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  1. There's a Coming Soon sign at this building in Clarendon (near the corner of Wilson and Washington Blvd). The website says coming in early 2007 though, so I guess it's still a ways off from opening. Anyone know anything about this place?
  2. I'm normally hesitant to post about somewhere so well known, but since Don asked... I feel a small sense of guilt whenever I go to New York (a few times a year) and end up at the same restaurant each and every time I'm there. Sure, I branch out as well, but at least one meal (and frequently several) is had at CraftBar. I've tried Mesa in Union Square - it used to be really good, but for a few years I've felt like I'm paying for the name attached. Same can be said for the Batali restaurants I've tried lately. Momofuku Ssam is still a decent place to grab a pork bun if in the neighborhood, but David Chang seems focused on his more recent ventures. Daniel Boulud and Tom Colicchio are definitely ruling the celebrity chef roost at the moment (in my opinion) - and I just find myself attracted to CraftBar more often. There IS a certain initimidation factor to dining out in NYC, particularly for unadventurous. Amazing and affordable food can be found if you have a playful palate and are willing to wander more than a few blocks from Broadway. If you're willing to drop a months rent, or at least a car payment, change your outlook on food with Masa or Per Se. But for a relaxed Saturday evening, or the in-laws happen to be in town? CraftBar is almost always a guaranteed homerun. I, too, get frustrated at times by the simplicity (even if its near perfect simplicity) of the original Craft and (insert other ingredient focused, protein centric restaurant here). Sure, I love a GREAT and FRESH piece of fish, but if you're just going to poach and plate it, there is only so far that respect for ingredients and freshness can take you (other than to a triple digit check). I'm in the camp that I would like to see what a chef can do beyond cooking my protein to a ridiculously perfect temperature. So enter CraftBar. The Pecorino Risotto Balls with spicy tomato sauce are consistently on the menu and are downright addictive. Sure, they're just risotto balls, but they're the best I've tried. There is almost always a pate or similar meat concotion on the menu, and these better than a safe bet as well (in addition to the pickles they come with). I've tried sweetbread dishes at every Colicchio restaurant I've been to - my advice is if you see sweetbreads on one of his menus - order the dish. Sweetbreads sauteed with Kumquats is similar to the most amazing rendition of Orange Chicken you'll ever eat. Sweetbreads with a ramp puree brought a bit of spring into a dish I don't normally associate with warming weather. Pasta's are another strong point of CraftBar - I've never been sorry to have ordered a seasonal gnocchi. So obviously I'm a fan. But last trip, I was made a believer out of a special pork dish for 2. Three different parts of the pig (including belly and shoulder) were presented with three different preparations, along with sides in what was a piggy nirvana. Easily enough food for 3 people was demolished by 2. Throw in a relaxed atmosphere with professional service, a quality beer program and good wine list, and a price point that isn't going to bring tears to your eyes and the guilt for being a repeat customer in a city of so many good choices starts to abate.
  3. Decided to give The Dandelion Pub's brunch a try largely based on location and the inability to get a reservation at Starr sister restaurant Parc. Dandelion is housed in what seems to be an old Philadelphia home and was delightfully cozy on a chilly fall morning with a fire burning in the fireplace. It was actually a little difficult to identify the restaurant from the street because there wasn't a prominent sign. I was glad I'd kept the street address in my phone. Two of us went with traditional breakfast fare enjoying the 2 inch high, fluffy Brioche french toast and Eggs Benedict. I was pleasantly surprised to receive two poached eggs over perfect English muffins, rather than just one that it seems many restaurants think constitute a full entree. The other half the group went with more traditional pub menu of fish and chips and Shepherd's pie. Both were given high marks and really hit the spot on a morning that felt like fall had definitely arrived. The bloody mary's were just as spicy as requested and the service unrushed. The house has several small dining areas and fusty English vibe. The bar area has a couple of spectacular mounted boar's heads if you're into that sort of thing. A good solid choice of standard brunch food....but nicely matched with pub classics.
