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Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Munchies: Ben and Jerry's Greek Frozen Yogurt

This week’s Monday Munchies comes courtesy of the Ben and Jerry’sTruck and official Girlfriend/Co-writer of DCWD Texas’s amazing ability to bombard them on Twitter (@BenJerrysTruck) with requests to come to her office:

As part of Ben and Jerry’s marketing efforts for their new Greek Frozen Yogurt flavors, they’ve taken to the road in the Ben and Jerry’s Truck and are hitting four East Coast and four West Coast cities to give away free samples. On this trip to my office, they brought enough free fro-yo for the entire office of 200 employees! The flavors they scooped that day were Banana Greek Frozen Yogurt with Peanut Buttery Swirls and Blueberry and Vanilla Greek Frozen Yogurt with a Graham Cracker Swirl.
Solely for research purposes of course, I took it upon myself to sample both flavors. While originally entranced by the childhood throw back to banana peanut butter, with its rich, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter swirls and prominent banana end notes, the real winner in my eyes ended up being the Blueberry and Vanilla with Graham Cracker Swirl. There was just something about the crunchy graham cracker swirl and the freshness of the blueberry that married a bit better with the tangy Greek yogurt. While it probably won't be a replacement for original Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for me (I’ve always been slightly averse to the tanginess of Greek Yogurt and just can’t wean myself off of Half Baked), both flavors were a lovely afternoon treat and definitely raised the spirits of the office on a Thursday afternoon. 

The Ben and Jerry’s truck will be dishing out free treats in DC until May 11th, but they are only making deliveries to office locations, so be sure to tweet at them incessantly until they stop by your office!

Taste Test: 3.5 Forks 
(out of 5)
Perfect For: An afternoon treat!

Friday, April 27, 2012

First Look: Masa 14's New Rooftop

I covered a lot of the touchstones in my piece on Borderstan, but here's a more in-depth look at the newest addition to the 14th St rooftop family.

The Vibe

I'll let the pictures speak mostly for themselves (or at least my previous write-up on Borderstan), but the key is this: it makes much better use of its westward orientation than Marvin or El Centro, and there's something very charming about its elegant simplicity. Check it out below:

The Food

First up, the drinks. Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas joined me on this one, and we sampled three cocktails apiece. The undercard in Round 1 featured two sangrias, a Pimm's (sparkling wine, cucumber, ginger, lemon, and of course Pimm's), and a Rosa (bourbon, mixed citrus, brown sugar, cinnamon, and of course red wine). For me, the sangria was about the same as most sangrias, which is to say it was fine.

Round two was Texas's favorite drink, while mine was still building up. She ordered the Strawberry Basil caipirinha (cachaca 51, strawberry, lime, basil), while I had a Mojito Especial (Patron Pyrat rum, brown sugar, mint, lime). If only the brown sugar in mine were mixed a tad better, the drink would have been great; as it stands, the best sips were the last ones where the sugar sat.

However, my third drink (the French caipirinha, cachaca 51, St. Germain, grapefruit juice) was my winner. For her part, Texas had a spicy cucumber margarita (cucumber-fresno infused blanco, lime, agave). For me, the French was refreshing and light, and a perfect cooldown for any evening engagement. Maybe not a Friday night ramp up, but with the sun setting in the background, nice.

Onto the food. For us, there were some notable high points. For me, the most interesting bites were the hot dogs; The Rising Sun (teriyaki beef, wasabi, furikake, pickle), and El Tigre (spicy chorizo, pico, sriracha crema, potato sticks). Both provided a good amount of heat, with the former tasting almost like a hot dog version of sushi, while the second was much more Cuban in profile.

Another success was the bay scallop ceviche, mixed with jicama, pineapple, red onion, yuzu-sriracha vinaigrette. The whole affair hit with good citrus on the first bite, which provided a refreshing jolt that was followed up with the sweet fruit. About the only thing that might have improved it was more consistent lime throughout the bite, but admittedly that's nit picking.

Most everything else we sampled was actually fairly good as well: a spicy tuna handroll was wonderfully fresh, but only suffered from its cone presentation, which left a chunk of rice wrapped in seaweed for bite two; a spoonful of sushi salmon and potato crisps drizzled in wasabi was light and fun; and a flatbread of oaxacan cheese, shrimp, pineapple, ceviche, and chilis lived up to its spicy moniker, while retaining some sweet and fresh qualities.

