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jca76

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About jca76

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  1. i've have some very good dinners at hazel and knew that they served some sort of dim sum brunch (although i'll admit to not having checked their menu in advance), so it was my suggestion to friends for sunday. one friend booked a 1:45 table -- the only time available online for four -- so we were surprised to arrive at the half-empty restaurant and be told that the kitchen closed at 2:00. (this put some pressure on us to order quickly and copiously, lest we wind up without enough food. normally i would have put in a smaller order and then added if we were still hungry. our server was shockingly unhelpful, given the format, when we sought quantity guidance, vaguely telling us that dishes are "meant to be shared." we get the concept, but when there's an ~$11 price range on individual dishes, there is also likely to be a pretty significant size range. we ended up ordering more than we needed, doubling up on some things, and being vaguely annoyed about it.) my main complaint is that the menu is extremely heavy and carby; we ended up with tater tots, sweet potatoes (which i'm pretty sure were listed as fingerling potatoes on the menu, but i enjoyed the smoked tofu and something bbq-adjacent sauces), fried chicken, and pan-fried dumplings. garlic cucumbers were very tasty and the only light dish we ordered; the only other green option that i recall was an extremely boring-sounding salad (that may have just been listed as greens and dressing), so we passed on it. (the online menu is outdated, so i'm going off of my memory.) i liked everything except for a square dish of shrimp and eggs, which had a minced layer of spicy-sauced shrimp (with their fire panda sauce?), a layer of fluffy omelet, topped confusingly with bonito and a mayonnaise-y sauce. it was very fishy-briny and also mayo-creamy, which was . . . weird and not particularly pleasant for more than a bite or two. but even liking almost everything, nothing blew me away and we all left feeling a bit weighed-down and yet vaguely unsatisfied. i'll be back for dinner, but will steer clear for brunch.
  2. you could try emailing carlie to ask? their website lists carlie@himitsudc.com for questions.
  3. we had dinner on friday night with another couple, and my overall impression is that if del mar and kith and kin are any indication, the wharf is poised to become dc's version of the las vegas strip: large, loud, expensive restaurants by big name (at least for dc) chefs that are . . . a bit underwhelming. i was expecting expensive, but the tapas aren't special enough to justify the cost. we started with cocktails, which were all very good, although the menu options overall didn't have me craving a second round after our first set of orders. my favorite was probably the contigo, a manhattan riff with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and dry sherry. the nuez rosada was a delicious but unseasonable tikki-style mix of aged rum, almond syrup, braulio, and chocolate bitters; i would have preferred it on a rock rather than over crushed iced. finally, we had two of the tal vez, an autumnal mix of rye, pumpkin liquer, orange, cherry, which had a nice smokey element. the menu is somewhat confusing on first read, with many sections (raw bar, cold tapas, hot tapas, salads, etc.) and no real indication on how many dishes are appropriate per person. after consulting our server, we ended up going with an assortment of small plates and one paella. (the online menu doesn't seem to have everything that we ordered, so i'm reconstructing as best as i can on some dishes.) Erizo de Mar (Sea Urchin, Marques De Valdu├ęza Olive Oil, Piment d'Espelette) offered half a dozen or so lobes of beautiful, briny-rich urchin, but i found that the fruity olive oil overpowered the urchin flavor in my first bite. i was very pleasantly surprised by the brightening crunch of cucumber with razor clams. bay scallops paired nicely with little dots of sauce, including a bright lemon one. gambas al ajillo tasted exactly like every decent iteration of the dish you've had before (although it did come with bread without our asking, and i don't believe we were charged for it). ensalada rusa was like tasty, fancy canned tuna salad; creamy tuna overpowered the other flavors. our meat-eating friends seemed to enjoy the jamon they ordered. (i feel like i'm forgetting something else that we ordered, but perhaps that's a fitting reflection of our meal overall.) Paella de Pescado y Mariscos (Maine Lobster, Wild Calamari, PEI Mussels, Pink Key West Prawns) was the most delicious and memorable dish of the evening -- high quality seafood, of course, and well seasoned rice -- but expensive at $98 for four smallish servings. the server did a poor job of distributing the paella into four servings, meaning that the bf got a comically small pile of rice compared to the rest of us. (luckily for him, i shared my portion.) i'm sure experience will solve that problem, but it was the sort of little service flub that one wouldn't expect from a restaurant that showcases paella for groups. (we didn't order any of the large fish dishes, but something being plated tableside at the table behind us smelled unpleasantly fishy, which seemed very weird.) service was a bit inattentive throughout the meal, from an initial wait to get someone's attention to order food to having the (too large) empty plates cluttering up the table as new dishes were dropped off to repeatedly having to ask for water refills. at one point, the (very nice and engaging) somm cleared a few of our plates himself because no one else had come by to do it during the course of our rather lengthy conversation about the wine list. nothing on the dessert menu sounded exciting, so we opted for the check, which came with dry little cookies from which only one of us took more than a single bite. i'm glad to have tried del mar, but now that my curiosity is satisfied, i'm unlikely to go back. (fiola mare easily remains my seafood splurge of choice within this restaurant family.)