  4. In NYC over the weekend for a birthday getaway. Was able to spend several hours getting acquainted with The Dutch, the new-ish spot from Andrew Carmellini in SoHo. Unfortunately didn't ever make it over to a proper table as I was using the place as a meetup for folks. But got to try several of their items via the bar. Definitely get the fried oyster mini sandwiches (order several), the hot fried chicken (semi-famous in his cookbook), and anything they're recommending from the raw bar. The real standout, though, is the service. Top notch at every station -- the killer bartenders somehow made dealing with the Friday evening post-HH rush seem effortless and kudos to the beverage director Brynn who took care of us with a little extra. I'd recommend going for lunch or early in the evening during nice weather when the sun is still out and occupying the counter seating alongside the open windows.
  5. Chef Spike Gjerde has opened his long awaited farm-to-table restaurant in Clipper Mill. The wife and I went there last night and were shocked at the full dining room, given the restaurant's out-of-the-way location. No matter though, we had made reservations and were seated promptly in the loft overlooking the dining room. The renovation to the building is stunning. The exposed brick walls and recycled old-growth lumber that were used are dramatically illuminated, looking both elegant and cozy at the same time. A wood burning oven is the center piece of the open kitchen, and most of the food on the menu seems to be cooked in it. We ordered: Oysters (raw and roasted) Chicken liver parfait Hamburger Autumn vegetables Everything was very good: the food, the service, and the space. We'll be back soon. Woodberry Kitchen
  6. Mama Ayesha's. I've always been intrigued by the location (off by itself at the end of the Ellington Bridge). I now live right behind it, but still haven't made it over. Anyone ever been?
  7. Boxcar Tavern (originally to be called "Boxcar Bistro") opened December 30th. The original concept was for a wine bar, but it opened as a gastropub with a wine program. The executive chef, Brian Klein, was also the opening chef at Senart's. The interior looks much the same as Cervera's other restaurants, most closely resembling Senart's and then Lola's. It's a shotgun style, long and narrow. The buildout took many months, extending out into the back alley. I've always liked the look of his places--and he does the interior design elements, such as lighting and seating, on his own. He's very talented at this. They are comforting and pleasant. I am beginning to hit a point of fatigue, though, which is why it took me a month to go here. The staff were lovely. I got a Victory Pils on tap ($6) and a Boxcar quesadilla, with Duck Confit, Pulled Pork, Red Onion, Roasted Pepper, Melted Cheddar & Gruyere ($11). The quesadilla was small. Even though it had been cut into quarters that were stacked on each other, it was, when pulled apart, really small. The texture was mushy. Okay, I'm no food critic, but I couldn't have told you what the meat was in it if I didn't know. It came with sour cream and an avocado-ish spread that were not anything special. I like enough of the food at his other places not to give too much weight to one quesadilla that was so-so. The fatigue has set in, though. I know he thinks that his places don't all look the same, but that's because he's looking at what are minor details to everyone else.
  8. This morning Tom Sietsema announced that Helen Wasserman will be opening Crave by Helen in the former Addie's on the Rockville Pike. From the article: Helen is my sister. I could not be more proud!
  9. Brought two of my younger colleagues to dinner here last week. We were looking for a casual spot that was fairly lively and had good food. One of my colleagues read somewhere that the Mermaid Inn on MacDougal was something of a "baby bernardin", so off we went. First of all, the notion of comparing the Mermaid Inn to Le Bernardin, baby, toddler, adolescent or full grown version is crazy. Totally different set up and vibe. This is a casual restaurant with a bustling oyster bar that makes a solid effort to turn out good seafood dishes at a fair price. Our group started with "escargot style" lobster knuckles, charred Portuguese octopus and blue crab tostada. The lobster knuckle escargot were really interesting - the kitchen used a very deft hand with the garlic so as not to overpower the knuckles. I'm a sucker for any charred octopus, and this rendition was good - the hot peppers in the dish were reminiscent of Peasant's "Polpo en Purgatorio", although Peasant's version of charred octopus is superior. The tostadas were a miss - for whatever reason we didn't find a whole lot of flavor in them. My main was a yellowfin tuna with sauce gribiche - seared rare as requested and served with some local asparagus. My colleagues also enjoyed their meals, but the details have been lost toi time at this point. No dessert, but with the three entrees, three appetizers and two bottles of sancerre (blanc et rouge), we had a great time and spent well less than expected for a "nice-ish" dinner out in NY, especially for a menu featuring seafood. While our experience was at the MacDougal location, you could do worse than happen by here or one of the other locations for a quick oyster fix or casual meal.
