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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bad Saint

Plaudits:  Washingtonian 2016 #7
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights

About a month before our meal at Bad Saint, we had tried to go and failed the result of sadly thinking that showing up on a rainy Monday at 6:30pm would net us a spot (nope, three hour wait). So, a few weeks later on a cloudy Monday, we showed up at 5:15pm... and landed a table about an ho ur later. Such is the power of hype and the mass appeal of the food coming out of this kitchen. Also, this is the product of a small space, smaller than the typical DC apartment. I counted maybe 15 bar seats, and two tables for four, all crammed into a dim space framed by very dark and very Southeast Asian wood features.

This is not a space for comfort, whether that's your seating area or your palate. Prepare for funkiness, since the menu does that thing that all good restaurants do: challenges you to move outside what you might normally order or what you might normally eat.

Obviously the best example of this for the Filipino restaurant in question is its bitter melon salad which comes with egg and preserved black bean, and which can be summed up by Official Friend of DCWD Rae's description: "this taste is like nothing I've ever had before. I can't describe it. But I want to just keep eating it." It's truly incomparable, perhaps exactly that it takes the least common of the taste profiles - bitter - and then doubles down on it, but in a way that is approachable, layered, and addicting.

But other dishes challenge the range of your taste buds. Where Thai coconut chicken is sweet, the adobo chicken here is similarly creamy but with a more earthy profile; it's the food equivalent of an old Dutch Masters painting: lived-in, warm, grounded, but incredibly pleasing. It would take my award for the best dish of the night if not for a pitch-perfect octopus and fingerling potato ceviche, fleshy chunks cured with citrus, with a hint of coconut and a handful of olives.



There's some familiar looks here too. A pair of salads with purple cabbage - one with coconut and chiles, the other with grapefruit and peanuts - play with crunch and char, with sour and heat, and with refreshing and eye-opening. Then there's the fun surprise of a shrimp and sweet potato fritter the size of a softball and a half, something that is as crispy and delicious as it is messy to eat. Lumpiang sariwa play like Vietnamese summer rolls, though richer.



Don't skip dessert either. If you're Asian, then these are mirrors of what you grew up with; weird to the average American, but perfect bits of texture and sweet, of rice and beans and fruit.




It's not all perfect. Something that could only be a described as a "salad" of banana hearts and tofu skin is ultimately forgettable. But this spot is one of the most unique spots in the city, and very much worth the wait.


Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)


Bad Saint Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Maple

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights

I try to give every restaurant a break because every place has a bad day. But then there are times when everything breaks wrong, and you have to ask yourself: is it really a bad day, or just a not so great place?

Maybe the space is nice with its exposed brick and what I'm told is a nice patio; hard to say with the lights cranked down to sub-dim. Maybe the menu is underappreciated; it did of course produce a reasonable facsimile of burrata (which, to be fair, involves little to no preparation other than selecting the right chunk), as well as a grilled octopus dish - though the portions of the latter, if we are being charitable, were stingy.



Maybe the misses were not so bad; maybe I'm misremembering how empty the sauce was for the linguine, or how the wild mushroom tagliatelle tasted like it was making up for a lack of nuance with a heavy hand of truffle oil. Maybe the scallops weren't mis-seared, maybe the dense risotto didn't need another ten minutes in the pan, and maybe the broth really did have saffron in it and wasn't just named that because of its color. Maybe the quarter-sized pork medallion on lifeless polenta didn't exist, like the short rib panini that should have come at the same time, if it had been remembered at all; maybe the pickling wouldn't have been as sour if it weren't being hastily eaten.



Or maybe, just maybe, this was as bad as you remember it.

Food Rating: * 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
 Quiet Drinks
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$$
 (out of 5) ($25-$100 for two)


Maple Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chaia

Plaudits: None


Neighborhood: Georgetown

For a long time, I - and therefore by extension this blog - had very strong feelings about vegetarianism. Since then, I've married a flexitarian and become a lot more indoctrinated into a meatless lifestyle. Still, it's infrequent when something vegetarian dazzles me. Chaia was one of those places. 
The relatively new brick-and-mortar spot, it's a replica of Chipotle/Cava Mezze Grill: fast casual, order one of five things, customize to a degree. Much like its contemporaries, the space is fun and clean, tucked away from M Street in a cute bright wood space.

As for the tacos: they range from the straightforward (mushroom, feta, and red sauce) to the very unexpected (winter squash, ricotta salata, caramelized onion, yogurt, mint). The truly laudatory one is the roasted beet and goat cheese with cilantro lime yogurt, which is bright and lively; Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD preferred the creamy kale and potato with its poblano and pepperjack spice. About the only one that didn't work as well? The smoky collards - a little dense for me.

The Verdict


Fun, veggie-friendly, and charming. What more t ask for.

Food Rating: *** 
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
 (out of 5) (less than $25)

Chaia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Texas Jack's

Because when you're an adult it's hard to keep things like this going. We're switching to a new format, that's going to be a little be faster and sleeker (read: it's starting to get hard to find time to write all this stuff down, so I'm going to try and be more economical about my words, except for the truly noteworthy. Let's start that today.

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Clarendon

We don't really venture out to Virginia that often; like most people who have lived in D.C. as long as I have, there's just something about crossing that river that is now firmly entrenched as a mental barrier. But family is one of those reasons, and when Texas-adjacent - both geographically and Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas-ly - a barbecue place named Texas Jack's seems apropos. The former Tallula/Eatbar space, the inside has been transformed into something resembling Hill Country, but if you took all the brown out - save of course, the picnic tables - and throw black and slate in. A post-industrial, nay modern, barbecue spot.

If the setting is a little less traditional, the food is pretty much spot-on. The table orders a meat medley - a half pound of brisket, a half pound of pulled pork, four pork spare ribs, half a chicken, and a pork habanero sausage - as as a smattering of sides, chief among them mac and cheese and smashed cucumbers. As someone who served barbecue at his wedding, I hold a high place in my life for good barbecue; this place counts as that. Juicy, punchy, and tender, each of the samplings displayed an attention to good smoking and time well used. The brisket sits atop my list, with the sausage an equally nice surprise; perhaps the only pass was the cucumbers - too blegh.

The Verdict


Maybe even worth crossing the river for.

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)

Texas Jack's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato