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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tap and Parlour

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Suckered in by the promise of $7 bottomless mimosas (!), a group of us (Official Friends of DCWD Juju and Madison, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas, and Official Roommate of DCWD Rajistan) headed over to newly opened Tap and Parlour.

The Vibe

Located atop Bohemian Caverns, Tap and Parlour is the restaurant portion of the basement jazz club; between the two, there are a number of events listed on a chalkboard by the door, both musical and otherwise. Though it's hard to imagine where exactly that event would take place, as the dining area is much like someone's den. On your left as you enter is a long wooden bar, and a row of high tables. The rest of the seating is a row of half-booths and then a series of what can be described as "cigar lounges" - couches and ottomans surrounding coffee tables. Decor follows suit, like eating in the Study from the board game Clue: wood paneling, fireplaces, and upholstery, interrupted only by the occasional flat screen TV - which on this trip was showing Tom and Jerry and X-Men, the animated series (Saturday morning cartoons we were told).

The Food


Cards on the table: the boozy brunch did us in. The $7 bottomless did not disappoint in any way, and ended up wrecking all the plans I had for the Mid-City Sale. Sadly. Juju and Texas each ordered a Delightful (what Tap and Parlour calls their standard breakfast). It hardly seems worth writing about since something like that can neither be great nor truly awful.

I ordered the Chicken and Waffles, described on the menu as "well, you know." Compared to other chicken and waffles, this was a little subpar, with a sort of dry chicken paired with a similarly tasteless waffle. It wasn't horrible by any means, just not something you couldn't fix yourself - potentially even better. In some ways the "well you know" was sort of apropos.

On the other hand, the remaining two dishes were much better. Rajistan ordered the French Twist, an interesting take on French toast but with croissant halves, dipped in cinnamon and vanilla and served with kiwi, strawberries, and cream cheese. The plate made for a colorful presentation, and the toast itself was pretty delicious. A nice amount of sweet, without being too much; perhaps the only complaint was there wasn't more of it.

Madison had the Cuban scramble, a mess of eggs, black beans, cheddar, sour cream, salsa, and fried plaintains. Despite its haggard appearance, it was a strangely appetizing mix of food, providing all the elements necessary to beat back the hangover and soak up the mimosas.

The real winner in everyone's estimation though were the grits. I talk about grits a lot on this blog (and I really mean a lot, also see here and here and here). But good god these grits were unbelievable. They hit every note in the grit handbook: creamy, savory, cheesy, with that smooth but also lumpy texture. I'm in love with hyperbole, but these were totally worth it.

The Verdict


Great, if for nothing else than the mimosa deal and the grits.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: If you're not there for brunch, then head downstairs to Bohemian Caverns for some nice jazz.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Munchies: Sweetz Cheesecake

LinkThis week's Monday Munchies follows perhaps one of the more interesting entrants into the food truck: the Sweetz Cheesecake truck.

Yes, it's exactly what it reads as: a truck that serves various one-serving cheesecakes, in a ridiculous variety of interesting flavors. What's more, 10% of each purchase goes towards local charity Bread and the City. And at $4 a pop, a relatively affordable bite.

On this trip, I went with the suggestion of the tiramisu cheesecake. The portion size was perfect, and the dessert's first few bites were solid, a good combination of tiramisu flavor with trademark cheesecake creaminess. But with each bite, it seemed the dessert got richer and richer, until it was almost overwhelming at the end. If you're into that, it's a great bite. If you're not, it's a little bit of a struggle.

Taste Test:
2.5 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for: Dessert after another food truck

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Night Flights: DCWD Celebrates International Beer Day

This is my first post since getting back from my semester in Paris. In order to properly celebrate International Beer Day (editor's note: albeit a bit belatedly), I wanted to get something special. There's a small brewery based in Massachusetts called Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, and I'd heard good things about their brown ale, Saint Botolph's Town.

It poured a nice, brown color and was almost opaque to light, a bit darker than Newcastle. The beer had an average head, which dissipated after not too long. Aromas of caramel were detectable, as well as nuts and a hint of citrus. The flavor was pretty well rounded, definitely reminiscent of roasted malt. However, the finish was very bitter, bordering on sour, which I neither expected nor enjoyed. Overall a decent sipping beer but nothing spectacular, though maybe I don't fully understand what a brown ale is supposed to be.