  10. I recently had a chance to visit Bottega Louie, a bright, cavernous space in The Brockman Building on South Grand that is both a gourmet market and restaurant. The large open floor and high ceilings plan gives the place a certain vibrancy, with an accompanying noise level that you might expect from such a large room. I took a seat at the 10 stool bar in the front closer to the market and quite enjoyed the Cioppino, which also cost $30. It was a full bowl of succulent seafood, that contained perhaps the most plump mussels I have ever been served. Truly satisfying.
  11. So I'm sitting at Teatro Goldoni the other evening, watching someone eat the largest cheeseburger I've ever seen, and in walk couple-about-town Fellato Riminovich and Putana Harlotski. They ordered some bruschetta, wolfed it down hungrily, blew some air kisses, and then disappeared into the night. And I thought about a conversation I once had. "You're too much of a foodie," my friend once told me, shortly before heading to her shift at Cafe Milano. "I am not," I protested. "I just don't like things that suck." "Cafe Milano doesn't suck." "It does suck." "You need to understand: bars and restaurants aren't always about food." "How can a restaurant not be about food?" "It's no Tosca, but people enjoy it." "People enjoy Cheesecake Factory too." <glare> "Look: the customers at Cafe Milano might not know anything about food, but they know what they like." And I sat there, blinking. Then I came back into the moment, my thoughts turning toward the pizza in front of me at Teatro Goldoni, the uneaten pizza, the undercooked piece of dough with harsh dried herbs sprayed on top of it, seemingly from a firehose, and wondering to myself if I should just try and enjoy the pizza for what it was. And then I left and went to Palena.
  12. Saw this banner walking home from Barracks Row the other day. 735 8th St SE, pretty much right across from the barracks. Can't find much other information besides their Facebook page which says they're opening this December. Anyone have any other info? (Sorry if there's already an entry on this somewhere; I searched and searched and couldn't find it.)
  13. I remember so well when LeftBank opened - it was actually a nice little spot, something like Leopold Kafe & Konditorei in Georgetown. Then, it closed - out popped Slaviya (here's a DCDining review of Slaviya), and even though I enjoyed my visit there, I pretty much knew that if LeftBank wasn't going to make it there, neither would Slaviya, "bar"ring some sort of late-night coup de hookah. Don't forget, this space started out as the very good Cities, so we've seen a steady decline with each new opening. So, now Slaviya's gone, and we had Taste of New Orleans ... for about a week ... then Slaviya again. (PoPVille is awesome when it comes to methodically reporting openings and closings). This time, it managed to stay open until early this year, but finally, the ax fell. (Thanks, SF) And now? The single largest venue in Adams Morgan has become The Bicycle Space, and my initial impression is that this 180-degree change is a really good call. I hope you guys keep rolling for years to come - if for no other reason than it will make the hellish job of keeping up with the goings-on at 2424 18th St. NW a bit easier.
  14. Was at Rockfish Saturday night with some girlfriends after a day at the salon. We normally go to Rockfish when we miss the deadline for brunch at Carrol's Creek and Chart House. But we had a really nice dinner. The wine selection is not huge, but we managed to find a good wine that was very reasonable. I started with a cup of MD crab soup, it was very good, had all the requisite flavors and the vegetables were not mushy. I really enjoyed it, it would have been even better last week in all the rain. I am really a big fan of MD crab soup when done right. It is one of my favorite soups. I then had the fish tacos- an app as an entree. There were three tacos with two very generous pieces of battered cod in each tortilla. On the bottom was a really good slaw with a little avocado puree. I thought they were good, although as I got full I ate the stuffing and left the tortilla. It had good flavor as was a little different from the normal entrees on a lot of Annapolis menus. My dinner mates had the crab and lobster pastas. The crab one looked incredible. The lobster smelled phenomenal, but you had to take the meat out of the shell and cut it and that made it really messy and difficult to eat politely, they should go ahead and take the meat out of the shell before serving the dish. Anyway this place is normally very solid, a little dark inside, but nice and a little more casual than O'Leary's or etc.
  15. Vaso's is opening a 2nd location soon. "Vaso's Kitchen Preparing New King Street Location" by Drew Hansen on patch.com -- [sorry about the tweets guys; I hadn't had my coffee yet.] (Glad you had such a nice time, SeanMike - nobody deserves one more than my good friend.)
