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  1. Inspired by Anne Limpert's praise of the restaurant in her chat last week and heeding her call to visit now before it gets too popular (plus, wanting to go before I move from DC in a week (!!)), we checked out Queen's English in the old KBC space last night. In what seems to be common with good restaurants these days, it is run by a man and a woman pair (ala Himitsu, Espita, Seylou, Bad Saint, Rooster & Owl, etc.). Similar to Rooster & Owl, Seylou and Espita, in this case the pair are husband and wife. We walked in at 6:05 to a mostly empty restaurant (it filled up later but was never jammed) and our party of four was seated by the gracious, knowledgeable and likable Sarah Thompson, the aforementioned front of house maven. The place is beautifully redecorated with bright colors that fit the Hong Kong theme. The wine list (available online) is replete with natural wines (a focus of Sarah's), but we went for cocktails instead. All of them were funky -- in a good way -- either bitter or brightly citrusy without being too sweet. They struck me as drinks that Tiger Fork's imo terrible drinks aspire to be, with less gimmick. I enjoyed two pours of zucca, which is one of my favorite amari. Onto the food. As you can see, there are about 16 menu items, and they recommended 3 dishes or so per person. So we decided to make it easy and order basically the entire menu, skipping only the "PB&J" and the chicken. We were then treated to a parade of deliciousness, with the cucumber/trout roe dish standing out from the first batch. The combination of roe with fresh cucumbers thinly sliced and a vinegar-based sauce hit the spot. In the next group, the twice-cooked lamb rib and daikon fritters are two of the best things I've eaten in a long time. I would highly, highly recommend these as must-orders. I liked the twice-cooked lamb rib more than the one at Tail Up Goat, though I haven't had that for more than a year. The daikon fritters have a perfect texture and a great mix of sweet and salty. The shrimp were massive and tasty, but not incredible. I don't remember much about the steam water egg and dumpling, but I'm sure I enjoyed them. For our mains, I loved the bok choy and young pea greens, which were both on the bitter-veggie side, but they are quite similar, so I'd recommend getting one or the other. The star of this course was definitely the sweet & sour branzino, which came in a sauce that reminded me of a much better version of buffalo sauce. Super tender fish and briny cabbage made it a great dish. Unsurprisingly, the crispy rice was also a hit. More than just fried rice, this is like burnt rice that hasn't been charred, so it is...crunchy, hence the name. Same flavors as fried rice, just a new texture. I liked it. Shockingly, the biggest miss of the night was the hand cut noodles, which we were all so excited for. They come buried under a mix of what seemed to be bell peppers, reminding us almost of fajitas. The flavors didn't compare to the other dishes we had. On another note, we saw the chicken when the waiter walked by with it for someone else--and it looked great. For dessert, the house treated us to the only dessert on the menu, which was a caramel custard that was incredibly sweet and caramelly--but not in a bad way. Two bites of it was plenty, as enjoyable as those bites were. Afterwards, chef Henji Cheung came out to our table to ask us how we liked everything! We almost wonder whether he thought we were professional reviewers, but our lengthy conversation likely dissuaded him of that notion. He spoke to us about his background (grew up in HK and NY) and how they found the spot here. They live around the corner and say this restaurant has been a true labor of love for them, working constantly to make it as good as they hope. Both him and Sarah were incredibly nice and appreciative of our patronage. Honestly, we were full by the end but not overly stuffed--if going with a party of four adults, I would recommend doing much as we did, but adding the chicken, dropping the noodles, and dropping one of the greens dishes. This place is going to be a hit and doesn't take reservations, so go now while you can.