Taste Test: 2 Cheers
Cost: Pick up a 22 ounce bottle for around $6 (only available around New England)
Perfect for: The roasted malt flavor would go well with a pasta dish.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vinoteca

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Looking for booze after a disappointing visit to Shaw's Tavern (of the mindbogglingly mishandled liquor license situation), Official Friend of DCWD Jax and I hit up Vinoteca. And later that week, I visited again with a group headlined by Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas.

The Vibe

Vinoteca is a wine bar, but in some ways it's a restaurant made up of bars. When you walk in, there's the conventional bar, a ten-seat black granite piece that hugs the restaurant's right side, with chalkboard menus in back. This space is complimented by two additional bar-style seats: some bar seating in the window, and a large central divider that serves as more bar seating. The latter is a particularly interesting space; high enough that you have to sit on stools, but low enough that you're practically sitting on top of the two-tops on the other side. The bartenders are the ones that serve you in these seats, so be prepared to wait a little bit; on our first visit, they seemed disinterested in getting to us. The waitress on our second visit was much better.

On the other side of the red-tiled space that makes up the bar is the main dining area, lined by half-booths around its edges with two large sixes in the middle, and finished off by the aforementioned row of twos. The decor is more chalkboards, with a few wine racks and bottles here and there. A soft glow is provided by orb lights, though that seems overwhelmed by the constant noise level.

Lastly, of note are the two outdoor spaces: the large patio out front, and the bocce court in back. They are beautiful spaces, though not ones I got to on these two night trips. Still, between those and the various options inside, a great first date place though maybe not date three to five; between the eavesdropping potential and the din, tough to get in a real conversation.

The Food


Like virtually every wine bar, Vinoteca serves a bunch of small plates, and Jax and I each chose a few. For herself, she had a side of pickled carrots and onions, the goat cheese flight, and the arancini. The flight was comprised of three cheeses: fenacho from Oregon, cana de cabra from Spain, and the Manchester, which Jax switched for Spanish garroxta, fearing the raw cheese. Served with a few figs, the fenacho was the winner. As for the arancini, which for the unfamiliar are fried risotto balls, this time with saffron and goat cheese, aioli, baby field greens, a tomato sherry vinaigrette, and parmigiano reggiano cheese, they were okay but a little dry. The saffron taste wasn't there and I wish they were a little creamier, but decent.

For my part, I ordered the marmelada crostini, topped with orange marmelade, more cana de cabra, and a membrillo paste. A nice bite to have, with some sweetness to it, and definitely fit in well with both the vibe and the palate. But the real winner was the pork belly with strawberries in port. Yes, it's pork belly, and I've already admitted that I'm a fiend. But the combination of the savory perfectly-cooked unctuous meat with the chart-topping sweet from the berries and port was divine. I could eat this every day and twice on Sunday, it was that good. Weeks later, I can still taste it.

Though not everything is great. On our second trip, Texas and I sampled the yellowfin tuna crudo, mixed with avocado, grapefruit, trout roe caviar, micro greens, orange blossom vinaigrette, and pink Peruvian sea salt. It might seem like flavor overload, and you would be right... if that flavor was grapefruit. The tart citrus dominated, and took attention away from the key fact: the tuna was just so blah. Perhaps not as fresh, and definitely not as flavorful as it needed to be. Definitely a miss.

The Verdict


A menu of amazing dishes but also with definite misses. And given its limited options, probalby worth a brunch trip, or a nightcap, just maybe not for a full dinner.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout to Party in the USA
Vibe:
Noisy
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: I mean, there's a bocce court. Need I say anything more?

Vinoteca on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lavandou

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Cleveland Park

The Setup


Desperately needing a catch-up, Official Friend of DCWD Juli and I met up for dinner at Lavandou.

The Vibe

Lavandou is a tiny restaurant that tries its best to transport you to the French countryside; whether that succeeds or not depends on if you've ever actually been there. The touchstones are there, but perhaps not the authenticity; while other places (say Montmartre) do a better job of faking it, this just feels grafted.