  4. Yes, in an alley off of Florida; there is now a small sign at the entrance to the alley, so it shouldn't be as confusing for future diners. I've never had Zahav's hummus, sadly. (The cookbook is beautiful!)
  5. They only take reservations two weeks out; is it possible that you're checking too early? (For what it's worth, they've currently got a 9:45 for two this Friday, if you don't mind a late celebration.) If you go at 6:30, you might be okay; I've definitely gotten bar seats at around 6:00 on a Friday, but I can't recall how quickly everything else filled up.
  6. It's not single-seating; they take reservations at various times. They're always great about accommodations (we're pescatarian, and we've been with a pescatarian friend who was also pregnant at the time, further limiting her options), but definitely give them advanced notice. (Service is so excellent that I'm sure they'd make it work at the last minute, but why not get the benefit of advanced planning for such a special meal?) Enjoy!
  7. Friends and I had dinner last night at the newly opened Maydan. I hadn't realized that it was opening night; the bf had sent a Post write-up to our group when we negotiating dinner options, but somehow I'd missed the timing. Front of house is still working out kinks -- more on that below -- but the food is already strong. So, the good first: the six of us ate our way through much of the menu's small plates, and everything was good or better. Hummus (tahina, chickpeas, lemon) was classic, and the baba ghanoush (eggplant, tahina, garlic) was nicely smokey. (Smokiness is pervasive -- unsurprising, given the giant hearth on which everything is cooked -- but many dishes also had a bit of sourness, which created a nice balance.) The pillowy flatbread was delicious, and while we were initially a bit skeptical that we were only given two rounds for the six of us, servers were diligent about circling with warm refills. Our favorite spread was the beet borani (yogurt, dill, black sesame), a vividly purple, bright, creamy puree. Baby eggplant (Georgian walnut sauce, pomegranate) was interestingly nutty, pleasantly a bit sour, and laced with softened onions. (I love onions.) Rounds of eggplant (orange blossom water, honey, vinegar, red onion) were nicely balanced sweet-sour-a bit of char. Halloumi (Dukkah (Egyptian spice blend), honey) was very tasty -- halloumi lovers, among whom I count myself, will be happy -- but like the hummus, on the classic end. Grilled carrots (lemon, harissa) were probably the spicest dish, enjoyable but a bit one note as a result. Shrimp and squid, both marinated in charmoula (lemon, garlic, parsley, saffron) and accompanied by lemon wedges, were well-cooked and appropriately charred. (The squid had the tender, fudgey texture that I associate with cooking sous vide before grilling.) Our carnivorous friends seemed to enjoy lamb and tenderloin (although some other cut was substituted in the prep that night) kebabs. Our server suggested that we order all the condiments (which are only $1 each), but we went with five of the seven: charmoula, zhough (parsley, cilantro, cumin, serrano), ezme (tomato, onion, peppers, pomegranate molasses), toum (garlic, oil, lemon), tomato jam (sesame, cinnamon), passing on the more familiar tahina and harissa. The most memorable were the toum, which was whipped -- I vaguely recall a mention of egg whites -- into a light mousse that reminded me of the texture of Nostos's excellent taramasalata, and the tomato jam, which was delicious but sweeter and more cinnamon-heavy than when I make my own, and consequently tasted less clearly of tomato. Interesting cabbage (olive oil, lemon, mint) arrived as an afterthought when I mentioned at the end of our savory dishes that we hadn't yet received it, where it served as a nice palate cleanser, like a mint-heavy (and mayo free, of course) cabbage slaw. (I bet it would have been excellent alongside some lamb.) We ordered the two desserts (there's no dessert menu), both very good: a delicious rose-water soaked cake, and honey-drizzled, phyllo-encrusted mozzarella dusted with pistachios, which sounds odd but worked (think bizarro brie en croute). Three people opted for the Filfuli (Pepper) with Ilegal joven mezcal, blood orange, ginger, paprika, honey, and soda; it tasted like a refreshing artisanal orange soda that I could enjoy drinking all day in the summer. Two ordered the Jnayney (Garden), with Greenhat gin, cucumber, fennel, dill, lemon, and arak; it was very herbal, with