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Showing posts with label Hipster Hangout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hipster Hangout. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Petworth Citizen

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Petworth

The Setup


Loathe as we are to visit too many places that Tom Sietsema pans, Official Friend of DCWD Jeremy swore up and down that Petworth's newest eponymous addition was delicious. So Official Wife of DCWD Texas and I ventured up to sit down for some snacks and suds at Petworth Citizen.

The Vibe

Low-key and no-frills are hyphenated adjectives that were invented for a place like Petworth Citizen, which takes the typical bar structure of yore (think large booths with posts that run to the ceiling, a mish-mosh of half booths and bar tables, and a few seats by a bar), adds a bit of metal and mirror to it and paints it with dull yellows and ochers and rust green. It's nondescript in that there isn't any apparent visual or decorative flourish to set it apart; you could ostensibly achieve the same design effect with a square room and some leftover supplies from Community Forklift. I haven't decided whether or not this makes it perfect for Petworth; put another way, whether in some weird way, it's utter lack of character (vis-a-vis say, Red Derby) gives the place a certain carefree charm. For now, I'm going with no.

The Food


Still, the challenge was about the food, and unfortunately or not, we left with basically the same quandary that we started with. On the plus side was a simple pork belly and grits bowl, a moderately-sized and fairly-priced mix of crispy strips of belly atop some reasonably wonderful grits. The true wonder came from a soft boiled egg atop the dish, which mashed together like so many good eggy breakfasts into one sumptuous gooey bite.

On the meh side was a mac and cheese that was passable but came in the wake of a similarly even mac-and-cheese at Right Proper Brewing. Though neither sang, this one felt a hair drabber and less cheesy. It's something you finish and then forget about. Texas's falafel pita felt similar: a cinch dry and with a kohlrabi slaw that wanted to add more but doesn't. In truth, the eggplant chutney we 86'd for allergy reasons might have perked it all up, but it was more than disappointing that this was the only truly vegetarian option on the menu that night.

The Verdict

At times a good bite, but in the end, we may have to agree with the Post - Petworth deserves slightly better food.

Food Rating: ** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks to Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing: Three Little Pigs offers some fun (albeit expensive) charcuterie classes. Sign up for a sausage or bacon-making one.

Petworth Citizen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First Look: Bidwell

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: NoMa

The Setup


Today's first look takes a peek at the brand new restaurant space at Union Market: Bidwell.

The Vibe

If you're at all familiar with the Union Market set-up, Bidwell sits in the left most space next to Salt and Sundry; if you're not, suffice it to say that at one of the ends of the market sits a restaurant that otherwise integrates pretty well into what the market as a whole is doing, if you inverted the colors. Where the rest of the market is austere white, the interior of Bidwell is dark, with dimly lit polished wood-grain tables and booths. Still the same design tropes run throughout: the exposed ceiling, the post-industrial/Edison bulb light fixtures, the abundance of clean, straight lines, and mason jars on shelves.

Running along one vein of the restaurant is the long back lit bar with a line of 8-10 seat booths running parallel. A small section of four-tops lies at the rear of the restaurant abutting six bar seats that look into the open kitchen - though this may be the most lackluster open kitchen view in DC, since it's fairly run-of-the-mill. The whole restaurant space is cool and utilitarian, but it's nothing you've never seen befor.

Bidwell's claim to fame then is its "roof-to-table" plan, with Chef John Mooney sourcing 60 percent of his produce from aeroponic gardens on the market roof. While the veracity of this claim strains a little - one can't imagine he's getting 60 percent of a restaurant's worth of vegetables from so little square footage - it does help salve the locavore trend that many of Union Market's patrons desire.

The Food


Bidwell is currently featuring three cocktails: a fruity bitter gin silver fizz (with aperol, lemon, grapefruit, jalapeno, egg whites, and rhubarb bitters); a fruitier mulled wine (with port, brandy, cinnamon, almonds, cloves, and raisins); and a fruitiest margarita (with cinnamon infused tequila, lime, orange liqueur, grapefruit, and agave). For the cold streak, the mulled wine probably soothes the best with its warmth and sugar, though all of the drinks are balanced between hits of sweet and sharpness. And if evidenced by the way we moved through them, they're all eminently sippable to boot.