The decor is like a country inn, with cobblestone walls, and a large mural on the left of cafe tables, sunflowers, meadows, and script writing. Seating is an assortment of four-tops in the front window space, then three more rows of half-booths in the main area, one a row of half-booths. Much of the furniture is wood and thatched straw, with red and orange tablecloths. That color scheme repeats itself, ocher and beige dominating. Light is provided by a few simple chandeliers, and a small three-seat bar is in the back. Overall, charming if a little dated.

The Food


It being the absolute stereotype of a French restaurant, Juli thought it best to order accordingly: French onion soup. Simple, classic, hard-to-mess-up... and they didn't really.

For her main course, Juli had mussels, served with gruyere, rosemary, and light cream. I guess if you were a ravenous gruyere fan this might have ended differently, but for me, this was a little off-putting. In a bowl of strong flavors, the gruyere KO'd every other possible taste in an aggressive way the creaminess barely came through.

On my part, I had duck confit, served in a rosemary and lavender sauce with soft polenta, and a red bell pepper ragout. This was a back-and-forth dish for me. On the one hand, the duck was cooked decently and the polenta was a treat, topped by potato crisps. On the other hand, I couldn't shake the feeling that the dish was good, but lacked that critical element to be great. Perhaps it was the sauce: decent, but just not super.

The Verdict


Decent French food, but only for the neighborhood.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: Nowhere in the area, but if you find yourself looking for a free date, head over to 13th and V for a free screening of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets in the Harrison Recreation Center park.

Lavandou on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Munchies: Sol Mexican Grill

This week's Monday Munchies brings us back to the world of food trucks, with the Sol Mexican Grill. In terms of menu, think Chipotle on wheels: tacos, burritos, and burrito bowls.

On this trip, I ordered the steak tacos, a trio of soft tacos with a variety of topping options. The long version is that it was a decent meal, fairly tender with fresh ingredients. The short version? I mean, it was basically Chipotle. But mobile.

Taste Test: 2 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for: When Chipotle is just too far away.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Night Flights: Stoneleigh Pinot Noir

In a revisit to one of our old, long-ignored features, we look at bottles of wine we've had and how they match up. In this session, we had Official Friends of DCWD Madison, Swizzle, and Rajistan.

This week's bottle was the Stoneleigh Pinot Noir, a product of New Zealand. The 2009 version we had we paired with an admittedly not appropriate white pizza from Pete's Apizza. Upon opening it, Madison noted it needed to really open before we dove into it fully.

In general, the group of us thought it was eminently drinkable, with smooth tannins and a mostly flat taste. Unlike most pinots, there was almost nothing at the end; no sweeping aftertaste of cherry or raspberry, no warm feeling, no depth. In sum, a drinkable pinot, but perhaps something better for the table and not by itself.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vento

UPDATE: THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle

The Setup


During a monthly DC Food Blogger Happy Hour, I brought along Official Friend of DCWD Madison, and we sampled some of the food at Dupont Circle's new hotel restaurant Vento.

The Vibe
Sitting below the Residence Inn on P Street, Vento falls into a decor that can be best described as shabby chic. The walls are dabbed tan paint, with one faux wood wall by the lounge area. The square bar and surrounding couch lounge is light by a set of what can be described as crystal lights, as well as a string chandelier hanging from the exposed ceiling. The rest of the space is trendy, or at least as trendy as something shabby chic can be. And by that, we mean the kind of place that stocks expensive sofas next to a cabinet that looks like it was pulled from a garage sale.

The Food

Looking for some small and quick eats before dinner, Madison and I ordered two small plates from the bar. First came grilled octopus with roasted fennel, fingerling potato, green olive, basil and preserved lemon. The octopus was slimy, in a way beyond what was expected, and the elements around it were weak. The fennel was overmatched, and the potato was nowhere to be found. Overall, we didn't think it worked well.

Next came creamy polenta with gorgonzola, taleggio cheese, and hazelnut butter. This was a disappointment all around. The creamy polenta was actually nowhere close to creamy, sort of chalky, and a quality made more apparent by the additional cheese. The hazelnut butter was more like a gummy gel, and didn't meld as well as with the dish as it needed to.

