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  1. 18 likes
    [My goals here are straightforward – First, I wanted to put together a primer on Middle Eastern food so that Rockwellians don’t walk into a Middle Eastern restaurant and scratch their head like I do when I walk into a Chinese or Korean or Thai or Martian restaurant. May you all place your orders in a slightly more informed manner from this day forward. Second, I wanted to encourage the rest of our experts to do the same in each of the cuisines they happen to be experts in, so that this site can have a respectable ethnic food guide. Please pile on.] The topic of Middle Eastern food is as broad as the topic of Asian food. There are regions to be discussed, then countries within regions, and then localities within countries, all of which bring differences and nuances to the discussion. To frame it properly, I’m going to focus on the 20 Arab countries across North Africa (the Magreb), the Levant and Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula or Gulf States. I will also touch on but not dwell on the related cuisines of Iran and Turkey, although each has a sophistication and complexity that requires its own treatment. In passing, I will touch on Kurdestan and Armenia, although they no longer exist as geopolitical entities. I will generally avoid Israeli food except for Palestinian food and the food of Yemeni and Moroccan Jews who came to Israel in the past 70 years or so. But the rest of Israeli food that was imported from Eastern Europe will not be addressed. And up front, if you like pork you won’t be satisfied at most Middle Eastern restaurants. Islamic Halal and Jewish Kosher laws prohibit pork. And if you want alcohol with your meal, you can also avoid Halal restaurants like Mount of Lebanon. However, a very good alcohol enjoyed by the Christians of the Middle East is Arak – Raki in Turkey, Ouzo in Greece. The best Arak available to us is the Lebanese Al-Massaya, an almost artisanal version available on the Web (and in my liquor cabinet). Next, consider the geography and history of the region. It sits at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, and therefore has sent traders and conquering armies to all of those regions, and in return received traders and conquering armies from all of those regions. As a result, refined cuisine like Lebanese reflects the influences of Byzantine raiders, Crusaders, Ottomans and French. Similarly, the Turkish meat sandwich Doner is as prevalent in Germany as Bratwurst, and Couscous with a spicy sausage called Merguez was recently voted one of the most popular foods in France. Any discussion has to begin with bread, the staple of the Middle East. The Arabs claim that they cannot taste other foods without bread and the bread types they have to choose from are numerous and varied. Arab bread comes in many textures, sizes, and shapes. Without question, the mother of all these Middle Eastern breads is pita — by far, the most popularly found in the Middle East. Called Khubz Arabee among the Arabs in that part of the world and once called flatbread or Syrian bread in the United States — until Syria became a country of dubious political behavior — it is now widely known as Pita Bread — a Greek name. Pita bread, like all types of Middle Eastern breads, is usually soft and pliable — perfect for the Arab way of eating. One of the greatest advantages of this type of bread is picking up meat, vegetables, and salads and as a scoop for sauces, dips, yogurt, and just about anything else. When the loaf is cut into two, the top and bottom of the loaf separate easily and the halves form pockets that can be filled with hot falafel, shawarma (barbecued meats), kafta (the Arab version of hamburgers), kebabs and/or salads to make delicious sandwiches. There are other Middle Eastern breads as well – Yemeni bread, Bedouin bread (Chubab), Injera (more around the Horn of Africa) and Lavash. The point is that you’ll have bread with every meal you order in a Middle Eastern restaurant and it will probably be fresh, warm and good. For some regional distinction, consider that the northern African countries use Couscous, which is actually a pasta, as the most common carb. In the Levant – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and what would be Armenia and part of Iraq – the common carb is cracked wheat, or Bulgur. In the Arabian peninsula and around the Gulf, rice is the carb of choice. Of course, that rule is general and you’ll find plenty of rice dishes in the Levant and plenty of Bulgur dishes in Egypt and Tunisia. However, the spices will be different depending on the region. Which brings me to a dish like Mujaddarah (Arabic for “smallpox” because it looks like the effects of smallpox). It is the rice and legume dish of the Levant, with plenty of fried onions on top. In Syria and Lebanon, brown lentils with rice is the base of the dish. In Jordan and Palestine, red lentils with Bulgur define the dish. And the version you’ll find in Egypt is Koshary, the national dish. Mujaddarah and Koshary, in all of their variations, also reveal another feature of Middle Eastern cuisine – you can eat quite well on the Vegan side of the menu. Speaking of national dishes, they are widely varied, and often differ within localities in the same country. My grandparents were Syrian immigrants, and my moniker reflects the national dish of Syria and Lebanon, Kibbeh. Kibbeh Nayeh (colloquially pronounced Kibbee Nayee in northern Syria) is the raw and most delicious version, my death row meal. Our best on-the-menu versions around the DC area are at Mount of Lebanon and Me Jana. The best order-ahead version is available from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, although Layalina has been known to prepare a very good version as well. [My son gave me a Christmas present of 2 lbs. of Kibbeh Nayeh from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, and it was gone in about an hour!] Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan, made of lamb cooked in fermented and dried yogurt, served over flatbread, and topped with rice and pine nuts. A variation is Mansaf made with fish in the southern part of Jordan around Aqaba. The national dish of Saudi Arabia is Kabsa, which is a hodge-podge of rice, beef, chicken, vegetables, raisins and nuts – the Saudis eat more chicken per capita than just about any place in the world. Maqluba is the national dish of Palestine, an upside down rice and eggplant casserole with lamb and lots of yogurt. Machboos is the national dish of Kuwait, which is nicely flavored mutton, chicken, and/or fish (variations depend on whether you live near the gulf or inland towards the desert), over rice. The Egyptian national dish is Koshary, a hearty carb-loaded dish of chick peas, lentils, rice, macaroni, tomato sauce and fried onion, followed closely by Ful Madames, which is fava beans in olive oil with parsley, garlic, onions and lemon juice. Cairo Café in Lincolnia provides some of the better Egyptian dishes in our area. Iraq’s national dish is Maskuf, which is an impaled trout dish. Across northern Africa, the national dish is each country’s version of Couscous, although Tagine and Pidgeon Pastilla share the honor in Morocco. Tagine is named for the conical clay braising pot that produces tender, juicy stews. The Moroccan version of Coucous is “Fez style” with seven vegetables plus lamb shanks. Tunisian Couscous is considered the best, cooked in a couscoussiere and consisting of a mound of Couscous covered in steamed onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, chickpeas, chili pepper, harissa, celery, cinnamon, black peppercorn, carrots, turnips and squash, then topped with meat such as mutton or chicken. But in the areas close to the Mediterranean, bass or red snapper is used. And if you’re thinking about having 100 Bedouins over for dinner, the Arab version of turducken is a whole camel stuffed with four lambs and 20 chickens! I’m not making that up! Now I’ll focus in on the Middle Eastern foods and restaurants in our area and what to order when you step into one. The sequence generally flows from Mezze to Mains to Sweets, with detours to sandwiches and pizzas or tarts along the way. Mezze – You can either fill your table up with an assortment of these small plates – consider them the Tapas of the Middle East – or you can order a few as appetizers before the rest of the meal. Remember, it all starts with Pita Bread, sometimes with olive oil and za’atar as a dipping sauce. The vegan side of the menu is an incredible combination of flavor, satisfaction and good health. Try Tabouleh (parsley salad), Hummus (chick pea and tahini dip), Baba Ghanouj (eggplant and tahini dip), stuffed grape leaves (the vegan version has rice and pine nuts or chick peas in them, and the meat version has a nicely flavored rice and meat stuffing), Labneh (strained yogurt with olive oil and garlic), Lubieh (green beans) bil Zeit and Bamieh (okra) bil Zeit (either one, stewed in garlic and tomatoes), Ful Madames (fava beans) and Fattoush (salad served over toasted Pita Bread). The meat dishes include some amazing flavors and textures. Try Hummus topped with Shawarma and Pine Nuts, Soujouk (spicy sausage), Ma’anek (mild beef and lamb sausage), Kibbeh (shaped like footballs, stuffed with meat and nuts and then fried, or if you’re lucky, raw Kibbeh Nayeh), and Warak Enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat). Also, most places offer combination Mezze Platters, which are usually good deals. Don’t forget accompaniments like olives and pickled turnips, which are standard. The Lebanese serve a whipped paste of garlic with dishes like Kibbeh Nayeh. These are the highlights – pay attention to any daily specials, because they are likely to be good. And at places with their own butcher connections like Mount of Lebanon, try the Lamb Brains or the Lamb Testicles. Trust me. Mains – Here is where the dilemma lies. I can easily order Mezze and be satisfied at just about any Middle Eastern restaurant. Alternatively, I can go with a sandwich or a few meat pies. But the main courses in Middle Eastern restaurants are rib-sticking comfort food with incredible flavors. You can start with Shish (“skewer” in Turkish) Kebab (“meat” in Turkish), flavorful grilled meats – lamb, beef, chicken, or mixed – over rice pilaf. You can argue all day long over whose Kebabs are best between the Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghanis and Pakistanis, but they’re all good. Kafta is the ground meat version, formed over the skewers and grilled the same way, considered the hamburger of the Middle East. Lamb is probably the most common meat in the Middle East, so ordering it in any of a variety of ways – Lamb Shish Kebab, Lamb Chops, Lamb Shanks (braised), Lamb Shawarma (see sandwiches, below), Lamb Ouzi (rice and lamb platter), Lamb Stew, Lamb Feteh (lamb with yogurt sauce), and on and on. Also, the Arabs are damned good at stuffing things (“mahshi” in Arabic and “dolmas” in Turkish), so when you see stuffed grape leaves, stuffed squash or stuffed cabbage/eggplant/peppers/onions, just order it and you will also be stuffed! Stuffed Cabbage, or Malfouf Mahshi, was my father’s favorite. The closest I’ve found to it in this area was at Kazan, the Turkish restaurant in McLean. Sandwiches, Pies and Pizzas – Think about it, if Pita Bread is the staple of the Middle East, and if they’ve been making it for many millennia, you would think they have developed a few tricks to turn it into a meal, right? Shawarma is by far the most popular (“Doner” in Turkish), similar to the Greek Gyro (but with different seasonings and bread). It’s strips of lamb, skewered with seasonings and herbs in between layers, and then placed on a skewer to rotate upright against a heat source. The best version I ever had in my life was in East Jerusalem about 20 years ago. And then there’s anything you can stuff into a Pita, including Soujok, Ma’anek, Kafta and Falafel. Yes, Falafel is Arabic street food, and probably originated in Egypt. All of these Pita sandwiches include lots of veggies and usually a tahini or yogurt sauce, and are served wrapped in foil to keep the yummy juices in. As for Pies, meat, spinach, yogurt and cheese, mixed with spices or vegetables, are variously baked inside small open-face pastries or closed dumplings. If you see Sambousik, it’s a fried Lebanese lamb dumpling. The Mediterranean Gourmet Market makes the best and most varied versions, as they do Lebanese Pizza – Lahmeh B’Ajeen (baked with beef, onions, tomatoes and herbs), Manakish bel Za’atar (my favorite pizza on the planet!), Spinach Manakish, Manakish bil Jibneh (various cheeses). Sweets – You probably didn’t know that Syria consumes more sugar per capita then any other country. This part of the meal starts with Turkish coffee – the Ottomans ruled the Middle East for four centuries, until World War I – and almost always includes Baklava. In this case, the Greek version is far inferior, too heavy-laden with honey. The Syrian and Lebanese versions are washed in a simple syrup cut with cinnamon and rose water, and it is the perfect end to the feast. Kataifi is a shredded wheat version of Baklava, and Ma’amoul is a nice shortbread and almond cookie stuffed with dates, pistachios and/or walnuts. And now, Kibbee Nayee’s first-ever ranking of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Washington DC Metropolitan area: Mediterranean Gourmet Market in Franconia – More of a mini grocery with a few tables, but George and Lilian turn out the best Lebanese dishes in the area. This is my go-to Lebanese restaurant. Me Jana – Climbing my list because of consistent quality. The food is good, but they reach for general patronage with Calamari, Chilean Sea Bass, and Crab Cakes, but they deserve special credit for Potato Kibbeh, a Lenten version of Kibbeh. Mount of Lebanon – No alcohol, but the best Kibbee Nayee at the best price in the DC area. Whenever I’m missing, you can probably find me here. Lebanese Taverna – The original on Washington Blvd. in Arlington is still turning out quality food, but the rest of the kitchens are lagging behind. However, I had a few good meals at the Tysons Corner location in the past year. Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria – A nice but over-priced grocery, with the area’s best Pita breads fresh out of the oven, and the best selection of olives anywhere in the DC area. The food that comes out of the back is good, and the Za’atar Bread is first-class. Jerusalem Restaurant in Falls Church – Frustrating service, but pretty good food with somewhat of an emphasis on Palestine. Layalina – The only place that actually advertises that it serves Syrian food, with the area’s best selection of Hummus (Hummus bil Flay-Flay is a spicy version with Aleppo peppers, and it’s really good) and some of the best lamb shanks in the area. Cairo Café in Lincolnia – One of the only places where you can get real Koshary, so it has to be on the list by default. Shamshiry – I don’t want to ignore the Iranians here. Their food is really good, but just a little bit different than some of the Arabic dishes. Zaytinya – Lower on the list because it lacks some authenticity and throws in Greek and Turkish to make it seem like “Middle Eastern fusion” cuisine, but let’s face it, this is a good restaurant. Mama Ayesha’s – This place has its ups and downs, but it’s been around for a long time and its daily specials are damned good. Cedar Café in Burke – Serviceable neighborhood Middle Eastern lunch counter. Consider this a once-over, to be updated as the mood or new information strikes me. Hopefully, the members of our community who shy away from Middle Eastern food because they don't understand it will now partake with some confidence. May you have your meal with gladness and health! (bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā') بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا
  2. 12 likes
    My wife and I went last night for our inaugural dinner at Mirabelle. In short - Wow. In shortish - Amazing space, great service, great food and drink. A place to linger and indulge. Not cheap. At all. But for me, worth it. And now for the long form review. Parking - It's a little tricky in that area. They have valet right out front, so you always have that option. Fortunately, we only spent a couple of minutes circline and we found a great spot less than two blocks away. The Space - They have outdoor seating, but it was not yet ready. They are apparently planning on installing large patio umbrella over the whole space as well. The main doors are twofold right at the corner of the building. There's an interior door and the host stand is immediately to your left at the head of the main walkway toward the bar. We were a little early but they were able to seat us immediately in a booth (yay!) - big enough for four, but most of the booths had two people in them. It was not crazy busy when we got there, but filled up during the course of the evening (we were there from 8 to midnight). It really is a beautiful space with a lot of attention to detail. The chairs, the bar chairs and the booth seating is at the same time beautiful, sumptuous and above all comfortable. I especially like that the bar seating has seat backs (note, they are still not serving the menu at the bar). Designs are echoed across elements as well - it's well thought out. And the bathrooms are on the way to the kitchen and that hallway is where a lot of wine is stored/displayed (similar to my experience at Tin Lung Heen). It was funny, I mentioned to my wife that the space was not technically authentic Parisian, because the tables were not close enough together (haha - just kidding, I love the spacing here!). The Service - What a treat. Warm, well-informed staff are thorough and engaging, and know very well how to be unobtrusive as needed. They almost all predicted things we'd want or need before we ourselves knew. Katy was our server, and we hope to be always be under her care on all of our future visits. Jaren and Jennifer kept us well taken care of with some half glass pairings for our first course. Jaren in particular helped, when we decided to go Rhone instead of Burgundy, not only nailed the selection, he did it in a way that made it work with a difficult to manage line-up of courses we'd picked. We saw some Palena alums there as well - glad to see them again. Though we did not really experience the tableside finally delivery from pan to plate (exception - our first course soups), we did see this happen quite a bit. Fun. And though we did not see the actually cheese trolley, we were seated right next to the trolley of brandies and other goodies. I found it quite wonderful to watch how the staff managed a demanding customer with grace and professionalism - ultimately addressing the customer's desires while maintaining perfect decorum. Lastly, I forgot to mention the cocktails. They have a fairly sizable list of their own creations/variations. We tried the Coda (really, really good) and the Paul's Spritz (a little weak as compared to the Coda, but interesting). The food. Frank and Aggie have been on their game, both of them, for years. At Palena, then at Grill Room and now here at Mirabelle. But I have to admit, I think it is possible that they have raised their game again. While I will miss the sprinkling of Italian bits and pieces through Ruta's dishes, he just adapts to the situation and makes things fun. And, I am getting ahead of myself here, but Chin's desserts are exceptional. Truly. Bear in mind you will have two paths to follow on the menu - 1) a six course proposed meal (4 savory, 1 cheese, 1 dessert) with optional wine pairings and 2) picking from the regular menu (I So, without any further delay, here are the courses we selected-- Spring soup with buckwheat tempura walleye pike, tapioca with curry flavors and coconut. This dish was so good. The coconut and the curry were such great elements and the crisp of the tempura really held up in the soup and provided a nice textural contrast. Jaren helped us pair this with a 2015 Domaine Mardon 'Tre Vielles Vignes' Quincy (a sauvignon blanc I believe). Ruta's consomme is legendary. I crave this at the center of my being. I live for his endless variations of this dish and this one did not disappoint at all. Consomme...enveloping poached foie fras with chrysanthemum and spring radish. Hoo boy so good. And what a heady aroma. Anytime anythig with consomme or other brothy variants are on the dish, we have a standing rule that one of us needs to order it. Jaren suggested the pairing of a 2014 J. Fritsch 'Schlosserg'Riesling that I think was not only one of the best pairings I have ever had, but was also one of the best Rieslings I have ever had. Wow. Boudin blanc - cicken and foie fras sausage with house made lardons, spinach coulis and poached raisins. Clearly house made everything. The sausage was so fresh and perfectly prepared, it was almost quivering with glee as to got it in to your mouth. So damn good. And, while picking rankings of dishes is splitting hairs, this was on the bottom of the list of dishes we tried not for lack of being an excellent dish, but just because there was so much strong competition from the rest of the dishes we had at this meal. Tete du porc with baby leeks and truffle vinaigrette. I love all of the bits and parts of the meats I love so much and this, this is me on a dish in many ways.The mustard was clearly house made and provided the sharpness and mild sting to counter the richness of the planks of this pork. But there were also the lightly pickled carrots to help provide texture and zing. They event rolled up the carrots and stuffed it with a çarrot green top'on the one in the foreground. Too fun! I would order this again and again. We fell in love with beef tartare on our Alpine trip several years ago, liking perhaps the best the variants in Lucerne, Switzerland and Schladming, Austria (though the versions in Verona, Italy were amazing, though different). So we had to try this. This version is quite good. My wife liked it less than I, mainly because she pines for the more 'Germanic versions indicate above (the Germanic versions tend to only very lightly bind the meat, and leave all of the various pickled and other additions off to the side for you to endlessly experiment with combinations - sometimes even adding butter to the plate - note the butter in the background, but this was not served with the dish but the lovely breads we had earlier in the meal) - but I digress. I totally loved this dish. It's rich and decadent and wonderful - especially with the poached egg broken and leaked all over the lovely tartare. The brioche was a nice textural play and IIRC there were tiny potatoe strings spinkled on the top of the tartare that were tasty and provided more textural fun. The razor clams, I think, were added to the dish so as to cleanse your palate a bit between bites of the tartare. I didn't eat them that way as I slurped it all down before jumping in to the tartare. But I can see how and why it was added to the dish, I just personally think it was unnecessary. Squab nantua, the breast roasted with spices, the leg braised with morels, crayfish and spring asparagus. This was a spectacular dish. Perfectly cooked squab, well seasoned and just fantastic. The underpinning of the sauce (likely the braising liquid for the legs?) was the star of the show - it seemed almost ever so lightly goulash-y with a hint of light paprika and other mystery spices (maybe marjoram? no idea). So.Damn.Good. Order this. This paired really well with the 2014 Domaine Tunnel St. Joseph that we selected off the list with Jaren's help. It threaded the needle of fruitiness, but also a meatiness to it. Honeyed elements and a more thick viscosity revealed itself well after being open for a while. Yum. I went for this dish since we veered in to squab. It was a hard decision because there were other significantly tempting other mains to consider (the chicken, the