The dishes we sampled all play it straight for the most part, with next to nothing in terms of flavor profiles that you haven't seen before, though the menu is increasingly eclectic. The strongest - and in some ways, the most creative - for us is a bread crusted deviled egg which plays more like a gooey hushpuppy. It's oozy, with delicious mustard-infused egg yolks, and very snack-friendly; they're gobbled up quickly.

The same fate lies for a round of Swedish-style pork and beef meatballs; a bowl of drunken bean dip topped with cherry tomatoes and fleeting bits of chorizo and served with toasted flatbread; and some finger-sandwich-sized truffled gruyere grilled cheese. The trend here is one of execution: nothing is fireworks-level revelatory, but everything is pleasant and comforting.

Nowhere is this clearer than the lollipop lamb chop slices, or the Reuben-esque sliders on rye, crowned with pickle slices and Russian dressing; nobody lunges for them but everyone is satisfied when they finish them. Roasted oysters flecked by generous cubes of bacon share this designation, though these are surprisingly one of my favorites of the night, lacking in the brininess that sometimes devastates oysters elsewhere.

What variety pops up comes in the form of a fluke sashimi roll with some diced grapefruit. The sharp citrus is a necessary bit to bring out an initial burst of flavor, which finishes with a taste profile reminiscent of Vietnamese food.

The Verdict


What the menu lacks in curiosity, it at least makes up in execution; you're eminently satisfied when you leave. For us, it was a more refined, much more delicious version of the menu at Drafting Table, or a Meridian Pint contemporary with less beer. Interesting to see how this develops.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
N/A
- We didn't get to see menu prices. We'll update this as we know more.


Bidwell on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quick Bites: Harold Black

Normally, I would expound upon the brilliance of the Harold Black speakeasy, but again frankly this being the third stop on my bachelor party rounds, the memories of the drinks are reduced to feelings. Like the pleasantness from our first round, including my Deal Maker (sparkling ale, rye whiskey, citrus maple), a sharp but ultimately well-rounded sip; and Official Friend of DCWD Yupster's Volcado (reposado tequila, housemade horchata, fernet), an almost ice cream-like sweet and milky drink. But perhaps the best drinks are when the bartenders freestyle. To wit: maybe the best flavor comes from the drink for our DD, which features an almost comical list of ingredients (things like rosewater and eucalyptus). Our bartender John is also fun, wry, and supremely talented.

Unlike our other speakeasy stop, 2 Birds 1 Stone, this one actually feels like a speakeasy; it's reservation only, and we have to travel up a set of stairs, through a barren twisty hallway, and behind a sliding door hidden as a wall to get there. The setting is dark with only a few booths and a slight bar composing the whole space. Still it's intimate, fun, and tastefully decorated

Bar Review: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quick Bites: 2 Birds, 1 Stone

For my bachelor party, Official Friends of DCWD Rajistan, MM, Lawyered, and Yupster took me out on a tour. The second stop in our travels was Doi Moi's new speakeasy bar, 2 Birds 1 Stone. It being a bachelor party, my memories of the drinks are a bit hazy, but a few things stand out. For one, for a speakeasy, it's not really hidden or exclusive, just unmarked. For a basement bar, it's earnestly bright: like it's upstairs parent restaurant, it's shiny and white. And much like the drinks at other Mark Kuller/Haidar Karoum collaborations, cocktails are clean and creative. Menus are handwritten each week; the day we went, ours was a topographical map; a second visit is a comic strip. The space is pretty cool: white painted brick backlit with swatches of blue and pink, an incredible variety of seating with all shapes and sizes of nooks with benches and full booths. It's the kind of place you can easily settle in with a date for a round of drinks.

On a return visit, the punch of the day is a housemade apple cider with bourbon, while I grab a classic Champs Elysees -  chartreuse, cognac, simple syrup. All are delicious, but especially the punch, a full sip with a hint of spice.