  16. I really wish I'd stumbled into Smoke and Barrel at the beginning of an evening out rather than at the end, when, famished and a little tipsy, I devoured my pulled pork sandwich at approximately the speed of light. I can't, therefore, provide thoughtful details much beyond "yum!" The smoked meat is piled on a respectable bun with a scoop of good cole slaw, with the surprisingly spicy sauce on the side. And I don't think anything has ever tasted better after a night of beers with friends. A side of sweet potato home fries was excellent.
  17. I've actually received a few PM's about Eventide and was going to wait until our chef's name is public knowledge before I started this thread, but I guess it's never too early to give out details to this group. We're still in a lengthy construction period but truly hope to open by May/June. (My fingers are cramping as I type because they've been crossed for so long.) We're on Wilson Blvd. at the beginning of the same block that the Clarendon Ballroom and Liberty Tavern are on. The scoop...nice bar/lounge on the first floor run by an exceptionally professional and hilarious Bar Manager that will be concentrating on inspired, well-crafted cocktails and a bit of a more elegant atmosphere than a bunch of Clarendon restaurants play host to (read: no Jager bombs served here...ever). Second floor will be about 90 seats of unpretentious, "date night" dining with 3 semi-private areas where we can host 3 seperate groups of 10 or combine the areas to hold up to 30 for receptions, business dinners, etc... The rooftop will feature table seating and will be a food-first floor. We certainly want cocktail-only guests to sit at the tables, but will not be playing host to an "SRO" rooftop scene...that's what the Clarendon Ballroom's roof is for. (The Ballroom owners are partners at Eventide as well. I might as well be straightforward and divulge that info now.) There will be a small bar on the roof for late night cocktails after dinner, but the roof will be managed so that it stays as comfortable as possible for all and remains a mostly-seated area. I have also hired an extremely gregarious and knowledgable wine director but, you guessed it, I can't divulge his name either. Please don't think I'm being cloak-and-dagger about naming my management team, but they are all still working at their jobs and cannot put in their notice until I can afford for them to come on salary. My Assistant GM (and also an Eventide partner) is Nick Freshman. Nick's a great guy that I've known for over 10 years and has worked with me at Olives and Poste and will be running the upstairs dining room. We're all extremely excited about this project and really can't wait to get our doors open. In the meantime, if any of you happen to walk by the site and the front doors are open, please feel free to stick your head and ask for Nick Freshman or myself and we'll give you a quick tour while it's still under construction. Just bring beers!! (Feel free to post or PM me if you have any questions/comments/suggestions about the place. I welcome them and look forward to answering you.)
  18. The comfort food thread inspired me to post this as well as utilize my two hour early dismissal to go to That Cuban Place in Frederick for my own local comfort food. First of all, there is nothing fancy about this place, though they've improved the property immensely after years of neglect by a notorious slumlord (who still owns the place unfortunately). The cooking is also very simple, offering sandwiches and mostly slow cooked entrees that they seem to start early in the morning and serve throughout the day. But nothing speaks to their simplicity as much as the small white board behind the counter where they write the day's specials followed by their motto, "It's all good!" I can say that everything I've had has been at least decent (a mojo marinated bistec being my least favorite b/c it remained tough after slow cooking) but oftentimes things are just wonderful. Today things were wonderful. I was craving comfort food to warm up this sleet-filled day while watching my brackets collapse and surprisingly noticed they had their ropa vieja, which they only guarantee on Thursdays. Slow-cooked in the aforementioned lime-based mojo, the ropa vieja combined with the hefty portions of fried plantains, rice, and beans to hit the spot and provide lots of leftovers for just $8.50. I especially appreciate the friendliness of of the young Latino couple who own and operate the place. While I was waiting for them to prepare my order today, the owner gave me a free shot of great Cuban coffee ("Hey, I'm having some, so you have to, too") and let me satisfy my curiousity by tasting today's other special--oxtail. I hope that oxtail comes back so I can have a full order because it was extremely rich with lots of flavor-enhancing fat, the main ingredient of comfort food. The owner says that he slow boils the oxtail with lots of bay leaves and then re-uses the leftover liquid for what he considers to be the world's best fatty beef stock. Next week's special is cow tongue. We'll see if I get the guts to try that one. I think their most popular item is their Cuban sandwich made with authentic Cuban bread, though freshness can make it slide between phenomenal and ok: Before dinner they prepare them ahead of time so they can just throw them on the grill press. Panera does the same thing, but I'm coming here to avoid Panera. As first time restaurant owners and with three people at most running this small place, I'm sure they're still figuring out ways to balance quality and efficiency. They still have things to figure out but deserve to survive as they currently operate on the exact border of Frederick that transitions from the gentility of Third Street to the tatoo magnet of North Market's 300 block. Luckily the winter will soon pass and they won't have to battle the landlord over heating issues for several more months. The food and atmosphere here are quite satisfying and welcomely free of pretention. I hope they stick around. If in Frederick antiquing and looking for a quick meal, I'd resist the ease of the endless chains and fast-food joints lining Rtes. 40, 85, and 355 and head downtown to enjoy a new part of historic Frederick. 300 North Market St., Frederick, MD 21701. 301-760-7776. Pax, Brian P.S. TCP was mentioned in the Washington Post's shout out that JLK posted, but I've never had the courage to try their empanadas that sit on that rotating warming rack. Not sure even if they're homemade.