bouillabaisse, the turbot, and more). But I went here and was not disappointed. Angus beef sirloin, dauphin potatoes, with beef tongue, bone marrow glazed carrots and spring onions, sauce bordelaise. I reallynot need to say anything more about this dish, right? The spring onions under there seemed to have been first grilled or seared, and then lightly braised. Wow. Again, a role player basically stealing the show again. And this on a plate of spectacular food. It's what Ruta does all the damn time. The Domaine Tunnel St. Joseph also paired well with this. Strawberry 'mille feuille' - buckwheat puff pastry, vanilla fromage blanc, strawberries, toasted buckwheat ice cream Where Chin got these strawberries this early in the season is curious, but they delivered for sure. And the buckwheat elements to this dish were lovely. It makes us want to experiment with this in the kitchen when strawberry season is in full swing as well. Matcha Rhubarb Roulade, matcha cake, yuzu cream, rhubarb compote, rhubarb sorbet. We have decided that if Chin has a dessert on the menu that involves anything on the tea spectrum, one of us needs to order it. I fell in love with and still dream about her 'Spot of Tea'dish she came up with while at Grill Room. This is a worthy successor in that line of thinking. I mean, this was the piece de resistance. A triumph. A masterpiece in flavor, subtle sweetness and amazing texture and flavor interplay. Wrapping things up on things I forgot to mention - they had three breads offered up for service - a pumpernickel, a baguette and something else. We tried the two I mentioned and enjoyed them a lot. The butter is whipped and the proper temperature and seasoning. If you got some off of the serving dish on to your knife, you were left with a peaked swirl on the butter still on the serving dish. Amazing! The cheese was excellent and they had maybe 12 to 15 to choose from. Katy offered to have us come look at the trolley to view them, but we were too lazy and ordered off of the list instead. Much to explore there. Enjoyed a 1975 Calvet-Thunevin GRenache 'Maury' Vin Doux Naturale from Roussillon, France with dessert. And then one of the Absinthes at a 3-to-1 ratio that we doctored up with a little more ice and water to probably the 4-to-1 ratio. Interesting to try but not my thing. I'll explore the brandies the next time. The thing is, it was almost unbearable that we did not order the proposed menu, because there was so much amazing stuff on that list that we knew we were passing on, but hey we will just have to come back. One thing to remember, you cannot currently order anything off of the proposed menu as an a la carte item. Yet, anyway. However, if one person in your party wants to the proposed menu, and others do not, they will happily accommodate you. Oh and you also get tasty petit fours at the end! All in all, I was very pleased with our first experience there. Dinner will often be our main experiences there, though lunch I am sure will be excellent as will the coming breakfast. Not sure if they are ever doing brunch, but you never know. It is expensive, I will admit. But the attention to detail here on not just the food front, but the service and the beverage program, not to mention the space and everything else that goes in to the experience, is, in my opinion, worth it. Plus, it is relatively easy to keep a lid on costs - we ordered a lot - cocktails, a couple of half glasses of wine, a total of 5 appetizers, a nice bottle of wine, two mains, a cheese course, two deserts, a dessert wine, a try at the absinthe and the petit fours at the end. You could easily omit several of these things and be full, satisfied, and drop a lot fewer dollars there as a result. And to experience the food elsewise, there is always lunch and the coming breakfast to allow you other opportunities to get back more often. And now...I'm hungry for more.
  3. 12 likes
    Charging $50 for a gallon of diesel and potato chips during a hurricane in the midst of a siege is gouging. Charging a premium for hand made leather shoes, top shelf booze or truffled noodles at a fancy restaurant is not. That ham sandwich is a blatant splurge, not an essential consumer good. Consumers are free to purchase other options for ½ the price, at Taylor Gourmet, where a commodity vegetarian sandwich somehow costs the same as a one with commodity meats. Spendthrifts can also buy cardboard flip-flops and burlap sheets. Mirabelle makes the bread, butter and ham from infinitely better ingredients, which commands a fair amount of knack, and none of that comes cheap. Ultimately, your gripe is with commercial landlords who are the scourge of humanity and deserve to collectively get syphilis.
  4. 10 likes
    Some friends and I had dinner at Mike Isabella's cavernous new restaurant in the Marriott Marquis downtown a few nights ago. There are a number of restaurants around town that I call my happy places -- 2 Amys, The Dabney, TUG, Himitsu, etc. -- where the food is often fantastic and is at minimum quite enjoyable, and we can sidle up to the bar for a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Arroz's vibe is about as opposite of that as you'll find without having something notably "wrong" with it. The space itself is as nice as could be expected given its size and location, which pops of pretty cobalt (plenty of photos online). We made the mistake of entering through the hotel; walking through that massive, sterile, vaguely chemical-smelling lobby is always a bit off-putting, and the feeling lingers in the mostly empty restaurant. Our server, while competent and very nice, had the sort of overly familiar, intrusive style that I'd bet -- pardon the gross stereotyping -- middle aged ladies and tourists will enjoy, but I can't stand. Think explaining relatively common menu terms (like espuma) unprompted, asking whether we were "loving" every dish that was brought to the table (a formulation that doesn't admit the possibility of not loving something, which rankles more if I don't love it), and describing every dessert on the menu in such excruciating detail (before handing over menus or asking whether we were interested in dessert) that we immediately asked for the check to avoid more engagement. These complaints feel mean-spirited, and to his credit, he did the technical aspects of serving well: cheerfully moving us to a booth when we asked, thoughtfully bringing extra flat bread so that everyone got his or her own piece, conscientiously accommodating requests for certain ingredients on the side in some dishes, etc. He just utterly failed to read his audience's interest in his spiels. But the net result is that I enjoyed the dinner less than I might have on the food's own merits. So, the food and drink: overall, I was pleasantly surprised. The cocktails were all excellent. A particular table favorite -- we all tried each other's -- was my order of the classic from the sherry category, which a light, floral, not-too-boozy combination of manzanilla, dry vermouth, and yellow chartreuse. The roasted carrot in the sour made the drink interesting without veering too sweet or savory. The abogado was a very slightly peaty old fashioned. The cobbler was a bit sweet for dinner, but would have done well on a hot summer day. The somm steered us to a lovely, slightly oxidated white blend (that was a bit cheaper than the white rioja that we'd asked about as a starting point for the conversation). The big eye tuna crudo (green apple, cucumber, smoked serrano broth, wild herbs) was light and very enjoyable, although I wished the tuna was a little firmer and the broth a little punchier. (Perhaps a hit more salt? This was something I wondered about in a number of dishes, which didn't taste particularly undersalted but just a bit shy of fully flavored.) A fantastic dip of burnt eggplant (moroccan flat bread, za'atar, pine nut, black garlic) had a smokey depth of flavor, and the accompanying flat bread delightfully evoked Komi's pancakesque pita (although not quite as good in texture, with a bit more of a bisquick-y note). Fried spanish red prawns (seaweed salt & lemon) were well seasoned and crispy, with the heads separated into a little dish of aioli, which had the complementary effects of flagging for the inexperienced diner that they were to be eaten but allowing the heads to be ignored by the squeamish. (I'm actually not sure whether the body shells were intended to be eaten. They were slit for easy peeling, but crispy enough to just eat whole. Our table ran the gamut on how we dealt with them. I ate everything but the tail.) But at over $8/prawn, this dish wasn't exactly a great value. (If you want whole fried shrimp, head to Himitsu for their superior and cheaper iteration.) A pretty salad of spring vegetables (carrot tahini, garlic streusel, charred baby beets, kalamansi vinaigrette) was as you'd expect, although the garlic streusel added nice bite; I'd have happily taken more of it. Even without the chorizo (which we got on the side), I enjoyed the smokey asparagus (marinated chorizo, egg yolk, san simon, chile emulsion), which had a bit more kick than the muted tuna dish. The most disappointing dishes were the saffron fideo noodles (cockles, razor clams, linguica sausage, sea urchin espuma) and the lobster soupy rice (mussels sea urchin, black bass, tomato escabeche, seaweed montadillo). The noodles were mushy-soft (which was particularly disappointing as I was expecting, perhaps unfairly, a slightly crisped noodle dish like the rossejat at Jaleo) and overwhelmed by a tasty but one-note creamy tomato sauce; urchin or other briny seafood flavors were muted. (I again didn't eat the sausage, but the meat eaters seemed even less impressed by this dish than I was. One technical service fail: after we ordered the sausage on the side, our server didn't think to mention that the dish came with duck fat breadcrumbs, although they did come segregated on a razor clam shell.) The seafood in the soupy rice was very well cooked, the lobster itself nicely tender, which can be a feat in these sorts of seafood variety stews -- but the tomato broth itself was disappointingly flat. The seaweed montadillo was a surprisingly light and delicious slice of dark bread adorned with lemony aioli, lobster, and urchin (enough pieces for us each to have one, which may have been another good service touch by our waiter). But our waiter's suggestion to combine it with the soupy rice to make a sort of "lobster roll" just resulted in burying the best part of the dish with the lackluster flavor of the escabeche. (At $62, this dish made me wish we'd ordered a more servings of the eggplant and pocketed the savings.) Better of the large plates was the maryland crab bomba (fried soft shells, baby squid, preserved tomato, crab fat aioli), which we ordered in a half-portion for $31 or $32 (the full order is $60, so a reasonable option). The slightly crisped-on-the-bottom rice was very satisfying with the more acidic tomatoes (as compared to the other tomato dishes) and fatty aioli, but the soft shells over-battered. (I don't think it's a coincidence that the bf, who didn't have any soft shell, liked this dish better than I did.) At these prices, and with this atmosphere, I'm not rushing back. Our meal was comparable in price to much better experiences at places like TUG, Little Serow, and Himitsu, and significantly more expensive than favorites like 2 Amys or Etto. But if someone else wanted to go, particularly for drinks, I wouldn't mind (although I would avoid the large plates in favor of the small). I'm guessing the size of the restaurant will make getting reservations relatively easy, and therefore Arroz would be a good option for large parties, especially of out-of-town family members who might get a thrill out of proximity to a Top Chef alum. (Isabella was in the restaurant, although his casual attire -- sporting a t-shirt with his name on it -- suggested perhaps not in the kitchen. We saw him chatting with Jeremiah Langhorne and his companions at a nearby table.)
