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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DCWD Travels: Rwanda

Longtime readers of the blog know that occasionally I leave D.C. for points abroad. As one might have noticed from my increased blog output, earlier this year was one of those times. So, for the expat worker or adventurous traveler among you, here's some places of note from a few months in Kigali, Rwanda:

Meze Fresh - The Chipotle of Kigali. That's not a flippant statement either; except for a bright green color scheme, and chipati and wonton-like shells standing in for soft tortilla and hard shells, the set-up is exactly the same. Pick one of five proteins (steak, chicken, pulled pork, goat meat, or beans), one of five preparations (burrito, rice bowl, taco bowl, hard tacos, or soft tacos), and fill it with toppings galore. I've been all over Africa, and this is the closest I've come to good Tex-Mex/tacos.

Khana Khazana - Among a number of good Indian spots is Khana Khazana, which wins points here for being the prettiest: a large outdoor patio covered by a thatched roof surrounded by a small garden near the top of one of Kigali's hills. Purportedly there's a club like space in the back, but we never explored it. What we did venture into was the extensive menu that hits all the notes that anyone who has eaten South Asian food in Africa expects: creamy sauces, wonderful naan, great food.

Heaven - Khana Khazana's next door neighbor, Heaven shares many of the same characteristics albeit with the advantage of also seeming like a large, fun treehouse replete with part of the dining area deck out from underneath the roof. The fare is what one might call new American, but the real treat is the brunch: an extensive buffet for the equivalent of $13, or an a la carte menu that ranges from eggs benny to huevos rancheros. Don't sleep on the crepes.

Sol E Luna - Look, I grew up in New Jersey, and so I hold fairly strong viewpoints on both pizza, and what typically comes when pizza is ordered in Africa. Still, the take here is strong, with a lovely char on the bottom of the crust, and a pretty diverse set of options for toppings. For the trivia nerds amongst you, an expat heavy trivia night happens every Monday.

Republika - The best of your local fare options, Republika really concentrates on West African but does offer a selection of traditional dishes, like nyama choma - roasted meat, in this case goat. The quality manifests itself not only in the food, but also in the decor: a polished place that still manages to feel lively and authentic. Oh, and the traditional dishes? To die for.

RZ Manna/Brioche - What Kigali doesn't lack for is good bakeries with good coffee. Two of the leading lights in this area are RZ Manna and Brioche. The former is newer, a carbon copy of hipster American bakeries, with its painted concrete walls, its exposed bulb hanging lights, and its effortless blending of inside and outside. It also benefits from probably the widest display of baked goods, from three types of sliced bread to patisserie-level cakes and savory pastries. The latter is a local chain, with a smattering of locations, the prettiest of which sits atop a hill in the north of the city, giving its patio a decidedly winning view. What it lacks in its diversity of baked goods vis-a-vis RZ Manna, it makes up for in its wide range of sandwiches and juices.

Sakae - The idea of eating sushi in a landlocked country, much less a landlocked country probably on the opposite side of the globe as Japan, is a mental challenge. But Sakae delivers, with surprisingly fresh fish - though of course, the real joys here are the land-based dishes, both Japanese and Korean: tonkatsu, agadashi tofu, tempura.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Munchies: Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: NoMa

With Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan in town (and with him Official Friend of DCWD Puja), Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas and I decided to bring him to one of the big additions to DC since his departure to parts Pittsburgh: Union Market. And the one thing that piqued our interest? Mason Dixie Biscuit. A pop-up, where the olive oil shop used to be, so all of those descriptors apply.

We pick two: a breakfast bacon, egg, cheese, and a lunch Korean-pulled pork with jalapeno slaw. There's very little bad about both of them: moist, delectable biscuits that sate my loosely Southern-born compatriots, with rich and well-salted fillings; the pork in particular has a sizable bit of heat that's well done as far as heat goes.

The Verdict

Fun, wonderful biscuit sandwiches.

Food Rating: *** 1/2 
(out of 5)
Date Rating: N/A (Union Market)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
 (out of 5) (less than $25 for two)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Majestic

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2015 #64, Washingtonian 2015 Top 100
Neighborhood: Alexandria

The Setup

With Official Parents of DCWD DZ and MZ in town and with Alexandria on the docket, Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas and I deliver them to The Majestic.

The Vibe
Imagine a dressed up diner and you basically have The Majestic. This isn't meant as a knock against the space, just a realistic reflection of the way the dining room is set up. Up front, the slim bar area - perhaps the only part of the space that escapes the aforementioned description - is sleek in black and white. The main dining area consists of three columns: a set of half-booths to one side, a row of four-tops in the middle, and a set of full booths on the other. Replace the color scheme of beige and ivory, the patterned upholstery, and the large mirrors and globe lights as decor, and you probably have yourself an IHOP. Still, there's a utility to this kind of vibe, which in the case of this casual brunch with family, is perfect. On a date though, maybe a little dated.

The Food

DZ and MZ sit across from us wolfing down the Majestic burger, a chuck-brisket-short-rib blend covered in bacon-onion jam and horseradish cheddar - a toned down version of the cheese that DZ still opts to place on the side. Still, from the lone bite we manage to purloin, it's a delicious bite, rich with a hint of sweetness.

With the immutable law of not ordering the same thing as anyone else in play, Texas and I decide to go 50/50 on two other brunch dishes: a southern belly benedict, and chicken and waffles. The former is a little lackluster, the mustard hollandaise providing the one noteworthy punch in an otherwise plain dish, though one credits the restaurant for offering pork belly lighter on the fat than others. The chicken and waffle, on the other hand, is surprisingly wonderful: a light vanilla-maple syrup adds fun sweetness to a solidly-breaded chicken. A very nice bite.

As for brunch-adjacent items, the make-your-own-bloody is notable: for $9, you're let loose on the bar replete with a murderer's row of accoutrements: a variety of salts, olives, bacon, jerky... basically anything that anyone has ever added. It's fun, if a bit intimidating. Ask for guidance from the bartender.

The Verdict

A lovely family-friendly restaurant with some notable points.

Food Rating: *** 
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
 (out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)

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