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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Maple Ave

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2013 Top 100
Neighborhood: Vienna

The Setup


Needing to grab a nice dinner out in the Virginia suburbs with her Aunt, Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas and I went with a Washingtonian suggestion: Maple Ave Restaurant.

The Vibe

Sometimes there are little signs that a restaurant is a chef’s first passion project, and sometimes there are big signs, like the Maple Ave Restaurant’s location and décor. The space looks like a converted 1950s hamburger shop, with the same jutted roof, surrounding windows, and small dining area. The shop is bare bones, with a thin carpet and acrylic furniture in a lightly decorated space that holds only about 20 seats and belies the quality of the food inside.

The Food


To start, we order two starters: the okra and the crème fraiche wings. Both demonstrate Chef Tim Ma’s celebration of Asian flavors: the former, dressed with a garlic lime chili sauce, and scallions is a crispy spoonful that’s addictive like popcorn with some spice. The latter dish, coated with a mix of Korean chili paste and oyster sauce, is a cleaner and more interesting version of buffalo wings, with a lovely crème fraiche dip and a mild and milky kick of heat.

Our entrees represent a wide spectrum of flavors from the tried-and-true to more interesting and unconventional blends of ingredients. Texas’s mushroom-zucchini risotto was blended together by potent gruyere, and its creamy bites are made all the better by the richness of the mushrooms. So much so that we use the pieces of crostini to lap up the sauce.

For my part, I order true to form with a duck breast and brussels sprout combo. The breast is cooked wonderfully, and its natural sweetness is accentuated by the poached pears that accompany it. All sitting atop a blue cheese beurre, the tastes are friendly and familiar.

Still, it was Texas's Aunt's seared scallops that win the day. Paired with a coconut scallion risotto and a basil ice cream, this is an adventure in many ways. The scallops are caramelized perfectly, matching the sweetness of the risotto. You would think that so many strong flavors, from the scallops to the coconut to the basil would clash, but in this case, they blend in oh-so-strange but wonderful ways. What’s more, the mix of temperatures and textures is fantastic.

We finish up with two desserts: the straightforward chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, and a flight of mochi (raspberry white chocolate, mango, red velvet, mint oreo). They’re both delicious, but it’s Texas who envies my selection of mochi, with their gummy texture and their sweet finish.

The Verdict


A diamond in the rough with clean flavors and good, occasionally exceptional, dishes.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: Head out to Wolf Trap and catch a concert at this awesome venue. Upcoming events in the next few months include A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Juanes, and Billy Idol with Cat Power.

Maple Ave on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Look: YOCAKE


Also published on Borderstan.

As much as any major city, food crazes have a habit of coming and going in D.C. in quick succession. PX, The Gibson, and The Columbia Room, among others, ushered in a wave of craft cocktail programs and speakeasies. From their home, any Borderstan resident can probably walk to four or five mid-price-range restaurants with exposed brick or a converted post-industrial decor.

For some trends, the jury’s still out: craft ice, anybody? But there’s no doubt that at least two of these concepts have taken root in this city, and have demonstrated incredible staying power: cupcakes and frozen yogurt. To wit: Georgetown Cupcake’s lines still regularly stretched around the block; and the ever present expansion of yogurt-serving shops SweetGreen, Fro Zen Yo, and Pinkberry.

It’s into these markets that YOCAKE boldly steps in. Located on the very southern edge of the Borderstan neighborhood, YOCAKE is the second location of a Bethesda-based brand which sells both cupcakes and frozen yogurt. It’s not a new model by any means (see: the TangySweet/Red Velvet Cupcakery mashup on P Street, or cupcake sales at Mr. Yogato), but unlike other previous attempts, it’s one brand behind both. Sitting on the second floor of a townhouse, the look is polished and clean and quasi-futuristic, with its use of purples and silver and glass. In many ways, it’s quite a juxtaposition from its neighbors on the block: bars/lounges like Mighty Pint and Ozio, kabob houses, and the strip club Camelot.

The array of cupcakes is impressive: solid favorites like red velvet or triple chocolate are interspersed with lavender lemon, almond and pear, and peaches and cream. The cupcake recipes from the brother-sister team that own YOCAKE are derived from their mother’s French culinary training, though we’re told that “they’ve been sweetened a little” to match the American palate. And then there’s the piece d’resistance: the eponymous YOCAKE itself, a serving that features a cupcake topped by frozen yogurt. On this trip, we didn’t have a chance to taste itself, but the thought itself sounds quite decadent.

Located at 1829 M Street, YOCAKE is now open for business.

Food Rating: **
(out of 5)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hill Country Barbecue

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Gallery Place/Chinatown/Penn Quarter

The Setup


With Official Friend of DCWD Juju in tow, we met up two family friends at Penn Quarter barbecue outpost Hill Country.

The Vibe

If you knew nothing about the restaurant but its name, you could probably make an educated guess at its decor: lots of exposed brick and wood everywhere, from the creaky floor to paneling on certain side walls, to the bar. Giant metal stars and Texas paraphernalia abound on the walls, and the sounds of country twang over the loudspeakers. The space itself is giant: a giant square bar in the front, then a gaggle of four-tops across an expansive floor, with a downstairs bar. It's fun and festive, albeit with a lot of competing noise to work with.

The Food


The food ordering system starts with the "market" in the back, which consists of a few counters: sides, sandwiches, meats. There you'll pick out your dishes, either in combination or a la carte. On this trip, I ordered the Longhorn Brisket Chomp, a combo which includes 1/3 lb of lean brisket, a side, and some cornbread (obviously for my side, I picked the mac and cheese).

With my future in-laws being Texan born and bred, I've had my fair share of Texas barbecue to date. That being said, especially since the meat itself is purportedly shipped in from Texas, these meats were quite enjoyable. Perhaps a bit less moist than I would have liked it (though, in their defense, I didn't order the moist brisket), but each piece provided some nice smoky flavor.

The Verdict


Definitely matched up well with the Texas barbecue I've had in the actual Lone Star State.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Party in the USA
Vibe:
Noisy
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: The Caps are back in town. And down the street from here.

Hill Country Barbecue Market on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Proof, Part Deux

For this Part Deux, we revisit Proof for a special occasion: the after engagement-proposal dinner. Joining me and Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas for the meal was Official Friends of DCWD Sam, Shawn, and Flo.

The Food

When noodling on what restaurant to celebrate in, we wanted a place that combined amazing food with a fantastic beverage program. Proof more than met that mark. A first course of pan roasted foie gras atop a cherry short cake, with pistachios, cocoa nibs, and a bing cherry jus is a by-the-book perfect balance of the liver's unctuousness with natural fruit sweetness. A parsnip and pear soup with Rappahannock oysters is all kinds of silky punctuated with bits of puffed rice to give it a fun crunch.

The main courses are just as brilliant and are wonderfully seasonal, perfect for the still cold February weather outside. A cassoulet of crispy duck, pork belly, and house made duck sausage is incredibly hearty, blanketing the white beans and baby spinach that form its base; its addition of smoked bacon and garlic bread crumbs almost seems like unnecessary luxuries on top of that, if not for the fact that they are delicious. My crispy Pekin duck breast perched atop a risotto of root vegetables, thyme, and a grain mustard jus is immaculately seared, melting in my mouth. Texas's fresh egg noodle tagliatelle with hen of the woods mushrooms, red kuri squash, arugala, and hazelnut in a sage brown butter is similarly incredible, a wonderful mix of substantive greens that mask any potential need for a protein.

The Verdict


As Texas put it, "everything we ate was good. There was not a single dud on the table. One of the single best meals in DC."

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