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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Night Flights: El Diablo Nuevo at Oyamel

Fresh off seeing Ben Folds and Nick Hornby at Sixth and I, Official Friend of DCWD Juju and I were looking for a late night dinner. She misunderstood me when I said Oya, and we ended up just running with it and heading to Oyamel.

While Juju was enraptured with her first Coke in years (seriously, she went gaga over it the way some people talk about the night their band opened for Nirvana), I went with the drink special for the night, El Diablo Nuevo, a mixture of Siembra Azul Reposado aged tequila, house-made cassis (what?), fresh lime juice, and ginger beer air.

Anyone who knows my affection for Jose Andres (see: here, here, here, here, and of course Oyamel), also knows Jose Andres' style in general, and so the use of "ginger beer air" was not even much of a surprise. The cassis flavoring gave the drink a mildness that was unexpected considering the otherwise potent tastes of tequila, lime, and ginger. That being said, the kind of pleasant tang that you get from lime and ginger was ever present in the drink, but in a controlled manner, which was something I much appreciated. I have a hate-hate relationship with tequila, but this was one of the few exceptions.

Bar Review:
4 Cheers (out of 5)
Perfect for
: The slightly stronger afterwork drink.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poste Moderne Brasserie

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #38, Washingtonian 2009 #27, Washingtonian 2008 #33, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's Top 50 Restaurants 2009, Washington Post 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Chinatown

The Setup


Following our epic dinner with Official Mentors of DCWD DoubleL and DoubleS at 2941, the two of us felt enough residual guilt that we decided to take them out. After a survey of places we hadn't written up that they wanted to go to, we settled on the Hotel Monaco's Poste Moderne Brasserie.

The Vibe

Poste is best known to people probably as the "restaurant in the amazing courtyard." This is a title that is well-earned. The patio is indeed sizable and beautiful, in the center of the hotel, and very much its warm heart during weekday happy hours. Beyond the HH scene, the seats outside offer a nice but private experience in the summertime. From here, you walk through a glass-walled bar area into the main dining area.

The dining area is split up into what can be best described as two rows of tables, one set of regular tables on the floor by the open kitchen, and then another row on a raised platform next to it composed of booths. On the far side of this platform is a side room with more conventional two-tops and round tables, and incidentally where they stuck us (I mean, really? Really?)

Decor is seasonal and attempts at rustic. The color scheme is an ecru with tan and dark brown, and the familiar orange glow mimicking candle light gives the room and intimate feel. This stands in contrast to the marbletop bar near the open kitchen, but it's an otherwise cohesive room with a very relaxed but neat upscale vibe.

The Food


Appetizers

As is our wont, we ate a lot. Both DoubleL and DoubleS kept it simple with classic brasserie food: a French onion soup topped with aged comte cheese for the former, and escargot in garlic butter. I tried neither dish, but they did look fantastic, as evidenced at left and right.

CC on the other hand ordered something more on the original side: a heirloom pumpkin soup with duck confit, red onion marmalade, and toasted pumpkin seeds. She wanted the soup to be creamier, but thought it was okay. It was certainly a beautiful presentation, though not as full of seasonal flavors as we would have expected or as she would have liked. From my vantage point, the ingredients were there; it just didn't put it together.

As for me, I ordered a duo of steak tartare and carpaccio, with a roll of brioche. The carpaccio which came with a black garlic aioli and some fried fingerlings was pleasant, but it was the tartare that really made it, served on top of some sort of cream-cheese-like substance, diced potatoes, and topped with an egg. Fantastic on all levels.

Entrees

In my normal spirit, I polished off everyone's entree so I got a chance to taste everything. Win.

DoubleL went with the featured entree of the night, a wild king salmon on a bed of mushrooms, salsify, leeks, and black garlic. The chef recommended the salmon medium rare which made the salmon tender. The consomme that was poured over the dish tableside also gave the meal a saltiness and an umami that I liked a lot. Plus, you know, salsify + leeks = awesome.

DoubleS got the chicken, which came with house-made chorizo on top of heirloom white beans, escarole, and tomatoes. This dish screamed standard: chicken? White beans, escarole, and tomatoes? I mean, I'm fairly certain my mother has put together these combinations before. And like I've said before, when it comes to those dishes, I have high expectations. That being said, it was cooked very well, and might even have been my favorite of the night.

CC ordered the red wine braised rabbit, stacked on top of caramelized fennel, poppy seed tagliatelle, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. The rabbit was beautifully cooked, tender in that stringy way, while the tagliatelle was nice and unctuous. Usually I'm the hyperbolic one, but this time it's CC. I'll quote her directly: "The rabbit is the reason I love food. Everything about that dish was perfect. You didn't even try the mushrooms... wow."

