Like what you see? Follow dc wrapped dates' Kim on Twitter for last-minute date ideas and other food news. @dcwdkim

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sumo and Sushi at 918 F Street

Earlier last week, we wrote about last Sunday's Sumo and Sushi tour stop at the LivingSocial space at 918 F Street. Here's the breakdown of the occasion's top three moments: 
  • The sampler of sakes: Along with a multi-course sushi meal provided by Yo Sushi! (depicted below), the third alliterative portion of the evening was one of the sweetest. Despite (understandably) not making the title line, the three sakes provided were awesome: an almost non-rice-wine-like Momokawa Diamond, a sweet and bright Moonstone Asian Pear, and a milky Momokawa Pearl. I have to admit that sake isn't normally in my wheelhouse, but the selection here was really well done.
  • The tantalizing fear of sumo wrestling in a tight space: For those of you who have been to the 918 F Street space, the first question you'll probably ask yourself is "where exactly are they going to put this thing?" The answer is up on the 4th floor, in one of the event spaces, which begs the second question "is it really big enough?" The answer is: just barely. Still, there's something about the fact that two 300+ pound men are going to wrestle a mere foot away from a brick wall and a television set up that makes their athleticism that much more impressive.
  • The flair for showmanship of the athletes: The two wrestlers on the evening, Byamba and Soslan definitely knew how to play to the crowd. Byamba was a little more of the straight-man, but definitely had a wry body humor about him; Soslan by contrast was cracking one liners (like the following exchange: Soslan: (to Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas) Is this your boyfriend? Me: Fiance. Soslan: Ohhh. Way to go, pretty boy.). The two of them hammed it up and made what could have been a straightforward affair into one that inspired cheering.
Awesome time, and we'll be back in the future.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chris 4 Life's Eat 4 Life

Maybe you've seen the ads in the Metro or #loveyourbutt floating around Twitter, but the eye-catching, booty-loving campaign for the Chris4Life's Colon Cancer Foundation has been out in full force this March (Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, as it turns out). I hate cancer (all cancer) as much as the next person, and was more than happy to get on board with any campaign that 1. works towards a cure for cancer and 2. loves your body.

Chris4Life did an awesome job rounding up some local restaurants and their chefs for Eat4Life, a fundraiser to showcase ways to promote a healthy cancer-adverse lifestyle in good taste. Nutritionist Sarah Waybright was on hand to talk about ingredients like garlic and turmeric to add to your red-meat-light diet, reducing alcohol consumption and increasing exercise activities. It's all about moderation of course to reduce your risk for colon and other cancers, and the chefs on hand proved that healthy eating is obviously delicious.

Nestled in Crios--who generously hosted the event--were representatives from The Source, Scion, DCCK, and Crios itself. 

 Armed with the instructions to eat, vote, drink, and learn, win, and love our butts, Kim and I set off to taste and vote for our favorite dishes!

The Source wowed us with shiso-cured salmon with baby swiss chard, garlic aoli, and a red pepper "snow" that packed quite the punch. This was probably the best example of the challenge ingredients done right, with creativity to boot.

Crios had yummy spicy tequila grilled shrimp (in the name of cancer fighting, I am sure the alcohol of the tequila was cooked off...) with a size of honeydew gazpacho. Not my favorite gazpacho shooter, but it did get me thinking summertime.

DCCK was heavy-staffed with a simple and comfortable poached salmon with scallions, cauliflower, a black-eyed pea puree and roasted veggies.

Scion had a beet and arugula salad with pine nuts which is a combo that everyone is familiar with--unless you've been living under a rock for the past 15 years--and the most surprising dish: a vegan shepherd's pie. As a sometimes vegetarian, I love when I find vegan and veggie food done well. Scion's offering spoke to me, subbing almond milk for dairy, and "beefing" up the hash with meaty mushrooms, turnips, and barley. I went back for seconds. I probably shouldn't tell, but they got my vote.