  5. 9 likes
    Yea, the non-vegan. It was pretty good, competition for Taro, but a little too much gilding of the Lilly for my taste (e.g., otoro topped with foie)
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    You'd think at a French restaurant they would be more inclined to gougere rather than gouge.
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    Do you want to try it straight or in a dish? For the former, any high-quality sushi restaurant will have it (I'd recommend going with nigiri over sashimi if you have both options, as the soft texture and rich flavor are balanced by the rice). Sushi Ogawa had Maine, California, and Japanese uni on a visit a few months ago, which would be a good way to side-by-side the geographical differences (I tend to prefer California uni to Maine, as I find it sweeter/creamier.) To try it as part of a composed dish, you're likely going for Japanese or Italian. Izakaya Seki's uni with quail is an unctuous delight. Himitsu has it atop chawanmushi (which I haven't tried, but sounds delicious, and they're good at pretty much everything) or as nigiri/sashimi. Morini's bucatini has uni, crab, and tomato and has been very good (and is basically always available), and I believe that Fiola Mare sometimes does an uni bucatini as well (although the uni is more of an accent than the star in most pasta dishes). (I believe the District Fishwife in Union Market sometimes sells it as well, if you're inclined to take it home.) When I first started eating uni, I found the texture to be off-putting; if you're texturally sensitive, a composed dish may be the way to go.
  8. 8 likes
    Baby Wale had Sapporo style but is now serving Nagoya style ramen!
  9. 7 likes
    Once when I was in high school I borrowed my mother's car and accidentally left a mix tape of Dead songs in the player. A few days later Mom asked whose music it was, then asked me for a copy so she could listen to it in her Walkman. A few years after that I scored tix to a Dead show, on the field at RFK Stadium. In addition to my brother and his wife and some friends, I brought my parents. They had a blast. They loved the music (except for the space jam), loved that everyone was dancing, didn't mind all the joints being passed around (though they didn't partake). My parents were generally conservative but open-minded when it came to music of any kind. I don't remember how many shows I went to, but not enough.
  10. 6 likes
    Hey there, Soo, I'm late to the party with this comment... but we aren't on caviar. But have our own delivery crew. To give you a rough idea of our limit, we will go as far north as Harvard, East it's 5th st, Sourth is Mt. Vernon Sq and West is Connecticut ave. Truth is, we have a limited delivery range, and don't use the delivery apps, because our kitchen can't handle the extra load. We have to focus on quality over quanity. We get close to the breaking point most nights, and definelty go past it on weekends. If we expanded our range, we would get crushed by orders.
  11. 6 likes
    It's been some years since we've been to Ray's the Steaks but we were tired of our usual rotation restaurants and decided to revisit. It's still good and still a good deal! I think the wine has gotten more expensive, but the $26 malbec I got was just fine! Wine was a perfect temperature too (rare these days!) Crab bisque, hangar steak, steak au poivre, sides same quality as before. Service still good. I think only cholesterol concerns will keep me from adding it to my regular rotation, but I've added it to my once in a while rotation.
  12. 6 likes
    I do think it's important to note that there's a fundamental distinction between the lack of affordable fine dining and the lack of affordable good dining. To my mind, D.C. suffers from both, because it's beset by chains and blandness and general lack of value for money at all price points, not simply the very top. This is significant because, while one should expect to pay high prices for more refined food, luxury ingredients, whisper-soft service, and elegant ambience (which appears to be the thrust of Fintastic's point above), it's simply not true in many, many places that one should expect to pay high prices for delicious or interesting or even exciting food that does not have, or need, the level of refinement necessary to qualify as "fine" dining. Many of the best meals of my life have been dirt-cheap, especially relative to the quality of the food. (That yakitori place in Tokyo with random skewers of amazing chicken parts for $1.50 each...man.) So it is a bit of a strawman, I think, or at least an incomplete argument, to focus on the consequences of DC's unique milieu on the kind of food you expect to pay a lot of money for regardless -- I'm never going to rail against the steep markup at Ruth's Chris or The Prime Rib, for example, because those places are what they are -- because the larger issue isn't "hey, this restaurant opened up catering to the expense account crowd, and I'm mad that it means a legendary chef's prices are higher than they might be," it's more (as someone observed earlier) "hey, i wish there was a more vibrant and affordable restaurant scene at all price points, but that's hard to do in this city because so much of the current development is centered around 'new builds,' which are biased towards the profit margins of the investors and property managers over all else." Fine dining will always be expensive; it comes with the territory. Good dining doesn't have to be -- and, in many many many cities in the world, it usually isn't.
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  14. 6 likes
    Thought it's about time to introduce myself here too. I'm the current chef/owner (together with Ricardo - he just doesn't like to admit it) of Maple. It's been more than two years since the change in ownership (although we both were working at Maple for years prior). We have a completely new menu, stop by, check it out, say hi. Occasionally I'll be posting about some cool stuff we're doing (like seasonal 30 seat 5 course tastings with beverage pairings), or some promos (like $35 3-course dinner Sunday Monday). Anyways, wanted to say hi and it would be great to hear positive/negative feedback (especially constructive negative...) or any thoughts in general. Cheers! Justė
  15. 6 likes
    On the SPECIALS MENU (March 5, 2017): PISTACCHIODELLA: Pistacchio cream sauce, thinly sliced red onions, gruyere cheese, more chopped pistacchios, a drizzle of olive oil, topped off with shaved mortadella
  16. 6 likes
    One thing I've learned about the top tier Texas BBQ joints is that they have pitmasters who have dedicated years not only to the craft, but to a particular smoker setup and particular space. The interaction of equipment and environment have a huge effect on the final product in central Texas-style barbecue. I imagine that DC can't hope to have a "great" barbecue place until someone makes that kind of long term commitment.
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    I never know what you're talking about but I love the "Silicon Valley" reference.
  18. 6 likes
    Ferhat: Here are some benefits to claiming the listing: (this is for Ferhat, but its useful for other restaurants and local businesses) 1. you can upload pictures, rather than have anyone's good or bad pictures be uploaded. FYI, when uploading check out how they show. You can control the visual impact via cropping, which can make a big visual difference. 2. You can respond to reviews in google....good and bad. 3. you can choose categories, which can have a significant impact on how well your restaurant shows for various search terms in google. 4. You can change and update your hours of operation......and other benefits. 5. Currently a verified owner is the strongest source of data in google. I've been working on this "stuff" for over 10 years. Ever since google started google maps and set up a system for small businesses there have been endless problems with the information that is shown and getting it corrected. Their systems are far better today and in the last few years but they are still prone to errors and mistakes. One of the issues that continues to haunt some businesses is that an ex employee or a "now disgruntled" ex employee has control of the "claimed listing". It is why you should do it yourself. Google's systems for correcting this are better but not fullproof. Do it with a gmail account. You can give access to that account to an employee but you should control it and ensure that access via a cell phone. It gives you control and gives them access to you to correct bad mistakes. BTW: I reported the erroneous "closed message via a 2nd gmail address. One way to hasten correction is to crowd source it. But the best way is to claim the listing. You can do it at night, at home etc. Its simple. Here is the general link to the process but I'd do it off the picture of the box that Joel provided. That "box" is called the google knowledge box. One other thing: Google has not associated the website and url with the brick and mortar business to date, or made a strong association. One can tell that by searching for your business by name in google ie...something like this....."Drift on 7th, DC". If google had made a strong connection...by you having claimed the listing...your url would show first in their results, rather than the news stories and other items that rank over your website. If you are going to share the "management of a listing" with an email set up a separate gmail acct for the business...something like DriftonSEVENTH@gmail, or anything you choose. That way employees don't have access to your email. Once you claim the listing your url will almost assuredly pop up first for searches by name. (claiming is that important these days). BTW: Once you claim the listing in google also claim it in bing. The process is similar. Take the time to carefully add categories. They are important for visbility. Restaurant and Seafood are no brainers but there could be other helpful categories. you can add categories later...but definitely do restaurant and seafood now. There are STILL an enormous number of searches in google for things like "restaurants DC", "restaurants Shaw", "seafood restaurants DC" etc with seafood being a major subcategory. Lets see, within the last couple of months Dino's was reported "closed" in google. He got FB fans to report it in google and it changed within a day. One other thing I noticed...google is mixed up between the connection to the location between Fishnet and Drift on 7th. You can see that via the google reviews.which are old fishnet reviews.... Ultimately those can also be changed although its a more cumbersome process As long as you are "claiming listings", claim it in Yelp, outside of the two big search engines that is the site(directory) which will be viewed the most by likely visitors and diners. You want that updated also. (I haven't looked up Drift on Yelp) Good luck. But seriously, claim the listing yourself. If you don't want to be responsible for handling and managing it...give access to that gmail acct and managing the listing to an employee...but make sure you have control. Its really easy. Thank goodness. It hasn't always been easy.
  19. 6 likes
    I dunno. Ick. Chris Kimball is among the most annoying TV personalities of all time, the "Cooks Illustrated" quest for the perfect meatball or the quintessential pimiento-loaf sandwich schtick is tiresome to the point of shoot-me, and Kimball's down-home reflections on the beauties of Vermont traditions inspire a certain sympathy with a number of mass murderers. Marcella Hazan? Craig Claiborne?