As for me, I went with the crispy envelope of pig's trotter made of whole grain phyllo topped with a slow-cooked duck egg on a red onion marmalade. It was actually very nice, the phyllo obviously lending a good textural balance to the pork inside. The egg was a very nice touch, giving it that silky richness that only cracking an egg over something will add (see: mopping up egg yolk at diners with toast). Even the marmalade added something.

Dessert

Both DoubleL and I had the housemade waffles served with pumpkin ice cream and what was described as Indian ice cream (but tasted very much just like cardamom). These were actually fairly decent, light Belgian style waffles. But really it was the ice cream that took the win... though my pumpkin was a bit more ice than cream.

The lone non-waffle dessert for the table was a heirloom apple tatin, with streusel, yogurt, and a caramel ice cream. While CC appreciated how the tatin was constructed, sadly the ice cream was the best part of the dessert. The apples were smoky, which was interesting but not what she was looking for. Once again, the presentation was very nice though.

The Verdict


A surprisingly good meal, sometimes touching on great, capitalizing mostly on good seasonal flavors with beautiful presentations. I've been before, and I will definitely be back.

Food Rating: **** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: You're already eating at the Hotel Monaco, so why not go full tourist? Buy two disposable cameras at Penn Camera on E St a block away, and have a contest who can take the best pictures with the cheapest technology.

Poste on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eatonville

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Coming straight from our company soccer team's game, a group of us were hankering for a brunch and decided to head to U Street to satisfy our craving. When Busboys and Poets was SRO (and really, why did we expect otherwise), we headed across the street to Eatonville.

The Vibe

Eatonville is basically Southern comfort food, and the decor mirrors that theme. The inside is a rustic Americana, something out of a William Faulkner novel but modernized, perhaps best exemplified to the extreme by the walls. Here, the motif is played out in a creole graffiti with scenes of the South and voodoo-stylized portraits, but if the artist's palette was limited to highlighter colors. It makes for art that can best be described as "rad." Cool, but not exactly classic. This modern South is further exemplified by the kitsch around the restaurant: crystal chandeliers, a bird cage in the foyer, and two ceiling fixtures that wave palm-frond-esque fans back and forth. Perhaps the epitome is the small stage where live music began playing in the middle of our meal: separated from the dining area by a picket fence and set with a stool, a rocking chair, a bale of hay, and seasonal gourds.

Aside from these funky things, the space is also actually a normal kind of fun, with some nice touches like an exposed ceiling, and a small second floor perch over the bar. The furniture is dark brown, an old 1920s country style replete with leather padding. Seating is very group-friendly: big round tables in the center of the restaurant and long high tables by the bar and the open kitchen. Sitting on the corner of 14th and V, the large pane windows would be perfect for people-watching, except that the open half circle booth seating that lines the edge of the dining area faces inwards. Which means that on a one-on-one date, your business will sort of be on diorama-display to the whole restaurant. So while there are nooks, like I said, it's more of a group place.

One last note: service was noticeably slow. Even seating us took five minutes, despite a preponderance of open tables that could accommodate us. Something to think about.

The Food


Despite the size of our group (six), we all ordered one of two dishes. The first, which I didn't order, was a Vidalia onion tart made with baked egg, spinach, and gruyere topped with greens and served with fruit. The review from the crowd was that it was good, but a smaller portion than they expected, and definitely less than what they wanted for brunch.

I, on the other hand, ordered a Country Benedict, essentially eggs Benedict as they might be made in the South: country ham, buttermilk biscuits, and a Creole mustard hollandaise. Apparently country ham was code for prosciutto, or at the very least, something very salty because it threatened to overpower the dish. That being said, the hollandaise was interesting and the buttermilk biscuit's crumbliness was a welcome change to the traditional English muffin. It wasn't fantastic because of the salt, but it was okay.

In addition, Eatonville features a number of interesting sodas, of which I ordered the ginger lemonade. Fair, but not gingery enough for me, and nothing to call home about.

The Verdict


A lot of great ideas, but some, shall we say, varied and interesting execution. Sometimes you get the feeling that a kitchen can do better; this was one of those times. But the overall gut feel I had about this meal was that it was just very average.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: Volunteer together at Martha's Table located across the street. Providing food and clothing programs for those less fortunate in DC, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for interested parties. Find out more at here.

Eatonville on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Munchies: Fry Captain

UPDATE: THIS FOOD TRUCK IS NOW RETIRED.

This week's Monday Munchies is the latest in our Food Truck series: Fry Captain.

Fry Captain is exactly what it sounds like: a whole truck devoted to serving fries. While there isn't too much variety in the food, there is a ton when it comes to variations on the potato. Fries can come mixed with sea salt, garlic salt, Old Bay, or Cajun spices, and dipping sauces include chili ketchup, truffle ketchup, chimichurri mayo, and a sriracha and sesame mayo. And in perhaps the best option of them all, you can order them fried in duck fat. Yes.