  19. I have been negligent in posting, but have been super busy if that's any excuse! We went here by accident on my birthday in December, and liked it so much that we've already been back once. And we will be back more often; just wished it was closer to where we live! I recall reading somewhere that this place was in the works as it is run by a relation of the people who ran Fred and Harry's in Four Corners. I think it is a nephew? Anyway, they apparently opened in October. It was a snowy evening and after seeing the Hobbit in Silver Spring we were looking for a casual spot to try something new. Decided to check out Quench in the same shopping center, but as we were parking I noticed Nantucket's Reef further in the center. If we had parked on the street I would've totally missed it! But recognizing the name as having read about it, and remembering I wanted to try it, we decided to give it a go. And we are very glad we did. Mr. S noticed they had short smoked salmon on the menu and he has not seen it on a menu other than Artie's, which is too long a haul to frequent for us. The fish was cooked perfectly and was just as flavorful as the Artie's version. The mashed potatoes are skin-on, lumpy and delicious. He had the in-season veggie medley which was grilled and well prepared. I had a special fish of the day, but can't recall which one at the moment. It was a white fish that again was deliciously well prepared. I had a spinach side that I have never seen before--it was red and I thought perhaps prepared with beets. But it was just a red spinach! The service both times we were there was friendly and not obtrusive. We were almost too full for dessert but decided to give it a try. Loved my bread pudding (which is toted by the servers as one of the favorites, for good reason) and Mr. S also enjoyed his pumpkin cheesecake. But we knew we wouldn't be able to order a dessert the last time we were there since the serving sizes were generous and we were too full with the calamari appetizer. Those of you in the northern Montgomery County area should definitely give this place a try. Dining in Gaithersburg/Northern Rockville is definitely looking up between this and the opening of Brasserie Beck in the old O'Donnell's space. http://www.nantucketsreef.com/
  20. I thought we had a thread on Shaw's, but I guess not ... According to the City Paper, the stillborn Shaw's Tavern has been bought by the owner of the late Axis on U St. He is bringing along the chef from Leopold's to head up the kitchen. I always liked Axis, it was low key for a U St place, if a bit overpriced. Always a nice beer selection, though, which goes a long way in my book. As a nearby resident of Bloomingdale I have high hopes for another worthwhile neighborhood sit down joint.
  21. The Lobster Joint (next door to Katz's Deli) is what TackleBox coulda, shoulda been, serving New England "comfort food" in a low key, benches and beer, order at the counter setting. Generous plates of fried seafood served in lobster roll style buttered and toasted buns. Enjoyed the crispy oyster roll ($15), onion rings, good fried calamari and solid raw oysters. A solid place to get a casual, relatively quick dinner. Or to spend time catching up with friends before heading out to other places. Not expensive but your bill can add up fast, depending upon what you order.
  22. Had dinner at Farmicia this past weekend and had an enjoyable meal. Highlights for me were the Tuscan Grain Salad (organic spelt, chopped garden vegetables, lemon-basil vinaigrette, arugula) and the Crispy Fried Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (atop a trio of fries, bloody mary dipping sauce). My entree of Boneless Pork Chop Dijon (grilled, honey glazed turnips, broccoli, cider-sage sauce) was good, but the meat was slightly overcooked and therefore a bit dry, but the sauce helped. It did have a nice bit of char from the grill that went well with the sweetness of the turnips.