  20. 5 likes
    Final thoughts We were pleasantly surprised with Delhi, it's a lush city with plenty to do, with lovely monumental tourists sites, Humayun's Tomb in particular is wonderful, beautiful gardens (Lodhi), and we didn't even get to half the things we wanted to see. We could have easily spent another 3 or 4 days exploring. We were also very fortunate that our friends live in South Delhi, near the US embassy, in a lovely apartment. It helped that they live in a gated community and we could escape the crazy. They also have a cook/housekeeper and driver, as well as a water purification system...clean water! Needless to say, we weren't roughing it. I would say that the end of March/beginning of April is about as late in the first half of the year that you will want to visit Delhi. Afternoon temperatures were in the high 90s to 100 degree range. Although mornings and evening were still pleasant, we quickly abandoned mid-afternoon activities. Consider January-early March. Delhi is also a good jumping off spot to hit other places: Agra/Taj Mahal is about a 2:30-3:30 hour drive, Jaipur and the rest of Rajasthan are easy to get to, and with some advanced planning you can visit Hill Station towns and the Himalayas. We also ate excellently the whole trip. From low-end to high-end, really delicious food. The paneer was amazing everywhere and we ate more than our fair share of butter naan. Unless you are hitting a high end restaurant (See Masala Library or Indian Accent) you can eat cheaply...for lunch you can easily get away with under 500 rupee ($7.50), go to a dosa joint and it's going to about 250 rupee ($4)...and that's not uncommon for dinner either. Routinely our total dinner bill for 5 people was 2,000 rupee ($30). Unfortunately the alcohol situation is not good. You're just going to have to accept that you aren't going to drink well in India. Wine is expensive and the selection is poor. For some reason, Kendall-Jackson and Chateau St. Michelle are the go to American wines and both sell for $15+ a glass and sell for $60-$75 a bottle. Rieslings also seem to be popular in Delhi, your basic bottle of Dr. Loosen, $75+. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot, $200. Indian wine is just not very good, but at least you can get a glass for under $10. Beer is no better. The best beer I saw all trip was Hoegaarden. Most places sell King Fisher (The Bud of India), and Heineken, or if you are lucky Corona. Cocktails are also generally poorly mixed. By the end of the trip I was buying shots of gin and mocktails and making my own mixed drinks. My best advice is to stay sober and spend your rupees on something else. This was my third trip to India, and first to North India. It's a country of contradictions, it can be frustrating, you'll probably feel crappy, jet lagged, with a dodgy stomach. It's dirty and loud and fragrant - usually not in a good way. But it's an endlessly fascinating country and I feel fortunate that I've been able to visit and hopefully return soon. Namaste.
  21. 5 likes
    Anyone still going here? I kid as Sushi Capitol was completely occupied when @MichaelBDC and I arrived shortly after 8:00pm last night minus two seats at the counter that were awaiting us. Pleasantly surprised to see both Chef Ogawa and Chef Tetsuya behind the counter. Seems to me that there is more of a neighborhood vibe here than a year ago, and that is not a bad thing! The omakase was enjoyable as always. I don't know if Chef Tetsuya remembered our love of octopus or not, but he thoughtfully gave us a bite of charred octopus on top of warmed radish midway through our meal. The toro was so good I asked for another serving at the end. Better than the fish, was the hospitality of the chefs and Mourat, who has ably taken over for Can as the GM.
  22. 5 likes
    Tom Sietsema declared this to be the best seafood restaurant in DC! I beg to differ. I would have to assume that Tom got special treatment because every Jose employee is probably required to know his face. First, no geoduck, no sea urchin, and no hush puppies. I didn't realize that hush puppies need to be sourced like other pristine seafood. So we started with some scallop crudo, which should taste mild and sweet. Ours tasted slightly fishy, which made me want to hide the flavor by ingesting the celery in black pepper giardiniera. Next, roasted oysters, served with a side of Fresno chili butter sauce. One of our 5 oysters didn't pop. I complained and they replaced the order with 5 shucked oysters roasted with the sauce, which actually tasted better. Lastly, lobster jambalaya. The rice was slightly crunchy, and if you don't dig out the lobster immediately, it will become overcooked. I wouldn't say the lobster was perfectly cooked when it arrived at our table, but waiting will make it much worse. The flavor wasn't anything special. Nate Waugaman didn't shine at America Eats Tavern, why would he all of a sudden become the chef at DC's best seafood restaurant?
  23. 5 likes
    Drove past Darna today, and then checked its website. While I haven't stepped inside yet, a few things caught my eye.... First, the stylized "D" logo is actually "Darna" in Arabic, with the letter "D" accentuated to appear as a fancy letter "D" in Arabic, and "arna" in Arabic script inside it. Clever and artistic. Second, the place is apparently laid out like a house, bedroom and all. I can't wait to see the inside to see how they pulled it off. Third, this isn't a Muslim Halal place -- liquor is on the menu, including three different brands of Arak, wine by the glass including Ksara (Lebanon), and cocktails like "Beirut" (vodka, Frangelico, lime juice and simple syrup). Fourth, but most important, there is kibbee nayee on the menu -- spelled "kibbiniya"...!! Having performed reconnaissance, I now intend to tuck in and check it out.
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    I was there last week with a 6-top, so we got to sample quite a few things. We got the whole roasted foie lobe - it was worth every penny of the $150. No joke. We also had the lobster french toast (I order this every time, and the one time we didn't, Chef sent one out as a gift. He sure showed me!), and the Duck Confit a L'Orange. That duck was incredible - it was compressed into a loaf with the crispy skin on top. I didn't want to share. For mains, we shared the whole chicken, short ribs, and seared scallops. I'd order every single one again. They're all what I feel like when I eat Eric's food - they are classic preparations, with enough of a twist to make you consider the ingredient and the preparation, without distracting from the food. Desserts (we did not have room at this point, but soldiered on) included the maple syrup dumplings and creme brulee. And birthday ice cream cake! The praline they are currently serving with the coffee is cinnamon cashew. They are different restaurants, but there's something of a parallel between Kinship/Metier and Rose's Luxury/Pineapple and Pearls. I know that the Silverman pair gets the media attention, but having eaten at Rose's just a couple of weeks ago, given the choice, I'd go to Kinship every time.
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    It is reasonable to consider whether the markups support healthy employee wages (cheers) and/or cushion revolting commercial landlord greed (jeers). Roger Marmet is known to be an exceptionally fair and even generous employer. And better ingredients cost more money than marginal ones.
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    I have been carefully considering my review but am feeling far too lazy to put much work into it. Convivial underwhelmed at every turn even though I used this thread as ordering guide. The entire time I was dining, I kept thinking "Chaplin's around the corner was so much cheaper and far more interesting in concept..." also "Why are we not at Corduroy?" (because I Didn't make the reservation). The deep- fried duck thing is good because it is deep fried. The coq au vin is like described up-thread; General Tao's chicken. I did have a fish and beet dish that were very good, very very good but the online menu is not pulling them up. I'm tempted to delete this poor excuse for a post...
  27. 5 likes
    On the one hand, you have EMP rising to the number 3 overall spot on the SP top worldwide list this year. On the other hand, you have Tom Sietsema saying he was 'bored'. Having dined here this weekend, I'm going to side with Pellegrino. To be fair to Mr. Sietsema, EMP changed their format - reportedly in January after his visit. It used to be 20+ courses lasting more than four hours. Our experience on Saturday was eleven courses, and clocked in a few minutes shy of the three hour mark. Booking the reservation is like many of the other top restaurants - 28 days in advance, phone lines open at 9am sharp. Call at 9:30 and get offered a 5:30 table. 5:45? Lunch. Well, it just so happens that my four month old decided to throw an epic tantrum at 8:55, so lunch it is! I was hesitant - after all, it is the same price, supposedly the same menu, but having this meal be a lunch felt like it may lessen the experience. But it also seemed like it may lessen the wine bill, so lunch it was. Side note- the restaurant does offer a limited number of reservations from Open Table - released also at 9am each day and snapped up immediately. Courses (some of these weren't full courses, but for the sake of simplicity...): 1. Black and White - savory cookie with Apple and Cheddar. 2. Cucumber with cream cheese and rye, melon variations with tomato and goat cheese, cucumber with honeydew and mint, cantaloupe with smoked watermelon 3. Foie Gras marinated with strawberry and black pepper. This course had several options, my wife chose crab covered with tiny zucchini. The foie also had an option of a sauteed lobe or the terrine, as you can see below, I chose the terrine. 4. Caviar picnic with pickled mackerel and ratatouille. So a server drops off a picnic basket at your table and asks you to unpack it, then stops by a few minutes later to explain. Within the basket were small jars of ratatouille topped with caviar, the pickled mackerel, two jars of osteria over creme fraiche toasts, and a jar of tomato water champagne. It was a relatively straightforward caviar course made a little more fun with the picnic theme. And I want to know where to buy that tomato champagne. 5. Sunflower with green tomato and sunflower crumble. This was also a choice course - my wife chose the creamed sweet corn with clams. This course, for both options, was as close as a miss as there was for me. The braised sunflower was fine, but was served over the green tomato coulis and a dollop of what tasted similar to mayonnaise. Too many tart flavor profiles which the crumble couldn't offset. My wife's creamed corn was much more delicious, but the presentation was sloppy and the clams weren't needed. I'm splitting hairs, but probably our least favorite course. 6. Lobster Boil. Another choice between the lobster boil and a smoked fish. The lobster boil was exactly what you would expect - lobster, clams, shrimp, sausage, beans etc cooked in a minestrone sauce, the drained out over paper on the table. Completely unexpected for the type of restaurant, and delicious. Saw a few other tables get the smoked fish and were very glad with our choice (which had to be agreed upon) 7. Duck - honey and lavender glazed with cherry and onion. Other choices were steak and something vegetarian. Just a wonderful piece of duck. 8. Corn custard with garlic and lime and roasted tomato with compressed bread. 9. Hudson Valley Camembert with plum and basil. Basically small muffins with a camembert filling. At first I was disappointed in this as the cheese course, but these were very well done - it was almost more of a crusted cheese than a cheese muffin. Inhaled. 10. Apricot that was grilled at the table, served with lemon thyme ice cream and honey 11. Chocolate 'Name that milk' game and pretzel with sea salt. Four chocolate bars were set on the table with a small game card - challenge was to guess which was made with cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk. The wine pairings here felt a little ridiculous. Full pairing for $245 comes in as being more expensive than the cost of the food if you remove the inclusive service charge (225 -> 295) with the 'esoteric pairing' I believe at 170. We split a bottle of sparkling rose to start the meal, then my wife had two glasses of chardonnay and I had a pilsner and a manhattan from the manhattan cart (which I got far more entertainment out of than I maybe should have), along with the gratis brandy at the end. Total booze bill was still less than one wine pairing would have been, and we were pleasantly day drunk on the way out. There was very little gastronomy. There wasn't a lot of flash. But there certainly was not boredom. It never felt like the lag between courses was excessive, and I'm a guy who likes to keep things moving. The little interactive touches like the picnic basket, grilling the apricot at the table, the lobster boil, the chocolate game kept things interesting. Sure, if I went every week they might become trite, but I doubt that frequency is a problem for many diners. This was also a menu that had heavily seasonal accents - lots of fresh corn and late summer tomatoes. The one curiosity I did have was the difference between lunch and dinner. They say its the same menu, the same price, etc. But did the evening meal have the asparagus cooked in pig's bladder that I'd heard so much about? Or the caviar benedict instead of the picnic? Who knows - but I volunteer to go back to investigate next time someone else is paying! For those wondering, the total bill was $818. 295 base price including tip, plus $70ish worth of tax and the alcohol.
