang's-ey, pretentious and "safe." Luckily, my family and I were ravenously hungry and Ping was the closest Chinese place we could find.


We walked into the space which was decorated chicly with modern accents and looked more like a lounge than a place that served General Tso's. I was still skeptical. It was cold out so we started with some soups, the hot and sour and the asparagus with crab. Both were good, a little better than delivery - still skeptical.

Unfamiliar with the restaurant and slighty ill at ease with the atmosphere we went with two more favorites for entrees - beef and broccoli and General Tso's chicken. When the dishes arrived, I finally got it. This stuff wasn't the stuff I'm usually pigging out on on my couch out of a carton.

Ping's take on beef and broccoli was made with flat-iron steak and Chinese broccoli with some oyster mushrooms. It was obvious it was cooked quickly with high heat as the steak was perfectly seared and the broccoli fresh and crisp.

Their version of General Tso's was made with chunks of actual chicken breast, very lightly breaded and the sauce was a bit more vinegary and spicy than the usual takeout. The light breading was key and it actually tasted like chicken - a rarity if you ask me.

Is this going to replace my greasy delivery/takeout? Probably not. The prices are still pretty high for Chinese casual dining but I do know where to go when I want to change up my Chinese routine. If I go back, I may try the sushi next time - their sushi chef, Randy Noprapa, was honored at last year's Sushimasters Regional Competition.

Ping by Charlie Chiang's
 4060 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 671-4900

Image via http://charliechiangs.com/CCPing.asp.

Will the real Diner in Arlington please stand up?

Silver Diner does not count as a diner. And, despite my excitement for it as a Marymount University student, neither is Metro 29. So where, oh where, am I supposed to get a good diner breakfast- or more importantly- a delicious steak and cheese at 3 a.m. that could potentially save me from the worst hangover in history? That's where the glorious Bob and Edith's comes into play.


Sorry MU students, this lovely gem is a bit far to drunkenly stumble to without a designated driver handy. However, if you do have one (PSA: You should always have a DD!), then this is where it's at, people. Formerly one of two locations, this smaller, but with more character, restaurant serves up just what you look for in diner fare 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information and to view a menu, visit Bob & Edith's Diner, 2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204, 703-920-6103.

Check out more Arlington restaurants here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fredneck: More Than Just MTO's

I grew up in Montgomery County; so Frederick for me, was always a place I knew little about, and what I did know stemmed from it's more frequently, eloquently used moniker: Fredneck. Visions came to mind of  farmers, plaid shirts worn with denim overalls, trucker hats, Friday nights spent cow tipping, etc. In other words, it was like Damascus, but worse.

It was never a place I considered a "food destination," and the most exciting meal I could recall was an MTO from Sheetz. (Hey, who doesn't want to order a sandwich from a touchscreen?! Touchscreens are fancy, just like Sheetz.) Sure, Fredneck Frederick had a cute little Old Town area, but no real pull, and definitely nothing that seemed appealing enough to overshadow aforementioned visions.

I had been hearing about Volt restaurant for some time now. A fresh, new restaurant right in charming little Old Town, which sounded pleasant enough but still had me weary of making the drive, especially as a now-resident of Northern Virginia. Then, like most reality television shows do, Top Chef opened my eyes. Could it be, that my favorite chef (as of the first episode, for the record), Bryan Voltaggio, was the chef of this new restaurant? Did I think he was, like, totally the hottest one?

Wait, this is about the food right? Right. Right?! Um, right....

Ok, so I had to go. By some miracle of God, I got a reservation, during Restaurant Week no less. This was destiny.

We went with the four course menu and it didn't disappoint.

I started with a potato and leek chowder, graced with the presence of a perfectly cooked scallop. Subtle flavors but rich all at the same time. Great start to the meal.


Then I went on to have the duck confit with cavatelli pasta. This was actually a bit salty for my taste but how can I say no to duck confit?! I like my calories with extra fat and needless to say, I still ate every bit of it.

My entree was by far the star of the meal, the striped sea bass with risotto. The bass was cooked to perfection, with the skin nice and crispy, while the risotto (otherwise known to us Asians as a poor excuse for rice) was a fine accompaniment and doused with a delicious sauce.

