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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jaleo

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #32, Washingtonian 2009 #46, Washingtonian 2008 #53, Washington Post's 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood:
Locations in Chinatown/Penn Quarter, Bethesda, Crystal City

The Setup

The second dinner in what hopefully will be a monthly tradition post-DC Food Blogger Happy Hour (though one ending soon with their imminent departure to lands West), I joined up with fellow bloggers @WalkerMark10 and @I_Flip_For_Food of the eponymous blog along with Laetitia of @FrenchTwistDC, and went to Jose Andres's Chinatown/Penn Quarter restaurant and personal favorite Jaleo.

The Vibe

Jaleo, veers slightly from Jose Andres's more experimental places (see: minibar and Bazaar) and more towards THINKfoodGROUP's Zaytinya and Oyamel, in its traditional presentation of Spanish small plates, tapas. Unlike another of our recent tapas reviews Taberna del Alabardero, the decor is decidedly less traditional early century Spanish and a little more modern. The whole dining room centers around the bar area, which is raised a level and gets fairly crowded during happy hour. The rest of the dining area is wrapped like an L around the bar level, with a mixture of two-tops in combination, round six-tops, and half-booth seating.

Decor and lighting is simple and classic. Full glass windows allow for the typical see-and-be-seen atmosphere (especially out onto the small patio) while also letting in the daylight, augmented by simple iron chandeliers and lampshade lights above individual tables. Furniture is small and simple, with modern lines and blue cushions.

The Food

Main Course

With a group of four of us, we set up about each ordering a few tapas, which came in a perfect constant sequence, as well as a full carafe of sangria for the table. I've always been a little more partial to the sangria elsewhere (especially given the size), but this was nice nonetheless.

The first dish that came out was the traditional patatas bravas, fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce. I've had these all over, including in Barcelona, and so I have a certain expectation for them. Unfortunately, the choice of fingerling potatoes instead of the normally crispy cubes was a bad one, and gave the whole dish a weird texture. That being said, hopefully this is only a temporary mistake, since previous trips to Jaleo have yielded more traditional results.

Next came the first of three sausage dishes that we ordered, and the most nontraditional of them all: miniature chorizo wrapped in crispy potatoes. Presented like hors d'oeuvres, the dish had fairly nice texture contrasts, and was pretty flavorful in that pigs-in-a-blanket kind of way.

Second of the two sausage dishes was one named after the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan - a large white sausage presented over sauteed white beans. I'm not the biggest fan of white beans, but this was more than made up by the juicy meat, full of flavor and wonderful.

Each of my companions would order a dish that I was originally dubious about, but am very glad to have eaten it: in this instance, Mark's order of a salad of green apple and fennel with manchego cheese and walnuts in a very light sherry vinaigrette. Maybe it's because I love manchego, maybe it's because the apple/nuts/mild cheese combo is one I throw together myself fairly often. But the salad was definitely packed with flavor from the tart of the apple, the piquant of the fennel, and the creaminess of the manchego.

The next dish was one that Mark and I passed on, but Official Friends of DCWD Ang and Laetitia each ordered for themselves: a spoonful of sea urchin on top of diced peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Having not eaten it myself, I can't comment on it, other than to say the presentation was nice.

Back to the meal. The third sausage dish came out, this time the most traditional of them all: a chorizo presented on a potato puree. Flavorful, with fair hints of savory, it was a fairly good dish, albeit not my first choice given its standardness, and the wealth of other better chorizo dishes on the table.

Next came one of my favorites, and Laetitia's turn to surprise me: a seared trout wrapped in Serrano ham. This was just so nice on a number of levels: the unctuous but flaky flavor of trout matched with the salty prosciutto-like texture of the Serrano. This stood up for me in every way.

Behind that came one of Ang's choice, and her thank-God-you-picked-this contribution to the meal: a Moorish stew of chickpeas, garbanzos, and spinach topped with a fried egg. Yes, I love dishes where I can break apart an overeasy or poached egg and let the yolk mix in. No, I don't love chickpeas or garbanzos that much, but this stew made it easy with textures from smooth to gritty to oily to grainy, and a whole lot of strong flavor.

But I guess, the winner for me still is my own choice, the decadent arroz de pato Jean-Louis Palladin - rice with duck confit and breast all covered in a foie gras cream. I will fully admit to being a total sucker for foie gras anything. My appetite for the controversial foodstuff is probably borderline insane or insensitive or both. But the extreme creaminess and that gamey umami that it lends to a dish more than satiated me; it paired perfectly with the other duck products and the starch of the rice to be a great dish.