Perhaps my biggest concern was the menu's spelling of banh mi (IT'S NOT SPELLED BAHN MI). But then again, that's just my pet peeve.

The Verdict

A solid sampling of the food downstairs, and an amazing rooftop. Get there early.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 Top 100, Washingtonian 2010 #68
Neighborhood: Gallery Place/Chinatown/Penn Quarter

The Setup

Heading off to E Street Cinema for Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas and I, on the advice of Official Friends of DCWD Sam and Shawn, decided we needed to indulge in some sushi. We settled on Sei, and its happy hour specials.

The Vibe

Sei sits aside the Lansburgh Theater and Jaleo on the tenuous border between Gallery Place and Penn Quarter. The restaurant sets a clear tenor that strikes you almost immediately upon entering: this is a sushi place for the popular people. Like a high-speed collision between Ikea and Louis XIV (but you know, Asian influenced), the decor combines functionalism with an attempt to paint the atmosphere on the walls.

Everything is clean, white, and square - even the bar stools and chairs - with its stark Euro modernity interrupted only by the occasional faux gaudy French goldleaf on the walls, or the red sticks that serve as a divider between the bar/lounge and the main seating area. The former space is a long bar with counter seating surrounding it the front, and a small lounge in the back. The latter consists of one round six in the middle of the room, a sushi bar along the far wall, and rows of twos and fours otherwise. Despite its whiteness, the space is pretty dim, even in the daytime, the weirdness punctuated by the artwork: one, the middle row of a woman's face; another, a nude burlesque dinner sitting backwards in a chair.

The Food

The restaurant's chi-chi-ness continues onto its menu, where even the happy hour specials are what would pass for normal prices elsewhere (our inattentive server's matter-of-factness about this only highlights the restaurant's relatively high price point). Undeterred, we preceded to order drinks; Texas started with a "liquid Wasabi" and followed it with the "Silver Samurai" - the former, a sake and vodka creation infused with habanero and ginger simple syrup, the latter an Asian version of a cucumber drink.

As sushi munchies, we ordered two happy hour rolls: the spicy salmon roll and eel avocado roll, along with an order of fatty yellowtail sashimi. Now granted, these were happy hour rolls and as such were reductive in terms of complexity. Still, even their happy hour prices ($6) were in line with what passes for regular prices pretty much anywhere else. More importantly, along with that price increase, the sushi wasn't any more spectacular. For all the pomp and circumstance, this was nearly indistinguishable from any neighborhood sushi shop. The sashimi was meh, and everything was fairly ordinary.

The Verdict

With the run-of-the-mill sushi, for me, probably not worth the high price of admission.

Food Rating: **
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
: We headed to Sei after watching a screening of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the awesome documentary about the incomparable Michelin-starred chef. Head over to E Street to catch it before the run is over.

SEI on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Munchies: Banh Xeo

In our second attempt at a Vietnamese staple, Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas and I attempted another favorite: banh xeo. Banh xeo is like a Vietnamese crepe, but with turmeric and more savory. We used some recipes we found online (along with some helpful tips from my mom), and the following is our attempt:

2 cups rice flour
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 scallions, cut
Whisk together in a large bowl, and let rest for 30 minutes

The batter.

The fillings: sliced pork, halved shrimp, cilantro, bean sprouts, chilies.

Coat a small pan in some oil. Cook the pork/shrimp and then add a thin, thin layer of batter to the pan. Cover, and then let cook for 3-4 minutes. Afterwards, uncover and check for crispness. If so, fold over and cook slightly more. Then top with cilantro and enjoy.

Making the banh xeo.

The final product.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Society Fair

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Alexandria

The Setup

On the hunt for cooking classes, Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas happened upon Chef Cathal Armstrong's newest addition, Society Fair. We convinced Official Friends of DCWD Sam and Shawn to head with us for a dinner at the restaurant's Test Kitchen.

The Vibe

Society Fair is probably not best described as a restuarant, since almost half of its space is actually a marketspace. In truth, Society Fair is described as both a "boutique emporium of epicurean delight" and a "lifestyle food market" on its website. Mostly, it's a natural outgrowth of Chef Armstrong's commitment to local sourcing and seasonal foods; its closest contemporary is Shaw's Seasonal Pantry.

