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    Ashburn, VA
  1. genericeric

    Richmond, VA

    The service at Mekong has never been its selling point. But man, had an experience on Saturday night that may bump this favorite of mine off the list. Posted hours until midnight. 9pm, the place is still busy but handwritten sign on door on a piece of torn notebook paper that said "Closed". Seeing as the place is still busy, I thought maybe, just maybe, its an old sign, etc. Hostess screamed at me and asked if I didn't read the sign. The wife, knowing how badly I wanted some Mekong (this may have been toward the end of a long day of Richmond breweries), and being more persistent yet also more polite than I am, called to see if maybe the dining room was closed for a private event, but we could still get takeout. She was also screamed at before the hostess hung up the phone. It was the most bizarre, infuriating "service" experience I can remember. I get that places close sometimes, that's ok, but whoa attitude. Looking at some recent online postings, I'm not alone. These days Richmond has a lot of really good beer options, and a lot of really solid food options. No need for this.
  2. You're really lucky to have gotten it - its typically saved for "special" guests as it's so highly prized
  3. I'm afraid I'm starting to sound like a shill in this thread, but to keep things current... Snagged a reservation for lunch in the main dining room this past Sunday. Our first reservation since the remodel - the space has been freshened, but not dramatically redesigned. The bar area has undergone a change - there are now more seats available for the more approachable bar reservations, however there are fewer bar stools that are for walk ins. If you show up at noon on a Sunday, you still seem to be able to get your pick of seats sitting at the now-smaller bar. Service remains impeccable. Approachable, almost casual but always extremely professional. Not at all stuffy, but exceedingly capable stewards throughout the meal. I won't go dish by dish, as many dishes remain stalwart from previous posts. The highs: From the simple but great book - the cheese course. A single disk of cheese, grilled and served atop a thin plate of celery root (I could have sworn it was potato but the menu corrected me at the end), served with a simple green salad in a truffle vinaigrette. A winter green salad on top of rye toast. A thin tart shell topped with black truffle puree and sprinkled with clothbound cheddar, served with a truffle-stuffed mushroom and grilled portobella. The lows: A butter poached lobster with a lobster broth, sweet potato, wilted greens and chestnut. The chestnut texture didn't work, and was a smoke bomb that threw the dish off balance. My dessert of a spiced cake with roasted pumpkin and creme fraiche ice cream - I also didn't care for the texture of the pumpkin. My wife and I agreed that we've enjoyed our food more on previous occasions. It isn't that it wasn't well executed, but we preferred the dishes offered on the summer menu. I was a bit surprised to be seeing so many winter flavors on the menu on April 1st. That being said, it was still a wonderful and fun experience, and I have no doubt we'll be back - though maybe next time to grab a bar stool.
  4. The NoMad Restaurant, operated by the Make it Nice group is the more casual, approachable cousin of Eleven Madison Park, located in the NoMad hotel. The maze of rooms makes this large restaurant intimate and comfortable, with excellent service to match. Stopped in on Saturday evening for a drink and a snack, ordering a few cocktails and the Crudite ($16). From Las Vegas to Denver to New York in the last week, I've eaten a lot of places - including the aforementioned Eleven Madison Park (for another thread), but the single best dish I had was this plate of raw vegetables and dip. Radishes, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots and chive cream. All quasi-seasonal, all fresh, crisp, and delicious. A wonderful example of perfectly executing something so simple and having the results be amazing.
  5. genericeric