  28. 4 likes
    A good poke requires as much skill as a good Bloody Mary. Which is to say, significant. And a good poke doesn't need to have any rice at all...shouldn't, even. Just good cuts of fish and some artful combination of, e.g., soy, sesame oil, green onion, white onion, sesame seeds, chile pepper, seaweed, and masago. Mmmmmm. Asking its appeal vis-a-vis ceviche and sashimi is like asking the appeal of hamburgers vis-a-vis steak, brisket, and beef ribs. They're their own distinct things.
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    Dinner a week ago at Mirabelle was such a let down that it made me wonder whether I would still love Palena if I could go back in time and eat there today. Is my memory of my first time in the cafe, at the bar, eating a hamburger, the old fry plate with lemons, and Ann Amernick's platonic ideal of a brownie sundae, a meal which to this day remains a favorite, simply an experience I wouldn't enjoy today? Putting aside some issues with oversalting, nothing was all that tasty at Mirabelle. We ate 1 tasting menu, and a few first courses. Best part of the meal was the cheese course. The spring soup with buckwheat tempura walleye pike that Pool Boy enjoyed was gross during our visit. One note bitterness with stale curry flavors. The lobster plate had an interesting texture, neither raw nor fully cooked, and quite chewy. The cured trout that started the tasting menu was bland, forgettable, ho-hum, and worsened with an over salty potato bite. A salmon and white asparagus plate was also bland and boring. The john dory with sauce americaine was the best dish on the tasting menu yet nothing special. The lamb shoulder was too salty and plated with pretty vegetables that were pretty flavorless. The souffle to finish the meal was fine as in passable, decent, ok. Ruta and Chin were in the house so not entirely sure what to make of such a lackluster meal.
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    Had dinner at the newest Mike Isabella concept on Friday. DC restaurants love to play musical chair with their chefs, so you got to hit them while they still have the opening chef, when they seem most eager to please and impress. I was duly impressed. We ordered 6 dishes, asked them to be coursed because I hate a table full of food getting cold. They arrived 1 by 1, quickly but with enough time for moderately quick eaters to finish up. Some might think it was too quick... 1. Salt Cod Croquettes. The fish was fishy, in a good way. You know you're eating salt cod. I've had way too many bacala or bacalao dishes in DC that tastes more like potato than fish. This beats the versions I've had at Tails Up Goat & Convivial. 2. Spanish Red Prawns. Each order usually has 3 prawns, but our waiter asked if we wanted to even it out. We said yes and it was as good a decision as pulling out at the right time. The fried heads were good but the tender torsos were even better. Prawns can be expensive, at roughly $9 each, these aren't bargains but they're worth the money. 3. Saffron Fideo Noodles. Nicely cooked seafood but they're generally drowned out in the sauce, and the noodles were far from al dente. I'd pass on this dish next time. 4. Hot Smoked Bone Marrow. It's bone marrow... 5. Crispy Sweetbreads. These were slightly too salty but the texture of the sweetbreads were like tofu. I can't remember a more tender sweetbread, which reminds me that my mom use to lie to me and told me the pigs brain is tofu. For sweetbread fans, these are definitely worth trying. 6. Chermoula Lamb Ribs. I've had meatier and more tender lamb elsewhere (e.g., Tails Up Goat). Again, a normal order is 3, and we opted to even it out (but it wasn't necessary).
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    Dropped in today. Atmosphere is pleasant, with some awesomely cheeseball lounge covers as the soundtrack--think Foo Fighters played as a samba. Very friendly host and waitstaff. The chef attended several broths in sort of a semi-open kitchen (think hockey penalty box) next to the bar. "Hakata" Tonkotsu was thick and velvety as you'd want it to be, with thin scallions, egg and four generous slices of tenderloin inside along with a standard-size portion of noodles. The flavor of the broth was maybe just slightly too salty and the meat just a little overdone, but overall this was an excellent bowl of ramen I'd put up against Jinya or Ren's. Yeahwife enjoyed Buta Kakuni and its generous pork belly slices. I also enjoyed a couple bites of the crispy chicken in the Karedon donburi we ordered for four-yeah-old, and the curry itself was pleasantly spicy, though perhaps best enjoyed on the side. I think Columbia Pike now hosts our go-to ramen shop. Next I think I'll give the Shio a try and see how it compares with Bantam King's.
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    Needless to say, there are two *very* important takeaways from this page: 1) No matter how much (or little) you may "like" or "trust" an expert, there really *are* off-nights except at the fanciest, most-expensive restaurants where they can afford to have great depth of staffing. 2) It is imperative to remember that I review *meals*, and not *restaurants*. The National Association of <whatever-it's-called> has guidelines that say critics must have at least three meals in a restaurant before writing a review. Personally, I don't think that's enough - five, ten, or even twenty visits, at different times and days, in different situations, with multiple people, preferably anonymously (but not necessarily if you're honest, which many people aren't) are closer to what I think the standards should be. This is why it's *so important* for people to chime in here, regardless of what I say. Also, it's just as important to remember that my "ratings and rankings" are meant as quick guidelines, only for people in a hurry. Yes, they're useful, but they're not the final word by any means. Thanks to all of our wonderful members.
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    I was just having a similar conversation on a different topic with a friend down in TN. If you don't have the population base to support inventive or non commercial endeavors, what does become mainstream has lost most of its uniqueness. Frankly, DC cuisine is always going to be less interesting than other cities on East Coast because of the economics. NYC will support original or obscure restaurants if it is good. Philadelphia has a population base that will try new things. DC and the surrounding metro area have high rents that preclude chefs from taking risks and over the past decade as gentification has taken hold in the DC proper and quasi urbanization has weaved itself into the suburbs, it has only gotten worse. Of course this has nothing to do with Mirabelle or Chef Ruta's restaurants, we have enjoyed Palena on our visits.
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    It's not impossible, actually, if "transcendent" and "cut-rate" and "highest possible" are toned down for hyperbole. There are half a dozen cities I've been where it seemed, to me, with my upper-middle-class privilege of having a well-paying DC job (which will soon no longer be the case), that cheap/affordable/reasonable, delicious, and even innovative food was virtually everywhere (Portland, Austin, Berlin, Madrid, Tokyo-though-admittedly-because-the-dollar-was-strong, even New York, honestly, if one stays in the midrange independent places and does due diligence, almost anywhere with a vibrant street-food scene and a food-loving culture, a bunch of random smaller places in southern and central Europe) in a way that it is certainly not remotely here in the district. It's not unattainable. It's just unattainable here, in the land of the expense account and the restaurant groups and the property manager preference for chain places or super high-end places or both. It doesn't have to be the way it is here. Not to say there aren't great things here, but I totally disagree with any notion that the things I describe aren't far more attainable in a number of other places. But the rest of your post is certainly quite well-taken.
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    Today's crossword puzzle. 41 Across: corduroy ridge Wale. Thanks chef!
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    Last question first: When I say "progressive", I'm pretty much sticking to a definition that sees progress as something that helps the overall human condition. Of course, that's subjective and things like Prohibition were seen as progressive, then rejected as not helping. Basically, I'd like to think that "progressive" means that individuals' access to the things they need to survive &/or improve their daily lives increase. In that sense, even partially fixing a very broken system (like health care) and making it less broken, even temporarily, is progressive. Other questions: #1: the Affordable Care Act increased the # of people who were covered for Health Care (more about this later). More importantly, it increased peoples' ability to get coverage for their Pre-existing Conditions, for their Mental Health needs and for other concerns. This alone was progressive, in that the Emergency Room ceased being the primary caregiver for a lot of people. Not only is this good for the recipients of care, who now have a "plan" and someplace to use other than the ER, but I'd argue that it was/is progressive for taxpaying society as a whole. For example, without a plan that enables a person to go to a caregiver for a specific issue -- a caregiver who can work on the specific issue directly -- using the ER means that all the general workups required in an "emergency" room come into play (batteries of unrelated tests, for example) & are then billed to the taxpayer one way or another (Medicaid is government funded, indigent use is paid for by State/Local assistance to the ER or raising costs on their other services). So, for someone with Mental Health needs (for example), instead of being "covered" to go directly to a Mental Health outpatient clinic and be seen, the ER visit becomes 10x the cost (well actually much more) and doesn't necessarily provide anything of value to the recipient except a referral to an outpatient clinic & some emergency meds. #2: shifting the burden of paying for these folks to the Insurance Companies who would offer the plans is what was totally unsustainable. Insurance Companies are in business, as are any other businesses, to make profit. Totally understandable. Income from those paying premiums has to exceed bills for services being reimbursed + overhead (including salaries) to make a profit. Trying to force these businesses to accept all these new folks who are known to be in need of services without offsetting it by dramatically increasing the # of folks who will pay premiums but hardly use services, is unsustainable and the companies will (& did) opt out where their income from those paying premiums did not cover all the services being billed for by the needy. It didn't happen at first because the Federal Govt. added $$ to the pot for several years to "get it going". #3: becomes obvious if you accept my argument above. As Insurance Companies opt out, a single payer "Medicare for all" approach becomes the long term successor to the current situation. Medicare has nothing to do with your employer (if you have one), but is a Govt run or sponsored program that, well, here's a link to a better explanation than I can give: http://www.pnhp.org/facts/what-is-single-payer The above is, obviously, just how I see it and there are arguments advanced by those who want to take away benefits from sectors of the population, from those who want to tinker with the current Insurance Company based system to make it somewhat better or retard its regression, etc... Clearly, its a complicated issue & it doesn't help that the current ACA supporters don't seem to want to talk about the difference between being "covered" by a plan and being able to use it (deductibles, choice of doctors, availability of services in certain areas -- these are just some of the barriers to usage). Many who signed up & are in the stats used to show that more people are now covered can't afford to go see their assigned physician & get help. But that's for another discussion. God, I've gone on long enough.