The only saving grace was a third dish that came out from the kitchen: potato gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, pesto, and kalamata olives. A decent interpretation with some solid flavors that saved what was otherwise not a good experience.

The Verdict


Maybe the regular menu is better.

Food Rating: * 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Party in the USA
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: DC Beer Week is wrapping up, but catch one of the great events this upcoming weekend: http://dcbeer.com/dc-beer-events-calendar

Vento on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meridian Pint

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights
The Setup

Needing a brunch in C. Heights, with a wait at Red Rocks, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I headed to Meridian Pint.

The Vibe
Restaurants work best when they fit in with the vibe of their neighborhoods, and Meridian Pint certainly fulfills that best practice. Sitting on the corner of 11th and Park, it fully fits into the hipster vibe. The ground floor is a well-lit conventional bar, from the expansive patio out front to the honey-golden wood fixtures, floor to furniture. Exposed pipes hang from the crimson ceiling, punctuated every so often by chandeliers that are almost steampunk, conventional standing fans welded together and bronzed by spray paint.

The front window is a garage door, and the bar features a number of chalkboard menus and American brews on tap. Seating is a mishmash of two-tops in front, with a community table and long wooden bar in the middle, and a row of half-booths and full booths in the back. The decor is accordingly industrial with a large metal cog by the booths, and several smaller ones on the wall.

The downstairs is the hyped portion, as it holds the three booths with beer taps directly at the table (though book in advance, as the allure of not waiting for a bartender fills seats fast). Behind those booths are schematics painted on blue walls surrounding the bar tables, pool tables, and shuffleboard set.

The Food


It being brunch didn't stop us from ordering beer and a mimosa. Still, we both went with traditional brunch dishes. I ordered the turkey hash with poached eggs, topped with a mustard hollandaise. Most hashes suffer from an overabundance of salt or acid, but this had neither. Instead it packed flavor without overpowering, a creamy taste that was savory and delicious. The portion was perfectly sized, the eggs were cooked perfectly and everything mixed in well. A definite win.

Texas ordered the French toast, cooked custard style and orange-scented. This translated into a sometimes overwhelmingly sweet version of the dish, though that vacillated with each bite. Depending on your tolerance for the saccharine, this was either inspired or just a little too much. For me it was fine, but I also have a large fondness for marmalade. For Texas, it took some time in between bites to acclimate.

The Verdict


Solid brunch, with a few missteps. But when it's right, it's great.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Energetic to Noisy
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: Head over to Newton and Georgia Ave and shop for fun items at Mom & Pop Antiques. Some interesting finds (we got a Marilyn Monroe sign and a steamer trunk), and if nothing else, you can play the piano in front in some feeble attempt to impress your significant other (this doesn't work if she's more interested in said steamer trunk).

Meridian Pint on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Munchies: Wicked Waffle

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Downtown - Farragut

Farragut is a vast wasteland of sandwich shops and lunch chains, outside of a few notable exceptions. Perhaps that's why Farragut Fridays are such a clusterfuck. It's also why someone decided that opening an entirely niche shop catering to the work crowd in the midst of it all was a good idea.

The central conceit of Wicked Waffle is that the normal work-day lunch has been injected with the eponymous food. The caveat is that unlike most waffles, Wicked's come sans butter and syrup (the self-proclaimed European way). So sandwiches have their bread replaced, Caesar salads come topped with waffle chunks, and even the soup is laced with waffle flavor (by way of maple syrup).

Official Roommate of DCWD Talia and I popped for lunch and each of us ordered a waffle sandwich: me, the rare roast beef and swiss with horseradish cream and onion marmalade, Talia the mango, brie, cilantro, and spicy berry jam (advertised as "try this once and you'll never forget it").

Both fell into the same trap, namely that the novelty of the waffles wore off really quickly, especially when you realized you had paid $9 for a fairly small sandwich. My roast beef was far from rare (which was notable only because the menu took the liberty of advertising its rareness). And whatever kick had been promised by the horseradish never came delivered. The same could be said for Talia's slightly better sandwich, which benefited from being sweet rather than savory. But even at its best, when it tasted like some sort of mango salsa, it was still sort of... forgettable.

