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About KeithA

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    Cleveland Park, DC
  1. Trattoria Al Volo in Cleveland Park in the old Ripple space is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. It is still working out some slow service kinks but overall food is rather good, prices are on point for the neighborhood, and service is very friendly. The homemade pastas and sauces are very good quality and tasty - this is consistent at their Cucinia at Union Market, Osteria in Admo, and in this locations - all of which in the past year I've tried several times (mostly in anticipation of this new place opening near my house). The menus at all of the vary somewhat and the current menu at the CP location seems to fluctuate slightly each time that I've gone (3 times so far in the past 2 months). They seem to do best with the ravioli/mezzaluna/stuffed pastas which are the most flavorful and for an added bit of fun, can be seen being made in real time in one part of the dining room. Instead of an open kitchen, they have a window ledge where a nice gentleman is busy assembling raviolis much to the delight of the kids and foodies. The caesar salad is presented nicely and is a bit non-traditional but very good. Burrata and tomatos was only ok. Friends liked the big plate of calamari. The meatballs are all beef (good for non-pork eaters like my family) but only ok. The only secondi I've had is the branzino daily fish which was large and delicious - simple whole cooked fish with lemon and herbs. The various meat options look huge and enough to share for 2. Which is the overall vibe of these place - good quality, nicely made food but nothing too fancy and also priced a bit less than fancier places. Portions are also on the larger size. Overall a good neighborhood restaurant, not a foodie destination. The several reds and whites I've tried by the glass have been good (I'm not too fussy about wine though FWIW) including a surprisingly good house red. Desserts are mostly a bunch of different rotating cakes that they told me are made on the off hours by a pastry chef at a restaurant in town. I've only tried 2 of the chocolate cakes and both were like everything else well-made, tasty. Two dishes I had that were only ok - a bit bland - rigatoni with mushrooms and the manticotti (too much mozzarella cheese without enough flavor). The only real hiccup has been that on 2 of the 3 times we went there has been a rather long wait between apps and entrees. I think they are still figuring out their timing in the kitchen. Overall, if they fix this last issue, they'll have a very successful run here (hopefully).
  2. Definitely get the soup - it is good. Broth is flavorful but pretty clear with diced veggies. Matzoh ball is well made and is medium density - not super fluffy but not rock hard. This last point helps out families like mine where some like hard and some like soft. I still don't understand the allure of hard matzoh balls but some people are a bit meshugah.
  3. I have always said that the pizza is good at 2 Amys but I usually find the appetizers/small plates to be outstanding. I used to love their crostini but they seemed to have moved away from offering them. Lately, I've been enjoying their various fish offerings - the anchovies and peppers on the regular menu are always nice and on Monday I had great pickled sardines with olive tapenade off the special menu. On two recent occassions, I had the same eggplant with smoky/spiced tomato sauce with the lightest, freshest sheep's milk ricotta. The suppli telefono and my perennial fave the salt cod croquettes were very good on Monday. The kitchen has a great way with the fryer. One new twist after years of being the same, now the salt cod croquettes come with a bit of lemon aioli and the usual lemon wedge. I think I'm still partial to the lemon wedge but options are nice. Lastly, the roasted olives are great to share as a app.
  4. Hummus

    First off the best hummus is freshly made hummus and it doesn't get any fresher than when you make it yourself. If you have a food processor - it is super easy and quick to make. There are tons of good recipes and it is easy to tweak to your personal taste - add more/less lemon/garlic/cumin/tahini, add herbs, etc. The longer more complicated recipes like Zahav or Ottolenghi may taste a bit more refined but if you are in a hurry - my tips are: 1) do use fresh lemon juice 2) do use not-dead/old spices but dried are fine 3) use canned chickpeas and don't waste time trying to remove the skins - they taste very similar to soaking dried overnight. This last point is heresy to some but taste them side and side and you'll see the canned ones are a bit less creamy but remember you have hummus in 15 minutes and didn't wait overnight and then cook for the chickpeas for hours. That video was cool but it comes down to personal taste - I would never put that parsley in my hummus but I'm sure others love it. As for local places, go to Little Sesame - lots of fresh hummus with interesting toppings - it is in the basement of DGS Deli in Dupont. Also, I recently ate a few times at the chain Naf Naf - they do hummus bowls (also off-menu baba ganoush bowls) as an alternative to rice/pita or salad. On a side note they also make great pillowy pita bread in house (similar to the independent and reliable Yafa Grill a few blocks away downtown). The garlic hummus at the local Lebanese Taverna chain is also rather good. (they also have the my favorite baba ganoush in the area). I recently attended part of a whole conference at AU on what is Israeli cuisine: http://www.american.edu/cas/israelstudies/cuisine/index.cfm. Answer - no one knows but it is really a blend of mostly middle eastern/north african with some influences from Europe with a twist of kosher laws. If you want to check out more, watch the Netflix movie In Search of Israeli Cuisine starring Chef Solomonov of Zahav: https://www.netflix.com/title/80172948. There is a big political/colonialist element to debates on what is Israeli food (not dissimilar to any discussion of Israel). If anyone is actually going to Israel and wants to check out the food scene - an old friend and former Washingtonian runs food tours https://www.deliciousisrael.com/
  5. I thought I posted an update - but I guess I forgot - they are open again as of a few weeks ago. Back to great business as usual.
  6. Completely disagree. Raku-Cathedral Commons has become one of our go to places. I've eaten here for lunch and dinner dozens of times in the past year plus and always found everything to be rather tasty. I actually think they do one of the best and more creative agedashi tofus in town the way they not only include the usual cubes of tofu and good dashi sauce but also add a variety of vegetables like kabocha squash and shishito pepper. I really love this dish and I regularly ask them to give me a spoon so I can finish off any remaining sauce in the bottom like soup. The udon and other bowls in the Tokyo dashi sauce are very flavorful. I can't speak to the coconut curry sauce as I've never tried that but my wife typically gets the udon dashi bowl everytime we go. I also think they have some really good sushi - especially if you order nigiri from their specials menu on the paper inside the menu. For regular rolls on the menu, I like the grilled salmon harasu and the vegetable futomaki for something different than the standard stuff which is also pretty good. They also have really good bento boxes (many offered at lunch vs. only 2 at dinner). I especially like the veggie bento box. They also offer an off-menu kid's chicken teriyaki which my kids are a fan of. Even the basics like their steamed rice is good quality. I have found a few duds on the menu but overall we are very pleased. They have a nice cocktail menu too. The servers are also very friendly and helpful.
  7. Within the last few weeks (can't remember exact day), tried Sfoglina for the first time with my wife and 2 small kids. It was an ok experience. We live nearby and hoped it would be a nice addition to our rotation but sadly no. The room is lovely and the staff very friendly but the prices are higher than necessary and the service wasn't great. I really appreciate they have a kids meal but $14 for a small plate of fresh pasta is way too high - especially when most kids menus are less than $10 (even at nicer places). One kid had spaghetti and the other had gnocchi - really nothing special for either - I've had as good from a box. We had the tortellini pasta (very good, rich - possibly worth the price) and the spinach tornarelli (interesting and different but only ok). The prosecco cocktails were fine but we had to ask several times for them and they arrived halfway through our entrees being completed (which is a while - unlike most - my kids are SLOW eaters). We also had to ask several time for our cauliflower side which was again good but nothing special. You can find equal or better pastas at more reasonable prices at other restaurants around town - we recently dined and enjoyed Dino's Grotto (it has always had excellent pasta since it was Dino's) and Al Volo in Adams Morgan (soon opening in Cleveland Park too :-)) The best part of the meal was surprisingly dessert. The cookies and milk desserts is excellent - rich and large enough for 2-3 people (or our whole family of 4) to share. The apple hazelnut cake was also very good and probably would have seemed better if it wasn't tried along with the cookies and milk. The chocolate dairy-free soft serve was good and very rich (like dark chocolate) due to the lack of dairy.
  8. Herring

    When I was in NY awhile back, I had a delightful herring platter at Russ & Daughters. Is there any restaurant or store in the DC area (preferably in DC) that makes their own pickled / cured herring that is very tasty?