  2. Went last night to ChiKo in Barracks. I had been interested in going, but just don't get to that area as much these days. It's "Chipotle-esque" inside, industrial look, done quite well. There isn't a whole lot of seating, you get in line, take a number and then hope a table opens up. There were 3 of us, so we went to town ordering. It's small plates-ish, but some of the items could definitely make a good size for lunch. It's not Chipotle as in customizable - you order items that are being continuously made fresh in the open kitchen. - Double fried chicken wings - spicy soy glazed - expertly fried, just a bit sweet for me, compared to BC, but these come right of the fryer and perfect crunch - Pork and kim chi poststicker - really tasty, with a nice dipping sauce - Kimchi stew - with pork belly, subtle, not very hard core on the kim chi, but well done - Smashed salmon - with squash and korean red chili paste ... very good - Wagshal's chopp'd brisket - this came most highly recommended by the staff member, but it was not the most loved - I didn't try it, since I don't eat the beef, there's a soft egg and you mix it in. - Cumin lamb stir fry - with wheat noodles... this was one of my favorite dishes I've had in DC in a long time, really well prepped, noodles had good chew (not sure if made in house), spicy but not terribly so, braised tender lamb, pretty much everyone's favorite - Chiko "shrimp and grits" - another WOW dish! Congee and garlic-sauced shrimp, so tasty. I think maybe I liked this better than the lamb. - Wok blistered Chinese broccoli - greens, a palate cleanser, done differently than at Chinese restaurants - it has thicker stems $125 for 3 of us, including one adult beverage each. Not really "fast-casual" - it takes a bit of time to get your food, as it is made to order, and it's not exactly cheap to get full for dinner (what we had was a good amount, we finished almost all of it and were comfortably full). But, high quality. I really like it - I would go back for that lamb stir fry. The ingredients are all really good compared to most Asian places, I think that's why everything just tasted "brighter". And, as someone else on Yelp said, it's not really Chinese - Korean fusion - it's Chinese and Korean dishes, all on the same menu. It's pronounced - "Chi" with a long I sound .. duh - "Chinese Korean". Got corrected when we said chee-ko.
  3. Last night was hot, hot, Mission Chinese Food's "opening" night, and a friend and I were lucky enough to score a pair of seats, after a nominal 20 minute wait, at the ungodly dinner hour of 6:30; normally, we're drinking at that time - and aren't you? Whatever; here we were, greeted warmly by the host and hostess (Anna and Aubrey), and invited to share a celebratory beer while we waited for our seats to become available making for a festive atmosphere in the waiting area. Mission Chinese Food, for those who have either been Rip Van Winkle-ing or who don't check Huff Po, Eater, Twitter, et.al. obsessively every 10 minutes of their life, is the New York City outpost of, ummmm, Mission Chinese Food. Except that MCF is in San Francisco, and it opened as a pop-up inside an already existing Chinese restaurant called Lung Shan, on you guessed it, Mission St. The brainchild of Chef Danny Bowien and partner Anthony Myint, SF's MCF took the food world by storm, and ever since it became clear that Orchard Street and the lower east side would become the home of the 2nd Mission Chinese, NYC's been all atwitter (hmmm) with anticipation. All well and good. It's not like there aren't 100,000 Chinese restaurants here already; it's just that most of them suck. I've gone into that before and don't need to go into it again right now, but anyone trying to do the right thing with a great cuisine is OK in my book. And a quick chat outside with Chef (who might indeed be TV ready, looking all California-cool in his white chef's jacket, white shorts, baseball cap, hipster glasses and flowing tresses) led me to believe that he's very excited to be on this beautiful block of Orchard Street, dealing with some of NYC's finest purveyors both at the high-end (that meat guy) as well as the ones that supply Chinatown with a vast selection of greens and other goodies. As a matter of fact, he was simply qvelling when telling me how great some of the wholesale prices are here compared to SF - and take that, SF! The team has also taken what was home to a few less-than-successful fooderies over the years and turned it into a nice, fun space that feels bigger than it really is. I liked the atmosphere, and there are even backs on all of the chairs, which is good for the altacockers like my buddy and me. I ordered way too much food, but what the heck? The sharp tang of Chinkiang vinegar, heat from chili pepper and buzzy numbness from Szechuan peppercorns is thankfully not dumbed down, at least not in any of the dishes we tried. So, for instance, the Chili Pickled Turnips and Long Beans blow open the taste buds but are impossible to stop eating. As