Bar Review: *** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DCWD Travels: Beer Belly, LA

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Koreatown, Los Angeles

The Setup


We actually weren't heading to Beer Belly. But with both Guisado's and Mexicali's closed on a Sunday evening for dinner, Official Friends of DCWD Mark and Ang decided to take me and Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas to one of their go-to spots: Beer Belly.

The Vibe

Set as it is in Koreatown, Beer Belly is a little bit of a strange egg. The shop was recently featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, which should give you an idea of the space: a converted warehouse set in the middle of a busy block. But every other detail about Beer Belly's decor is incredibly fun. The exterior paint job is a vibrant, colorful mural reminiscent of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. A small patio comfortably seats some 15-20 at bar height seating, while the inside is decked in similar honey brown wood as an accent to elephant gray walls. There's an incredible coolness to it, the sort of place where you just think to yourself: "if I opened a new hip restaurant where my friends and I could hang out, this is what it would look like and be like."

The Food


The belly part of Beer Belly is serious; I'll put it this way: there's a dish on this menu called The Defibrillator. Such is the soul and depth of the restaurant's menu: any meat or any cheese, so long as we can deep fry it somehow.

This made our selections feel like a murderer's row of so-bad-for-you-but-so-good-to-eat bites. Case in point: the Death by Duck, a basket of duck fat fries topped with duck skin cracklins and duck confit. There are times when duck fat fries just feel like an in-name-only endeavor (former DC residents Mark and Ang agreed with me that Bourbon Steak is the perfect example of this). These however oozed duck flavor, crisp but nicely oily. I would have preferred a little more cracklins and shredded confit so that each bite could have a little bit of both instead of the little bit that was drizzled on top. Still, a very solid bite.

On the other end, the pork belly chips were a little disappointing. Dusted with some sweet onion sugar and with a Tabasco aioli dipping sauce, there were things to like about the flavors. And yet, it seemed like a little bit of trying too hard. By crisping the pork belly into chip form, the dish obscured what makes pork belly so great, namely the combination of crunch and fat and oil that comes from just one bite. Instead, this turned out to be a little like a very large bacon bit.

Stuck squarely in the middle as forgettable were the two other deep fried dishes: the buttermilk fried chicken, and the deep fried cheddar. The former came out as crusted strips instead of the legs or thighs one might expect, and came across a little leaner than I guess we would have expected. It was good, certainly, but among all the fried chicken I've eaten in my life, not something memorable. Similarly, the cheese bites, with their jalapeno aioli dipping sauce, were consumed and then immediately moved on from.

Our last two dishes, however, were the kind that you couldn't forget, whether if it was for their portion size or for their decadence. The pizza mac and cheese, for instance, was about twice the size than what we were expecting. A mix of asiago and cheddar cheese dominated, but the eponymous flavor came from a generous helping of pizza sauce, pepperoni, and a little bit of beer. It was a dish that intoned a single question all the more with each consecutive bite, the kind that says, "why can't I stop eating this?" If anything, it hearkened back to all the foods you loved when you were six and there were eighteen birthday parties a year.

The piece d'resistance however was the Beer Belly grilled cheese, a dish so impressive we ordered it twice. The quad deck sandwich was just that, a 4x4 of bread and cheese, with bits of cheddar, asiago, gruyere, and goat cheese melted together; in fact, the sandwich hosted so much cheese, some was layered on top of it all, necessitating a fork and knife. If that weren't enough, the kitchen saw fit to add in applewood bacon and then drizzle maple syrup all over it. If that sounds incredible, it's because it was. Salt, sweet, savory: this sandwich literally hit every flavor branch on its way down from heaven. If this portended to be the epitome of McGriddles' Theory, it ended up just straight rocking it. Unbelievable.

