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About dhowgill

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  1. Well it appears that someone had to take the plunge, so I have bravely gone where apparently no DR aficionado has dared to go far....and actually eaten at Bearnaise. As seems universal in this conflab, let me emphasize that I am not a Spike groupie and think that his other two restaurants here on the Hill are a costly abomination as far as food goes - but personally he is a pretty affable guy, ignore the TV persona. Now onto Bearnaise... So what did we have: Bread. This actually surprised me. Bread was not bad at all, served with lots of real, non-whipped butter (an essential for me) and refreshed frequently with a warm replacements. Very happy. Oysters. 3 varietals, all fresh, well served with usual accouterments. Nothing to shout home about, not hard to do and no better than anywhere else. Mussels. Much like the oysters, these were well prepared and presented - with good flavor but no real wow moment. For a Normandy preparation I would also like to see the sauce a touch thicker to allow it stick to the fries for the essential dipping test. French Onion Soup: Mediocre. Good topping but the base lacked any ooomph. House Salad. This shouldn't be advertised as an appetizer option, it's more of a side anywhere else. Soup of the day: Vichyssoise. Can't fault it. Great balance of cream, stock, leek, potato - and the the garnish provided the right note of saltiness. Steak Frites galore.... The steak comes in Flat Iron, Entrecote and Tenderloin. We tried them all. Flat Iron was cooked correctly but candidly a bit tough. The Entrecote was exactly as one should expect it to be - I complement them for that because in DC alas it usually is't "exactly as one should expect it to be". The tenderloin perfectly cooked and very tender, although lacking in any depth of flavor as is often the case. Frites. Good flavor but a bit greasy and definitely in need of a bit more crunch. Sauces: All steaks come with choice of sauces. None were standouts and had been clearly, and understandly, created in larger volumes vs for each diner. The standout is the spiced bearnaise, a combo of sriracha and traditional bearnaise that works rather well. Usual lashing of red and white. The white list was already depleted by Saturday so our first two choices were unavailable, so the Muscadet was the fill in. As it was still 85 degrees outside our red choices were far more available. All in all we ate well, but without wow. I find that slightly disappointing from a kitchen headed by Brad Race (ex MiniBar) who is capable of much more. The decor inside has been done very well, best on Penn Ave to date. The staff were accommodating (allowed us starters off the bar menu, in addition to the prix fixe) and attentive. Verdict: 1) Menu annoying a bit overpriced. Why limit the prix fixe to only 3 appetizers to choose from and not allow sub from the better ones on the bar menu? (mussels, oysters, frogs legs) 2) Wine menu a clever deception. Lots of wine for $40 we heard them cry...what a deal! Not so much when you look closely and much of it can be purchased in restaurants nearby for $30-35 with very few deserving to top the $40. But I will give credit that it stopped a large table whining about wine price quite quickly, and that is to be applauded. 3) It was their first week open and they easily earned a revisit. I do not see them replacing my Capitol Hill favorites, but are certainly a welcome addition to the neighborhood - which both surprises and pleases me. Bravo Spike.
  2. Ate at Grenier for the first time last Thursday, and would concur with the mixed bag theories of above - but walked away happy and will be back. The Good: The Boudin Noir. JoshNE is absolutely correct. Crack on a plate, perfectly done with a crisp outside an d juicy delicious center. Oh my. The charcuterie plate. Far from the area's best, but well presented with good product - and without being ridiculously priced (which I will praise Grenier for throughout) The Blah-d: They had a lamb "stew/tajine/daube" on the menu for which I can't remember it's official name. It was good not great, and it peeves me to see a bowl of stew come out with no accompaniments at all - at least put a salad leaf on the side, otherwise advertise it as "bowl of meat" The Ugly: The daily special of the salmon. Badly overcooked and they didn't care. The service. Sporadic at best, it felt like the waiter was suffering from a bi-polar disorder (which I do not mean to demean in any way) - but one moment he was friendly and efficient, then would disappear and have to recalled begrudgingly - in a repetitive cycle throughout the evening. And no, he was not busy. The under-valued: The wine list is actually very reasonable. It is not huge, but has sensible selections at sensible prices - more restaurants in DC should do the same.] The Calvados! Chateau Breuil is one of my favorite Calva's available, and a very rare find in DC (for restaurateur's, Winebow has it). Although Grenier only has the base model, at least they have it.
  3. Had the pleasure of dinner at Thai Ghang Waan on Tuesday, and as everyone above had an excellent meal. Very keen on their use of paratha for the duck roll appetizer, less grease and more flavor - a good combo. Thai fish cakes good, but nothing to write home about - which can not be said of the main courses, where these guys guys shone. For the meat and veg friend with us the house steak (55) was perfectly cooked and quite delicious, the crispy duck with basil (47) was a little tough for a few pieces but mostly well prepared, tasty, hot and far from a complaint. The reals standouts have to be on the Thai menu, which is authentic and delicious. Can't remember the numbers, but oh my. The wide noodles were probably the best I've had in years, and the chinese friend with us who ordered them concurred heartily. All that said I have saved the best until last, also from the Thai menu - the crispy pork with greens. This last dish was a revelation and hands down best of the evening - basically fresh pork scratching/chicharones with sauteed greens, sounds simple but am still salivating 2 days later. I am very much looking forward to a return trip to attack the rest of that Thai menu...
  4. While I do very much enjoy an occasional cocktail at Le Bar at the Sofitel, Iast week I made the fatal mistake of having lunch at Ici Urban Bistro, the hotel's restaurant. They have an appealing menu for lunch, regular a la carte or three 4 mini-course lunches which are prix fixe and supposed to get you in and out in about 30 minutes - seemed like a plan. The three menu choices are the standard 4 course (my choice), the daily special four course (apparently vegetarian on Wednesday's, so not my choice) or the "diet" option (my wife's choice). My wife's is easier to describe as it was less infectious. The chicken tajine was far from a chicken tajine, but the best thing on the table throughout lunch - the other three dishes were completely forgettable, including the standard salad from somewhere like Ollie's Trolley and a strawberry dessert that DQ could probably equal. The worst was saved seemingly for me. The daily menu started with a flavorless French Onion soup, with a nice layer of soggy bread and grease on top - couldn't finish that and the good wife immediately became strangely possessive of her bad salad upon tasting the option. The second course was the only one I managed to consume, which was an undercooked mushroom crepe - using a heavy sweet crepe batter (a pet peeve, learn how to make a savory crepe - lazy!). The piece de resistance was definitely the duck confit, something that when purchased in bulk (as I suspect this was) should be hard to screw up - and yet voila, now serving a standard small leg with no skin attached, but in it's place a slab (yes, slab) of white, thick, greasy, almost uncooked duck skin - which was as likely to have seen a pan, salamander or broiler as I am to being James Bond's replacement; utterly grim. Finally a nice stale millefeuille to top off the courses not worth eating. In fairness to Sofitel, our waiter - Bryan - was accommodating and extremely apologetic. Something about the kitchen staff having left at about 1.45 and left the B team in place - who apparently can't cook, reheat or clean. End result one of the two meals comped by the manager, who was clearly tired of hearing the same thing (there was zero surprise that someone was unhappy). Sofitel's are great hotels to stay in, and the London St. James one even used to have a Roux Brothers restaurant - so Ici is not just a disgrace to my poor stomach, but also to the Accor chain. Yes, I was pretty steamed up about it, because you can forgive one or two errors - but for four course to all be wrong, is just wrong. I'll be back, but will be sticking to the safer territory of the bar and would strongly advise others to do the same.
  5. Sorry, slow on response. Only been back once since my first post, and was equally pleased as first time - although as per prediction it was was getting a bit crowded and as usual I shall probably "cherish" it more once it settles down again. Only had cocktails on second trip so can;t comment on the food, but still looked good and really like the mix and match formula. Unsure when the expansion on the ground floor is due to open, but will keep an eye on it.
  6. Checked out Black Whiskey last night and it's well worth a visit. Jack and Saeed behind the bar (think Bar Pilar, St Ex, Marvin, 18th St etc etc) serving up their usual levels of hospitality. Simple menu of carvery plates, choose a meat and then accompanying sides - simple but well executed and reasonably priced. Pool table at the end, which will inevitably be overused in the short term and a welcome diversion once the "cool" period finishes in a few months. The upstairs opens fully tonight and is worth a pop in, the downstairs looks a couple of months behind but has a good team to launch it and I have no doubt will be yet another popular spot on 14th.
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