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mongo jones

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  1. i'm done with my reviews on the blog of all the meals we ate in dc last month: baby wale hill country laos in town rasika teaism bantam king all my dc reviews can be found here. thanks to all of you for the recommendations. not sure when we'll be back again but i'll definitely hit you all up again. in the meantime, if i can reciprocate with twin cities, los angeles, delhi or bombay recommendations please let me know.
  2. here is the last of my meal reports from our trip to dc last month. we ate a quick lunch at the penn quarter teaism between smithsonian outings. the food was mostly just fine: not bad, not great, mostly just unremarkable (though i did like my chilled carrot soup a lot on that hot, humid day). $80'ish all-in for what we ate and drank (those juices are expensive!) felt like a bit much. but it was also a relief from the heavier eating we'd been doing every day. i'd recommend it for lunch to anyone at the smithsonians all day but i'd not be drawn to return in any other circumstances. here is the link to my full review on my blog.
  3. here is my review of our restaurant week lunch at rasika, almost exactly four years after my somewhat disappointing dinner there in 2015. the major takeaway: --- Things started out very well in the first course with three hits out of the four. Their signature palak chaat—which I’d enjoyed in 2015—is still very good. The chicken tikka pieces seemed a little too large but they were marinated and grilled well. The tawa sea bass—a very large portion—was nicely done with the pressed rice crust but it was the accompanying lemon pickle and spiced potato mash that I liked the most. That leaves the lamb goli kabab—it wasn’t bad but it was basically like eating unremarkable meatballs coated with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. This was mostly mine and I am still kicking myself for not getting the calamari balchao. Still, we were very happy at this point. Things got more mediocre with the entrees. This is both because there was too much of a sameness between the three curries—and a sameness neither signaled on the menu nor pointed out by our server—and because all the dishes were prepared in a rather uninspired manner. Both the alleged Goan fish curry and the murgh mirch korma were dominated by tomato. There was not much sign of coconut or Goan flavours in the former and no sign whatsoever of the billed Sichuan pepper in the latter; indeed, there was nothing korma’ish about the korma or anything really to recommend it over average home-made chicken curry. The tandoori salmon was fine but three large chunks of fish with green chutney is an odd main course (and it was hard to tell why this was a main course and the hariyali tikka an appetizer). Unexpectedly then, the butter chicken that the older brat got, despite our trying to gently guide him in a more adventurous direction, turned out to be the best dish in this course. Desserts were an improvement on the main courses but not uniformly so. In the plus column were the mango cardamom panna cotta and the coconut jaggery rice pudding. In the blah column was the rose plum sorbet—it would have been very good as just plum sorbet but the rose added on—presumably to make it more “Indian”—made it too cloying. And speaking of cloying, the gulab jamun cheesecake looked and tasted like a bad idea—though I suspect whoever came up with it thinks it is a very good idea. If you’ve been counting you’ll note that we liked 6/12 dishes a lot. It is true that there was only dish that we thought was bad (the cheesecake) but there was too much that seemed by the numbers. That doesn’t seem like a great hit rate for a restaurant vying to be the best in its genre in the US. Now, of course, this was at lunch and it was during restaurant week but it was about the same hit rate as I’d experienced in 2015 at dinner. Perhaps I’ve gotten unlucky twice but it seems to me that Rasika is quite a way behind its peers in London—our weekday prix fixe lunches at the Cinnamon Club, in particular, were so much better in both conception and execution. Service was friendly and present—they are well staffed—but the courses were very unevenly timed. The first course came out right away but then it took a long time for the mains to arrive and even longer after that for the desserts to show up. Perhaps the kitchen was taken by surprise by the Restaurant Week rush. That rush—if it is indeed unusual for weekday lunch—might have been because the Restaurant Week menu was, despite my reservations above, a very good deal. $22/head for a hefty meal at a top restaurant is by any measure a very good price. And even if we didn’t think the meal lived up to Rasika’s lofty reputation it was a very good meal for $22/head. And who knows, perhaps if we’d made a few different choices we’d have been more impressed. --- the rest of the write-up with pictures is on the blog.
  4. for what it's worth, i found my first meal at rasika (dinner in august 2015) to be a little disappointing on the whole as well, with some ho-hum dishes and some things I thought were not good. nonetheless, we went back for lunch on this trip. it was probably a better meal in some ways though again i came away unconvinced by its reputation. i'll have that second report later in the week probably but if anyone is interested in that 2015 report it is here.