The space is similar in type to Dean and Deluca's, but with more classic nods to the open air European plazas that are its inspiration. To wit, the metal tiled ceilings, and the black and white micro-tiled floors. Still, the space does have its whimsical quirks: the typography used in the signage, the types of merchandise available around the store. There's a little bit of everything on the market side: a bakery, a sandwich shop, a case for ready-made foods, even a cocktail gear station.

The restaurant side is more traditional, in the frame of a brasserie or a wine bar. A few twos and a few half-booths are set up in cafe seating around the 16-seat bar, ten of which are reserved for the Test Kitchen at night. The space in question is compact, with a white granite bar separating you from Chef Trey Massey and his set-up: a six-burner range, a wood-topped island, a butcher's block table on wheels. The presentation is top-notch and the service is phenomenal; about the only thing nit we can pick is the noise level, which makes it hard to hear at the end points of the bar (and frankly, even that's not that bad).

The Food

To start, we all had one of Todd Thrasher's wine cocktails, the boys ordering the Whiskey and Wine (a Sauterne with cardamom, star anise, cloves, orange peel, whiskey, bourbon, and orange bitters), and the girls drinking the 172 Degree (chardonnay, Licor 43, spiced rum, vanilla, lemon peels, and "tiki" bitters). Both were nice, the former tasting like a really clear and smooth whiskey, the latter like a pleasantly warm banana.

Society Fair's Test Kitchen is an ever-rotating lineup of three-course menus; the only constant is the days' categories. It being a Wednesday, the menu was "Chef's Choice" which started with a dish described as pickled rockfish, white sauce, and ramps ("Don't worry," Chef assured, "it's way better than it sounds.")

Starting with a piece of rockfish that he had brined in salt and sugar for a couple hours, Chef Massey poached the fish in a thin layer of apple vinegar, shallots, mustard seed, bayleaf, thyme, and water. Letting it simmer in the liquid, he then preceded to puree the white sauce, a mix of garlic, egg whites, lemon, and grapeseed oil, and smeared it across the plate bottom. Last came a fried piece of potato-rosemary bread, a fried egg, and preprepared julienne pickled watermelon radish and ramps. All in all, the dish was presented as a build-your-own-open-face-sandwich, and one of the most amazing ones I've ever had at that. Despite all of the brining, there was a delicate acid balance, and everything tasted fresh and wonderfully seasonal.

The main dish of the night was lamb shank, white beans, and asparagus. The takeaway of this dish was the amount of butter that is sometimes necessary, as Chef Massey added in a whole chunk to start the shank and neck pieces in a dutch oven along with salt and bayleaf. After a few moments, he added in leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, and even more butter, before topping with demiglace and herbs and setting it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, Chef pureed some blanched white beans with shallots, garlic, bay leaf, and olive oil, and sauteed some asparagus. Plating involved placing the sliced up shank on the bean puree with asparagus, and topping with the braising liquid. The result was one of the best, if not the best lamb dish I've ever had. Rich while tender, all while evoking warmth and depth, this was absolutely perfect.

The dessert course was an almond torte. I'd be lying to say that I paid as much attention to how this was composed, since at this point, we were well into enjoying ourselves. I know that there was some blending of almonds and simple syrup, and Grand Marnier was poured over top of it. What I do remember was that this was wonderful, soft and fluffy with a beautifully pure almond taste.

The reason we lost track by this point was because sommelier John Wabeck's pairings were not only well-done, but quite generous. Moreover, the four of us ordered the four dessert coffees offered: the Irish (Irish whiskey), the Jamaican (spiced rum), the Spanish (Spanish brandy), and the Royal (armagnac). All of the drinks we enjoyed that evening were fantastic; even the ice was really cool.

The Verdict

As a dinner, this was top-notch. But as an experience, it was even better. At $45 a head for dinner, and $30 for pairings, this is quite simply one of the best values and best meals in the DC area.

Food Rating: *****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
: The Test Kitchen itself is an experience in itself.

Society Fair on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why Komi? The Best Meals Are The Ones You Relive Over and Over

So I write for Borderstan now. My first piece for them, is reprinted below:

The best meals are the ones you relive over and over again, year after year; Komi remains that way for me. Still, with the opening of Little Serow and its accompanying hype, it’s fairly easy to forget Johnny Monis’s old place in favor of his new baby, what with the restaurant’s “no reservations” rule and its relatively low price point at Little Serow.