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    I had lunch there yesterday. When we made reservations there 4 or 5 days earlier, the only available times were 11:30 am or 1:00 pm or later. I was surprised when I arrived at 12:45 that easily one half of the tables were unoccupied. They must still be operating on a soft opening schedule to iron out all of the wrinkles in the kitchen and the service. That being said, the place is beautiful. I ordered the yellowfin tuna nicoise. It came on an oval plate with a good sized portion of confit tuna, nicely dressed greens with thin slices of purple fingerling potatoes and a ramekin filled with (from top to bottom) extremely finely diced boiled egg whites, extremely finely diced olives, and red pepper purée. A clever play on the standard nicoise, and delicious to boot! My host ordered the bouillabaisse, and based on how much was left it was delicious too. After we finished eating we went to the bar for another glass of wine. I asked the bartender for something different and he suggested I try the Michael Shaps Petit Manseng from Virginia. I consider myself fairly well schooled in the area of wine, but I had never heard of the winery or the varietal before. I am normally skeptical of Virginia wines, but decided to try it. The wine was delicious, but probably more suited to drink with food than as an aperitif. I will definitely be returning. Dinner service starts next week, I think.
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    Because of a career transition, I have found myself at the Cosmos Club many times in 2017 and yet, am not a member. I don't know if that makes my review more or less biased because I actually cannot pick up the bill at Cosmos. I am a fan. First off, the service is absolutely perfect. Second, the building is amazing, beautiful, old, and historic. Third, the walls are full of history. Forth, I feel incredibly young and extraordinarily beautiful when I dine at Cosmos. If you exclude grandchildren, I am usually the youngest in the room by about 20 years. It's amazing. But really, I'm here to tell you about the food. When I first went to dine, I assumed that I would get a big baked potato with sour cream, cheddar cheese and bacon bits. I had, however, a very lovely lobster salad that was lightly, and yet perfectly dressed. ALso, I'm a huge soup and crab fan. Even though their crab soup has square carrots in it, I love it. It's very good and the crab is, I think, added at the end so it keeps its crabby, sweetness. My theory is that the average age of the members is quite advanced and their chef is personally invested in keeping them all alive as long as possible so created a wonderful, light, tasty, healthy menu. He should be commended.
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    Went for dinner on Saturday night. I'm not one to overly fixate on atmosphere but it was pretty depressing. It's a big place with tons of seating and multiple cooking stations in plain sight. So when the seats aren't filled and the cooking stations are underutilized or dark, it's noticeable. Plus there's the desolation of the mall itself, which wasn't such a big deal when the place was packed but becomes a further drag now that it's not. The food itself was good in spots, such as the de-boned and butterflied branzino, but mostly felt faded as well. I hope they can fix things because the vibes aren't good. You can read my full report, which I took no pleasure in posting, on my blog: https://rickeatsdc.com/the-saddest-restaurant-in-washington/
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    Had a wonderful meal at Amoos on Saturday night. 1. Koobideh, Chicken Tandoori, and Lamb 2. Saffron Ice Cream.
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    Chioggia beet and Cara Cara orange salad with shallot vinaigrette and mint crème fraîche. Leek ravioli with ricotta cheese and pancetta, served with Meyer lemon-butter sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. First time making ravioli too. The ones in the background were my first attempt, and I discovered that a teaspoonful of filling per raviolo was too much. The dough was also too thick. You can see how much thinner and smaller the successive ones are as you proceed to the foreground. B pronounced the pasta a success and we'll be making them again. I can see wontons in my future.
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    Arugula Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Egg 1/4 lb. pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed of their woody ends and sliced on a bias 2 tsp. olive oil salt black pepper mixed salad greens (mesclun, arugula) 2 eggs Combine asparagus and oil in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan or Pyrex baking dish and roast in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes. Cook the eggs by slipping them into boiling water. Boil for 9-10 minutes, then plunge eggs in ice water and peel. When asparagus is done, transfer to a salad bowl. Toss with salad greens. Transfer to a plate. Quarter the eggs and top salad with them. Drizzle with 1 tsp. dressing (recipe follows), then serve immediately. This recipe is sized for two people. ========================== This is our template recipe for salad dressing. Macerating the shallots in salt and vinegar helps take off any harsh edges off of the shallots. We'll vary this template occasionally by adding herbs (thyme and Italian parsley are favorites), substituting white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar for the red wine vinegar, or a very small pinch of sugar which helps round flavors. What typically happens is that as our batch is running low, I'll make a fresh batch and add it to the pre-existing one so that the jar of dressing never completely empties. Shallot Vinaigrette 1 shallot, finely minced pinch of salt 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar 1 oil-packed anchovy fillet 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil Combine shallot with salt and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Stir a couple of times. Macerate shallots for 5 minutes. Mash anchovy fillet into a paste. Transfer to a small bowl or glass mixing cup. Add shallot mixture. Whisk in olive oil until ingredients are well-combined and emulsified. =========================== 8 chicken thighs, seasoned generously with salt and black pepper. Clockwise from bottom: three carrots, trimmed, peeled and sliced on a bias; 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 2" lengths; 2 onions, trimmed and peeled, then cut into chunks. 10 peeled garlic cloves; thyme sprigs; bay leaves. 4 cups homemade chicken stock; dried porcini mushrooms soaking in 3/4 cup boiling water. Soak the mushrooms for 15 minutes, then strain out and reserve both the soaked mushrooms and porcini soaking water. 1 cup pinot gris. I'm a big believer in cooking with wine you would normally drink. If you don't have any pinot gris, chardonnay could work. Sauté the vegetables in a little bit of olive oil or until they begin to soften and take on a little color. Remove the pan from heat, then add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Add the porcini mushrooms. Mix well. Heat a skillet until hot but not smoking. Add 1 tbsp. oil. Swirl pan until oil coats the bottom of the pan with a thin film. Pour off excess oil. Add 4-5 chicken thighs to the pan, skin side down. Reduce heat to medium-high. Brown chicken until skin is well-browned, about 15 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Add remaining chicken thighs, then repeat browning process. When chicken thighs are done, transfer chicken and vegetable mixture to a roasting pan, ensuring that the chicken lies atop the vegetables, skin-side up. Pour off most of the fat from the pan you cooked the chicken in, then deglaze with white wine making sure you scrape up all the browned bits. Add chicken stock and porcini soaking water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and pour stock mixture atop chicken. Liquid should come up halfway; the chicken shouldn't be submerged. Cover with foil, then braise for 90 minutes in a pre-heated 375 F oven. Remove foil from pan, then raise heat to 400 F and braise for 15 minutes or until chicken skin is crisped. Oven-braised chicken thighs with porcini mushrooms and vegetables.
  43. 4 likes
    Well it appears that someone had to take the plunge, so I have bravely gone where apparently no DR aficionado has dared to go far....and actually eaten at Bearnaise. As seems universal in this conflab, let me emphasize that I am not a Spike groupie and think that his other two restaurants here on the Hill are a costly abomination as far as food goes - but personally he is a pretty affable guy, ignore the TV persona. Now onto Bearnaise... So what did we have: Bread. This actually surprised me. Bread was not bad at all, served with lots of real, non-whipped butter (an essential for me) and refreshed frequently with a warm replacements. Very happy. Oysters. 3 varietals, all fresh, well served with usual accouterments. Nothing to shout home about, not hard to do and no better than anywhere else. Mussels. Much like the oysters, these were well prepared and presented - with good flavor but no real wow moment. For a Normandy preparation I would also like to see the sauce a touch thicker to allow it stick to the fries for the essential dipping test. French Onion Soup: Mediocre. Good topping but the base lacked any ooomph. House Salad. This shouldn't be advertised as an appetizer option, it's more of a side anywhere else. Soup of the day: Vichyssoise. Can't fault it. Great balance of cream, stock, leek, potato - and the the garnish provided the right note of saltiness. Steak Frites galore.... The steak comes in Flat Iron, Entrecote and Tenderloin. We tried them all. Flat Iron was cooked correctly but candidly a bit tough. The Entrecote was exactly as one should expect it to be - I complement them for that because in DC alas it usually is't "exactly as one should expect it to be". The tenderloin perfectly cooked and very tender, although lacking in any depth of flavor as is often the case. Frites. Good flavor but a bit greasy and definitely in need of a bit more crunch. Sauces: All steaks come with choice of sauces. None were standouts and had been clearly, and understandly, created in larger volumes vs for each diner. The standout is the spiced bearnaise, a combo of sriracha and traditional bearnaise that works rather well. Usual lashing of red and white. The white list was already depleted by Saturday so our first two choices were unavailable, so the Muscadet was the fill in. As it was still 85 degrees outside our red choices were far more available. All in all we ate well, but without wow. I find that slightly disappointing from a kitchen headed by Brad Race (ex MiniBar) who is capable of much more. The decor inside has been done very well, best on Penn Ave to date. The staff were accommodating (allowed us starters off the bar menu, in addition to the prix fixe) and attentive. Verdict: 1) Menu annoying a bit overpriced. Why limit the prix fixe to only 3 appetizers to choose from and not allow sub from the better ones on the bar menu? (mussels, oysters, frogs legs) 2) Wine menu a clever deception. Lots of wine for $40 we heard them cry...what a deal! Not so much when you look closely and much of it can be purchased in restaurants nearby for $30-35 with very few deserving to top the $40. But I will give credit that it stopped a large table whining about wine price quite quickly, and that is to be applauded. 3) It was their first week open and they easily earned a revisit. I do not see them replacing my Capitol Hill favorites, but are certainly a welcome addition to the neighborhood - which both surprises and pleases me. Bravo Spike.