The Verdict


This is the sort of meal that you feel you need to repent for, that makes you think you should just tattoo glutton on your forehead. But it's also the sort of meal that is incredibly satisfying and perfect for riding out the California sun.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout to Party in the USA
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)

Beer Belly on Urbanspoon

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:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Look: El Chucho


Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights

The Setup


For my birthday, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas, knowing me perfectly, organized an offal tour of DC. On this trip around the city to taste various offerings of different parts of the pig (or cow), the second stop of the excursion was new Columbia Heights taco shop El Chucho.

The Vibe

Anyone who's been to restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum's eponymous spot in Silver Spring will instantly understand the decor of El Chucho: bright colors beginning from the electric blue exterior to the sharp black and yellow of the logo. The feel of the interior is that of a Mexican border town cantina mixed with a 50s diner. Central to the space is a bar on the left side of the restaurant, a ten diner-stool L-shape with a wall of liquor, tequilas, and bright multicolored Mexican day-of-the-dead skulls. Across from it are a series of eight hightop diner-style two-tops with one large four-seater in the back and a set of large dice hanging from the exposed ceiling. Everything is brightly colored and retro chic. There's also some seating out front and a rooftop, though we didn't see the latter on this trip.

The Food


It being Monday night, the tacos were half off during happy hour, a deal we were more than happy to take advantage of. On this trip, we tried two of El Chucho's margaritas and two of their tacos. Texas had the ginger margarita as well as the calabacita tacos: a deep fried zucchini atop a mix of squash blossoms, poblano peppers, black mole, and queso fresco. Without a protein to bind it, the taco felt a little lacking, a bunch of supporting ingredients in search of a lead. But each piece was a nice accent to the others, especially the flavorful black mole. Her margarita was also good, with sharp bites of ginger and a sweet finish.

For me, I picked the house silver margarita (which was on tap), and the tripas tacos: crispy beef chitterlings, foie gras, lemon, and parsley. While the tacos were a little light as far as the foie went (in the sense that you got hints of flavor, but never any large piece of unctuous goodness. Still, the overwhelming flavor is that of tripe with punches of acid from time to time, which while interesting, is not for the everyday eater. Overall, as a taco, it was solid, and as a presentation of intestines, definitely an interesting bite for the culinary adventurer. My margarita was similarly a hit, smooth with a nice lime kick.

The Verdict


A solid spot for tacos, with great deals at happy hour and not.

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

El Chucho Cocina Superior on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

First Look: The Satellite Room

Originally posted at Borderstan.

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup

At this point, we could probably run a weekly article with the headline, “Hilton Brothers Open New Bar” and we would still be right more often than we’d be wrong. And you can hardly blame them. They’ve perfected the combination of a slightly upscale, dim bar space with a rooftop/patio, hip decor, and a limited menu into a recipe for printing money. Marvin, at this point the grand old dame of the empire, is a U Street staple. Blackbyrd went through one iteration as a seafood restaurant, and will reinvent itself as a pho/banh mi restaurant in 2013. Even relatively low-key 18th Street Lounge remains a powerful enough draw that a taxiful of twentysomethings once had our group of friends roll down our windows at a stoplight to see if we were going to “The Lounge.”

It’s enough to get a little bit of Hilton Brothers fatigue. Still, wanting a quick bite and drink before an event later in the night and with a need to stay on U Street, it seemed like almost too ideal a time to try out The Satellite Room, the newest addition to the Hilton collection, with Official Friends of DCWD CC and Biz.

The Vibe


If you didn’t know The Satellite Room existed, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. Tucked away on 9th St north of V St, its location is both disadvantageous and fortuitous. On the one hand, it’ll likely be the watering hole of choice for pre- and post-concert crowds from next-door neighbor 9:30 Club; on the other, CC and Biz both had trouble finding the bar, obscured as it is, and they were actually tlooking for it.

Find it though, and you’re in for a delightfully fun space. Like its Hilton brethren, it embraces its milieu, in this case a stripped-down warehouse from the looks of it, based on the exposed concrete walls and unfinished floor. Still, a fresh coat of paint and a sizable collection of pop art does a lot to make the space shine. Light bulbs hang over a row of small booths on the right side of the space opposite the main bar, a black-and-white tiletop with a giant script neon “Satellite” sign on the wall above it. Bar seating sits in the front window, while more tables sit in the back. Capping it off is a large covered patio behind the main bar.