And beyond that, the now four straight No. 1′s in the Washingtonian Top 100 means that the Greek-Mediterranean spot needs no further plaudits. Still, here are three quick reasons on why you need to grab a table at Dupont Circle’s Komi for your next special occasion:

All the Perks of an Upscale Restaurant; None of the Pretention

Unlike most of its “Best Restaurant in DC” contemporaries, which sometimes make you feel uncomfortable if you’re sans blazer, Komi is casual and low-key, its clean rustic country atmosphere building a level of comfort over pretention. What’s more, it features some of the best service in the city, led by gregarious sommelier Kat Bangs; on our trip, she not only nailed the pairings, but was friendly and engaging. For a dinner that needs to be just right, it’s these little things that cinch up a great night.

A Tasting Menu Designed for Interaction

Perhaps no other kitchen in the city seamlessly combines innovation with clean, traditional flavors better than Komi. On our trip, a classic and delicate kingfish duo of loin with chives and belly with juniper came right before a dish that blended burrata and sea urchin. Moreover, the latter courses are entirely family style, capped by a shared suckling goat or lamb or Wagyu beef filet.

Wandering through this menu with friends or dates means constantly asking the other person, “What do you think about this combination?” or sharing a delicious bite between the table. Then again, the conversation really might just end up being, “Mmmmm.”

Two Words: Spanakopita, Half-Smoke

That being said, two of my favorite dishes of the night – and two of the recurring ones on Chef Monis’s constantly shifting menu — were plays on time-honored classics (and delicious ones at that). Komi’s spanakopita is a one-bite breaded ball, with liquid spinach inside the crust. Beautifully creamy and just the right amount of hot, it’s a brilliant bite that for me recalled Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the restaurant’s take on DC’s signature dish is just as sharp, an entirely housemade sausage on a brioche bun with a flavor and texture pattern that tasted more like high-end steak than Ben’s Chili Bowl.

It takes a lot for a restaurant to live up to its hyperbole, but amazingly Komi lives up to it, and often exceeds it.

Full review can be found here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Munchies: Zengo's Hanoi-Havana Menu

We've profiled Zengo before, but this time we return to talk about their new upcoming mash-up menu, the Test Kitchen's Hanoi-Havana menu. On this visit with me was Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern.

The Food

To start, we had the lemongrass-lychee mojito, which is exactly what it sounded like. To me, this was just like a regular mojito, though to HR Intern, it was too much lychee. Though in fairness, that was a problem of mixing; we ended up switching which made the drink much more enjoyable for the both of us.

Alongside this drink were two starter plates. The first was likely one of the better ones of the evening, a soft shell crab lettuce wrap topped with pickled vegetables. The breading and crunch of the crab was nice, and was one of the better soft shell crabs I've had the pleasure of eating. In fact, while this might not have been too obvious in terms of fusion, it certainly was, all in all, a fairly light and delicious bite.

The other dish was named morcillas, though HR Intern was quick to note that these weren't in fact blood sausages as the name portended. Instead it was a two part dish: a stew of white beans and pork sausage, along with two pieces of baguette toast topped with an anise pate. For me, the dish was okay, but it lacked a true punch in flavor. The stew was at least interesting texturally and by and large everything paired decently well. But it also just lacked anything that made it more memorable.

The first of the next four choices was the only one with a entirely Vietnamese name, which offered a piece of catfish on top of a bed of vermicelli, tossed with turmeric, dill, peanuts, cucumber, shiso, cilantro, and a black bean chile sauce. This combination was one that was very recognizable, a fairly straightforward take on bun ca, though I'd certainly never seen it with catfish. Like the dish before it, it was a good dish from a textural standpoint, and many of the pieces were strongly Vietnamese in flavor profile. But I guess I just wanted so badly to have the nuoc mam alongside it, that the black bean chile sauce was sort of lackluster beside it, and it also lacked any sort of "finish him" flavor.

The second was a take on arroz con pollo, with a piece of charbroiled chicken on top of coconut rice and a mango salsa. The coconut rice was the star here, equal parts sweet and gooey, and reminded me nicely of all the dessert rices of my childhood. My piece of chicken was a little overcooked and a little bland, with the only flavor coming from the grill marks on the outside. Again, just a short step from being a truly good dish.