The last two dishes were pretty standard Spanish dishes. The first was a lomo de buey, grilled hanger steak on top of piquillo peppers. Tender and masterfully cooked, it was a great and authentic and flavorful.

The second was a last minute order by Ang: datiles con tocino or fried dates wrapped in bacon. Described on the menu as the kind of dish you could eat every day, I'm not particular sure of that. Dates are a food that I might soon hit my saturation point with, especially the bacon-wrapped variety. But given that it's the site's namesake, and that this iteration was deep fried, that point did not occur here. A nice sweet end to the main part of our meal.

Dessert

With four of us and the same interest in many of the desserts, the four of us decided to order three desserts, which came in varying degrees of deliciousness. First, the least favorite: a Basque cake with a cinnamon-vanilla cream. Sort of dry, and totally overshadowed by the better cream. Could have been lots better.

Next best was a chocolate-hazelnut mousse torte. It was fairly smooth and sweet, but wasn't anything you couldn't find somewhere else. Decent but ultimately forgettable.

But best, unsurprisingly was the flan served with Catalan cream and oranges. Sweet and creamy, it was more like the Asian flans that I've had than the Latin American ones, which always come across thick, mild, and custardy. This was a great dessert.

The Verdict

There's a reason that Jaleo is one of my favorite date spots. Small plates that range from authentic Spanish to creative riffs on the cuisine. Fun vibe without being overpowering. And great food with very few misses (and only really on this particular trip).

Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating:
3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: Down the street is one of DC's newest museums, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Not exactly my bag, but if you're into forensics or the FBI, an interesting and certainly well-advertised place to go.

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night Flights: 2008 Los Ailos Syrah/Malbec

This is the second of my recommendations from our tasting at the Tasting Room in Friendship Heights: 2008 Los Ailos Syrah/Malbec.

A blend of the two varieties (though mostly Malbec) from Argentina, the wine program describes it as having "aromas of plum, cherry, vanilla, and tobacco with a touch of spice and oak. Rich and smooth with a balanced and lingering finish." For me, this was a wine that presented with a very rich and deep flavor without having too much an aftertaste or a harsh bite. Perfectly matched with lighter dark meats, like duck or veal.

Bar Review: 3 Cheers (out of 5)
Perfect for: Dark poultry (duck, goose), or light red meats

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Northside Social

Plaudits: Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's 2010 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Clarendon

The Setup


Most of the meals that we've had for this blog have been deliberate trips. But every once in a while, we stumble on a place that we love; in this case, it was on the walk home from El Pollo Rico, that Official Friend of DCWD Rebel, craving ice cream, decided to stop by Northside Social.

The Vibe

I probably wouldn't have given Northside Social any other thought other than the passing "hmm, that looks like an interesting place" if not for Rebel's ice cream craving. That being said, even at first glance, it was something intriguing. Here's an obviously redecorated townhouse in the middle of an otherwise nondescript block of Clarendon, with a spacious triangular patio out front. And then there's the sign that tells you what Northside Social is: coffee bar/wine bar. Hmm.

I'll say this: I love coffee dates. I love independent neighborhood coffee shops. So maybe there's already a bias there, but the inside of Northside is just as charming as the outside. Cute white colonial furniture with interesting fabric seat cushions. Maroon red letter-board menus. Forest green couches. Light yellow walls with white trim and wood accenting that allow the natural light to brighten the whole space. And then the stairs up to the wine bar on the second floor (which I didn't get a chance to visit, but can only imagine how nice it is). Sometimes you just find a place where you can feel, "Hey, this would be a nice place to take someone." This was one of those places.

And then there's the little things about the service that make it even more charming. The small hourglasses they give you when you order tea, which comes in individual kettles. The care that the barista takes in pouring the milk into the latte to make beautiful patterns in the cup. That being said, it took an unreal amount of time to make my sandwich, as if they were butchering the meat in the back. The one downside in an otherwise lovely trip.

The Food

Then again, the most beautiful space can't make up for bad food. Luckily there wasn't any of that here. What was present was a lot of creativity in the menu, starting with the impressive diversity of the bottles of wine on sale by the counter. In fact, it was the imagination of the soft-serve ice cream flavors that drew us in: Nutella and honey. Served in a twist, it was an absolutely sublime combination, delicious without being overly sweet.