a primary fennel-seed flavor. I was the only one to opt for wine instead of a cocktail, going with the Georgian Vino Terra (Rkatsiteli), the only by-the-glass option of five wines in the "skin contact" category. I love skin contact wines -- be they refined or a deep amber glass of barnyard funk -- and consequently this was quite disappointing. It looked totally white (not disqualifying as a satisfying skin-contact exemplar, as I love SP68), but I would never have guessed it had any contact from the taste. (Overall, the wine list seem kind of expensive relative to food prices. While there was one white, one rose, and two reds in the $30-$38 range, everything else jumped to $51 and higher. The Vino Terra was $51 a bottle, and the next cheapest in that category is $67 before heading into the $80s. Not a list designed to introduce diners to the pleasures of orange wine. Contra Red Hen, which has six or seven orange bottles in the $45-65 range.) They were definitely experiencing new restaurant issues. The restaurant itself is at the end of an alley just east of La Colombe, but there is no signage on the street or even on the restaurant to indicate where to go -- it's not even obvious that a restaurant could be at the end of the alley from the sidewalk -- which led to a lot of confusion in finding the place. (When I mentioned it, I was told a sign will ultimately be put up.) I'd made a reservation online, but we weren't ultimately seated until forty minutes after our reservation time, while we stood around the vestibule and watched staff (as many as four people at one point) huddle around an iPad attempting to figure out what to do with us. We were eventually told that the system had automatically assigned us to a table that they subsequently realized wouldn't comfortably fit a larger group, so they were trying to figure out where else to put us, and then were waiting for one table to finish so that they could push two together somewhere else. (We were told that they didn't want to tell the people to leave, which I wouldn't have expected them to do, but being told that felt a bit like we were to blame for our own impatience thirty minutes after our reservation time.) Our table of lawyers joked after the fact that maybe we should have commandeered the iPad and seen if our LSAT logic game skills could have worked it out. The bar area inside was too narrow and crowded to comfortably stand inside in an attempt to have a drink. While multiple people thanked us for our patience, no one offered to get us drinks while we waited and nothing was taken off the bill in apology, and it never really felt like they were proactively solving the problem. Rather, it felt like they realized they didn't have a table for us despite our reservation, so we were stuck waiting for one to free up. (It's frustrating to feel like the staff's reaction to the situation was an apologetic shrug.) The space itself -- two stories with a giant hearth as the focal point -- is very cozy and cool, and I love the smoke smell that permeates the place (although less so when something obviously burned at one point). (And I wouldn't wear a coat or clothes that you don't want to smell like you've been hanging out near a campfire.) It appears that no one communicated to our (very nice) waitress that we'd been waiting for so long; when we sat down, one friend immediately tried to order hummus and baba ghanoush after a snap glance at the menu only to be told (politely) that the restaurant preferred to take our entire order at one time. When we pointed out that we had been waiting forty minutes to be seated and were starving, she apologized and said she'd put it in right away. Not a huge deal, but the awkward interaction didn't help our moods and could have been avoided. (Even better would have been a preemptive acknowledgement of our wait and query whether we wanted something right away.) Bottom line: everyone was very friendly, and these are the sorts of kinks that I expect time will help them work out. But they should think about how they'll deal with frustrated diners in the future, because there will definitely be times when a table lingers and the restaurant will be in the same boat. Oh, and I'll bet any amount of money that when Sietsema reviews it, he will complain mightily about how loud the music is; not a problem I usually notice, but it did impede conversation here. But once our hanger subsided thanks to hoovering the flatbread and dips, we very much enjoyed our dinner. We'll be happy to return.