    Richmond, VA

    We have terrible luck when we go to Richmond. Part of this is our fault. We a. don't get out much these days and b. tend to prefer sitting at the bar, sampling things rather than sitting down for dinner. We also tend to be somewhat last minute travelers - making reservations weeks in advance often isn't possible. This means we'll often try to get drinks and an appetizer at two or three places in an evening. I think its time to finally accept that this dining scene isn't conducive to that style of eating. This past week, after trying to go to East Coast Provisions for 6 months, we finally got smart and went for lunch. Sushi was excellent, the wife's salmon was good but in desperate need of an acid on the plate. I ordered badly - Avocado BLT. Order a BLT in February and I don't feel like you have a right to complain, so I will leave it at that. Note to anyone in Carytown - the RVA Draft Room across from ECP - 50 beers on tap machines, sample as little or much as you want. This wouldn't be a place I'd go every week, but is a nice option to have. I tried to get us out of the hotel early to get a bar seat at L'Oppossum, and failed. Walking in at 6:30, there was one bar stool remaining, so asked my wife to have a seat while we figured out our next move. What appeared to be a manager/bartender came over, holding an iphone up to his ear, and said they would 'prefer' I not stand. They do have a couch in the dining room and the hostess offered us a cocktail, but with a babysitter and an estimated 30-45 minute wait, we couldn't stay. On paper the restaurant handled this correctly, and I was not surprised at being asked to move. But something about the way it was said and the phone left me feeling chided and slightly embarrassed. Having said that, this was FAR better than how we were treated at Stella's last visit, but that is for another thread. Time to regroup, we headed to Grandstaff and Stein for a cocktail. Remember to look up the password on Facebook in advance, and this has some of the better cocktails in Richmond, I just wouldn't recommend staying for dinner. After liquid fortification, we were close to the Roosevelt so drove up and parked around the back side of the restaurant. Same situation - one bar stool. Restaurant was much more accommodating but the space was small and we were losing steam. I'll not go into details here, but on the way back to the car I'm 99.9% we were about to get mugged when a police car came down the street at JUST the right moment. We'd looked seriously at buying a house on Church Hill last year - this experience made me glad we did not. There was a police car watching the restaurant when we arrived, which made me wonder if this wasn't the first. So the night ended up where it almost always does. An AleSmith My Bloody Valentine Amber at Mekong while waiting for above average vietnamese takeout, and a 6-pack of Inbev's finest from the Sheetz.
  6. genericeric