  9. giantshrimp, I give you credit for a very well written post. This could be a professional review. As for the content though, my experience was only partially similar. We got there a bit late and so didn't have time to do the tasting menu as I'd hoped. I think you are correct that it is mostly Southern food with some Korean accents - although one dish we had a more of a straight fusion. I also agree that the dining room is really nice. We got a very cozy booth on the side which was perfect for a date night. As for the quality and taste of the food/drink, I was mostly rather pleased. The service was also exceptional - very attentive without being overbearing, knowledgeable, and friendly. My wife and I started with cocktails - I had the not worth it gimmick - Coffee and Cigarettes - bourbon blend with a mini-chocolate cigarette. It was ok but mostly tasted of straight bourbon and all of the mixers were lost and the mini cigarette was simply a tiny piece of chocolate. On the other hand, the Belle's Punch was really excellent. We split a second one later on. It is mango-infused, peach vodka and bubbly punch. They also sell it by the pitcher which I would definitely do if we had a larger group. For app, we had the cornbread cakes which were a handful of tiny cornbread pieces with good strawberry-rhubarb jam and nutty sorghum butter - it was tasty but nothing to different. A standard breadbasket with these condiments would have been equally enjoyed. For mains, we had the dirty fried chicken and the salmon. Both were well cooked and ample - go here with big appetites. The dirty fried chicken is basically a big plate of 2 drumsticks and 2 de-boned thighs with a thick crunchy crust coated in Korean gochujang BBQ sauce. Tasty but not that different than spicy BBQ chicken. The accompaniments of pickled jalapenos, blue cheese, and nor flakes added a bit of complexity but mostly were lost amidst the strong BBQ sauce. A good dish that I enjoyed but the Asian accents were mostly lost. Whereas the salmon was the real fusion. The salmon itself was pretty standard but it comes with white kimchi and a heap of grits made from edamame on top of a cilantro sauce. These accompaniments and sauce when added to the fish or eaten separately really showed the Asian side of the cooking. I really liked the dish but my wife actually didn't like the grits or kimchi but she isn't much for grits or pickles to begin with (she was simply in the mood for salmon). We also got the seasonal side of crispy Brussel sprouts with orange supremes and pecans. This was rather good too and plenty to share for 2. For dessert, we shared on 2 occasions (it is huge) a slice of the excellent hummingbird cake (apparently a Southern staple) - a carrot like cake but made with ground up fruit and nuts with coconut and a cream cheese frosting. If you like carrot cake, get this a be wowed. Really really delightful. Overall, I'd recommend it for a date night, but skip it for lunch and maybe read a bunch of reviews to learn which dishes are more hits than misses. Also re-the duck schnitzel - I didn't eat it, but the waiter explained the ham is wrapped around the duck before it is coated so I can see why someone might miss it.
  10. The restaurant called themselves Lao. Not sure if that is technically correct. [Thanks, Keith - I think that's the preferred term. I have a tendency to conflate it with "Martian" because I'm so used to that word - maybe Laotian refers to the people.]
  11. The answer is Yes, they will make vegetarian versions. Thanks to this thread, yesterday, I found this small hole in the wall and had a very delicious lunch of a new type of dish that I'd never tried before. It is a tiny place on the strip in Mt. Pleasant and you would likely miss it if you weren't looking for it. It is really small inside but bright and clean with 4-5 small tables crammed in around a large register counter. I had what the counter-lady described as one of their most popular Lao dishes on the actual menu (vs. the more extensive posterboard mentioned above) - Nam Kao/Khao - which is a traditional Lao dish of crispy coconut rice salad with herbs, peanuts, eggs and typically pork but they readily substituted crispy cubes of tofu. They serve it with a few lettuce leaves to make a lettuce wrap which was how it tasted best to me. I wish I had a few more leaves though as I used them up and still had half a plate of food (portion is ample but not huge - good value ). The crispy rice was new to me. I looked online and apparently, you mix rice with herbs, eggs, and seasoning then form a big ball which is fried. Then the ball is broken into chunks and the rest of the ingredients are added and mixed together. You end up with these nice bits of crispy rice mixed with chunks of seemingly normal steamed rice that was in the center of the ball. I'd recommend checking it out. They also do a good deal of delivery business but the lady mentioned that business is slow during weekdays - so that may be a good time to order.
  12. Anybody been to the new DC spot? It got really good professional and amateur reviews. I thinking of going later this week and am especially interested in the Taste of South multi-course option that looks like a value deal at $42 person for tastes of multiple apps and entrees (I like variety :-). Anyone tried it?
  13. My good friend who has great taste in food loves Timber Pizza and has highly recommended it. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. However, this same friend brought me some of Timber Pizza's wood-fired bagels and they were excellent. I'm not sure if the bagels are every morning or only weekends, but they are legit!
  14. I like the crispy rolls too but prefer the fresh garden rolls. Really delightful with fresh mint and an excellent peanut sauce. When they were in CP, there were several occasions where I would order a double order of 4 rolls for a light meal.
  15. No idea as this is the first I've heard of that place, but bear in mind it may be an inaccurate comparison. While most, but not all (see lamb gyro) of the G Sandwiches are served on a great sub rolls - they aren't cold cut subs like at an Italian deli (although they both likely have meatball and chicken parm subs). I typically get the lamb gyro on pita or the baby goat. Also G sandwiches lamb chili and pastas are good too. G Sandwich also tends to put non-traditional, but delicious ingredients on its sandwiches - the baby goat has potatos, and they use a lot of fresh herbs. So not to say the other place doesn't have good subs, but for anyone going to G Sandwich and expecting italian deli subs, I would adjust your expectations somewhat (and still go!)