  5. to back you up a bit, here's my report on my blog on our dinner at laos in town exactly three weeks ago. we liked the food fine---especially after two meals in a row featuring heavy meat dishes and fried food---but nothing really jumped out. service was not good. but i'd still recommend it to people visiting from places where there are no lao restaurants. in my write-up i actually spend more time wondering about the question about why/how it is that dc has more lao restaurants than the twin cities even though the twin cities has twice the lao population.
  6. my meal reports from our recent dc trip continue with our first lunch which was at hill country. thanks to ericandblueboy for the rec. it was a big hit with the family--our boys love grilled and smoked meats of any kind. we got the moist brisket (good), the pork ribs (very good), the kreuz sausage (excellent) and a special of smoked chicken wings (excellent). for sides we got the cole slaw, the potato salad, sweet potato bourbon mash, the collards with bacon and the baked beans with burnt ends. all were good but i particularly enjoyed the latter three. prices were reasonable as well--just about $100 for three adults and two kids who ate a lot. i'm sure there are a lot of comparable places in dc but coming from minnesota, this was a big highlight for us. the full review with more pictures than anyone probably needs is at the blog.
  7. here is another account of a meal in dc last week that we were steered to by the good people of donrockwell.com (full review with pictures on the blog). thanks to marty l. for the recommendation! --- My first report from our brief sojourn in DC last week was of our first meal: dinner at Baby Wale. I’d planned to go in order but instead here is a report of our last formal meal in DC: ramen at Bantam King. As with Baby Wale, Bantam King was a recommendation from the excellent community at DonRockwell.com. We’d originally planned to do our ramen eating at Daikaya but it turned out that they were participating in Restaurant Week and were only serving a Restaurant Week menu for dinner with a minimum spend of $35/head. We were only too happy to swap it out for Bantam King. And then we were quite happy with our meal. Like Baby Wale—and also Daikaya—Bantam King was a leisurely 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. They don’t take reservations but we were there a little after 7 on a weekday and there wasn’t too much of a wait. We were told 20 minutes but got seated earlier. There was a bit of an annoyance with getting our table but it was minor. We were offered 4 seats that opened up at their long, communal table; I said to the host that we would be happy to wait a little longer for a four-top that seemed to be winding up by a window, as with small kids that would be easier than the communal table. He said there was a group ahead of us who would get the table. I asked why if they were ahead of us he was offering us the seats that opened up first but he seemed confused by this. The stand-off was ended when another four-top in the inner part of the dining room also got up. He then gave the group ahead of us that table and gave us the window table. All controversy over, we sat down and quickly perused the menu. It is very brief: five types of ramen plus a limited list of smaller dishes/sides. There were also a few specials. In addition, the menu listed a seasonal special of tantanmen but, disappointingly, it was not available; instead, they had a cold, broth-less tantanmen—I passed. What did we get? The kids split an order of their chintan ramen; the missus got their spicy miso ramen; I got their shoyu ramen. In addition, we got an order of gyoza, an order of fried chicken wings, and an order of rice with onsen egg. It was all more than decent, with the spicy miso ramen probably the pick of the three. We also quite liked the fried chicken wings—a bargain at $6 for four large chicken wings. Oh yes, as their name indicates, Bantam King is a chicken-only restaurant. Their ramen broth is made from chicken and the only meat featured in any of their dishes is chicken. I prefer porky ramen in general but concede that this was pretty good. For a look at the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and value and to see what’s coming next. [pictures on the blog] All of the above plus a small carafe of their house sake came to just short of $80 with tax and tip. Counting the kids as one adult that’s roughly $26/head. Which is pretty good for the quantity and quality. Service once we sat down was very good too. Our order was taken quickly, the food came out quickly and servers were always on hand when needed. All in all, I would recommend Bantam King to anyone else in our position: within easy reach and looking for a place for a quick, tasty dinner for kids and adults. I’m not sure, however, that I would travel across town to eat here. Next up from DC: barbecue at Hill Country. But I’ll probably have a New York report and my last North Shore report before that.