  8. golden mermaid is back this week, and excellent as always. (i don't think there were any entirely new dishes on it, but many favorites. in particular, the lobster roe-yellow bean sauce, which may be my absolute favorite golden mermaid flavor, was served with squash and cabbage. i was a bit skeptical of the pile of steamed veggies, but they were great for highlighting the sauce.) of particular note: for the first time i've ever noticed, the menu notes that dinner is peanut-free, in case anyone has been kept away by a peanut allergy. (we asked, and apparently this is a coincidence of the dishes this time around.) gaap kai buu coconut husk / mud crab / shrimp paste dtam som o pomelo / lemongrass / shrimp yum khai khem crispy rice cakes / salted duck egg / cured roe lon khai gung yai pumpkin / lobster roe / yellow bean phat hoi lai manila clams / basil / green peppercorn miang pla tod whole fish! / rice noodles / naam jim
  9. In contrast to funkyfood's experience the night before, our group of four went on Saturday night and were all pleasantly surprised. I'd enjoyed a meal or two at Ripple under Ratino (a bit of a step up from the end of Marjorie Meek-Bradley's tenure, although we still pine for the Logan Cox days), but Bresca ups the creativity a bit, in a good way. First, cocktails: the menu is a bit confusingly organized around a hexagon (a recurring decorative motif in the restaurant), requiring rotation to read them all. (The menu isn't online, so I'm not going to remember all the names/ingredients.) There are a mix of classic variations and more original drinks, and all were excellent with one glaring exception: a cocktail featuring oyster shell-infused vodka that tasted strongly (and not particularly pleasantly) of oyster (not brine, just oyster) and surprisingly little else. Despite listing a reasonable-sounding array of ingredients, the drink was otherwise so flat that we were debating whether an ingredient had been left out. My first order of the Vice Versa was excellent -- we all loved it -- and yet I can't remember more specifics than it was red, nicely tart, a bit floral, flecked with bee pollen for a hint of sweetness. (It contained bergamot?) The other couple with us loved the Viens Avec Moi (and ended up ordering a second one), but from my one sip, all I remember is that it was light and fruity (pineapple?) and definitely the sort of thing you'd happily drink for hours on a sunny day. The Bee's Knees contained truffle honey that added a pleasant earthiness to a classic drink that can sometimes veer a little sweet, plus it was served in an awesome (and kind of hilarious) bee glass. Variations on the Adonis and Old Fashioned and a rum drink I'm forgetting were all also delicious. The Old Fashioned was a bit sweet/floral thanks to the creme de Yvette, without being cloying and maintaining its spirit-forwardness. We started with the radish crudite (seaweed brown butter, fleur de sel, green goddess) and the pastrami beets (feta, rye toast, flowering cress), both of which we thought were excellent snacks. The radishes were more umami than your typical radishes-and-butter combo, and the green goddess dressing on the side (with little bundles of micro greens to dip) was delicious. (Although the bundles were a bit confusing: too large to really be one bite, only two so a bit awkward for sharing, and tied with a tiny string that had to be detached. It's entirely possible that we weren't supposed to just dunk them in the dressing, but if so, no one explained it.) As pescatarians who acknowledge that meat tastes delicious, the bf and I are the target audience for vegetarian dishes that lean heavily on meaty techniques, so we very much enjoyed the smoky-sweet-sour-salty combination of beets and feta. (I disagree with funkyfood on the cost of the beets; for $10, it was a long, thin slice of toast that could be easily cut into 2-3 bite strips to share. Not a huge portion, but about what I would have expected given the overall prices at the restaurant.) The bf and I also really enjoyed the ocean trout crudo (verjus, shiso, labneh, black lime); apply all the usually adjectives to good crudo (fresh, good salt and acid, etc.), and the shiso in particular is a flavor that I love and am not used to seeing in crudo. The late summer melons and tomato (burrata, tomato jam, puffed grains, rooftop greens) was a surprise hit. (Not because I didn't expect to like it, but because the composition was more interesting than I'd expected.) Don't expect a ball of burrata to take