The Food

Where Satellite Room follows its more recent Hilton contemporaries is in its menu; namely that it has one. The bar serves a neat mix of diner staples and light Mexican fare; to wit, a nontrivial section of the menu is dedicated to make-your-own tacos and one of the notable sides is elote, sweet Mexican corn with Mexican cheese. Still, the majority of the menu would fit right at home in a Johnny Rocket’s.

Take our own meal for example. CC and I both went with alcoholic milkshakes, selecting two of the ten options available, all named after characters from classic TV. CC went simple, picking the Vincent Vega, vanilla with Bulleit bourbon, while I went with the Latka Gravas, an espresso hazelnut with Hennessey VS. Both were delicious, sweet but dangerously enjoyable, with the bourbon providing a strong kick, but no typical bourbon burn, while the Latka was a straight shot of blended coffee bean (though a little light on any kick or sweetness that the other shake had).

The few bites we had to eat were also enjoyable. A patty melt is satisfying with the added surprise of marble rye, a straightforward and meaty dish. Its side of thin-cut fries is similarly tasty.

The Verdict


Overall, a solid place to grab a drink or a bite before you head to a show. I know I’ll be back to try the other eight milkshakes I missed.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Calm to chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: 9:30 Club. Can I interest you in Motion City Soundtrack, maybe?

Satellite Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Look: Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: NoMa

The Setup


A few weeks ago we brought you a First Look at the revitalized Union Market. Now we'll look closer at one of its anchors: the Rappahannock Oyster Bar. With me on this trip, Official Sister of DCWD Elle, Official Brother-in-Law of DCWD Phee, and Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas.

The Vibe

We talked about Union Market before, and the Rappahannock Oyster Bar itself fits in well with the market's theme. A sleek black-brown wood bar surrounds a small kitchen where anywhere from 5-6 people will be shucking, cooking, or pouring at any given time. Beyond the 16 or so seats around the bar, another bar table sits behind. Sitting front-and-center in the market, it's not unfair to call it the anchor and centerpiece of the renovation.

The Food


On this trip, both Phee and I ordered the lambs and clams: a sizable bowl of Border Springs ground lamb chunks mixed with littleneck clams, sofrito, white beans, and two pieces of sourdough toast topped with garlic aioli. To call this one of my favorite bites of the year would be to do this dish disservice. Everything about it was magical: the tenderness and flavor of the lamb, the light salt on the clams, the richness of the tomato-based broth. Even the aioli and its sharp bite mixed perfectly. I could literally eat this dish every day and die happy.

For her part, Texas ordered a bowl of the oyster chowder, and six oysters (two Rappahannocks, two Witch Ducks, and two Olde Salts). The former was wonderful, more of a soup than the cream-based New England clam chowders I was used to. What this resulted in was a spoonful that was equal parts oily and briny and smooth. The latter were wonderful and clear oysters, with the Rappahannocks far and away my favorite.

The Verdict


A beautiful place to sit down for seafood and charm the pants off your date.

Food Rating: **** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Chatty to Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: I mean there's a vibrant Market all around you. Walk around, sample some more fresh goods, and bring some home for your next date.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Look: The Brixton

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


This entry covers two separate trips to U Street's newest Hilton Brothers bar (aren't they all?), The Brixton, the first a dinner with Official Friends of DCWD MPDD, MM, Alison, Nezar, and Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas, and the second a quick bar stop with Official Friend of DCWD Madison.

The Vibe

The Brixton is striking, both in its coolness and its resemblance to British pubs. There's the big things, like the colonial windows, the red-orange glow that reflects off the dark brown wood paneling everywhere. Then there's the little things, the bell-shaped light fixture that hang overhead, the rail bars that fence in the actual pub bar to the left side of the restaurant. Seating is simple wooden furniture, and there's a warm vibe to the place. Upstairs sits one of the nicer rooftops in the city, rivaling its sister Marvin.

