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The Source, Pan-Asian Fusion in the Newseum Building in Penn Quarter - Chef Russell Smith Replaces Scott Drewno

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2 hours ago, eatruneat said:

I read in the Washington Post that The Source's lounge offers a three course pseudo chef's tasting menu for $35 per person. The Source had been underwhelming and expensive the few times I went, but that was before their remodeling and the deal seemed like a great way of trying out some of the new menu offerings so MichaelBDC and I meandered down there last Thursday to check it out.

The first course is a selection of small plates that included pickled cucumbers and radishes, sashimi, crab curry, sichuan chilled noodles, and 2 large scallion flower rolls. All the dishes were quite good with my favorites being the crab curry and the Sichuan chilled noodes. The sashimi was a slice of octopus and a slice of tuna per person, which were good enough to remind me that it has been awhile since my last sushi feast. For the second course, MichaelBDC and I ordered two different dumplings: the pork and chive potsticker and the chili "dan dan" chicken dumplings. I love dumplings and both were excellent, probably my favorite part of the meal. MichaelBDC and I devoured them and were satisfied enough to have walked away but we still had one last course. The piece de resistance were two humongous bones of orange and cumin rubbed short ribs that had been braised for several hours so that they easily fell off the bone. The beef was served over crispy smashed potatoes and with steamed bao buns, lettuce, cucumbers, scallions, and sauces for us to assemble our own baos. While delicious, MichaelBDC and I were so full we only had a small serving and packed the rest to go, which we happily ate the following evening. 

Overall, this is a great deal. The only downside is that drinks at The Source are really overprised. $7 for a Miller Light and $9 for a glass of beer from Atlas Breworks. My glass of very average Wolfgang Puck Sauvignon Blanc was $10 I believe. $16 for drinks on their cocktail list. I would definitely go here for their Saturday dumpling special ($5 an order) but the prices of drinks means that the bill will add up fast.

Thanks for the report, I wanted to try that since reading that article too.

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have not had the chance for dinner yet, but the dim sum brunch on the weekend was really REALLY good.

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Had dim sum with the kids.  Wonderful service, with one mistake, but they brought out free doughnuts at the end (even tho I didn't mention the misordered dish).

Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

1.  Mushroom Dumplings - yes they're dumplings, but they're deep fried like fried wontons (BTW, fried wontons is totally American Chinese).  Taste good tho.  3 pieces/order.

2.  Lobster & Shrimp Spring Roll - 1 roll, cut into 2 pieces.  Nice crispy wrapper, and I can see some whole shrimps inside.  Didn't dig around to see if there's actually lobster.  Even if there were, not sure you'd taste it.  Tastes pretty good.

3.  Duck Baos - they dress it up for you, duck, scallions, cucumber, and lots of plum sauce.  The duck's not Peking style, just roasted (but not Cantonese style).  Still tasty, but on the sweet side.  2 baos/order.

4.  Pork Belly Pot Stickers - rather dense filling but tastes decent.  The wrapper was nice and thin though, like it should be.  3 pieces/order.

5.  Sausage Fried Rice - decent, but I can wok up some fried rice.  This was strictly as a filler for the kids, thankfully they filled up with other stuff.  They didn't like it.  

6.  Shanghai Noodles - sweet.  Nothing like Shanghai noodles.

7.  Scallion Pancake - it's more like a souffle.  Unbelievably strange, and not good.

8.  Chicken Bun - I ordered turnip cakes, not sure how we ended up with chicken bun.  This thing isn't even on the menu, and it looks like a cinnamon roll.  2 rolls/order.

9.  Free donut with vanilla ice cream.

The pics are the "scallion pancake" and "chicken bun", as proof that I'm not insane.

Conclusion, I wouldn't pay twice the normal cost of dim sum to eat it again.  Even you order 8 dishes, each dish is ONLY $7.  But I can see that General Tso or Sesame Chicken lovers would really dig it, all the while thinking they're eating some high end Chinese cuisine.

Okay, I know the Source isn't aimed at authenticity.  So for me to blast them as being inauthentic is pretty weak.  But I honestly can't enjoy their food.  How Tom Seitsema can claim this to be the best "Chinese" food in DC is just mystifying to me.  Oh, he doesn't know shit about Asian food....

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On 12/2/2016 at 10:49 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

I can understand the difference in pricing when there's a difference in rent/decor/service.  But the fact is people bitch about prices at Hakkasan or other high end Chinese restaurant with high rent, great decor, and great service but think half-ass wonton soup at the Source is worth $16.

whoa whoa whoa, stop the clock there...

the wonton soup at the Source is ridiculously good, and well worth $16.  i say that both from firsthand experience and also my recollection that the Washingtonian (or was it the Post?) put the Source's wonton soup as one of the best dishes in DC this year.  other items at the source, you may have a point.  but not the soup.

 

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On 12/27/2016 at 10:40 AM, dpamlin said:

whoa whoa whoa, stop the clock there...

the wonton soup at the Source is ridiculously good, and well worth $16.  i say that both from firsthand experience and also my recollection that the Washingtonian (or was it the Post?) put the Source's wonton soup as one of the best dishes in DC this year.  other items at the source, you may have a point.  but not the soup.

Your "firsthand experience" means *much* more to me than a publication saying something is "one of the best dishes in DC this year."

That said, out of fairness:

"The Source Is Serving The Best ($16!) Wonton Soup You May Ever Eat" by Becky Krystal on washingtonpost.com

And indeed, the picture reveals a ramen-like product that doesn't seem overpriced at $16

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That's a clown dish. Shitty noodles, mediocre wontons in ramen broth. Because it's ramen-like, it's worth $16? That's the economic reality that drives people to open shitty sushi joints.

Jan 23, 2015 - "The Best Wonton Noodles in Hong Kong" by Daniel Ang on danielfooddiary.com

Real wonton noodle soup is a treat worth flying across the world for.  None of the ramen soup in this city makes me want to drive across town.

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On 12/27/2016 at 10:40 AM, dpamlin said:

whoa whoa whoa, stop the clock there...

Before you do that, you better hit 'em with the Heinnnnn!

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27 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

That's a clown dish. Shitty noodles, mediocre wontons in ramen broth. Because it's ramen-like, it's worth $16? That's the economic reality that drives people to open shitty sushi joints.

Jan 23, 2015 - "The Best Wonton Noodles in Hong Kong" by Daniel Ang on danielfooddiary.com

Real wonton noodle soup is a treat worth flying across the world for.  None of the ramen soup in this city makes me want to drive across town.

I don't consider this "real wonton noodle soup" - I wouldn't know real wonton noodle soup if I was waterboarded with it - but I note that the broth is a triple chicken-pork-beef stock that takes twenty hours to make. Eric, you're always welcome to voice your opinion, which is often quite credible, but given The Source's location, and the way this broth looks to me, I don't think $16 seems unreasonable - authentic or not.

I'm assuming you had this dish given the way your post reads ("shitty noodles, mediocre wontons"), so yours is a perfectly valid opinion even if your language is harsh.

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Why didn't The Source be the first to bring top notch authentic Chinese wonton soup to D.C. Instead of this made for newly ramen crazed Crowd?  This whole discussion just made my point.

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1 hour ago, Ericandblueboy said:

This whole discussion just made my point.

I'm sorry if this sounds obtuse, but what *is* your point?

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2 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

If you make some weird fusion food, it could justify a higher price and people will eat it up.

Do you think if this restaurant was in Woodley Park, it would be as popular?

What if it wasn't attached to the Newseum as their official restaurant, just steps from the National Gallery of Art. Archives, etc.?

And if it didn't have Wolfgang Puck's name on it? Don't forget, Puck is arguably America's first mega-celebrity restaurateur (I'm sure people can think of someone who came before, but this guy was selling $8 single-serving pizzas in Safeway in the mid 1980s).

Side note: What many people don't remember is that the bottom floor of The Source was selling primarily pizzas when it first opened. 

Shouldn't you (you having some degree of Asian ethnicity) be *glad* that non-European cuisine can sell at a higher price? Mark Kuller was advancing this exact same argument regarding Doi Moi here, before it opened, essentially "greasing the skids" for the public mindset to prepare itself for expensive Pan-Asian food (not really "advancing the argument," but "asking for opinions" as to why Asian cuisine *shouldn't* cost as much as European cuisine). I thought it was somewhat self-serving, yes, but it was a legitimate question.

This whole thing may be a non-sequitur - why isn't any other Pan-Asian restaurant commanding these prices? I think it could be Italian and still be just as expensive; I don't think it's the Asian-fusion aspect that's doing it, although I could be wrong.

Look at this post: The Source is selling Miller Lite for $7!

You and I do not disagree about the Barnum aspect of people, but I think in *this particular instance* it's due more to the names on the building, and its proximity to the Mall.

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16 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Shouldn't you (you having some degree of Asian ethnicity) be *glad* that non-European cuisine can sell at a higher price? Mark Kuller was advancing this exact same argument regarding Doi Moi here, before it opened, essentially "greasing the skids" for the public mindset to prepare itself for expensive Pan-Asian food (not really "advancing the argument," but "asking for opinions" as to why Asian cuisine *shouldn't* cost as much as European cuisine). I thought it was somewhat self-serving, yes, but it was a legitimate question.