center stage; there were a few scattered bites of cheese to add richness, but the fruit is the star. Excellent quality produce (as expected for the end of a hot September), well dressed to balance the sweetness and pull out the tomato flavor with salt and acidity, speckles of puffed grain for texture. I wasn't sure what I was going to make of the pineapple carrot salad (grains, curry oil, spicy greens, date), but the pineapple was (contrary to my fears) just an accent to a plate starring delicious roasted carrots. The sea urchin linguini (truffle, chili, yeast butter, porcini) was the dish on the menu that I gravitated to first and disappointed me most. Despite listing a number of great ingredients, funkyfood is right that it was basically just buttery and kind of boring. I didn't pick up on truffle, yeast, or porcini. Nice chew to the pasta and tasty, but unexciting. The only carnivore of our group really liked the chestnut agnolotti (rabbit, sunchoce, pear, mustard seeds). Service overall was friendly without over-explaining -- no long spiels on dishes. Generally service was reasonably paced and appropriately attentive, with two small exceptions: We waited a bit long for our first round of cocktails -- which arrived shortly after our snacks despite having been ordered first -- but not overly so given their complexity and how busy the bar seemed to be. Our waitress disappeared for a bit after delivering the dessert menus (we ended up just requesting the check). But neither hiccup was egregious, and overall we were impressed with how well everything seemed to be running both in front and back of house, given that it was their second night. Bresca is a food-focused addition to the upper part of 14th (which can skew a bit scene-y at the expense of the food); we will definitely keep an eye on their menu and happily return.
  10. Seriously. He rated Mirabelle as the best new restaurant in the Spring Dining Guide (cost notwithstanding); he was obviously well disposed to giving it a stellar review. I found it particularly telling that he didn't rate it higher after his excellent initial view. I agree with the sentiment that his reviews can be inconsistent with my personal preferences/impressions -- I disagree heartily with him about as often as I completely agree -- but Mirabelle clearly had the makings of a place that he would love. We had our first dinner there last night, and it turns out I'm in agreement with Sietsema's rating this time. I arrived before the rest of our group, so I enjoyed an excellent Le Papillon cocktail, with mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Yellow Chartreuse -- boozy but balanced, complex and herbal. We started well with an enjoyable amuse of salmon triangles (cured?) topped with a thin layer salmon mousse (a bit weird in texture) with ceps sliced and diced (and pickled?). Pleasant brininess and good acid. The bf and I agreed that our favorite appetizer (probably our favorite dish of the meal) was the salad of northern neck beans (soft cooked hen egg, Marcona almonds, shaved Lagoto truffle and pickled cherry tomatoes). A lovely salad: appropriately lightly dressed, good acid, a bit of richness from the egg and earthiness from the truffle (all too often I find truffles to be disappointingly flavorless, but not here). (But the bf thought it felt like dishes we'd enjoyed at prior Ruta meals. There's nothing wrong with playing to your strengths and keeping your classics on the menu, but personally, I like a little more surprise out of my special occasion meals.) Sadly, they were out of the soft shell crab that had been my first choice (and which Sietsema loved). I liked the slow cooked ora king salmon (zucchini, roasted corn and small variety tomato fondue) more than the bf; I like the texture of sous vide salmon and the vegetables were a nice last gasp of summer. He preferred the veloute of locally foraged chanterelles and pennsylvania zucchini (herb blossoms, small variety tomatoes and pickled chanterelles), but while I liked it (especially the chanterelles), overall it tasted just a bit flat (not enough salt for my taste?). The navarin of Block Island cod (little neck clam and Bouchot mussel broth, new potato and sweet garlic confit, brandade) was surprisingly bland. Much better was the striped bass (pan roasted with anise hyssop stewed filet beans with savory and figs, sauce xeres); the sauce was buttery and sweet-acidic from the sherry and very tasty. It was just a little too classically French to really wow me. (Of