Reticent to proffer an opinion based on a single cup of ice cream, I ordered myself the most interesting sandwich on the menu: a crispy pork belly sandwich. Topped with sauteed broccoli rabe, crushed red pepper, and fresh mozzarella on panini bread, it was an absolute delight. Yes, maybe it's because it was playing with three of my favorite ingredients. But the combination was one I would have never thought of, and it was brilliantly executed (though since they grilled the pork belly on the panini press and sauteed the spinach separately, it took much longer than I expected).

The Verdict


Well-done, interesting food? Cute coffeehouse with the added bonus of a wine bar and a nice patio? Small charming touches? Sign me up.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: This might reveal my nerdy side, or at least my love of them, but for me there's nothing better than doing a crossword outside, so bring a newspaper or a book there, and complete one together on the patio.

Northside Social on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

El Pollo Rico

Plaudits: Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Clarendon

The Setup


People's strong feelings on Peruvian chicken is something I find so baffling. I didn't even know that Peruvian chicken was an actual thing until I came to DC. And then I couldn't hear the end of it. That being said, I probably would have put off the experience for much longer except Official Friend of DCWD Rebel was in town. And having seen an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain raved about El Pollo Rico, we headed out to Clarendon.

The Vibe

El Pollo Rico is a lunch counter kind of place which enjoys massive popularity; at 2pm on a scorching Monday afternoon, the line was literally out the door. Granted it was a federal holiday, but still. It being a cafeteria-style establishment, the decor is correspondingly spartan (example: letterboard menus, like the kind you find in old pizza parlors), though certainly cleaner and brighter than the average contemporary. Brightly-colored walls in red, white, yellow, and green surround a room of nothing but four-tops. It's a surprisingly big space for a grab-and-go place though.

The Food

The menu is simple: four combinations of chicken - a quarter, half regular, half white, and a whole chicken. All plates come with cole slaw and steak cut fries and at least two sauces, a green jalapeno sauce and a slightly yellow mayo. The chicken is made in bulk, and the ordering moves with the efficiency of an assembly line. Place your order, hear the knowing sound of a cleaver meeting a cutting board, and thirty seconds later, here's your order on a tray.

The chicken was, in short, good. Well-spiced skin, tender, and fairly juicy. Not the best chicken I've had in DC, but for the price (less than $5 for a quarter platter), definitely the best bang for your buck. It's the kind of chicken you wouldn't mind eating with your hands.

The actual surprise for me was the steak fries. I normally hate steak fries; in the fry spectrum, I'm the guy who digs for the small crispy morsels and ignores the big potato-y ones. But these avoided the starchy mushiness I dislike in steak fries, and won big marks for me. Washed down with Inca Kola (a drink I had forgotten I liked so much), and it was all in all a pretty satisfying meal.

The Verdict


This being just the beginning of my Peruvian chicken experience, I can't yet join the fray and the flurry of opinions on DC poultry. But I can say that it was an enjoyable bite, and one I would totally return to (you know, if it was actually convenient for me to get to).

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: Get your aggression out in an artistic way at Pev's Paintball. Located at 39835 New Road, you can find more details here.

El Pollo Rico on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Tasting Room Wine Bar

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood:
Friendship Heights

The Setup

Invited to a free tasting, I dragged Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern along with me. But given the nature of the event and the Tasting Room itself, this is going to be a little bit different of a review. The food was catered by M Cafe, and so this one will focus more on the vibe.

The Vibe


The Tasting Room is actually a branch of the Boxwood Winery and is one of three Tasting Rooms, the others in Reston and at the vineyard in Middleburg. The setup of this one is a little more modern than the others but all are fairly similar variations of the same concept. A concept that both me and HR Intern loved.

Sitting in the back of a shopping plaza in Friendship Heights, I probably would have never seen the Tasting Room despite it being an area of town I visit fairly frequently. It's a small modern place in tones of dark blue-grey, silver, and black lit by full-pane windows and hanging white cylinder lanterns. Seating is pretty abundant despite the small size of the dining room: four round tables out front on the patio to about seven two- and four-tops inside plus counter seating at the marble-top bar and along the left side of the dining area.