For my dessert, I chose a dish consisting of coconut meringue, pineapple and caramel ice cream. The micro cilantro was surprisingly good with it all and did not go unnoticed.



Unfortunately, I couldn't help but stare over at my companion's dessert, "Textures of Chocolate" with white chocolate ganache, chocolate caramel and raw organic cocoa (mmm, bitter, but tasty!). This was simply a work of art.
Not only was the food exceptional but they didn't skip out on any details here from the futuristic, shower stall-looking bathrooms (complete with sliding door entrance), the entire staff decked in Chucks, or the abstracty, contrasting-the-older-brownstone-exterior, decor in the dining room. Frederick is stepping up it's game and even has it's own Restaurant Week coming up March 8-14. Also, I gotta give it up to Chef Voltaggio for taking the time out to have us see the kitchen and make a foodie feel like a giggling teenager after one of the best meals I've had.

228 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701
(301) 696-8658

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Real Chinese Food in Fake Chinatown

Slapping a few Chinese symbols on Five Guys or Subway does not a Chinatown make. Not sure who they're trying to fool but the general consensus is that DC's Chinatown sucks. And it does.

Gone are the days where an Asian girl could feel overly Americanized (read: "White") around 7th and H St. So what's left? Are there any places you can even get Chinese food?! Luckily, I can now say that among the handful of places serving more than just beef and broccoli for the Wizards/Caps fans, I have found somewhere you can actually find something better than the place down your street that delivers.

Enter Eat First Restaurant. How do I know this is real Chinese?
- No website or online menu - check (this usually means the menu constantly changes, or that the owners don't know enough English to post anything, score!)
- Unpretentious exterior - check (their sign is tiny, especially compared to the heinous one belonging to next door's Jackey Cafe)
- Chinese people are eating here - check
- Their specials are posted on the walls - check (these probably change weekly or even daily and contain weird things you've probably never heard of i.e. geoduck)
- Not full of tourists - check

So now that I've made this place sound incredibly unappetizing, let's talk about the food. We ordered the combination platter of roast pork, duck and chicken and an order from the wall of specials, baby bok choy with Chinese sausage.

So I expected the roast platter to be good, especially the duck, but I did not expect there to be so much of it. Usually when you get a combo like that you get tons of chicken but not too much of the good stuff. However the majority of the plate was duck and pork which totally wins with me, especially when it was that good.

The baby bok choy was fresh and full of flavor with the help of the sausage. This is how you get someone to eat veggies, people.

Overall, the service was good, food beyond my expectations and I expect this to be a regular when I'm in the neighborhood. Chinatown definitely needs more places like this.

Eat First Restaurant
609 H St NW
(between N 6th St & N 7th St)
Washington, DC 20001
202-289-1703

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Passport to Korea

Holy crap Dorothy, we are NOT in Annandale anymore.

Those were my exact thoughts when walking into Honey Pig BBQ. Once you set foot in the aluminum-walled, 24-hour Korean barbecue restaurant off Columbia Pike, you are instantly transported from Northern VA to Seoul - in a good way.

You know it's authentic because the ENTIRE place is chock full of Asians. It's pretty wild - "conversational" doesn't really touch the noise level since you can barely hear over the combination of K-Pop they're blasting and the sweet sound of raw sizzling meat cooking right before your eyes. No need for chatting here though, here you gotta EAT.




We ordered the sliced pork belly, bulgoki, seafood and tofu soup and a side of kimchi. All were excellent and everything was perfectly seasoned, all with the traditional accompaniments of little bowls of who-knows-what. BTW, that cold mashed potato stuff(?) is bangin'. All-star of the night was a tie - bulgoki and the kimchi. You can't beat freshly grilled beef and the marinade was perfection on the bulgoki. The side of kimchi we got they put on the grill too and the cold stuff cannot even light a candle to this. It tasted a lot more like sauerkraut but with a Korean kick.

Only downside was that you WILL smell like Korean BBQ for a WHILE. I guess that can't be avoided when it's being cooked about 5 inches from your face but that's the price you gotta pay. Also, careful in the parking lot... Asian drivers.

Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill
7220-C Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
(703) 256-5229