are the Beijing Vinegar Peanuts, meant to be eaten one at a time with chopsticks - order these immediately, so you can eat them with your beer. Lamb Cheek Dumplings in Red Oil are explosive...and good...a lot of amazing stuff going on in that bowlful of dumplings. The Tea Smoked Eel was a favorite of ours; it's wrapped in cheung fun, a rice noodle made on the spot at a few places around Chinatown; as a matter of fact, my very first blog post was about this type of noodle, made around the corner at Sun Light Bakery! I think my favorite dish last night was the Mouth Watering Chicken, a chicken "terrine" with dry-spiced chicken hearts and vegetable "noodles." The hearts are cooked medium-rare, lending them a unique flavor and tenderness, and the breast is nice and moist. They hit it out of the park on this dish. Was everything perfect? Hell no...I would've liked a little less salt (or saltiness in whatever form) in the Broccoli Beef Cheek with Smoked Oyster Sauce, impossibly tender beef nestled under a bed of some sort of Asian broccoli. But it's oyster sauce and that stuff is, shall we say, saline (and I ate all the cheek anyway). So - when am I going back? As a matter of fact, I've already made a reservation for this coming Sunday night. They're taking reservations, but only for the bar seats at this point. Otherwise, it's all walk-in. And delivery. And lunch soon. Orchard Street sure has been looking better and better; now with Mission Chinese Food hitting the street running on all cylinders, it's gotten that much more tasty. Pictures over at Tasty Travails.
  4. Can't find a thread on this, but I thought I remember SeanMike posting something. We went here for Valentine's Day. Bless their hearts. This could be a really cool restaurant, but it is just trying to hard. Genuinely, nicely trying too hard, which breaks your heart because it just needs some changes. First off the space- it was really cute, but it got really cold inside the restaurant that night. The service was over the top, but also sloppy in a way. They way over utilized rose petals for Vday (especially as it was mostly friends and families there). They got us water then didn't ask us about other drinks the whole evening. We had two glasses of champagne with the menu, but after we drank that no mention of do we want something else. But they did bring out food frequently, check on how it was and refilled our water after a couple sips had been taken. They had a Valentine's tasting menu, then their normal tasting menu. But one was 6 courses and the other 11. They didn't have a vegetarian or dim sum option. We were kind of struggling to figure out what to order. Hubby wanted the 11 course, we wanted the 6, they said we could do that. Well then the timing was kind of all over the place, which is why we hesitated in the first place on doing that, but we had my cousin who is 17 and from a rural area and just trying new stuff. There was an egg drop soup that was forgettable and just bland (do you have to put dyed rose petals in the food, I don't want to eat a dyed rose petal), the soup dumplings were placed on top of some sort of paper, but it wasn't non-stick enough, so two of mine fell apart with me just trying to not eat the paper attached to the bottom, I think part of this may have been they had congealed a bit. They served mine and my cousins dishes on a shared middle plate, and then we had to ask for small plates, and those weren't always cleared and replaced. I would have prefered just two separate plates as the plate in the middle made it hard to eat. The XO scallops were good, but their XO sauce wasn't quite as addictively good as other versions I have had and the scallops were so big and slippery even I found them really hard to eat with chopsticks, they brought spoons after they saw us struggling. I thought the lamb chops were great, but my cousin found them a bit too spicy and gamey. These came out with foil on the top, we only had chopsticks so we ate these with our fingers, but it would have been nice for them to indicate they were intended to be eaten with fingers, but would bring forks and knives if preferred. The dessert was durian ice cream, which was interesting, but the dish could have been more complex or had some other elements. There must have been another dish, but I can't remember what it was. MK's menu had a few more dumplings, and he really liked some of the items, but others he also thought were bland. I feel like if this restaurant would 1) offer a few more options on the tasting menus so you could tailor it a bit more to one's tastes and dietary restrictions that would be great 2) do more small plates a la carte 3) just taste and tweak some of the items 4) work on service that this place felt like it had so much potential, but was just failing to reach that potential. That is always what I really hate when I go to some restaurants, you can feel that it could be really good, but it isn't there. This is one of those places that needs to hire a consultant just to tweak things.