Arriving together were the last two main dishes, an entree and a side: one, another vermicelli dish with pork shoulder, cucumber, bean sprout, butter lettuce, fried shallots and (supposedly) a sour orange-garlic mojo. What this dish had going for it was that it was light, the shredded pork and shallots and noodles combining for something really soft. As a refreshing dish, it was perfect... as an entree, it needs a little bit more.

The other was a side dish of congri: a black beans and rice dish, topped with pickled vegetables and cilantro. This to me was the low point, boring and sort of throwaway. The rice and beans were dry, and there wasn't any other counterpoint.

Paired with these dishes was another cocktail, a cereza daiquiri (dark rum, cherry puree, kaffir lime syrup, marinated cherries). This was, in HR Intern's words, a very delicious drink but not at that point in the meal. Definitely a good happy hour drink, or one to finish a meal, but not one along with things.

Yet luckily for us, the meal was finished with pandan waffles, coconut ice cream, warm cherry chutney, strawberry-guava coulis. This was the highlight of the night, as pandan waffles tend to be. The fruit and waffles were good layers of sweet, and the whole dish was a wonderful representation of all the wonderful pandan waffles in the past.

The drink pairing was boba cafecito - iced cuban coffee, aguardiente, Thai chili, coconut milk, and coffee pearls. This was a good example of high expectations and missed opportunities. Vietnamese iced coffee is freaking amazing... this was actually fairly bland, even with the spice.

The Verdict

Great highlights, though lots of "just fine" dishes.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Masala Art

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 Top 100, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Tenleytown

The Setup

I remember being in Tenleytown to buy something (probably a mattress or a TV) and walking by Masala Art and thinking "oh hey, an Indian place." Within months, it had popped up on Tim Carman's list at Washington City Paper, followed quickly by a premiering spot in the Washingtonian Top 100. And yet, its situ at the fringes of the District's borders made it hard to get to. And therefore off my radar.

But at our last get-together at Cafe Nola, Official Friends of DCWD Rajistan and Shawn started talking about the dearth of good South Asian food in the city. One thing led to another, and the two of them, Official Friends of DCWD Sam and Chill, and Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas all headed out to Tenleytown to eat at Masala Art. 

The Vibe

Upon arrival, you'll note that Masala is fairly ordinary in its orderliness. White walls and wooden floors are broken up only by the occasional framed mirror, Indian paraphernalia, or Buddhist iconography. Seating is almost entirely half-booth along the two walls, in mixes of twos and fours and the occasional six in the back. A small bar sits in the back, but the space is otherwise fairly boring for a restaurant, though fairly cleaned up and neat, all-in-all.

The Food

On this trip, we let Rajistan and Shawn act as tour guide, since the rest of us ranged in knowledge of Indian cuisine from "do you think their paneer will be as good as the real thing?" (Texas) to "I don't know what any of these words mean" (me). So to start, Shawn picked out two dishes. First was the papri chaat, or as Shawn put it, "Indian nachos." In place of the tortilla chips were fried flour crisps topped with diced potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, cilantro, and a tamarind chutney. My Indian food ignorance aside, this actually did taste relatively like nachos, with that same gooey but fresh crunch with each bite. Probably even a little lighter than I would have expected.

The other appetizer was pani poori, puffed hollows stuffed with diced potatoes and chickpeas, topped with chutney. Each puff was supposed to be filled with mint water and eaten before the whole affair got too soggy to deal with. Like the papri chaat before it, each bite was fairly light, an burst of flavor with the mint water mixing all of the other flavors into something almost soupy. Altogether, it was pretty light, which is all you can really ask for in an app I guess.

The table, with an oft-pescetarian and a vegetarian among us, decided to split the meal half-meat, half-non, ordering six portions to share family style. The three meat dishes started with the murgh makhani: charbroiled chicken in a tomato cream sauce. This was a pretty standard dish, one that you could probably find at any Indian restaurant. The big difference was the clarity of the flavor, with very strong notes of tomato and heat.

The hottest dish of the night was the lamb vindaloo, a curry with vinegar and potatoes. While the meat was fairly tender, it hit a Scoville level that was a little too much for me, and limited both my enjoyment and actual ingestion of the curry. Still, the spice level aside, it was a pretty good combination of flavors.