But the real key that makes this place lovable and date-friendly is the method that you get your wine. Unlike other wine bars, there is no gatekeeper sommelier as the divider between you and the booze. Instead the wines are all laid out in front of you and accessible by way of two very fancy Italian machines. The Tasting Room is very much like Vapiano, but reverse; each user is given a smart card that instead of tracking money can have money put on it like a laundry card. You stick the card into one of two machines (one white/rose and one red), pick from any of ten or so bottles and then a serving size (1 oz, 3oz, 5oz), and out the wine comes.

While a line can quickly form, it definitely beats the normal system of trying to flag your server down to get a new glass of wine. It also removes some of the class and knowledge divide of the sommelier, putting the whole thing within arm's reach. Plus the 1oz size, which I drank all night, means you never have to worry about making a mistake with a wine. If you don't like it, you've only bought yourself a small portion anyway. And with the relatively cheap prices for the samples, it's an instant conversation starter as you go through a whole bevy of interesting and carefully chosen wines.

The Food


Normally this is where we'd talk about the food, but here's the thing: The Tasting Room actually doesn't really have a kitchen. What cheese, hummus, and fruit they do serve is picked up from Whole Foods (which isn't the worst thing) and the event was catered by M Cafe. So this might be the first place I have to give a N/A for the food rating. We did have some fairly good wine there, (see: 2006 Brooks Riesling, 2008 Los Ailos Syrah/Malbec, 2008 Neudorf Pinot Noir). But here's some light food porn anyway.

Jumbo lump crab meat, English cucumbers, Manila mango in Parmesan crisp roll

Ahi tuna tartare, Hass avocado, toasted sesame seeds, Meyer lemon on toasted brioche

Spicy lamb sausages

Braised duck confit sliders with Mission figs and aged balsamic syrup

The Verdict


I love the concept and I love the place for a date, especially for a oenophile.

Food Rating: N/A

Date Rating:
5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks to Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Calm to chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: The wine tasting is enough of a date, but should you need to do more, just stroll around the rest of the shopping plaza which is upscale and a nice walk.

The Tasting Room Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Munchies: Devon and Blakely's Prosciutto Arugala Panini

My work day lunch usually consists of the greasy pizza from across the street, picked more for expendiency than gastronomy. Once in a while, I'll try and find something of actual note, usually inspired by a food truck in the area. But other times, I just kind of stumble onto things.

For weeks, Official Friend of DCWD Talia kept raving about the Devon and Blakely that had just opened near our office, a fervor I didn't quite understand myself. But with a need for lunch, I ventured over and picked out the prosciutto and arugala panini. Topped with fresh mozzarella, the sandwich was a little bit salty, a little bit bitter, but a lot tasty. Definitely worth picking up.

Taste Test:
3 Forks
(out of 5)
Perfect for: Lunch for the work crowd

Devon & Blakely (15th St NW) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Equinox

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #95, Washingtonian 2009 #72, Washingtonian 2008 #63, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's 2010 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood:
Farragut

The Setup


There are places that it feels like you've been going to forever, places where the servers and bartenders start knowing who you are; this kind of attention and care is a nice creature comfort, one that we've seen in action before (see: 2941). Sometimes, it's your neighborhood bar, others where your friend works as a server. For what feels like as long as I've been in DC, Equinox has been that fine-dining restaurant for me. So when Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern called me late one Saturday night and asked if I wanted to go get drinks at Equinox, I jumped at the chance.

The Vibe

For someplace that I've known for so long, the vibe and decor of Equinox has changed substantially since my first visit there, the result of an extensive kitchen fire this past winter. The basic themes are still there: the greenhouse-style sunlit patio dining room, the overarching tones of gold and bronze, the overall architecture of the split dining space, with booths and mostly white-cloth four tops. But now, gone are the darker tones in favor of a brighter space, popped white tiles and glass panes in the bar area side of the dining room, and a new blue-grey paint job with white trim. The brightness added with this reinvention sort of makes it feel like an igloo, but is also a welcome change balancing out the light and dark in the space.

The Food

Chef Todd Gray has always specialized in Mid-Atlantic fare, emphasizing using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and adding his own flair; it was at Equinox that I first had things like cobia or truffled mac and cheese. Between all of my visits, I feel like I've had all of his standards on the menu.

On this trip, we sat at the bar where both of us enjoyed a drink of bartender Simo's creation: a mix from an infusion jar of white peach, lemon juice, lavender, lychee, and earl grey tea, and a stronger liquor for each of us: bourbon for me and vodka for HR Intern. It was delicious and a nice light aperitif for our late summer night dinner.