    Bell's Beers

    Randomly stumbled upon Hopslam twice this year - once at a random Giant in Leesburg - cans for $20. Again at the Whole Foods in Ashburn on draft. These were weeks apart so take the reaction with a grain of salt, but I preferred the cans. The beer was well balanced - the honey flavor that shone through at the finish may have been just a bit too much for some, but I really enjoyed it. The draft tasted like any other IPA - granted, a good IPA, but nothing noteworthy.
  7. I'm not sure how you could go wrong with menu descriptions like "awesome sauce" and "jersey sauce" - somewhere Guy Fieri is smiling. Having said that, I hope this place is decent. A few recent bad experiences at the Bonefish in Ashburn and not loving Ford's these days, another option would be nice.
  8. Often overlooked is their above average happy hour food menu. Nothing mind blowing, but many seem to think of this as a 'special occasion' restaurant, and not in a good way (think Grandma's birthday, etc). Those honey ham biscuits ($5) are addictive.
  9. Completely agree, and I, too, read the wikipedia article. After wasting a few hours of my life watching the film, I had to google to see what was actually going on.
  10. The Post had so much potential. Two legendary stars on screen for the first time together, a legendary director, and a topic that speaks so well to issues being faced today. To me, the end product was a disappointment. There's something about Steven Spielberg recent films that have been less successful for me - perhaps they don't seem to fit as much with the culture or times. Each contains 10% too much nostalgia and shine - not every story needs to be wrapped up and packaged neatly with a bow at the end. Bridge of Spies (2015) suffered from this, and I would say that Lincoln did to a certain extent as well. People are flawed, stories are flawed, we can take it. Of course the acting was great. Tom Hanks may not be Jason Robards in the role, but he still plays a great Ben Bradlee. Meryl Streep seems to be playing the same character these days, but she was also great (and the casting probably says more about good roles for mature women in Hollywood than her abilities). Bradley Whitford, in his small supporting role, also stole a number of scenes. But overall I couldn't escape the feeling that there was a missed opportunity here.
  11. I don't get to nearly as many movies as I used to, so the smaller independent movies - particularly those that look like a downer - get bumped off the see list. With the multiple Golden Globe wins, my wife and I decided to check this out and I felt that this was a better contender for best picture than others in recent years (I'm looking at you La La Land). It was a dark, angry film. But it also had moments when I was laughing out loud in the theatre. Several articles have recently been written about this style of film - you often see this in Coen brothers movies, and this did remind me somewhat of Fargo - an easy comparison to make with Francis McDormand starring. But I did feel that the levity in this film was more of a release valve on the darkness and helped carry the story to the end, whereas I lost interest in Manchester by the Sea last year for, frankly, being too depressing. McDormand and Rockwell have both played similar characters before, but both turned in fantastic performances. And three cheers for any Best Pic nominee/winner that clocks in at 2 hours or less (1:55 in this case).
  12. I decided to walk to lunch today, and stopped at OEG when my face froze. I never expect OEG to have the greatest food, but I do feel like lunch is solidly reliable to grab a sandwich or some soup. After asking for a recommendation, ordered the Oyster Gumbo (cornmeal-crusted and flash-fried oysters, andouille sausage, scallions) for $10.99. The oysters were great - plump, crispy, perfectly fried. The rest of the bowl was so bad as to be odd. The sausage was nowhere to be found (nor was any other discernible flavor but salt). No okra, so spice whatsoever, no rice or bread. I'm not sure what it was, but it wasn't gumbo and it wasn't good. The bartender, who I've known for years and is a better bartender than this, didn't ask why the bowl was going back full. May be time to downgrade OEG off the reliable lunch list.
  13. My wife and I made our first visit last night - the restaurant has only been open a week, so please keep that context in mind... Also note that the prices listed include gratuity. Starting with the good - we really enjoyed our food. My wife started with the Butternut Squash Frite with pumpkin seed, sage ricotta, baby carrot and parsnip, and pickled cranberry ($13). The frites themselves were fine if somewhat unremarkable, but all the components taken together were really nicely balanced and reminded me of a deconstructed squash blossom, with the cranberry then cutting through the ricotta. I had the Foie Gras Duck Trio (I think this was $21 but isn't the same as the online version) which came with a lobe of foie, sliced duck, and a cured duck egg on brioche, all over apple butter. The flavor of the dish was great, though the foie was sort of warm, the egg was room temperature, and the sliced duck was sort of cold, which didn't work well for me (lukewarm happened a few times throughout the evening). My main was the "Spaghetti and Meatballs" - three lentil "meatballs" on top of spaghetti squash, surrounded by a moat of tomato soup ($19). Inventive vegetarian dish with the lentil balls that were substantial but not overly dense. Wife had the Spring House Farms Chicken ($23) with apple chicken sausage and some roasted winter squash and mushrooms (online menu description doesn't match so details are vague). The chicken sausage had a great flavor and the chicken itself was moist and flavorful (I would guess poached and then finished on grill?) - I'm not sure both proteins were needed but they were both good. Dessert was a Scotch Poached Pear with earl grey creme anglaise, shortbread, honey ($9). The scotch imparted a bit of the smoked mossy flavor (in a good way) without being overpowering. Our server, Oscar, was very good. Pleasant and attentive without being overbearing. The biggest not-so-good point may have been what felt like a restaurant with an identity problem - the whole evening was a tug-of-war between fine dining and a pop up in the Brambleton Town Center. The prices of the food, especially given that service is included, were very reasonable. Comparatively, the prices of the wines by the glass felt high to me. Our waiter was wonderful, but while the hostess was very friendly she was also very casual - as I'm getting older that 'hey guys' thing with mixed company sticks out to me. The space itself is pushing barren industrial a bit far. But again, this restaurant is only a week old. Maybe it will find its groove. I also hope the bar was just having an off night. I enjoy drinks that have a bit of spice in them, but the martini with orange and habanero simple syrup was way out of balance in favor of the syrup, half the size it should have been, and was served with large chunks of ice from the shaker. Glasses of wine ordered with courses were delivered well after. Again, kinks that may be worked out with time.
  14. If you enjoy a good gin and tonic, the bar at Del Mar is worth a stop. Three to chose from off the menu - Bailando (juniper and cucumber), Estrellas (Ginger, lime, cardamom and star anise) and Te Quiero (Lemongrass, rosemary, grapefruit) and at $14, not badly priced for the neighborhood. The Estrellas brought whole cardamom pods and the anise into a large enough cocktail that I'll need to wait for the next visit to try the Te Quiero.
  15. The bar here is likely their firewall as it plays the role of hotel bar to the Intercontinental, restaurant bar to K/K, and, for the time being, the most accessible bar to the center of the wharf development (I suppose that's subjective) - this is a very large space that was jammed at 10:15 last night. Requin is losing a TON of money by not having an entrance that is accessible from Wharf St as I saw numerous parties attempt to enter and then give up in just a few minutes of watching last night. Of course Del Mar and the irish bar were not lacking in traffic, but Kith and Kin was gaining most of the walk in traffic.