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    totally agree. unless i'm mistaken, only turbogrrl has actually eaten at mirabelle, where she had the ham sandwich and the yuzu crepe dessert, both of which sounded satisfying without being revelatory (too much ham, not enough butter, not enough yuzu). obviously it will take a lot more dining experiences/reviews thereof to really form a view on mirabelle -- on both whether the chef is doing justice to his talents, and whether there is a sufficient "value" (however subjective) to justify the cost. i can't wait to hear people's opinions on the first question. an observation to the second question: yes, fine(r) dining has higher costs for ingredients and labor, but it was also a conscious choice to set up shop in this area, presumably with an eye toward taking advantage of the downtown power broker price insensitivity. it will be interesting to see what effect that choice, and the resulting prices, has on mirabelle's draw for those without that sweet, sweet expense account money. chef ruta understandably has a lot of goodwill in this town that earns him a number of defenders on mirabelle's pricing who have not yet eaten mirabelle's food. (compare the tone of this thread with the tone of the shaw bijou thread before its opening.) experience and resulting credibility should matter, but they shouldn't mean that we can't ultimately make judgments about relative value. (although i don't actually know, i'd read gadarene's initial comment on veneration to be expressing a similar feeling.)
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    All are certainly fair points. And every time I've eaten Chef Ruta's food, I've quite enjoyed it, in an absolute sense if not relative to value. So here's a reframing that I hope is less overtly combative: I wish that we had many many more chefs in this town that were worthy of as much veneration as Chef Ruta, so that the breathless posts about his cuisine (and Eric Ziebold, another person whose food I very much respect and who seems like an extremely good and worthy and respectable person, but whose endeavors are the subject of overwhelming hagiography on this board) would not seem, in my fully subjective perspective, to stand out nearly so much. We all want the same thing here. Ubiquitously transcendent and exciting food at ubiquitously cut-rate prices that nevertheless allow for the highest quality of ingredients and the highest possible standard of living for the chef and all of the kitchen and front of house staff. That's little enough to ask, surely? ($26 or what-have-you for a jambon beurre is still presumptively ridiculous this side of Zurich (I think still one of the most across-the-board expensive food cities in the world?), though, and I say that unapologetically as someone who has spent far too much on food in the last decade!)
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    I'd personally rather have places like this occasionally run out of ingredients due to relatively fresh sourcing than the alternative... They also generally have mesclun, spinach and their supergreen mix available. The leap from "they ran out of romaine" to "this place sux" seems pretty ridiculous.
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    went today. it's lovely, but too expensive for me to make a habit of going there. But I've been craving a real Jambon Beurre for years now, and so despite all of the other things I might have ordered (the burger looks deliciously decadent), I went with my craving. Even though it was $26. It definitely hit the spot. Dessert was the yuzu sesame mille crepe— more cream and caramel than yuzu, alas. tasty but my tastebuds had been primed for yuzu! I suspect, however, I may be doomed whenever they open for breakfast (maybe May?), because I'll walk by it nearly every day, and I am sucker for pastries. The space is gorgeous, and all of the staff are super nice and attentive.
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    They were on the menu tonight at Fiola Mare. Saw it on their website. Described as "crispy."
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    I'm behind on the reviews I owe people, so don't want to write a full one for Ripple, but let me just say that I had the only meal here - ever, in my life - that I would consider, as a whole, "not that good," and I'll tell people why - with pictures - just so they can make up their own minds. It was the pricing, and the entree, that did this meal in. The dishes on their website look fantastic, and the plating of mine did, too, so the presentation was just fine. Let me do this with pictures: As soon as I sat down, I told my bartender I might want to start with a beer, and he told me they had this wonderful beer on their menu - I can't remember the exact beer, but it was 3.9% alcohol and $12, and the most expensive beer on the list - I asked for a moment to look over the wines, and ordered a bottle of 2015 Moulin de Gassac "Guilhem" Rosé ($38). This is a very good wine that I knew would go with the entire meal, but it retails for about $10 a bottle: Considering they bought it at wholesale, not retail, I paid a 400-500% markup. Nothing more to add here. Here's this month's menu: I asked if the Ocean Trout ($14) was a cold dish, and my bartender said yes, and told me how great it was (it, too, was the most expensive item in its category). It's served with black lime, radish, salsa verde, and chile, so I knew it would be a Latino prep, and while quite good, I got exactly *five* postage-stamps of trout, mixed in with *one radish*, sliced up into several thin pieces: (You're straining hard to see any trout at all, aren't you.) At nearly $3 per nibble, this crudo-like dish was far more expensive than even the most pricey sashimi. A good dish, yes, but at $14, it needs to be twice this size. I had asked for some bread, but only had crackers throughout this dish, so I was unable to sop up any of the delicious (but pretty spicy) sauce underneath - quality of the crackers themselves was fine, and I enjoyed one of them. The crackers were fine, but the bread was *great*, and I knew as soon as I saw it why it took so long. This bread was *so* good that I thought it might not be free, but it was. My apologies for the *lousy* picture of the bread, but trust me when I say this is one of the best bread courses I've had in a long time, pulled straight from the oven, too (which is why I didn't have it with my Ocean Trout - completely forgivable). I know what you're thinking: Why is Rockwell busting on this meal? It looks great! It's because of the cost of the wine, the cost of the trout, and the entree, which I haven't yet shown you: I decided to pull a 180, go German, and order Schnitzel ($29) with spaetzle, root kraut, brussels [sprouts?], and green apple: Again, I apologize for the *awful* picture - I wasn't planning on writing this, and was just keeping these for my own future use - I even turned the plate at an angle to get more of the spaetzle; it was presented to me horizontally which looked a lot more appealing. Here's the rub: I asked if the spaetzle was veal, and was told it was pork loin. But if you look closely at the bottom of my terrible picture, you can see two blobs of what looks like Russian dressing. It was *this* which completely ruined the dish, and let me explain just how much it was ruined. This was distributed, thickly, on the entire piece of schnitzle, and to the best of my knowledge, I would describe it as "mayonnaise, with sugar and Sriracha," or something similar to that. It was sickly sweet, and had that Sriracha/chili-powder-like overtone, and dominated everything. Here's how much: 1) It wouldn't have mattered if the meat was veal, pork, or chicken; if it was beef, lamb, or goat, I could have told the difference. 2) I did not taste a single apple - there could have been none in the dish, and I wouldn't have noticed. 3) I did not taste a single brussels [sprout?] - there could have been none in the dish, and I wouldn't have noticed. 4) I did not taste the spaetzle. I *felt* it, but it might as well have been macaroni and cheese, or angel hair pasta in cream sauce - it didn't matter. 5) My bartender raved about the care that went into the root kraut, but I couldn't taste it - it could have been made with biodynamically farmed purple cabbage from Germany, or it could have been made with store-bought Giant coleslaw, and it wouldn't have mattered (well, that's not true - store-bought Giant coleslaw is *disgusting*, and disgustingly sweet, so that would have stood out). With a sauce this assertive, some celeriac would have been very appropriate - maybe there *was* celeriac in it (my bartender did tell me; I just forgot), but I have absolutely no idea what was in the root kraut, because every single bite of this dish - with the exception of the "pure-spaetzle bites" brought forth a sickly sweet assault of strong Russian dressing reinforced with a bit of chili-powder, or whatever it was. Every single bite. 6) The breading was very thick (which is normal for Schnitzel), and upon inspection, the pork tenderloin was pounded to a thickness of about 1/8th of an inch (just a guess, but it couldn't have been much thicker than that - this dish was mostly breading). Aside from a minor feeling of *maybe* a little upselling, all was forgiven when I saw that there was a Sourdough course on the menu (which probably features a loaf of this exact same, *wonderful* bread) for $9, and my loaf of bread - which, again, was one of the greatest bread courses I've had in a long time even though the awful photograph belies that - was so good that, if the bartender told me (in advance) that it cost $5, I would have gladly paid it. I tipped him 20%(-ish), and he was a very nice man - the initial $12 beer comment got stuck in my head, so that might have biased me going forward. You know, this really doesn't sound *as* bad as I initially made it sound, but think about this: other than the bread (and amazing butter), every single bite of food I had during this meal was either 1) bad or 2) $2.50, and the wine was way overpriced. It's possible Chef Ratino wasn't there, and one of the two sous chefs was in command, so I'll write this one off to a space-time anomaly. One other thing which might help the restaurant: I'd let the Schnitzel calm down a few minutes before serving it - it was disproportionately hot compared to the spaetzle, but that's easily remedied. I'm not trying to bust on you, Ripple, I promise I'm not - I've been a huge supporter of yours over the years. Ripple Trivia: There are two large sections of wine bottles on top of the bar. In the left section (sitting at the bar), there is a bottle of wine on the front-right (bottom row, rightmost bottle). The label on that bottle was designed by Marc Chagall.
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    @MichaelBDC and I met up with an old roommate of mine for dinner at Mission Chinese while we were in NYC. We got there right on time for our 6pm reservation but my friend ended up being 30 minutes late. The hostess was surprisingly cool about it all and sat us as soon as my friend arrived. The restaurant was too busy but was packed by the time we left. We ordered the Lumpia Shanghai Eggroll, Black Kale with umeboshi and lotus root, Malaysian beef jerky fried rice, and the thrice cooked bacon and rice cakes. All the food was great, my favorites being the thrice cooked bacon and the black kale. I had had the thrice cooked bacon before and didn't think much of it then but loved it this time around. The Sichuan peppercorns provided a nice heat and tingly feeling. The cool black kale offset the heat of bacon. The Malaysian fried rice was also tasty, a heaping portion for $15. Unfortunately, we were pretty full by the time this had arrived and ended up packing about half of it to go. The only dish I wouldn't order again (and I will be back) is the eggroll. It wasn't bad, but compared to the other dishes which we all loved, it just wasn't that special. This is a really fun restaurant. Food and atmosphere were great and service was friendly. Next time, I will go here with a larger group so we can order more food. My cousin, who goes here regularly, really likes the beef and broccoli made with brisket which I wish we could have ordered. I also really liked the celery on a previous visit but we ran out room in our stomachs.