The best meat for me was actually the fish curry, sole cooked in a coconut and mint gravy. Rather than relying solely on overwhelming levels of heat, it was light and refreshing, the fish cooked to melt-in-your-mouth levels. Overall, perhaps because of the mint base or perhaps because of the meat, it struck a good balance between soft and flavorful and was definitely the standout in terms of taste and creativity.

Of the three vegetable dishes, the most forgettable was the dal makhani, black lentils in a creamy sauce. It suffered from being a vegetable dish - which in my eyes, is of course, already a little bit of a downer - but it tasted enough like the other dishes to be rendered nondescript. Thinking back on the night, this is the one I remember more by name than by flavor.

On the other hand, the saag paneer - paneer cheese in creamy spinach  - was a welcome and flavorful addition to the meal. Like the chicken, it too was pretty conventional (which honestly, is maybe why I viewed it so favorably), but it also was a solid dish.On the "authentic scale," it rated pretty highly for those in the know in our group.

Last, was the malai kofta: cottage  cheese dumpling stuffed with crumbled paneer in tomato based sauce. This was very good, chunks of gooey cheese with enough textural difference to make it interesting. The flavors melded seamlessly into an overarching richness that won the title of Texas's favorite for the night.

The Verdict

All in all, some pretty solid Indian food. Maybe not Rasika, but probably a little more soulful and surely more authentic.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
: Visit the American University Museum, for a decent collection of international art.

Masala Art on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Estadio, Part Deux

This Part Deux features a return to one of our favorites on 14th St, Estadio, this time with Official Girlfriend/Co-Writer of DCWD Texas, and Official Friends of DCWD Beatrice and Stormtrooper.

The Food

To start, we all had a round of drinks, highlighted by the two slushitos: one, a winter spiced gin with ginger, mint, and lime, the other an orange slushie, with spiced vodka, cointreau, and cava. Each of us had their perks; the orange was a lighter summery drink, while the ginger mint one had a nice spice to it.

The first go round had us order a cheese plate, featuring some manchego, a gouda-like cow cheese, and a pungent goat cheese, along with a date, a fruit gelee, and some bread. A solid cheese plate.

Some of the dishes on this trip were repeats from last time, such was their popularity and deliciousness. As such, since I've already talked about them at length, we'll just focus on how they did on their repeat.One repeat was the slow roasted beet and whipped goat cheese montadito, an open-faced sandwich. Even noted beet disenthusiast Texas had to acknowledge how good this dish was, the beets soft and mild and the goat cheese adding a wonderful tang.

Another repeat dish was the wild mushroom croquetas with roasted red peppers. Just as creamy as I remembered them, and makes you wish that there were more than four per order. They disappeared almost as soon as they hit the table.

The last repeat was the sherry glazed halibut in smoky romesco. The garbanzo bean bed it sat on was a little dry and undercooked, but otherwise the fish was lovely.

New for this trip was the spinach salad with roasted squash, pears, dried cherries, and hazelnuts. This ended up being the first dish that showed up to our table, so it was devoured with some speed, despite being fairly simple and easily replicable. Ultimately though, forgettable.

The dish that I dominated was the foie gras scrambled eggs montadito with black truffle butter. This was in a word, decadent. Creamy to the point of melting, it's certainly not for everyone. But for those who love the dual indulgences that are truffles and foie, it was an amazing bite, the eggs a soft pillowy delivery vehicle for the rich truffle flavor inside. Not for everyone, but those who love it will crave it forever.

The overall favorite though was the shrimp sauteed in garlic, parsley, and lemon. This was by far everyone's favorite, piquant hits of Spanish spices clearing the way for a well-cooked shrimp. By the end of it, we were even taking bread chunks to soak up the olive oil below it. A surprisingly good dish despite its simplicity.

To finish, we split a manchego cheesecake with quince and pistachio granola. The first thing Texas said was, "well you can definitely taste the manchego." In many ways, this was richer and more complex than a typical cheesecake, its depth amplified by the dry milkiness of manchego replacing the normal tart of a New York style cake. A perfect ending to the meal.

The Verdict

Always a crowd pleaser, and wonderfully consistent, even in its third year.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)