  5. Red Farm 529 Hudson St. New York, NY10014 Phone: 212-792-9700 Web: http://redfarmnyc.com/ Reservations Not Accepted At first blush, Red Farm is yet another small, hipster, urban farmhouse restaurant, with reclaimed wood, a communal table, and tattooed servers who are cooler than you. But this version by restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld and Chef Joe Ng incongruously serves Americanized Chinese food, and actually very good Americanized Chinese food at that. I admittedly glazed over when our server dutifully recited the pedigree of the ingredients in nearly every dish. But almost everything tasted fresh and like quality ingredients should, so I'm sure each of the places is wonderful and full of happy cows, pigs, and chickens. The lone exception was a lobster, which had the slightly murky flavor I associate with the cheap ones I sometimes buy in my local Asian grocery. But more on that in a minute. During a very brief wait at the tiny bar, I started with an excellent Shiso Cucumber Martini, a slightly sweet gin cocktail with strong cucumber and a light shiso flavor. My lovely dining companion went with a Blackberry Fizz, which is basically a vodka soda made special with fresh muddled blackberries and a touch of lime. After that, with a long night ahead of me, I stuck to Tsing-Tao during dinner, while she went with a glass of The Chook Sparkling Shiraz, a tasty sparkling red which is refreshing enough that it almost conquered my, perhaps unfounded, aversion to: (1) red wine with Asian food; and (2) sparkling red wines in general. Almost. Dinner began with "Kwaloon Filet Mignon Tarts" ($10), which are two tasty little bites of perfectly-cooked steak with Asian herbs in a fried wonton. From there, we moved to the "Crab and Shrimp Dumplings" ($12.50), four perfectly fried shrimp with crab stuffing that came served with little mayo and black sesame seed eyes. The whimsical touch, which made our shrimp look like tiny battered flounders, carries over to all of the dumplings here, including the traditional steamed and pan-fried ones. And from the looks of the other dumplings, it's clear that those versions are this chef's true specialty. But the fried shrimp "dumplings" we got were tasty enough that any jealousy directed toward our neighbors at the communal table was short-lived. For our main courses, I went with the aforementioned lobster, descriptively named "Sautéed Lobster, Egg, and Chopped Pork" ($38). Even with the slightly murky lobster, this is a good dish with a tasty, spicy sauce. The murkiness maybe even lends a bit of authenticity to it. My chief complaint is actually the preparation, which requires cracking lobster parts coated in slippery sauce, making it fairly difficult to eat without a giant mess. The attractive half of our party chose the even more specifically named "Shrimp, Scallops, and Mussels with Rice Wine, Tomato, Basil and Very Thin Rice Noodles" ($28.50). This is a vaguely Asian Cioppino that maybe could have used a bit more punch and tastes far more of San Francisco than China. But it is a great pot of seafood that let its marquee ingredients -- giant, fresh prawns, large, well-seared scallops, and plump (clearly farm-raised) mussels -- shine. So it's hard to quibble. Nobody would quibble with the entree portions at Red Farm either. Though fairly pricey, both were huge, leaving no thought in my head of dessert. And a look at the brief dessert menu suggested that the course may be somewhat of an afterthought here. But I may have mentioned to my friend that if you put key lime pie in front of me, I'm going to eat it. And so I did. This version is good, and its sour-sweetness was a nice, if unnecessary end to the meal. It wasn't the end I was expecting, though. That never came: Red Farm doesn't serve fortune cookies. Probably for the best, I guess. Lacking direction from any authoritative confections, we headed out into the New York night to find our own fortune. Original Post: http://whitestmanint...st-village.html
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