The problem is that "Chinese" food has been in the country for centuries.  The general perception is that "Chinese" food is supposed to be cheap because of the cheap quality of the ingredients.  Most Americans still don't understand that they've been eating Americanized Chinese food all their lives and they don't have a clue what real Chinese food is. 

The stigma of cheap food has not attached itself to other Asian cuisines.  For example, people perceive seafood to be expensive; therefore, sushi prices should be high.  So you have all kinds of shitty Japanese restaurants opened by and staffed by non-Japanese people. 

The ignorance is well illustrated by that Becky Krystal article.  She has no idea what a wonton noodle soup is.

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32 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Side note: What many people don't remember is that the bottom floor of The Source was selling primarily pizzas when it first opened. 

Those pizzas were great, at a time when there weren't nearly as many good pizza options in the area.  I lived nearby and probably had like one a week for about a year straight.

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3 minutes ago, RWBooneJr said:

Those pizzas were great, at a time when there weren't nearly as many good pizza options in the area.  I lived nearby and probably had like one a week for about a year straight.

I agree - I ordered them several times and loved them.

You know, this could be something as simple as, "Pizzas don't make $16 cocktails sell as well" - I don't know what percentage of downstairs revenue is from beverage sales, but I'd bet it's through the roof.

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5 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

The stigma of cheap food has not attached itself to other Asian cuisines. 

I would argue that both Vietnamese and Thai food are expected to be cheap.

This discussion on Pan-Asian and Asian Fusion has been interesting as it has me questioning my changing opinions on the issue. I used to be against anything that was not "authentic" but realized that my mindset did not leave room for cuisines to evolve as they often do. Why did Vietnamese food have to be stuck/frozen in 1975, the year my family immigrated to the United States? Why couldn't Vietnamese food change a bit over the 31 years since? While pho will always be pho, why couldn't some aspects of the cuisine change? Isn't there something inherently wrong with that mindset? And then my grandparents and other family members came back from their travels in Vietnam saying that some of the Vietnamese food in the United States is better because the ingredients and produce in the U.S. is superior to the raw products in Vietnam. Well shit.

I'm not arguing for watered down Asian food, especially in the name of fusion or pan-Asian. In fact, I think we should call it out when we see it. But I don't think we should be writing off all these efforts and labeling them bastardizations either. If something isn't authentic or is a bastardization of a dish, we should be able to articulate why rather than say it is just watered down pan-Asian white man's version of a dish.

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That soup does not look at all like wonton, but looks mighty delicious! 

Indian expected to be cheap, too. 

Asian food should be allowed to evolve... all others do. 

 

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13 hours ago, Bart said:

Before you do that, you better hit 'em with the Heinnnnn!

Can I like this comment twice?

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14 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Why didn't The Source be the first to bring top notch authentic Chinese wonton soup to D.C. Instead of this made for newly ramen crazed Crowd?  This whole discussion just made my point.

I may not have 2000+ posts (or even an avi here!), but that doesn't mean I lack a decent palette.  I have had ramen/wonton soup/other soup from Daikaya on a dozen occasions, from Toki several times, from some of my Rockville spots (Bob's, A&J), etc. so its not like I don't have points for comparison.  On taste alone, in my personal opinion, that soup from the Source is head and shoulders above.  And you still have not confirmed whether you in fact have had this dish.

It may not be as authentic as some other spots (though I don't even think they are going for authenticity), but in my view the Source makes the best soup in the area (perhaps aside from the Floating Market soup (or whatever its called) from Nava Thai).  Don't judge a book by its (expensive) cover.

And yes, indeed, hit em with the Heeeiiiiiiiiiin!

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2 hours ago, pras said:

Can I like this comment twice?

Only if you explain it once!

53 minutes ago, dpamlin said:

I may not have 2000+ posts (or even an avi here!), but that doesn't mean I lack a decent palette.  I have had ramen/wonton soup/other soup from Daikaya on a dozen occasions, from Toki several times, from some of my Rockville spots (Bob's, A&J), etc. so its not like I don't have points for comparison.  On taste alone, in my personal opinion, that soup from the Source is head and shoulders above.  And you still have not confirmed whether you in fact have had this dish.

You have *nothing* to prove, dpamlin - with the exception of a *tiny* number people that I can think of, the very, very best palates I know of (and I mean the absolute, tip-top, cream-of-the-crop) have made zero posts here.

38 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Why is it that I know that you've praised this noodle soup before but you have no idea whether I've had this soup?

I know this wasn't aimed at me, but I don't understand what you're asking (or why)!

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