Taste Test:
2 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for
: Belgians, and people who miss the Low Countries.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Zentan

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 Top 100 Restaurants, Washingtonian 2010 #70
Neighborhood: 14th Street, Downtown - McPherson Square

The Setup


With a Capitol Deal in hand, Official Roommate of DCWD Talia and I dropped by for a dinner at Zentan.

The Vibe

Zentan fits in well with the chi-chi Donovan House hotel that it sits in, a trendy restaurant with a trendy decor. The theme is black and steel, from the different-shades-of-black walls to the graphite tiles behind the long bar. In the back, behind a patterned screen door is a more casual lounge, replete with couch booths and sheer beige curtains. In the main room, seating comes in three varieties: the bar, long community-table-esque bar tables, and then an entire side full of half-booth seating except for two four-tops. Overtop are large light fixtures, platforms with stacks of different sized fake candles, and a steady stream of boom cha music.

The Food


To start, Talia ordered the Chinoise salad, romaine covered by mango, snow peas, avocado, hardboiled eggs, red peppers, cashews all in a creamy soy sauce dressing. Like Susur Lee's signature Singapore Slaw (say that five times fast), it's an at-times overwhelming but at-points delicious combination of flavor. For me, I found it to be a few tastes too many, complexity that too often came across as muddled rather than refined. Moreover, it didn't feel to in-touch with the restaurant's theme, but mostly like a "we threw together what we could find" salad.

On my end, I had the kurobuta BBQ pork belly, with almonds, pickled cherries, and wasabi. I'm a pork belly fiend, and at first taste, this was a pleasant dish. But as the weeks go on and more and more pork belly iterations come to pass, this one just didn't stand up. The cherries, a great idea in pairing the savory and the sweet, were left sort of neutered by the pickling, and the whole dish came across as one that felt like it should've been better. The pork belly was cooked well, but nothing about it screamed great.

For the "main course," Talia had the typhoon roll: spicy salmon, mango, tuna, yellowtail, and pineapple. Unlike the salad, this was a mix of strong flavors that wasn't too much, melding well into a nice sweet taste. Much like the other dishes of the meal though, both Talia and I agreed that it left us wanting, struggling to pin down just why the food couldn't make the jump from fine to good or even great.

This was both the case, and not the case with my second dish, the caramelized black cod with preserved vegetables and miso mustard. On the one hand, the cod was cooked well, but struggled to be anything more than that, receiving only a cursory amount of kick from the mustard. On the other, both Talia and I quickly identified the dish's lack: acid. Though a lemon wedge came with the fish, the whole affair would've been bettered by its mandatory inclusion pre-service.

The Verdict


For the hype, not as great as I thought it would be. Even the hits suffered from the "this-is-good-but-why-is-it-not-great" syndrome. Plus based on its cost, you'll need to really be creative to not end up spending a fortune.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: Head upstairs to the swanky rooftop pool. It's super trendy (and therefore not for nerds like me), but is a ton of fun.

Zentan on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Willow

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #39, Washingtonian 2008 #54, 2009 RAMMY Winner - Kate Jansen, Pastry Chef of the Year
Neighborhood: Ballston

The Setup


With an expiring Groupon in hand, and a need for a restaurant before our movie date, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I headed out to Ballston to have dinner at Willow.

The Vibe

Willow sits in the side of a office complex on Fairfax Drive, in an otherwise nondescript section of Ballston. As a high-end restaurant in an otherwise restaurant-barren part of the suburbs, Willow tries to be many things at once. Walking in, you approach the patio, then a bar/lounge, with a few couches, a ten-seat bar, and a row of half-booth two- and four-tops. The walls are crimson red, with maple brown and black accents, lit barely by track lighting and some large red globular light fixtures, which produce a soft orange glow.

But walk further, and a whole new vibe emerges. The restaurant becomes much more white cloth and much more conventional, with sunlight streaming in from the large windows to the courtyard. Still, some common themes emerge: iron work on the walls, shelves with candles, and dark grey accent walls. In general, there's a mild buzz to the space which ebbs and flows but never fully dies down. Service was slow and inattentive at some points; the server was quick to get our orders in, but otherwise impossible to find as the meal went on.