course, the fish was very well cooked.) The one classical French touch that never tires me is a cheese course, and Mirabelle's list is deliciously varied. For dessert we had the plum & coconut "vacherin" (plum sorbet, labneh ice cream, black pepper meringue, coconut) and figgy pudding (goat cheese sponge cake, fresh and cooked figs, pistachio ice cream). I quite liked the meringue curls broken up into what quickly turned into a plum soup, and the fig and pistachio combo was delicious (although I found the cake a bit dry and not as cheesy as I'd have liked), but neither dessert tasted "new" to me. Pool Boy is right that we have to decide for ourselves: for me, I liked (but did not love) Mirabelle, and it isn't worth it. Everything was beautiful and other than the cod, I enjoyed it all. But I walked away thinking that while dinner was tasty, I won't remember anything specific for very long, and likely won't be back. (My favorite restaurants are my favorites because I still think longingly of dishes I ate years ago.) There's already been a lot of talk upthread about the cost and corresponding expectations. "Value" is inherently subjective. I know that quality ingredients and skilled staff to prepare them and lovely spaces in which to serve them are all expensive. I know plenty of people who (perfectly reasonably) value refined service and impeccable classicism more than I do. I am more than willing to spend on meals amounts that would horrify many people (including my dad!); in exchange, I hope to be surprised and maybe challenged and definitely tempted to lick my plate. (But I'm a lady, and a lady doesn't lick her plate; she licks the fingers that she ran over the plate, obviously.) That didn't happen last night.
  11. why is that ridiculous? (i'm sincerely wondering. i basically never use cash, and wouldn't think twice about paying for a small purchase like that with a card. it's convenient for me and faster for the clerk. i am likely to use cash at a tiny independent merchant, like a farmers market stall, where the credit card fee might be nontrivial to the vendor, but that's obviously not a concern here.) and now i'm craving a rad thai.
  12. The bf and I had the same "this will make it a lot harder for us to get a table" conversation when we saw the (well-deserved) news. And then yesterday, Bon Appetit put them on their list of 50 best new restaurants (along with P&P and Himitsu neighbor Timber). (Fingers crossed for their performance in the top ten.) The wait for two last night ended up being a bit over an hour when we left a name around 8:15 (frustratingly, much exceeding the 30-45 minutes we were quoted), but we were told (when we asked) that they aren't sure yet to what extent the accolades are extending waits. We tried three new dishes last night, all of which were excellent: Thanks to my love for the simple-yet-excellent bibb lettuce and blue cheese dressing salad at 2 Amys (which I'd never have ordered had Kirsten, one of my favorite 2 Amys staffers, not insisted on it ages ago), I was excited to try the wedge salad (iceberg, herb buttermilk ranch, everything furikake, grated egg yolk, black pepper), hoping for another boring-sounding classic made novel. Himitsu delivered: creamy, rich but not too heavy, salty, herby, crunchy from the lettuce, and sprinkled liberally with the furikake blend (think an everything bagel with added seaweed) -- just great. The corn in yellow squash elote (roasted squash, crema, cotija cheese, chili flakes, cilantro) was popped and dusted with chili powder; the dish is basically the fanciest, most delicious cheese popcorn you could imagine. (The yellow squash didn't add much beyond texture/a base for popcorn and crema, but I was glad to have it for that purpose.) Our favorite may have been the kanpachi + coconut (hawaiian amberjack, red onion, coconut milk, cured squash, lime + peanuts), which was very evocative of the Rose's Luxury lychee salad given the coconut, red onion, and peanuts, but with fish instead of sausage (a very worthwhile trade-off, as far as this pescatarian is concerned). Loved the rich coconut milk sauce, which made me consider asking for a spoon (or picking up the bowl to slurp up the dregs), but I restrained myself. And we repeated the heirloom tomatoes + strawberries (parsley-taragon puree, pickled strawberries, crispy quinoa, black pepper + shiso), a lovely seasonal dish that had me dredging the last bits of micro shiso through the vibrantly green puree.
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