The event was fun and informative, with a collection of generous donations of time, food, and space from the participating restaurants, and served me best as a reminder to be conscious of eating in a healthy and purposeful way. I added turmeric to my omelet last night. TAKE THAT CANCER!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray

I've eaten at quite a number of seders, and shabbat and sukkot dinners in my lifetime, and so there's a special place in my heart for good latkes, or braised brisket, or even the taste of charoset. I've also eaten quite a number of meals from Todd Gray and Equinox in my lifetime, and whether it's a celebration of mid-Atlantic seafood or a ricotta agnolotti in a parmesan truffle butter sauce, there's a soulfulness that emanates from each bite.

Equinox Mac and Cheese
So what if I told you that you could have the tradition and flavors and culture of Jewish cuisine, but with the seasonality, refinement, and elegance that only comes from a brilliant James-Beard-award-winning chef? That's what jumps out from every page of The New Jewish Table, the new cookbook from Chef Todd Gray and wife Ellen Kassoff Gray.

From a pure design perspective, the cookbook is brilliant: the fonts are crisp and handsome, the pictures beautiful, and the layout intuitive and friendly; if you didn't cook from it, you could easily feature it out as a coffee table book. Dishes are organized not only by season - a nod to the Grays' commitment to seasonal foods - but also notes each recipe's kosher status, so as to warn home cooks about mixing dairy and meat. The recipes themselves are to die for, and range from modern re-conceptions of old family recipes (like the cover's Not Exactly Aunt Lil's Matzo Ball Soup), to plates straight from the Equinox kitchen (like the Mac and Cheese).

Our fondness for this cookbook is great, both aesthetically and gastronomically. In the span of a few days, we had our own adventure testing out the aforementioned mac and cheese recipe (see below), and had the chance to sample some more dishes at a loving seder thrown at Equinox by the Grays, where they featured three dishes straight out of their Passover menu and cookbook.

All four samplings showed what is best about Chef Gray's food: bright, crisp flavors that accentuate fresh ingredients, and a deep soulfulness that reflects the chef's care and precision. A roasted beet salad with golden raisins and pistachios conquers even Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas's beet-ambivalent heart, with warm, sweet bites. The beef brisket in red wine sauce on a golden potato mousseline is the best brisket either of us have ever had the pleasure of eating, by a large margin; it perfectly marries tender meat with the cut's natural oily fat into melt-in-your-mouth goodness. A flourless chocolate cake is buoyed by salted caramel ice cream, and reminds you that a dish can temper decadence while still ramping up flavor.

And the mac and cheese? Let's just say we gladly made the full 6-8 person portion, and its three-cheese-and-bechamel base was more than enough to remind ourselves why Equinox holds such a place in our heart.

If you add one cookbook to your shelf this year, give this one some strong consideration. You won't be disappointed.

The New Jewish Table
Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray
St. Martin's Press

Thursday, March 21, 2013

First Look: Red Apron Butchery

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: NoMa

The Setup

This week's First Look visits another of the newly opened Union Market shops: Red Apron Butchery.

The Vibe

A lot of words about Union Market have been written on this blog, so you get the general sense of what surrounds Red Apron. But the butchery's space itself is a little different, set inside along the back wall, with a deli case on the left, and a bar counter and two tables. Everything is a crimson red which, in combination with the bold lit lettering that makes the store sign, makes for a sharp contrast against the glossy white of the market.

The Food

This write-up reflects a few visits to Red Apron, but just one dish: the Porkstrami, a pork pastrami with bacon, sauerkraut, pork jus, and mustard aioli on a baguette. There's a lot to love about this sandwich: it's rich in flavor, with punches of salt and sharp sourness amongst a sea of savory and oily meat. That's also the one drawback: on our first visit on opening weekend, the oil had seeped through so much that the sandwich came with its own puddle. In recent visits, this hasn't been a problem. Still, the main takeaway is this: this a delicious sandwich, mainly because of the Red Apron meat.

The Verdict

Great sandwiches, awesome beer selection, deli meat to go. What more can you ask for?

Food Rating: *** 1.2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Date Ideas: LivingSocial's Sushi and Sumo

We always love ourselves the 918 F Street space (I just hit up the Indochino Traveling Tailor there last week), and it's a little late for this particular one, but we definitely wanted to share one of the coolest LivingSocial deals to come around in a while. This whole weekend, LivingSocial is bringing sushi and sumo wrestling into its space, with a sushi tasting and a sumo match. Coupled with some of its other recent offerings (like the minibar class with Jose Andres, or the current offerings) definitely some awesome things happening at this space.

Some more details below:

The exclusive “Sumo + Sushi” event will take over 918 F Street as part of an eight-city tour.
Clocking in at 800 pounds collectively, Sumo Wrestling Champs will go head-to-head, working feverishly to get the other to step outside the ring or have a body part (other than the soles of the feet) touch the ground to be crowned the winner. They may also bring some members of the crowd up to demonstrate their own moves in the ring. Outside the ring, guests will be served a three-course sushi meal and sake.

About the wrestlers:

Byamba (370 lbs) is a three-time World Sumo Champion and is one of the most dominant forces in international Sumo. He is known for his speed, strength and acrobatic style. Click here to watch Byamba in action.

Kelly (430 lbs) is a four-time U.S. Sumo Wrestling Champion, and holds the Guinness World Record for being the heaviest human to run a marathon. This fall, Kelly will try to conquer another record by swimming across the English Channel. Click here to see Kelly dominate the ring.

The event will be announced by Martial Arts Museum Hall of Famer and founder of USA Sumo Andrew Freund.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rasika West End

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2013 Top 100
Neighborhood: West End

The Setup

If there's one thing to know about Rasika, it's that it remains perpetually in the Washingtonian 100, and has the limited number of reservations you would thus expect. If there's another thing to know, it's that there's two Rasikas: the original in Penn Quarter, and the new one in West End.

Unfortunately for the first ten minutes of our reservation, our group of five was not on the same page about which one we were going to. Though still, for this Restaurant Week, we were just lucky to get a table at either of them. For this meal: Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas, and Official Friends of DCWD G, Baboon, and HR Intern.

The Vibe

If the downtown location is a thoroughly modern restaurant with traditional Indian themes, then the West End version is what happens when you turn that on its head entirely. Rasika West End's interior decor is almost outrageously avant-garde, and leaves you wondering which aspect is the most surprising. Is it the geometric ceiling that juts and curves like a cavern constructed from dodecahedrons? Is it the color scheme that draws from hot pink and orange and teal? Is it the way the design fits into its building's unique space, with a bar that extends into a Flatiron-Building-style point to a nook designed to look a library? Or is it the decorative choices, like the full cover booths shaped like onion domes or the giant hanging silver sculpture of a hand that looks strongly like the shocker? Perhaps, it's the fact that despite all of these points, the whole space does seem to blend together well.

The Food

The overwhelming concern when you go to a second version of a restaurant you love is how much it replicates the parts you liked, and how much it can differentiate itself. Admittedly, Restaurant Week is the absolute worst time to evaluate something on this metric, since the menu is often scaled down to what can be turned around quickly. But Rasika has always done a good job of providing a solid offering even for Restaurant Week, and its West End twin was no different.

Invariably, when anyone talks about Rasika, the two dishes that are brought up most frequently are the palak chaat and the black cod. Both represent exactly what Rasika does best: takes Indian flavors and concepts and update them with modern touches, bringing forth brilliant mixes of salt, sweet, and spice. The palak chaat's crispy spinach is a play of textures, balancing its notes of crunch and spicy with the natural sugars of dates and tamarinds and yogurt sauce. For the cod, it's the light hints of star anise and honey that perk up a fleshy piece of fish.

There are quite a few other hits as well. Chunks of crispy cauliflower bezule are accented sharply with piquant punches, from mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chilies; the chicken tikka makhani is a beautiful blend of tomato, garlic, and ginger flavors, held together by a sauce that everyone keeps dipping their naan into; and there is a surprising appreciation for the vegetable thali trio: bowls of paneer mattar, navrattan korma, and dal makhani that seep through basmati rice.

Even just the okay dishes are at least interesting. a kur kuri macchi, sea bass crusted in poha, is interestingly crunchy, while a bori lamb curry with cashews, peanuts, and mint provides a good kick of flavor.

The Verdict

Rasika West End just got named, along with its predecessor, as one of Washingtonian's Top 100 Restaurants. It's an honor that is much deserved.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing: Catch up on Best Picture nominees Silver Linings Playbook, or Life of Pi at the West End Cinema, just two blocks away.

Rasika West End on Urbanspoon