The Food


To start, Texas and I split an appetizer: the duo of soft shell crab and jumbo lump crab cake, set atop a corn pancake and a bed of peas, corn, radish, and corn sauce. The overwhelming feeling from the two of us was one of "meh." To wit, it wasn't horrible, but it didn't inspire anything other than the feeling of eating. The crab was rendered without any flavor but itself; if I had to pick a singularly memorable flavor from the dish, it would be the corn pancake. All things considered, sort of a disappointment.

For the main course, I indulged in the gluttonous sausage-crusted rack of pork, which came flanked by a potato and smoked gouda tart, and broccolini caramellized onions, all in a ham hock jus. Here was the promise of meat and it delivered, a generous two ribs of pork meat encased in a layer of sausage and ultimately resulting in a dish that would make Scooby envious. All the same, it seemed like a bit much and came across like that, a mix of flavors that was more interesting in name than in combination. It was tasty, but never got past the sort of carnival appeal that sandwiching meat in more meat projects.

Texas went with the roasted Norwegian salmon, paired with butter poached lobster agnolotti, and a ragout of corn, peas, fava beans, and roasted tomato. This dish, much like the others, was fine but with almost no flashes of brilliance. The lobster was blah, more mushy than buttery and therefore stripped of any flavor to make it remarkable. The salmon was good, but not anything that couldn't be recreated by an experienced home chef. So, on some level, if the job of the restaurant is to add value, it wasn't clear if this dish did it.

Dessert was the place where we thought the restaurant would shine, based on the well-advertised bags of cookies to go we saw passed around. We ordered the passionfruit cheesecake, which definitely wasn't mis-sold; the passionfruit flavor came across strongly, with a clear tartness to the whole dish. Somewhat enjoyable, but definitely a flavor that got tired. Still, those cookies did look good.

The Verdict


A few missteps, and considering the plaudits and the distance necessary to get there, probably not somewhere I'd find myself again.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Energetic to Noisy
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: Jump into the Ballston Commons mall, or grab a movie at the Ballston Common Cinema 12.

Willow on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Munchies: Oh Fish!

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Farragut/Dupont Circle
The Setup

After a successful run at his eponymous sushi bistro, and two successful collaborations with Richard Sandoval at Masa 14 and El Centro D.F., Chef Kaz Okochi decided to open up a fourth restaurant. Joining me on this trip was Official Friend of DCWD Madison.

The Vibe
Oh Fish! is based on the customizable make-your-own sandwich trend that Kaz saw on one trip to a Subway; in fact, Oh Fish! has been referred to as the Chipotle of sushi restaurants. The concept of the restaurant has you pick a fish, three vegetables, a sauce, and a topping, which is all wrapped up into an eight-piece maki sushi roll. If you're not feeling as adventurous, you can grab cutely-named suggested rolls (one is named Doki Doki, after the Japanese phrase of anticipation before a first date).

The shop itself is fairly clean and austere, very much a grab-and-go sort of place. Seating is only a few high tables, surrounding the deli counter bar. The walls are a pleasant light blue, broken up only by a few pieces of steel wall art, plates with cut out bubbles filled with colored tiles. Pop music plays from the grated ceiling with track lighting.
The Food

Deciding to order our own way, I had a spicy salmon with avocado, sun dried tomato, and basil, topped with wasabi mayo and bread crumbs, while Madison went with the spicy tuna with red bell pepper, sweet tofu, and avocado and wasabi mayo. The thing with this sort of concept is that you can never blame the kitchen for a bad combination. What you can judge it on is the quality of the ingredients. On this point, Oh Fish! was top notch.

Preparation was a bit slow, but worth the wait. Large rolls, and therefore big portions are the norm, and in general, everything was very good. Definitely somewhere I will go back and have lunch again.

The Verdict


Unlike practically every sushi place in the surrounding area, you have complete control. A little expensive for sushi, but definitely worth it.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)


Oh fish! on Urbanspoon