In fact, the day that I went to Fry Captain, they were only serving duck fat fries, a fact that turned off the two ladies in front of me to the truck, but only excited me more. Oh, how I was expecting huge amounts of flavor... that never came. In fact, they were pretty generic fries. Yes, there were a few pockets of flavor that came out once in a while, but not the writ-large goodness I wanted. Considering the amount I paid them, definitely disappointing. Still, a decent bag of fries.

Taste Test: 2 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for
: Mid day snack

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Glory

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Georgetown

The Setup


As is becoming habit for us, Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan and I ventured up M Street in search of food, where we ended up going for barbecue at Old Glory.

The Vibe

Old Glory, to me anyway, is a bar first, which incidentally prides itself on its barbecue. Because of that, the decor is like that of any number of semi-divey sports bars: large wood bar, wood furniture, stained wood plank floor. Seating is marked by mostly long tables or booth seating by the bar, at least on the first floor anyway. Decor is kitschy: southern state flags, a sizable collection of Elvis paraphernalia, and trophies over the doorway from presumably BBQ contests.

The Food


With some sweet cornbread already in the tank for the bread course (like almost uncomfortably sweet), both Rajistan and I ordered barbecue sandwiches and split them halfway. I got a pulled pork sandwich, served on a kaiser roll, and Rajistan ordered the chopped BBQ brisket which came pre-sauced with jalapeno, onions, molasses, and Memphis barbecue sauce.

Now seems like the appropriate time to discuss the cool thing about Old Glory: each table comes with six different barbecue sauces from six regions of America: Kansas City, Texas, Memphis, Carolina, Lexington, and Savannah. If one fact emphasizes the regional differences in barbecue styles, it is these sauces. Me, I put some Kansas City on my pulled pork, and it tasted okay. Nothing crazy incredible, but decent meat on both sandwiches. The sides were a little lazy, I guess: crude fries and decent mac and cheese but topped with shredded cheese.

The Verdict


One of my standard verdicts: good, but nothing to call home about. Definitely what I wanted at the time, but fairly certain there are plenty of people I know who could probably barbecue better.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Frat House
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: Head over to Lush and buy each other some interesting off-the-wall soaps. Do what you want with them...

Old Glory BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Munchies: EatWonky

UPDATE: THIS FOOD TRUCK IS NOW RETIRED.

Here's a fun fact: I used to spend some summers in Montreal as a kid. Between my parents' love of jazz and the fact that half of my mom's side of the family lives in French Canada, we'd trek up every summer with a trip planned around the annual Montreal International Jazz Festival. On a couple occasions, I went as an advanced team of one of sorts (usually because my mom was tired of having me around the house), and so I'd spend most of my time locked up in an apartment in a country where I didn't speak the language anyway. What little time I did get out, one of the things that sticks out in my memory is the proud Quebecois tradition known as the poutine. So when a poutine food truck developed in DC, I just had to go and find it.

EatWonky is the latest in our series of reviews of DC food trucks, and serves a variety of items but mostly centers around the aforementioned dish. Poutine, for the uninitiated, is french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. It might sound unappetizing but it is to Montreal what jumbo slice is to drunk DC residents.

On this trip, I ordered a Wonky Dog and Wonky Fries, essentially poutine and a hot dog covered in poutine. For one, the cheese curds (or as EatWonky and six-year-olds alike affectionally refer to them: squeaky cheese) makes the whole experience a messy work lunch; one rogue curd and it was me in a battle versus mustard (I lost). I guess for me, the novelty wore off pretty quick, which left me with basically a crap ton of now-slightly-soggy fries and some interesting cheese on a conventional hot dog. So perhaps this would have been better had I just picked one and stuck with it.

Taste Test: 2.5 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for
: Canadian expats, greasy drunk food

Eat Wonky (Mobile Cart) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LoveCafe

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Needing to grab a quick bite to eat before heading up to Official Friend of DCWD Juju's house, I stopped by U Street's Love Cafe.

The Vibe

LoveCafe is the sister act to CakeLove, perhaps the original bakery/cupcake shop of DC. The shop's decor feels like somebody tried to graft Georgetown Cupcake or Hello Cupcake onto a 1800s townhouse. The place is almost all exposed brick, but the top of the restaurant is entirely pink and brown trim, which gives the place an old-school but also just plain old vibe: like the mullet form of decor, both dressed down and trimmed up. It's also sort of run down, which puts it in the weird nexus of U Street, caught between the epic gentrification of the neighborhood, but keeping with the age of the area.

The other notable part of the layout is the plentiful number of nooks: bench couches in the windows, a table underneath a bricked-in fireplace, a table that seemingly can only be reached after snaking your way through a gauntlet of wall. Still, it's nice that you're in a place where you can hide yourself (and theoretically your companion) away to enjoy a meal by yourselves.

The Food


Trying to grab a lunch after Crafty Bastards, I wasn't going for the cakes, despite their stature as the best choice. Instead, I picked the most interesting sandwich, the curry chicken salad sandwich, which mixed in raisins, red apple, and red onions as well. Juju would later mention to me that this was also her roommates' sandwich of choice at LoveCafe.

The taste was interesting, and the mix of the light curry flavor with the sweetness of the raisins and the apple, and the bite of the apple and onion was good. About the only thing I didn't like about it was the fact that it was presented on white bread... I mean come on, that's just kind of lazy right? All the same, a sort of pleasant surprise, especially considering the slightly dilapidated look of the coffeehouse.

The Verdict


Nowhere to travel to, but worth a stop if you're in the area. In any event, a fun place to review for this blog all things considered.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing
: Stop by mod furniture store RCKNDY located just down the block and play house for a little bit. Some of their kitsch is cute and affordable too. As a fan of their kind of funky housewares, it's kind of cool to just mill around there.

Love Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday Munchies: Cuban Sandwich at El Floridano

Once again, a Monday Munchie on a Tuesday. Sue me.

This week's fake Monday Munchie is a re-return; we'd previously stopped at El Floridano on our search for banh mi variations in the city. But impressed with their take on the Vietnamese sandwich, I decided to go back and try the truck's signature sandwich: the Cuban.

My first experience with a Cuban (pictured above at right) had been in Miami, where Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern and I had parked ourselves in Bayside, and sampled the local fare: a heaping mass of ham, chipped pork, pulled pork, and mayo on a sub with some crispy potato hash to top it; it was amazing. That was my baseline heading in.

The differences between the South Florida version and the "South Florida in DC" example were clear: only the ham and no pork, Swiss cheese, and the whole thing was panini-pressed. The bread retained the same flakiness that I liked, the amount of Swiss was lovely, and the flavors were okay. But definitely a step down from the previous Cuban, and did not match my excitement from their other sandwich. Sad city.

Taste Test: 2.5 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for:
Pretending you're in Havana, cheesy goodness.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Munchies: Double Down at KFC

We here at DCWD are not without a sense of humor; I mean, we've reviewed the new Domino's Pizza before. And anyone who knows me knows that while I will gladly spend $200+ on a good meal, I also have an uncanny love of cheap food. It's with these things in mind plus a good dose of sheer curiosity that I found myself at the 14th St KFC to take on the most talked about "sandwich" of all time: the Double Down.

Oh, the Double Down. At this point I'm sure everyone has heard of it: two pieces of crispy chicken sandwiching two pieces of bacon, two pieces of cheese and what can best be described as Russian dressing; when I heard rumors of the Double Down when it was in R&D, I thought it was a bad joke. I actually had tried to tackle the Double Down a week prior, but in a sign that probably came from the divine, the restaurant muffed my order and gave me a box filled with biscuits instead (which if you think about it, is the exact opposite of the Double Down), something I didn't discover until I was already home. So they gave me a free meal, which I happily redeemed (you know, in the name of science).

Because of the snafu, this was probably the most immaculately prepared Double Down. The manager indicated that he was making it fresh for me (the subtle implication that it would normally not have been made fresh for me was probably inadvertent). Ten minutes later, I was sitting down facing a potentially literally heart-stopping bite from a surprisingly small but definitely piping hot Double Down.

Here's the thing: we might make fun of some of KFC's stranger items (see Patton Oswalt's take on their Bowls). But frankly, these are the things we like: fried chicken, cheese, bacon. So the first bite was great, if you like greasy food anyway. I did think though that it suffered slightly with what I know as the McGriddles Factor: much like the law of diminishing returns in economics, the first bite of the McGriddle is fantastic, but every subsequent bite is slightly worse until you almost can't finish it. Still, I finished the sucker.

I guess the question everyone who's kept reading this far is asking is the post-game: did my cholesterol shoot up 80 points? Well, having just come from a game of soccer and then going directly to ballroom practice after that, my already fast metabolism was speeding. Still, I felt just a little bit sluggish, but no serious chest pains and I haven't spontaneously combusted yet. And it wasn't not good. It remains to be seen if I'll ever go for it again, but at the very least I can say: I fought the Double Down and I won.

Taste Test:
2 Forks
(out of 5)
Perfect for
: Anytime you want to eat something that might actually kill you, this side of fugu.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Shameless Plug, Part Deux

This is the second time now I've used this platform to shamelessly plug myself, but my flavor's back at Mr. Yogato. So everyone should go have a White Choco-Keem!