  8. as those who may have seen my request for recommendations in the "help needed" forum know, i am in dc with my family and eating out based entirely on this community's recommendations. on our first night we ate dinner at baby wale, not far from our hotel. i wrote up the meal on my blog today. here is my account of the food. for pictures and the rest of the review (including a shout out to donrockwell.com) please see the blog post. --- Well, we sat down and perused the menu and got down to business. The menu is divided into sections named “Small Things” and “Bigger Things”—though in practice not everything in “Small Things” turned out to be very small. The food is the contemporary hipster-casual American pastiche of dishes from various vernacular traditions: pupusas, lumpia, hot dogs, fried chicken, ramen etc. We asked for some guidance on portion size and our server suggested we order a few things first and see how much more we might want to eat. We started with orders of their lumpia (Filipino Style Springrolls on the menu) and Buffalo Mozzarella Porcupine. The former were very good and were enjoyed by the very young and the very middle-aged alike. The “buffalo mozzarella porcupine” turned out to be mozzarella encased in crispy shards of phyllo and sat down upon a pool of tomato sauce slicked with basil oil. The kids really liked the presentation; the adults wondered if a less complicated caprese might not have been a better idea (as I said, we are very middle-aged). Next up the New Jersey Hotdog and the Grilled Pork Ribs. Both of these plates were hits with both generations. The beef and pork hotdog (massive) was very good but it was the herbed fries that we liked the best. The ribs were tender without being too tender and the sesame slaw that came with them was excellent. We could have stopped here and gone on to dessert but we decided to try their Fried Chicken from the “Bigger Things” section and also the Zucchini Pupusas from the “Small Things” section. The fried chicken was dynamite—the best thing we ate; the chicken was moist and the breading and frying was immaculate (and it came with more of those fries). The pupusas were tasty enough but they were large, way larger than the other “Small Things” we’d ordered and pushed us over the brink and away from dessert. For a look at the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and value and to see what’s coming next. --- Oh yes, I had a glass of rioja and the missus got their Summer Spritz with Aperol etc., which she quite enjoyed. The drinks and all the food above came to exactly $99 or about $120 with tip. That’s not exactly a cheap meal for four when two of the four are 8 and 10 years old but it seemed like good value to us for what the food actually was (as it happens, this has more or less been the tariff at every meal we’ve had so far in DC). The service was very good as well. I’ve no idea what it is like when they’re much busier but our server was friendly, helpful and present whenever we needed him. In sum, I would recommend Baby Wale highly to anyone else looking for a family meal with enough on the menu to likely please everyone—with the caveat that it could well get very loud there when it’s busy. And really I’d recommend it to anyone looking for good food in a casual setting. Thanks much to Pat on DonRockwell.com for suggesting it! Up next from DC: a quick and even more informal barbecue lunch at Hill Country. That’ll probably be next week (by which point we’ll probably have been in New York for a week). --- thanks again to pat for the recommendation!
  9. see here, for example. this place actually has "lao" in their name, but even when restaurants are billed as thai, there's a good chance they're operated by lao owners/chefs. if i'm not mistaken, in the case of laos in town it may be the other way around: i think i read something that said that the owners are from bangkok.
  10. lunch today was at rasika. they have a restaurant week menu that is a very good deal: three courses (app/main/sweet) for $22/head. lots of choices in each section. apps were uniformly good, mains were less so, desserts were good. portion sizes were very large and rice and a bread basket were also included. however, the meal took forever--we waited almost 30 minutes between finishing the first course and getting the second. we ended up being in the restaurant for more than two hours---which was not optimal use of our museum-visiting time. and lunch also ended so late that it may have killed our appetites for dinner. i mean the two of us could go out for a late dinner but the kids need to go to bed earlier. we'll probably eat in at the hotel tonight (we're staying at an all-suites place with a kitchenette in the room). bantam king tomorrow then.
  11. many thai restaurants in the twin cities are owned by people from laos and there are many lao dishes on their menus. lao-style papaya salad is a staple, for example, as is khao poon and the versions of both at laos in town were tamer than we're used to---not as much fish sauce funk or heat in the papaya salad, and the khao poon had less heat and was also less soupy.
  12. today's meals were also hits: lunch at hill country (particularly liked the smoked wings that were a special today); and then dinner at laos in town. i have to say that as far as the food itself is concerned, we have better lao food in st. paul. but what we don't have in st. paul, despite having a large lao population, is a lao restaurant, certainly not one as hip as this one. sorry to miss thip khao on this trip.
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