The Food


Our two trips, despite being only a few days apart, sandwiched around a change in the Brixton menu. Among the smattering of food that was ordered, a few constants remained. First, an appetizer of a Scotch egg, a softboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and further deepfried in breadcrumbs. Served with three sauces (which tasted like green goddess, a raspberry balsamic, and thousand island, respectively), was a solid presentation of a classic dish, gooey and meaty and decidedly British. The fry was crisp, and each bite was delicious.

Even more delicious, however, was my entree of pan-seared and sliced venison filet served atop a bed of roasted brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, and brandied cherries in a red wine sauce. Venison selected or handled poorly is often too gamey to be enjoyable. This was in contrast like a lovely earthier beef filet, perfectly cooked and paired well with the sweetness of the cherries and the seasonal sprouts. Packed with immense flavor, each slice was wonderfully tender.

Two other dishes stand out in our minds, though now they've since departed from the menu. First Texas's sweet summer corn and crab bisque was a nice end-of-season dish that brought out the sweetness of the base while providing generous chunks of pungent crab to offset it. Similarly, a bowl of PEI mussels in a white wine sauce of apples, fennel, bacon, and stilton cheese plays up notes of salt and sweet and sour.

The Verdict


Awesome hangout space for pre-concert drinks, fried British goodness, or sit-down dinner.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout to Suits Scene
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two) 

The Brixton on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Big Bear Cafe

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Bloomingdale

The Setup


With a new chef in the kitchen, Official Friend of DCWD Luke Chi Walker invited a group of us, including myself, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas, and Official Friend of DCWD Carrie, out to Big Bear Café.

The Vibe

When I told a coworker I had dinner plans at Big Bear, their first reaction was, “Wait. Isn’t that a coffeehouse?” The point is well-taken: Big Bear’s space has all the trappings of a neighborhood independent coffeehouse. An extended patio with a short gate wraps around the building along the street corner. Inside seating is mostly distressed repurposed wood round-tops that match the wooden floor, save for the six-seat high bar table where we sat and a booth by the bathrooms. To the back of the space is a small bar, where a few chalkboard menus hang. The rest of the décor is art for sale mounted on exposed brick or cream and blue-gray walls. It’s cute and charming, and you’re most likely surrounded by friends chatting away over coffee (which they sell by the bag), or people huddling over a book.

The Food


Still, what had drawn us to Big Bear was the promise of the new menu, which is short but intriguing. The theme could well be described as rustic and seasonal vegetables, represented well by our amuse bouche: spoon-served bites of house coleslaw, made with heirloom carrots, crisp lettuce, and sesame seeds. Pleasantly light on any mayonnaise or other any sauce for that matter, focus was instead placed on the freshness of the produce.

Texas’s dish was more of the same: hogshead snapper atop a bed of black rice, leeks, and kale (eggplant was also a portion, though one that was subbed out due to allergy). The fish was fresh and crisp, seared wonderfully with a good hint of salt. For their part, the rice and vegetables added laudable balance and a solid, well, "summerness" to everything.

Intrigued by the diversity of the dishes, I opted for three appetizers rather than a full entree, ordering the chilled eggplant soup with leeks; the pan seared halibut on baby kale with white beans; and the quail on a mustard and lentil salad. The soup was thicker than I expected but straight eggplant flavor, with little addition. The halibut was cooked beautifully, crusty on the outside edge while melting in the middle, with the white beans providing a chalky-in-a-good-way counterpart. But the winner for me was the quail, tender with crunchy skin and with the sharpness of the mustard providing appreciated spice and punches of flavor to punctuate each piece of meat.


The meal was rounded out with a gooseberry and rhubarb walnut crumble with whipped cream. Sweet, fresh, crisp, very granola.
 

The Verdict


Fresh and seasonal dishes in a relaxed atmosphere. Solid work.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5) 
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Calm to chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: The season is perfect for apple picking and pumpkin patches. Head out to the Maryland or Virginia suburbs before dinner to grab some produce for later.

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