Well, not our dinner, as much as my dinner since HR Intern already had dinner. I ordered two dishes off the bar menu: an Eastern Shore soft shell crab with a black-eyed peas succotash, fried green tomatoes and a brown-butter-hazelnut vinaigrette, and risotto fritters topped with parmesan and reggiano cheeses and a chive creme fraiche.

Let's start with the fritters, a dish I'd had already on previous visits. The few times I've seen risotto fritters at other restaurants, they suffer from the deficit of being too dry; none of that here. What was really awesome here was the creme fraiche, the perfect light but creamy dipping sauce for a nice snack food.

I'll admit to this: I'd never had soft-shell crab before (partly because of a longstanding allergy; partly because after it subsided, like many other shellfish dishes, I wanted my first experience with soft-shell to be fresh and demonstrative of the best things the ingredients can provide). By that metric, this dish was a good measure of that. The soft shell was crispy though the breading was a wee bit salty. Again, it was the accompaniments that took center stage, the hearty succotash and fried green tomatoes bringing a nice earthiness to the whole meal.

The Verdict


Craving fresh seasonal ingredients where the chef doesn't try to dominate them? Love an imaginative take on Mid-Atlantic cuisine? This is a perfect spot for you.

Food Rating: **** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Vibe: Calm
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: What else is there to do than people watch in the most touristy, crazy part of town, better known as Lafayette Park? In front of the White House, it's a little noisy and crowded during the daytime, but at night, it's actually a beautiful view of one of the most iconic buildings in the country.

Equinox on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Night Flights: 2006 Brooks Riesling

This week begins a series of Friday Night Flights that came from a tasting at the aptly named Tasting Room Wine Bar in Friendship Heights. While an actual review is coming soon, we'll just tease you with a review of some of the better wines we tasted there.

First on the roster is the 2006 Brooks Riesling. My love of Rieslings is well-known, influenced mostly by my parents but also because apparently I'm girly. This particular Riesling wasn't from the Rhine but rather the Willamette Valley of Oregon (my first question: they have wine in Oregon?). The wine program describes it as "a vibrant, yet broad and rich core of dried honey and candied minerality. Medium-bodied, it is floral, intense, and slightly sweet in the finish."

My uninformed take? Nice and sweet with the noted honey finish, with lots of clarity. Recommended.

Bar Review: 3 Cheers (out of 5)
Perfect for: Dessert wine

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thunder Burger and Bar

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood:
Georgetown

The Setup

Burnt out from a long week at work, I called up Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan, fresh off his first week of rotations. Looking to blow off some steam and needing dinner, we walked up towards Georgetown hoping to find something to eat. Instead we found a brand new restaurant that had just opened up: Thunder Burger and Bar (the sixth entry in the burger reviews behind (see: Z Burger, Good Stuff, Rogue States, Ray's, and BGR).

The Vibe


Thunder Burger caught our eye because of the giant Ed-Hardy-esque overhang that suddenly appeared to Rajistan, one that was clearly new; I had just gone to GTown the week before and certainly would have noticed it. Sitting on M Street, I figured it would just be another GTown bar, or at least something along the lines of a biker bar. I was really wrong.

Whoa. There are a couple of ways to describe this place: a vampire's basement, Hot Topic in a restaurant, the end result if the Suicide Girls ever re-designed the murder room of a castle. The space opens with a bar and the host stand, leads into a second room full of half-booths of combined two-tops and round tables, and then a more conservative back room (but not by much). Everything is gothic, from the light fixtures on the exposed brick walls, to the low exposed wooden ceiling beams, to the velour-backed, riveted, leather booth seating. The walls are painted a dull olive with graffiti on them and the room is dimly lit, leading you to feel that you've walked into a dungeon.

The Food


Could the beers and burgers make up for the crazy decor? From the fairly impressive draft list, Raj ordered the house Thunder dark lager, and I went with a Dogfish Head Festina Peche (which was beyond lemony).

The selection of signature burgers is actually really compelling, from bison burgers to venison burgers. For me, I ordered the Love Me Tender, a Kobe beef burger topped with gruyere and served with home cut fries. Aside from the unfortunate name, the burger was great. First of all, the burger size was beyond generous. Second, all the burgers at Thunder are cooked to light pink in the center unless you ask for differently (and frankly why would you?), and made with remoulade sauce. This results in a lovely, juicy, dripping burger.

For his part, Raj built his own Thunder burger, picking from the numerous topping options settling on a combination of roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, barbecue sauce, ranch, and cheddar, with poblanos and jalapenos on the side. Washed down with the beer, it was a good burger too.

The Verdict


I'm not sure the beer selection and good burgers make up for the absolutely crazed decor. But hey, maybe it's your scene. Or there's always to-go, right?

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Frat House
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing: Not too far away is Blues Alley, DC's self-described best jazz supper club. Maybe you'll have to skip the supper part with the burgers, but you'll definitely hear some great jazz.

Thunder Burger and Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Policy

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood:
U Street, 14th Street

The Setup


In desperate need of some catch up time, Official Friend of DCWD Juju and I let the gift certificate decide where we would go, heading to the place where we had a $50 gift certificate: Policy.

The Vibe

Policy is, in a word, hip. You enter into a stairwell, canary yellow and so prominent that when I told Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan where I had been later that night, his first comment was, "Oh, you mean the place with the yellow stairs?"

Up the stairs is a large open lounge area, black and grey and decorated with graffiti, plastic chandeliers, and cushioned couches. This is a space for drinks and dancing, which leads to a newly opened outdoor roof patio, which continues the theme from before. It's small but nice, though still the kind of place where you feel you're not having dinner; the booths and couches are clearly made for groups of four or more.

Wanting to take advantage of happy hour, Juju and I waffled and went back downstairs to the more restaurant-like bar area. Black and fire-engine red, it's just as super trendy as upstairs but in a different style altogether, modern with tiny black tiles on the walls, super artsy light sculptures above and plenty of high-backed booths. Beers are listed on a blackboard menu by the bar, which is made remarkable by red swiveling cushioned chairs. It's nice, but again, super trendy, decor-wise. If you're into that kind of thing.

The Food

As I mentioned before, Juju went with the Pimm's Cup, and I ordered my standard Allagash White. With $50 to spend, we went wild and ordered four dishes. Unfortunately, all of the them fit into a very similar mold: dishes that were fine, just nothing to write home about.

The first to arrive, and the one Juju was most excited about was a yellowfin tuna tartare, with mustard, avocado, smoked sea salt, and baby mizuna, all served on a leaf of bibb lettuce. The presentation was a little questionable for me (the lettuce was as useless for me as the leaves restaurants sometimes put underneath buffalo wings, and the avocado smears were haphazard), but the dish itself was good, albeit a little standard. Maybe it's because I had just had a creative tuna tartare, but it left me feeling ambivalent, though it would end up being the best dish of the night.

Next came the PEI mussels, served in a basic broth with Italian sausage, basil, and two slices of garlic bread. Again, not exactly mindblowingly creative, and part of my negativity towards it was due to the misdemeanor of not providing nearly enough bread to soak up the sauce. Some nice flavors here, but just not big enough of a portion or inventive enough to make an impact.

Simultaneously arriving were three oysters. Juju had confessed mid-order to never having eaten oysters, and our server pounced on the opportunity to sell us some. So we ordered three, which came topped with some minced pickles. Not the freshest, though I'll admit to not much paying attention to the oysters, since I was too busy laughing at the face Juju made right before eating hers.

Last came the Wagyu beef medallions, served with scalloped potato and a sweet garlic sauce. My second experience with Wagyu beef in as many weeks, this was more of the same: a nice preparation of a quality ingredient (one that I still cannot understand the passion over). This veered for me more towards the tuna tartare in terms of its decent quality than the mussels, but still, nothing crazy.

Somehow, we got talked into a dessert, and picked a chocolate smores cheesecake, replete with graham cracker crust, and served with a side of marshmallow and a chocolate ganache. When a dessert is overshadowed by its sides, it's sort of a bad sign, and that was the case here; I enjoyed the blowtorched marshmallow and the ganache way more than the cheesecake, which was again (not to beat a dead horse, but really, this is how I felt about the whole meal), was just sort of fine.

The Verdict


The atmosphere is not really my scene, and the food left me fairly opinion-less; it wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing about the meal made me really want to go back. But at least the prices were reasonable.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Party in the USA
Vibe:
Chatty to Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: One of my favorite quirky shops in the city, Pulp, is right down the street. Quirky gifts, beautiful cards, and fun housewares. Love it.

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